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First in 64 Years: Phi Taus Colonize

First in 64 Years: Phi Taus Colonize

By Victoria Ungvarsky

For the first time in more than 60 years, Kenyon has a new national fraternity. After years of discussion, April 5 marked the initiation of a new group into the national fraternity Phi Kappa Tau (Phi Tau) from their local status as Sigma Phi Tau.

“I think that we have a really good opportunity to create a new fraternity on the campus that can lead to [creating] better people and a better community in general,” said Brian Pragacz ’17, an associate member and founding father of the Phi Taus.

Colonization of a new fraternity begins when students at a school reach out to the national organization. However, the Phi Taus have been hoping to colonize at Kenyon for many years due to the fraternity’s connection with Paul Newman ’49 — before transferring to Kenyon, Newman pledged Phi Tau at Ohio University.

Through this connection, the Phi Taus have maintained a close relationship with SeriousFun Children’s Network, a philanthropic network that Newman established. The Phi Taus work closely with Flying Horse Farms, a nonprofit camp in Mount Gilead, Ohio, that works with children with serious medical conditions. The close relationship between the Phi Taus and Flying Horse Farms appealed to several Kenyon students who worked at the camp a few years ago.

Michael Lukins, the colony development consultant in the national office of Phi Kappa Tau, praised the students for their initiative in starting a new fraternity at Kenyon. “I think a lot of it is finding a supporting atmosphere,” Lukin said. “At schools we like to see a partnership — that the fraternity owes to give something to the school.”

Although the original plans to establish the Phi Taus at Kenyon fell through, Assistant Director of Housing and Residential Life Andrea Kelley reached out to three Community Advisors, Peter Granville ’16, Trevor Kirby ’16 and Gibson Oakley ’16. “She asked us if we wanted to get [the plan] started again, because a lot of the administration really, really liked the idea,” Granville said. “From there we started recruiting our sophomore friends and … some freshmen joined in rush.” Including two juniors who were abroad last semester, the fraternity totals 14 members.

Starting a new fraternity from the ground up comes with benefits and disadvantages. The founders have the opportunity to create a new organization based on their own values. One of the foundational principles of the Phi Taus is a commitment to service, a value its founders plan to promote on campus. “We really just want to be a force for good on campus,” Granville said. They also hope to strengthen the bonds between Flying Horse Farms and Kenyon.

The colonization ceremony has been achieved, but the brothers of Phi Tau still have work to do to be established on campus. Creating a new fraternity is costly, and the lack of alumni puts them at a disadvantage. The Phi Taus are hoping to stabilize themselves financially through fundraising. Additionally, finding new members on a campus with six other fraternities will be a challenge. “I think almost every fraternity on campus has its niche,” Lukins added. “[Prospective brothers] have to figure out what their niche is; that’s always a challenge.”

Advisers, Peter Granville ’16, Trevor Kirby ’16 and Gibson Oakley ’16. “She asked us if we wanted to get [the plan] started again, because a lot of the administration really, really liked the idea,” Granville said. “From there we started recruiting our sophomore friends and … some freshmen joined in rush.” Including two juniors who were abroad last semester, the fraternity totals 14 members.

Starting a new fraternity from the ground up comes with benefits and disadvantages. The founders have the opportunity to create a new organization based on their own values. One of the foundational principles of the Phi Taus is a commitment to service, a value its founders plan to promote on campus. “We really just want to be a force for good on campus,” Granville said. They also hope to strengthen the bonds between Flying Horse Farms and Kenyon.

The colonization ceremony has been achieved, but the brothers of Phi Tau still have work to do to be established on campus. Creating a new fraternity is costly, and the lack of alumni puts them at a disadvantage. The Phi Taus are hoping to stabilize themselves financially through fundraising. Additionally, finding new members on a campus with six other fraternities will be a challenge. “I think almost every fraternity on campus has its niche,” Lukins added. “[Prospective brothers] have to figure out what their niche is; that’s always a challenge.”

Despite the difficulties they face, the brothers of Phi Tau are eager to make a name for themselves on campus and to start giving back. “Once we reach the goal of making the chapter, we can really to the fullest extent, bring more awesome things to this campus,” Pragacz said.

 

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