By Amanda Ayers
Theta Chi fraternity has lost its housing privileges for the 2012-2013 academic year. Summit House, the name of the property that currently houses the brothers of Theta Chi, will be used instead next year for an Affinity House program entitled “Looking Past the Letters,” said Grant Hoover, assistant director of Residential Education for diversity and current overseer of the Affinity Housing Program.
The University currently owns the house with a detailed agreement in place governing its use for the fraternity. Because the chapter’s membership was too low to fulfill the occupation requirements, the house was forfeited. Theta Chi was able to fill the house and even had alternates, but not enough of those occupants were official members of the fraternity.
“I have served as the faculty adviser for Theta Chi fraternity at Bucknell since 2006, and am very proud of the work that the members of Theta Chi have done on behalf of Bucknell and the larger Lewisburg community. I’m proud of the high level of academic success that the members of Theta Chi have consistently achieved. They should be commended for their many achievements,” associate professor of religion Paul Macdonald said.
Despite encouragement from both the University and Theta Chi International Headquarters to maintain the organization without a house, members believe it is best to shut down. The Grand Chapter’s bylaws do not allow a chapter to simply declare itself disbanded, but the chapter has taken steps to begin shutting down.
“After losing our house, our chapter took a look at our situation and decided that there is no feasible way to continue. It is not official [that we are disbanding], but we have made a formal request to our Grand Chapter to close us. At this point we are still awaiting a response from them,” Theta Chi president Joe Bonino ’13 said.
“We have been contacted by the chapter regarding this situation and are working with the undergraduates and other key stakeholders to determine the best course of action,” said Burt Zeno, Director of Communication for Theta Chi Nationals. “Theta Chi values its undergraduate and alumnus members from Bucknell University and is working diligently to reach a solution that is in everyone’s best interests.”
The fraternity currently has 21 members, nine of whom will graduate this year, and only two of whom are sophomores. This coupled with the loss of housing would create even greater struggles for recruitment, something the chapter has had particular difficulty with in the last year.
Since returning to campus in 2006, the chapter has occupied a special niche in the Greek community, striving to be a nonstereotypical campus fraternity by excelling in academics and service. The men who were attracted to the idea of joining a fraternity like Theta Chi fraternity were generally not “going Greek for Greek’s sake.” Members believe the label that has been put on Greek life through the Campus Climate Task Force Report has turned these potential members away, and the fraternity has found it difficult to convince students who do not like the Greek system to join.
“It seems that the Campus Climate [Task Force] Report has created an extremely bad reputation for all Greek organizations and this attitude has adversely affected the Chapter’s efforts to grow,” Bonino said.
The chapter’s struggles have come in spite of its efforts to distinguish itself from the rest of the Greek community.
“Personally, I am very disappointed to see Theta Chi so easily tossed in with the problems and behaviors that the [Campus] Climate [Task Force] Report intended to address,” Theta Chi Alumni Corporation President Austin Ziltz ’08 said. “In the last seven years, have you ever heard of an underage drinking or sexual assault incident involving Theta Chi? These were exactly the stereotypes we set out to break, but it seems we’ve been caught in the crossfire.”
Details regarding whether or when the chapter might attempt to recolonize are still to be determined, as are details surrounding what will happen to everything owned by the fraternity that needs to be removed from the house. Some items may be liquidated, while others may go into storage.
Talk has also circulated among underclassmen about trying to form a Theta Chi-esque non-fraternity group that could occupy a role on campus similar to that of Theta Chi. It could host non-alcoholic events, for example, without deterring people away with the dues and stigma of the Greek system. Bonino, however, was not optimistic.
“That idea had been discussed in [the] fraternity, but [right now it’s looking like] nothing is going to come of it,” Bonino said.
Nevertheless, the house has been filled next year with sorority women eager to participate in the new Affinity Housing Program.
“It’s a mixed-sorority house that will allow girls from different sororities to foster friendships and to ‘look beyond letters’ to show that we’re united as a Greek community and not just by individual sororities,” future resident Maddy Liss ’14 said. “I think it’ll be a great opportunity to meet new women from different sororities.”