BECK STANLEY ’13
One hundred fifty men accepted bids this year to become a part of a College tradition that dates back to 1849.
This year's class of fraternity candidates is one of the most diverse and academically-driven Hampden-Sydney has seen in its history. Since their beginnings in the 19th-century, fraternities on campus have created the social, academic, professional, and philanthropic backbone of student life, cherished by students, alumni, and parents.
"The numbers are up 61 percemt since last year, and I hope to see the incoming IFC leadership take that improvement one step further in the coming year," said August Widmer '13, the outgoing chairman of the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC). Widmer and his colleagues implemented new programs aimed at increasing student pledge GPAs and chapter finances. One of those programs includes the rebate of IFC dues and fees. Since September, the IFC has returned close to $5,000 to its chapters. Those funds were used exclusively for rush purposes, which led to better recruitment events and, ultimately, to more freshmen accepting bids.
The second initiative aims at increasing pledge GPAs. Beginning this spring, pledges are required to maintain attendance, timeliness, and participation standards in all of their classes. "The IFC should be congratulated for coming up with a serious plan on its own to address [academics]," wrote Dr. Michael Utzinger, associate dean of the faculty and professor of religion.
Perhaps most surprising is how all this was accomplished. For the past year, the College has relied on the Inter-Fraternity Council and a handful of faculty advisors to manage the Circle. Many students hope that additional funds will be available to pay for bigger concerts (in collaboration with the College Activities Committee), more student-led service projects, and the creation of new scholarships for fraternity members.
"Fraternity alumni have come together over the past year to work toward this goal. To date, these alumni have contributed more than $10,000 for fraternity scholarships, social events, and recruitment efforts."
On top of this year's growth, Pi Kappa Alpha will return to campus in August with 60 initiated brothers, mostly concentrated in the class of 2016. Hampden-Sydney College has a significant role in the history of Pi Kappa Alpha. Following its creation at the University of Virginia in 1869, Pi Kappa Alpha experienced poor growth, eventually stalling in 1888 with no regional leadership and few chapters. But in 1889, a group of Hampden-Sydney students gathered on the fourth floor of Cushing Hall and decided that Pi Kappa Alpha should be reformed. It wasn't until 1909 that it became a national fraternal organization, but those four Cushing residents are still regarded by Pi Kappa Alpha International as the fraternity's founding fathers.
"We have a strong group, supportive alumni, and an incredible historical presence on campus. We're honored to become a part of the PiKA tradition here at Hampden-Sydney," said Justin Bauersachs '15, a rising junior and an instrumental figure in the re-colonization effort.
Alongside growing numbers, some fraternities are raising the bar academically. The newly re-chartered Chi Phi chapter was ranked number two academically among Chi Phi's entire international network. "We decided when drafting our strategic plan for re-colonization that academics and creating a system to help brothers achieve academic success would be two of our primary goals," noted Chi Phi past president Richard Pantele '13.
Students pledging fraternities quickly learn how to balance their academic requirements and their new pledge duties. "The academic requirements of pledging can be easily met," said student-pledge Josiah Fleming '16, a pre-med student. "It isn't hard to put in three hours of studying a night. Every student should be doing this regardless of his participation in a fraternity. This is college."
Mr. Fleming isn't alone. Most freshmen inquire about the academic standings of fraternities during formal rush. While it comes as no surprise that the all-IFC GPA has been above the all-men's for decades, pledge academic performance will remain a top priority for both fraternity leaders and College officials.
Greek life at Hampden-Sydney has grown in popularity in recent years. Former chapters are returning to campus and new fraternities are expressing interest is starting chapters here as well. The IFC is taking a bigger role in overseeing its members, and the programs introduced to increase membership have been effective. These positive developments show just how important Greek life is to today's Hampden-Sydney students.
Beck Stanley '13 is the outgoing IFC Secretary-Treasurer and President-Emeritus of Sigma Nu.