The Theta chapter of Phi Kappa Sigma, a national fraternity founded in 1850 at the University of Pennsylvania and established at Kenyon in 1937, is planning to disaffiliate from their national organization.
The brothers of Phi Kappa Sigma (Phi Kaps) have decided to disaffiliate due to a disconnect of values between the national organization and their chapter. The group’s disaffiliation is contingent on success amending the constitution of Greek Council to pave the way for other organizations that might wish to follow a similar path.
The Phi Kaps will not be the first Greek organization at Kenyon to disaffiliate. The Peeps O’Kenyon (PEEPS) disaffiliated with their national organization in 1970, and Kenyon’s Delta Kappa Epsilon chapter briefly disaffiliated with their national organization in 1989. This was due to a racial incident caused by visiting members of the fraternity from another university, as reported in the Collegian, before they once again became affiliated with their national organization in 1989. This was due to a racial incident caused by visiting members of the fraternity from another university, as reported in the Collegian, before they once again became affiliated with their national organization.
If they are to disaffiliate, the Phi Kaps hope to lessen financial burdens for current members and potential new ones. At $375, required dues for each semester are higher than what many of the members would like.
“We have a few members [for whom] paying dues is either impossible or very taxing,” Sean Smith ’16, Phi Kap president, said. “And one of the main reasons our dues are as high as they are [is] fees to national.”
Smith said the dues are lower than in the past. Out of that amount, according to Smith, around $300 goes to the national organization. Additionally, for new members, there is an initiation fee of about $400. The Phi Kaps’ goal for dues is closer to $150.
“Having a fraternity with more affordable dues would not be the worst thing to happen to this campus,” Smith said.
Dues for a few other fraternities are also in a similar range, such as Alpha Delta Phi ($400 per semester), Beta Theta Pi ($400 per semester), and Delta Tau Delta ($375 per semester).
There is another disconnect between the Phi Kaps and their national organization concerning how the chapter operates, which is another impetus for their desire to disaffiliate.
“This fraternity runs brotherhood like a business,” Alex Harrover ’17, vice president of Phi Kaps, said. “We would rather answer to Kenyon College, a place that kind of understands our unique campus culture as opposed to a national [organization]. … We’re at this impasse right now where they want us to grow. And we want to maintain this healthy size.”
The Phi Kaps are currently attempting to amend the Greek Council constitution concerning organizations that are transitioning between national and local, or vice versa.
As it stands, according to Smith, if the Phi Kaps were to disaffiliate, their members on Greek Council would lose their spots for a year-long probation period and would be required to reapply. In addition, they would be required to undergo five years of theme housing (as opposed to the division housing typical of fraternities and sororities on campus), and in doing so would lose the section of Hanna Residence Hall occupied by the fraternity since its establishment at Kenyon.
Director of Student Activities and Greek Life Laura Kane did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
The Phi Kaps’ decision to disaffiliate will most likely depend on their ability to amend the Greek Council constitution, according to Smith, and that this amendment “establishes protocols for national local jumps [and] local national jumps.” He added that the Phi Kaps “wouldn’t disaffiliate before we did this.”
“We don’t want to convey the sense that we’re doing this amendment selfishly,” Harrover said. “That we’re trying to set a precedent here for other organizations and that we want to use all-inclusive language, … we don’t want this to just apply to fraternities or just sororities. This goes for Greek organizations.”
Though the decision on the Phi Kaps’ part to pursue disaffiliation was mostly unanimous, Brooks Alderman ’17 wishes to remain a part of the national organization if the Kenyon chapter disaffiliates.
Alderman said in a Facebook message that he enjoys being a part of the national fraternity and will try to remain a part of it, though would ideally like to retain his national affiliation and also remain a member of the local organization. He declined to be interviewed for this article.
As for the logistics of one member remaining a part of the national organization, Smith said the Phi Kaps are “still ironing out what that would look like.”