By Madeleine Thompson
The Epsilon Delta Mu mascot is an emu. Former Alpha Delta Phi brothers founded the Kokosingers. Rutherford B. Hayes was a Delta Kappa Epsilon brother, and reportedly, the longest line of coke in Kenyon history once spanned the Archon lounge.
These are not the kind of facts printed in the rush booklet or said at the first meet-and-greet, but it is this trivia that makes Kenyon’s Greek system exceptional, even at an institution already rife with tradition.
“A lot of the great things about Greek organizations are not the things that are going to stand out, necessarily,” said Christina Mastrangelo, director of student activities and advisor to the Greek Council who was a Sigma Kappa at the University of Rhode Island.
Five of Kenyon’s 11 Greek organizations are not affiliated with any national chapters. The Archons, for example, participate in rush and several other Greek traditions, but their independence from a national chapter gives them the flexibility to pick and choose their own events. Co-President Lauren Amrhein ’13 said, “Our hell week is called ‘Hell-of-a-lot-of-fun Week,’ where basically the stuff [pledges] have to do is like give every Archon a hug.”
The Peeps O’Kenyon are not nationally affiliated either, though they had ties to Sigma Chi until they severed them 40 years ago. “We were an established fraternity on campus until 1970,” President Jake Lorber ‘13 said. ” … We wanted to admit black members into the organization, but the national organization would not let us, so [the Peeps of 1970] decided to leave.”
Like the Archons and Peeps, all three sororities on campus are local rather than national. “The dues are cheaper,” said Epsilon Delta Mu (EDM) president Emily Rapp ’12. Average sorority dues can be as high as $1,400 for a new member for one semester, according to the University of Georgia’s Pan-Hellenic Council website. At Kenyon, the most expensive sorority to join is Zeta Alpha Pi, which costs $200 per semester, and the most expensive fraternity is Phi Kappa Sigma, whose members pay around $800 per year because there are only eight of them.
Independence also allows sororities to avoid regulations that national chapters impose on their offshoots. “I really enjoy being in a local sorority because, from what I hear about big sororities from my friends who go to larger schools … they don’t even know some of the girls in their sorority,” Theta Delta Phi President Joanna Kessler ’13 said. “I really like knowing and being friends with all of the girls in my group.”
There are also challenges to their independence, Kessler said. Unlike the local sororities, the six national fraternities at Kenyon can use their strong alumni bases to network. Delta Tau Delta, in fact, has been working on an alumni mentorship program, which they plan to launch this summer. “Each brother is paired with a junior and a senior mentor,” Vice President Jake Thorn ’14 said. “[They can use] the advice from the junior and the senior mentor with things like resumes, interviews, talking about new opportunities and just helping them see what’s down the road.”
Beta Theta Pi’s Temple in the Woods was built in 1928 and is one of only two like it in the U.S. It is also the only one that belongs to an active chapter. There seems to be some confusion between fraternities, however, as to whose lodge is the oldest in the nation. Built in 1860, Alpha Delta Phi’s lodge was supposedly the oldest fraternity building in the country until it burned down and moved to a park on North campus in 1933.
Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) President Sam Baker ’13 is sure that the DKE lodge is the really the oldest, however. “We have the first fraternity lodge in America,” Baker said. “Ours has been burnt down once and re-erected on the same spot, so people try to claim that theirs is older, but we’ve had a lodge on that plot of land since the 1850s.”
The DKEs formed in 1854, after graduating members of what was then a secret society wore their pins to Kenyon’s commencement and petitioned the College to repeal the ban on fraternities, according to the DKE Lambda chapter website. After this dramatic reveal, Kenyon officially recognized the DKEs as the first fraternity on campus and provided materials to construct a lodge, making it the oldest in America.
The Delta Phi fraternity, which lays no claim to a historic lodge, was founded at Union College in 1827. Theirs is the oldest continuous fraternity in the country, according to the Delta Phi website. They were established at Kenyon in 1940.
Three years earlier, the Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity was established in Gambier.
“This year is our 75th anniversary at Kenyon,” Phi Kappa Sigma President Scott Chernoff ’12 said. “We’re going to be having a reunion two weeks after school ends. We’re also going to do a big event for the fraternity.”
The comparatively new sororities, however, are proud of their youth.
“We had our 10-year alumni weekend in April and a lot of girls came back and it was so cool to meet them,” said Caroline Steele ’14, women’s outreach chair for the EDMs. “The fact that I was able to meet our founders was awesome. … I got to meet all four founders. Most sororities’ and fraternities’ founders are dead.”
The community service events held by each organization are similarly steeped in tradition. Both the Zeta Alpha Pi sorority and the DKEs hold events in memory of members who passed away. The Zetas hold an annual Blood Clot Alliance fundraiser and the DKEs hold a traditional Sean Kelly Holiday Party.
“One of our sisters who graduated in 2009 passed away about six months after she graduated from a blood clot that she had from the birth control she had been taking,” Zeta President Andie Asimes ’13 said. “… Last year we hosted a volleyball tournament and we raised about $1,500 and this year we’re planning a 5K run.”
Sean Kelly was a DKE brother who died in 1990 in a boating accident, and his fraternity brothers have honored him for the past 20 years with a holiday party in Gund Commons for the underprivileged families of Knox County. “The best part is we have to go buy all 386 Christmas presents and we get to go and hang out in the toy aisle of Wal-Mart for four hours,” Baker said.
The Sean Kelly event can take anywhere from 20 to 30 hours to plan and produce, which fulfills the organization’s entire community service requirement of 15 hours per member.
The Delts do their part with four to five blood drives each year, making them one of the top five donation sites in the state.
“I got a letter last year from the region’s director from the American Red Cross saying that we’re one of the top five sites in all of Ohio,” President Kris Reslow ’13 said.
Though the ADs have no community service requirement, they raise money each semester for the New Directions domestic abuse shelter in Knox County by delivering burritos around campus, through a service they call Afterhours.
“We had done a worse version of Afterhours beforehand,” said AD President Saphir Glynn ’13. “But it wasn’t productive and we weren’t making much profit for charity. Then basically one of our brothers had this eureka moment and we started the burrito delivery. The key is delivery.”
Stereotypes and Membership
Though stereotypically the Delts are swimmers, only three of their 18 members currently swim for Kenyon’s team.
“Back in the ’80s, there used to be 25 plus,” Reslow said.
The Betas’ stereotype, on the other hand-that they are football players – holds up. More than half – 14 of 24 – play on Kenyon’s team.
Greeks join together in extracurriculars outside the athletics department, too. At least eight DPhis sit on the student lectureships committee together.
“This sophomore class is particularly involved,” Vice President of DPhis Benjamin Fritsch ’13 said. “Not that every member is actively involved in the planning, but almost 100 percent of us go to student lectureship events and try to support each other.”
Kenyon’s Greek organizations “all have different strengths and weaknesses. I think they are all examples of different objectives,” Mastrangelo said. “… I think Kenyon’s Greek life is in a place to have some really amazing things happen to it. It is really a great time to be Greek at Kenyon.”
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