Phi Delta Theta was the first fraternity established at Franklin College in 1860. As of April 24, the fraternity has reinstalled twice in the past 20 years. Now, with 18 members, their official charter and a move to the house currently rented by Tau Kappa Epsilon on the horizon, the group is looking forward to a fresh start.
The chapter was suspended in 2016 for a “history of failing to adhere to organizational standards”–– including their alcohol-free housing policy and chapter size requirements, according to a statement from the fraternity headquarters. One Phi Delt member was specifically removed from membership for “engaging in conduct not aligned with the values of the fraternity,” according to an email sent to alumni in 2016.
THE ROAD TO INSTALLMENT
In fall 2019, non-student fraternity representatives spent eight weeks on campus doing recruitment work to reestablish the organization.
Brandon Eades, a senior and former president of Phi Delt, was one of the first men to be recruited. He joined because he felt stuck in a rut when it came to his involvement at Franklin College.
“Phi Delt came calling and it seemed like the best opportunity to challenge myself and do something that will be here long after I’m not at Franklin any longer,” Eades said.
Eades was recruited into the fraternity by Jimmy Pietras and Greg Rush, expansion consultants who spent those eight weeks on campus talking to unaffiliated men.
Franklin College was Pietras’ first campus to recolonize. He explained that at colleges where the fraternity has a long history, the goal after closing a chapter is to return as soon as possible. This usually occurs in four-year cycles, so that most past members have graduated.
The fraternity also establishes a return agreement with the college that outlines the timeline, restrictions and process for the reestablishment of the group.
Pietras said the initial goal upon arriving at Franklin was to recruit 32 men for the Indiana Delta Chapter of Phi Delt. However, after becoming more familiar with the campus population, this goal seemed unrealistic. Most students are already involved in another Greek organization, a sport or both, he said.
“We just put our heads to the ground and just kept talking to as many people as possible to get to whatever we could,” Pietras said. “And by the end of the [2019 fall] semester they were up to 15 members which I would consider a pretty big success for the size of the campus.”
Pietras said he and Rush ended up communicating with 60% of the campus’s unaffiliated male population.
The chapter received their official charter on April 24, when a virtual reinstallment ceremony was held.
Casey Adams, Franklin College alumnus and the chapter’s alumni relations advisor, helped by answering questions the men had while working towards their charter.
“These groups don’t get approved for installation until they can show that they’ve developed to a point where our headquarters feels confident that they’re ready to take on the challenge of being a chapter of fidelity, and being good citizens to the community, and good leaders,” Adams said.
THE FUTURE OF PHI DELT
Receiving their charter means that Phi Delt has the green light to participate in Franklin College’s Interfraternity Council and move into the house at 698 E. Monroe St. in the fall. The house is currently leased by Tau Kappa Epsilon.
Eades said he doesn’t know what the situation looks like for TKE, but that members of the fraternity avoided discussing the house to avoid unnecessary conflict.
“We’ve kept it pretty hush-hush because we didn’t want to jinx it,” Eades said.
TKE President Matt Leming did not respond to a request for comment.
Eades said now that the process of reinstallment is over, the brothers in the fraternity can begin shaping their own experience and identity.
“Instead of trying to please our headquarters and check off the boxes that they want to see, now it’s more of trying to do things that we want to do and have the impact on campus that we want to have,” Eades said.
While Eades was the founding president of the fraternity, Devin Wilham is the current chapter president. He said his internal goals are improving the communication and organization within the fraternity, while also creating a strong bond of brotherhood and using philanthropy to help the local community.
The Greek organization’s philanthropy raises money to fund research for Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS.
While other fraternities or sororities are often generally associated with a sport or type of person, Wilham’s aim is for Phi Delt to be more diverse.
“I don’t think [being associated iwth one identity is] is in our image, because we don’t identify as one thing,” Wilham said. “Anyone can join.”
On returning to campus after being shut down, Wilham said all Greek organizations have positive and negative past events and associations. He said that during his time as president, he hopes to ensure Phi Delt follows all guidelines and develops a more positive reputation.
Eades said the fraternity had 23 members at the end of the fall 2020 semester, but that number has decreased to 18. He said it is still the smallest fraternity of the five on Franklin College’s campus.