Rebuilding a fraternity

Lauren Polly

The story of the new Phi Delta Theta

Phi Delta Theta went from having a strong presence on campus, with five off-campus houses on College Street and a mansion on Fraternity Circle, to being left with four members.

Jim Flores, treasurer of Phi Delta Theta, said the fraternity became dry in 1998. That meant no alcohol or tobacco was allowed on any Phi Delta Theta property.

While the fraternity still had five off-campus houses, drinking and tobacco use at the house was not an issue, Flores said. However, when men moved off of College Street, drinking started in the men’s bedrooms.

“Things were getting worse, alcohol was part of it,” Flores said. “We were really good at hiding things.”

In August, Phi Delta Theta’s headquarters held the Emerging Leadership Institute conference in Oxford. Two members of the Kent State Phi Delta Theta chapter were invited. Nationals would not accept the two chosen by the fraternity from the university, and insisted that Flores and David Palka, current Phi Delta Theta President, went.

After the conference, the chapter was removed from campus for a week and headquarters suspended all the members.

“When I see people taking what Greek life should be, twisting it and completely losing sight of what our founders originally intended, it frustrates me,” said Beth Gittons, assistant director of fraternity and sorority affairs, about the Kent State chapter of Phi Delta Theta. “On their good days, they didn’t want to do much, and on their bad days they wanted to screw up. They had come so off track.”

National officials from headquarters came and interviewed every man in the fraternity. After the interviews were done, they got rid of 30 members, leaving eight. Four of those eight quit soon after.

“I had a lot of mixed emotions because I am friends with a lot of the men who were asked to leave,” Palka said. “We all joined the fraternity because we believed in a bigger mission. We were affecting each other and heading in the wrong direction.”

Phi Delta Theta was brought back on campus as a colony. The fraternity will not be able to petition to get its charter back, which recognizes them as an active fraternity on campus, until it gets 36 members.

Because it was left with four members, the fraternity had to rent its mansion on Fraternity Circle to Sigma Sigma Sigma. Twenty-four members are needed to fill the mansion in order for the brothers to live in it again.

The four men who remain are now starting over and are founders of the new Phi Delta Theta. Recruitment is now referral based. The brothers will go to the heads of student organizations, deans and resident assistants to look for students holding leadership roles on campus to find prospective brothers.

“We don’t have to build men,” Flores said. “We’re seeking out the men that have already proven themselves leaders.”

Students with a 2.5 GPA who are motivated and involved on campus are the type of men Phi Delta Theta is interested in talking to. Flores said the fraternity was getting away from these ideals.

“We pretty much became a stereotypical fraternity,” Flores said. “Our members weren’t involved on campus and because of grades, many had to leave school.”

Mike Moore is one of the new men to the Phi Delta Theta colony. He said Phi Delta Theta was referred to him by someone already involved in the fraternity. The ideals and goals of the colony were what he was looking for.

“I didn’t want non-stop partying,” said Moore, freshman international relations major. “There’s always a party Thursday night. I don’t need to pay to party.”

Men who are referred to the colony will first talk to one of the remaining brothers. Afterward, the interested men will attend two colony meetings. The men will then be interviewed to see if the fraternity is for them.

The university, Phi Delta Theta Nationals and alumni completely support and back the mission the colony has.

“I am just so thrilled to see the change in the fraternity. These are young men who really understand what Greek life is like, what it can be and what it should be,” Gittons said. “The sense of hope and enthusiasm about the right things gives me hope. It’s infectious. They have so many opportunities to start over, and you can’t help but to help them with whatever they need.”

Flores said the men involved in founding the new fraternity have a lot of opportunities for leadership roles. Also, because of the exceptional men the colony is looking for, the fraternity will appear to be in between a professional and social fraternity.

“I was brought in the fraternity on the ideals and morals it’s supposed to have, and it is finally getting there,” Flores said.

The men involved in the colony are excited about starting over and being a part of founding the fraternity even if they will not directly see the results.

“All we can hope to do is to get Phi Delta Theta on its feet,” said Bob Brayer, colony member. “We’re getting the house back in two years and I won’t be here, but I want it for the guys.”

Flores said the work the men have put in has been hard but is worth it.

“There’s no problem too big you can’t solve,” Flores said. “If there’s a problem in your sorority or fraternity don’t be afraid to fix it.”

Anyone interested in learning more information about the colony can go to Kent State’s Phi Delta Theta Web site

Contact Greek life reporter Lauren Polly at [email protected].




July 31-Aug. 2: Emerging Leaders Institute: First meeting with Headquarters about problems.

Week Of Aug. 15: Chapter suspended by university.

Aug. 16: Every member had been suspended and notified.

Aug. 21: Headquarters interviewed every member of the fraternity: 30 members were dismissed.

Week of Sept. 1: Headquarters reinstated Phi Delta Theta as a colony at Kent State.

Week of Nov. 7: Phi Delta Theta was reinstated as an organization on campus in colony status.