In light of recent rumors that Kenyon’s chapter of the Phi Kappa Tau (Phi Tau) national fraternity would be disbanding, the brothers of Phi Tau are delighted to confirm that the organization is here to stay, thanks largely to the support they received from students. After failing to recruit a single new member after this semester’s formal recruitment period, Phi Tau will hold an extended recruitment starting next week to hopefully recruit new members and keep the chapter alive.
Phi Kappa Tau’s Zeta Kappa chapter began as an interest group in October of 2012 and was officially chartered at Kenyon in April 2015. As one of the smallest Greek organizations on campus with only six current members, Phi Tau faced a particularly hectic semester this past fall after 10 of its members graduated with the Class of 2022. According to Phi Tau president Cyrus Griffin ’25, having so few members has forced everyone in the organization to hold several officer positions at once, as well as pay higher dues in order to meet the minimum amount owed to the national organization. Phi Tau member Grayson Knox ’23 said that he has held five positions simultaneously this year.
Knox also shared that last semester the organization was so disorganized that it did not have a budget, and as a result it had to pay for many events — such as “Tau-co” Tuesday — out of pocket. The chapter’s size also made it difficult to host large events or establish a prominent presence on campus. Knox noted that even smaller traditions within the chapter have become increasingly difficult to uphold, such as “Tau-ble,” which in the past was a group lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Knox explained that as the number of members decreased, there was less overlap in people’s schedules. As a result, Tau-ble is not currently an active tradition.
While these new norms were unfortunate, their significance paled in comparison to Phi Tau’s latest debacle: The group failed to welcome any new recruits after this semester’s formal recruitment, which ended on Jan. 29. Griffin noted that while the organization had several interested recruits, in the end none of them accepted bids. At this point, considering that three of the six currently active Phi Tau members are seniors, Griffin said that the possibility of disbanding became a legitimate concern. “We’re losing so many people graduating this year that next semester, we would have been in a worse spot starting out than we were at the end of last fall,” he said. “There was definitely a spirit there; I think we all felt it, that we wanted to do something to save the org, but there was a day or two where we really seriously considered disbanding.”
According to Griffin, he began conversations with Director of Student Engagement Caleb Young and Phi Tau’s advisor, Campus Life Graduate Assistant Xavi Boes, about the disbandment process when word began to spread that the Zeta Kappa chapter was in trouble. “I don’t even know how people found out, but suddenly it was all over Yik Yak, suddenly everyone heard that Phi Tau was disbanding; people were fanning the flames,” Griffin said. On the upside, however, Griffin also noted that along with these rumors came a number of students who expressed concern about Phi Tau’s precarious situation. “A bunch of people reached out to me, reached out to people I knew and who knew me asking them if Phi Tau was closing, and what a shame it was,” he said. “A lot of people were relying on us to be a Greek space they felt they could trust, and I think a lot of people see us as the most harmless frat, like the nerdiest.”
Upon receiving support from the Kenyon community, the organization changed its course of action in order to preserve the chapter. “As soon as we were going away, we got a lot of interest. A lot of people suddenly wanted to join Phi Tau, so we scrapped the disbandment plans,” Griffin said. “I’m calling it the ‘rephival.’”
According to Young, Phi Tau has been in contact with the Office of Student Engagement since the fall semester regarding the current status of the organization. In order to successfully revive itself, the Zeta Kappa chapter chose to pursue an extended recruitment process to hopefully encourage potential new members to join. Upon seeking approval from Greek Council — a necessary Greek Council bylaws procedure — Phi Tau was granted an informal recruitment period, which Greek Council President Rocco Danese ’23 noted will probably be about a month. “This happens for organizations, especially in the Greek communities, that don’t have a ton of members involved but are looking to continue to expand the organization to show that they are still an organization the next year,” he said.
According to Knox, the organization is excited to host a number of events that will embody Phi Tau’s characteristically nerdy and low-key atmosphere, such as a Mario Kart racing and pizza night. In the past, similar events have included betting on Mario Kart races with monopoly money, Knox said. Besides these sorts of events, the organization also has a gaga pit and enjoys hosting Super Smash Bros. tournaments. “Fun, competitive games, combined with just a general friendly atmosphere, is one of the things that we’re always happy to provide,” Knox said. He noted that Phi Tau members regularly play board games or watch TV together.
“I’ve stuck with Phi Tau even as I’ve been afraid of our disbandment because I like what it stands for,” Knox said. “Seeing that outpouring of support was very good, and I think it shows that a good amount of people on this campus also want us and what we stand for to continue. So I am optimistic for the future. However way it goes, I’m glad to have spent my time here, and hopefully, Phi Tau will continue and people will be able to enjoy what we have to offer.”
Griffin noted that this experience has helped him and the rest of the organization realize the role they play on campus and the importance of living up to that role in the future. “I was really struck by how much people cared about us and our existence,” Griffin said. Once Phi Tau’s informal recruitment period is over, Griffin is excited for the chapter to host a number of events and all campuses in order to serve the Kenyon community. “I think we’re trying to shape ourselves into more of an active participant on campus. The past week really helped us realize what value we can bring to the campus — just events, parties, get-togethers where we’re just where people can feel safe,” he said.
Despite the adversities Phi Tau has faced, the organization has emerged from the chaos optimistic and ready to face whatever the future may hold. “Phi Tau has not gone, not yet, not if we have anything to say about it, and we’re going to ‘phight’ with a ‘PH’ to keep Phi Tau on campus,” Knox said. Griffin concurred. “We never died in the first place,” he said. “We were just considering it.”
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