For many Muhlenberg students, the charter status of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity has been a curiosity. Dean of Students Alison Gulati helped to quiet any rumors circulating with her Jan. 6 email regarding their reinstatement. With their semester-long suspension recently lifted, SPE, known on campus as “Sig Ep,” is now preparing to rebuild their fraternity from the ground up with only ten returning members.
An incident during the Spring 2016 semester led to administrative disciplinary action and the suspension of the chapter, according to the memo. The memo also described a “full Membership Review to be managed by Sigma Phi Epsilon National Fraternity with the support of College staff and alumni chapter members,” as part of their reinstatement process.
“As a chapter of the 38 members, basically 17 of them decided to go through this review process and submitted, in writing, questionnaires about why we still want to be in the fraternity and how we think we can make things better,” said Sig Ep member and former Vice President of Finance John Froberg, class of ‘19. “We all interviewed for our positions and ten of us were accepted back into the chapter.”
As the chapter looks forward, it realizes the essential need for rebuilding the infrastructure. According to Froberg, “after we [Sig Ep] have what’s called a membership review, we have a retreat on Saturday [Feb. 4] with some alumni members that have signed up and the AAC [Alumni Advisory Council] and that will basically rebuild the chapter and set up the structure.”
The fraternity also plans to form a designated executive board after the retreat as well, with the help of some alumni and the AAC.
Along with the suspension and member evaluation, Sigma Phi Epsilon has also been placed under social probation until the end of the Fall 2017 semester, as well as disciplinary probation until the end of the Fall 2018 semester, according to the memo. The memo also explains that in addition to both sets of probation, the Sig Ep house will remain closed for the rest of the Spring 2017 semester.
“Separate from the school’s punishment and what the school says we have to do, I think at this point, it’s more on us to take it upon ourselves and say ‘okay, what went wrong and how can we make it better?”’
“We are, I believe, supposed to be able to return to the house in the fall,” added Froberg, despite the lack of a final decision from College administration. “The only thing there is since it will have been vacant for a year, it needs to be brought up to code and some alterations need to be made and that all needs to get done before the housing lottery, but if it does, then we’ll be back in the house in the fall.”
In terms of their social probation, Sigma Phi Epsilon will be prohibited from hosting events officially associated with their fraternity. This poses an issue for fundraising, but Froberg added “Until we can do that [host social events], we’ll raise money other ways.”
As far as new enrollment in the chapter goes, Froberg considers it to be a better time than ever to get involved.
“I would say that it’s an exciting time for us because with a membership of ten people, anybody that joins now is going to have their voice heard,” Froberg said. “I think that we’re in a place where a lot of us have ideas about what we want it to be, but there’s a lot of ways that this organization could go.”
The fraternity will also be operating under a “continuous recruitment,” policy, as dictated by national headquarters for all chapters, a matter unrelated to the chapter’s suspension and punishments.
“Rather than having one rush week, we will be allowed to and we will be picking up members throughout the course of the spring and the fall,” Froberg added. “I think it takes a lot of the pressure off of rush week. There’s no reason that somebody should be forced to make a decision the first week of school. For some people it takes longer and for some people the timing’s not right.”
The absence of the fraternity on campus served as an example for other fraternities, but their reinstatement and coordination with administration displays a real connection between greek life organizations and the College’s administrators.
“When fraternities and sororities operate in alignment with the values upon which they were founded and seek through their behavior and efforts to contribute positively to the life and mission of the college, they can be a tremendous asset to college life and an excellent leadership development opportunity for students,” Gulati said in an email interview. “When organizations and our fraternity and sorority community overall are committed to this type of experience, the college is committed to supporting them to the fullest.”
Ultimately, Froberg considers the incident to be “emblematic of a larger problem.”
“The school had its punishments which is fine and all is well and good but I think what’s more important for us moving forward is we weren’t contributing to campus in the way that we wanted to and we weren’t really the organization that we wanted to be,” Froberg added. “Separate from the school’s punishment and what the school says we have to do, I think at this point, it’s more on us to take it upon ourselves and say ‘okay, what went wrong and how can we make it better?”’