As representatives from Geneseo’s newest national fraternity chapter Pi Kappa Phi have recently begun their recruitment on campus, discourses have developed amidst national and local Greek organizations regarding the expansion of Greek life in Geneseo since 2013 and its implications. Including Pi Kappa Phi, three new national Greek organizations have recruited members to establish Geneseo chapters in the past two years.
Chapter representatives from national sorority Alpha Sigma Tau began recruiting on campus in spring 2013 after members of local sorority Phi Eta Psi and the college elected to affiliate with the organization in a process that began in spring 2011. National fraternity Kappa Sigma started as a colony with members at Geneseo who began recruiting in fall 2013 in order to receive a national charter.
With Pi Kappa Phi, Geneseo will recognize a total of 28 fraternities, sororities and co-ed social organizations, including 11 national organizations and 17 local organizations. According to the Greek Affairs webpage, as of spring 2014, 1,173 students––roughly 23 percent of the student population––were active in Greek life.
President of local sorority Alpha Kappa Phi senior Val Woedy emphasized the uniqueness of Geneseo’s predominantly local culture.
“I think that Geneseo is one of the only [State University of New York] schools to have local organizations,” she said. “They’re very rare and if they are there, it’s probably like 10 people. It’s really rare to have huge local sororities anymore.”
Assistant Dean of Students for Fraternal Life and Off-Campus Services Wendi Kinney worked alongside the college interviewing national fraternities for inclusion at Geneseo. Pi Kappa Phi was selected as a fit for the student population, with a strong reputation and as an alternative to the other three national fraternal organizations at Geneseo: Alpha Chi Rho, Sigma Alpha Mu and Kappa Sigma.
According to Kinney, college policy no longer allows for the recognition of new local Greek organizations, allowing only for the addition of new national organizations. She said this is because local organizations require more administrative support than national organizations, which provide resources to their chapters. For local organizations, more of this backing comes from the college.
“Given the size of Geneseo’s Greek community, all new organizations must be national because they provide an additional layer of support, education, accountability and services to supplement what the college already provides,” Kinney said.
Members of local fraternity Delta Kappa Tau, which has existed at Geneseo since 1871, questioned the college’s decision to increase the number of Greek organizations. They cited a decreased pool of potential new members as a particularly pressing concern.
“We do feel that the school is, in a way, trying to edge out the locals because regardless of whether they’re good or bad, the school can control national organizations by putting pressure on their national charter,” Delta Kappa Tau president senior Ryan Anthony said. “Then the problem is solved for the school in that end because nationals will take care of it themselves.”
“[Local organizations] play a huge role in what Geneseo is and play a huge role in who comes back and who is active as an alumni on this campus,” Delta Kappa Tau new member educator senior Mike Ackerman added.
In an editorial published by The Lamron on Feb. 5, Inter Fraternity Council President junior Brandon Gimpleman wrote, “Pi Kappa Phi will attract an entire host of new members who were blackballed from existing fraternities this semester.”
Kinney, however, said that a number of men looking for a national fraternity experience go through the rushing process without finding an organization that they feel is a proper fit for them. Instead of leaving them to affiliate with any national organization—which requires a number of processes both at the national and campus levels but is allowed by fraternal policy—Kinney said the Pi Kappa Phi chapter provides an alternative for those students.
Woedy noted that while the increasing number of nationals constitutes a change, it may also constitute increasing growth for Greek life as a whole.
“I think that it’s expanding Greek life and just building up everything,” she said. “I don’t think that it’s impacting locals that much. I think it’s definitely switching from a local campus to more of a national campus. The more Greeks there are, the bigger the Greek community is so it’s not necessarily a bad thing at all.”
“Is it good for Greek life? That’s kind of iffy ... because it hurts recruitment for national and local organizations. But is it good for the school? Is it good for the students, kids that want to be interested but haven’t really found their prime organization? Absolutely it’s great,” Sigma Alpha Mu prior junior Casey Larkin said. “It gives those kids an opportunity to build something from the ground up and to define their own organization.”
According to Kinney, the process of starting a chapter for national fraternities is significantly different from the process for national sororities at state institutions. National fraternities can start a chapter on any public campus, but require compliance from the college for official recognition. She added that national fraternities often approach Geneseo to express interest in starting a chapter due to Geneseo’s high academic caliber within the State University of New York system.
Junior David Lim, who rushed Kappa Sigma in its early period as a colony of the national organization, said that national organizations offer opportunities to students that local organizations don’t.
“It’s not with the purpose to marginalize local organizations but purely because of the fact that there are so many benefits to both the student body as well as the administration that it’s hard to say no [to national Greek organizations],” he said.
Senior Leadership Consultant Andrew Bell and Leadership Consultant Josh Kenney of the Pi Kappa Phi national organization said they accrued 11 members who signed and accepted bids in their first week on campus this semester.
“I think it really should be more of a cohesion between national and local groups. I mean, really all the nationals were local at some point,” Bell said.
Sports editor Taylor Frank and copy editor Megan Tomaszewski contributed reporting to this article.
Correction: In the Feb. 9 issue of The Lamron, the article "New national fraternity sparks conversation among Greeks" stated that there were eight national organizations on campus and 20 local organizations. The correct number is 11 national organizations and 17 local organizations. There are four national fraternities and seven national sororities (four Panhellenic ad three multicultural).