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Alpha Sigma Phi comes to campus

Given the many time commitments and responsibilities the average Carnegie Mellon student juggles daily, it could be hard to understand why one would want to find yet another reason not to sleep. Yet for some undergraduate men at Carnegie Mellon, the opportunity to create a new community of friends and leaders was too exciting to turn down.

Alpha Sigma Phi and Phi Delta Theta are the newest arrivals on Carnegie Mellon’s ever-developing fraternity scene. Alpha Sigma Phi is still in the early “colony” stage of formation, while Phi Delta Theta was officially designated a chapter in October 2013. Alpha Sigma and Phi Delta stand as the most recent examples of the continually expanding fraternity life on Carnegie Mellon’s campus. At least one new fraternity has started every year for the past 5 years.

Alpha Sigma Phi, founded in 1845 at Yale University, began forming a prospective group of brothers after they learned that Carnegie Mellon’s Greek life was eager to expand. According to L.T. Piver, coordinator of expansion and growth for Alpha Sigma Phi, Carnegie Mellon has a long history with Alpha Sigma Phi. In 1915, the Alpha Sigma chapter at Carnegie Mellon was the first non-departmental fraternity on campus. Although that chapter closed in 1935 due to the Great Depression, the current colony will become an Alpha Gamma chapter because of the University’s historical relationship with the fraternity.

Alpha Sigma saw Carnegie Mellon as a promising expansion site because of certain perceived characteristics of the university’s undergraduate students. “We know the type of students at CMU,” Piver told The Tartan via email. “Our organization was founded on high literary principles at Yale in 1845, and we knew that CMU was a very academically focused university with students that would continue to uphold that value of our organization.”

Jeremy Applebaum, a junior chemistry major, is the secretary and a founding father of Alpha Sigma Phi. When Piver approached Applebaum about becoming a founding father, Applebaum was excited about the chance to help shape and establish a fraternity on campus.

“It truly is ours to craft,” Applebaum said via email. “One of the things I like most about Alpha Sigma Phi is the dedication to forming better men. We truly try to better the world by portraying our values (silence, charity, purity, honor, and patriotism) in our everyday lives.”

As of now, Alpha Sigma Phi is only a “colony,” and hopes to become an official chapter in May 2015. A colony, Applebaum said, has to meet many requirements before it’s chartered.
“We’re currently doing a lot to become an official chapter. We have a set of chartering goals that we need to accomplish before we can apply. These include specific recruitment, philanthropy, and service benchmarks amongst others. For example, right now, we’re in the middle of our ‘A Dollar Does It’ campaign that is raising funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh’s Mentor 2.0 program, a new program that equips low income students with skills necessary for college entry.”

Carnegie Mellon’s Phi Delta Theta chapter officially received its charter in the fall of last year. J.R. Marshall, president of Phi Delta Theta and policy and management and Chinese double major, was approached in high school about starting a chapter of Phi Delta Theta. Phi Delta Theta was founded at Miami University of Ohio in 1848, and its official website lists its principles as “friendship, sound learning and rectitude.”

After Marshall convinced his freshman roommate at Carnegie Mellon that this fraternity’s message was worth sharing, the two rounded up enough men to start a colony in the fall of 2012. Three semesters later — after budgeting, consulting from official Phi Delta officers, and the housing application process — Phi Delta received its charter in October 2013. The chapter occupies a house on the Greek Quadrangle on Morewood Avenue, and established a zero-alcohol policy in the residence.

“I think we differentiate ourselves in that we don’t look for a specific niche of person,” Marshall said in a recent interview. “Don’t become the best Phi Delt you can be, but become the greatest whoever you are, because that’s what it’s all about — it’s about surrounding yourself with people who are going to make you work harder, who will hold you to a standard, and who are going to expect things from you.… And I think becoming a Phi Delt isn’t an excuse to be a frat boy. I think becoming a Phi Delt is actually an obligation to hold yourself higher than a frat boy, a college student. It’s indeed something much higher than that.”

Marshall also theorized as to why Carnegie Mellon has recently seen such an increase in men interested in fraternities.

“From what I can tell, in recent years, we’ve had a lot [of fraternities] go off [campus]. And, I think with that, that means a lot come on,” he said. “And I think it’s good for the university to approach it that way because I think the more opportunities you have, the more diversity you have, the more you’re going to push each organization to be better…. I don’t think we’re anywhere near capacity. I know we’re about 22 percent, 23 percent Greek at CMU. I know there are a lot of campuses that are around there or lower, but I know a lot of campuses that are 50 percent Greek — that are 75 percent Greek. I think CMU Greek life has even more room to expand, and I would like to see that happen.”