Alcohol-Free Property Policy Revoked, and Other Changes

It’s been a challenging few years for Zeta Chapter and the Alumni Corp. Things are settling down now and are really looking up for the near term, so it’s time to fill you in on the changes that are under way. There are big changes.

Alcohol-Free Property Policy Revoked

On March 15, the International Headquarters of Phi Kappa Sigma notified its undergraduate and alumni chapters that:

Effective August 1, 2016, the Fraternity’s risk management policy requirement for alcohol-free property will be removed and the restriction on BYOB events lifted. The current policies will remain in effect until that date.
Any violations of the current policy will be addressed with appropriate corrective actions that will also include, but are not limited to, social probation limiting or restricting the use of alcohol by the chapter.
During the next few months, we will be updating and communicating the procedures for registering and hosting social events with alcohol, as well as the refining of training programs offered by the Fraternity.

While this is a welcome decision, and one that has been awaited for years, Zeta Chapter has recently moved away from parties and drinking. It might surprise you to hear that this isn’t going to change very much after the restrictions on alcohol in the Chapter House are officially lifted. In fact, in response to several problems that have weakened the chapter over the past few years, the undergrad members of Zeta Chapter, with the support of the Exec. Board, are embracing this opportunity to remake the chapter into one that will attract new members interested first and foremost in brotherhood, scholarship, and leadership—and one that is better positioned to thrive in the current environment on campus.

A Catalyst for Change

Zeta Chapter has recently faced several challenges, including a changing environment for the F&M Greek system, declining membership, failures of leadership and financial management, multiple violations of the alcohol-free housing policy by undergrad and alumni members, and increased scrutiny from the College administration. These factors led to National’s decision to place Zeta Chapter on probation for the 2015–16 academic year.

The terms of probation include higher insurance rates, a risk management fine of $50 per active member, and a requirement to hold all chapter functions and meetings on campus until probation has been lifted. Assuming that Zeta Chapter satisfactorily meets all terms, probation may be lifted in June 2016.

Separately, because the spring 2015 pledge class narrowly missed the College’s cumulative GPA requirement of 2.70 (by 0.02 points), the chapter was prohibited by the College administration to take freshmen as pledges for the fall 2015/spring 2016 academic year. The chapter’s appeal of this severe penalty was unsuccessful.

In addition, as a result of an unauthorized alumni event held at the Chapter House in the summer of 2015, National has fined the Alumni Corp. $2,500. This event had triggered a noise complaint, to which the Lancaster Police Dept. responded. The police informed the College, and the College informed National that alcohol was present at this event, which is a violation of the substance-free housing policy.

New Environment for the Greek System

F&M’s Greek system has been in a state of change since the official re-recognition of fraternities and sororities by the College administration in 2004. The pace of this change has quickened substantially in the last three years, under the direction of Stuart Umberger, the current dean of Greek life.

In short, the environment on campus is very different than at any time in the past. Every aspect of Greek life, including social events, is highly regulated by the College, and communication between the Alumni Greek Council and the College administration has deteriorated, leading the AGC to issue a letter of no confidence in Dean Umberger to the Office of the President.

The changes have rippled throughout the entire system. While sororities have enjoyed record membership, fraternities have seen decreased participation overall. Some houses have suffered more than others.

  • As members who were primarily interested in being part of the fraternity for the drinking have gone inactive, Zeta Chapter’s membership has condensed to 18 members.
  • Delta Sigma Phi has been suspended by the College from operating as a fraternity at F&M until 2020, due to a number of policy violations.
  • Kappa Sigma has moved from their old location on North Charlotte to the house next door to Delta, on College Ave., leaving Zeta Chapter the fraternity house farthest away from campus.
  • Phi Kappa Psi now holds the largest membership of all the fraternities, at 70–80 members.

In the midst of this change, two fraternities that have been absent from campus since the 1980s have been invited to return. Zeta Beta Tau resumed operations at F&M in January, and Lambda Chi Alpha will return to campus next year, resulting in increased competition for new members among a smaller percentage of the male student population to go Greek than in many years past.

A New Model for Zeta Chapter

In the face of the changing environment at F&M, a new model is needed in order for Zeta Chapter to survive. Even for the other fraternities that do not have substance-free housing policies, the formula for attracting members with big parties will no longer work in the current landscape. The College administration has cracked down on underage drinking at fraternities, in off-campus apartments, and in the dorms, and the days of large open-door parties are in the past. Our chapter needs to attract members in other ways.

The current members of Zeta Chapter have elected to recruit students who are interested in the aspects of fraternity other than drinking, including brotherhood, leadership, community service, and scholarship. In this way, they will try to rebuild the Chapter’s numbers and its standing on campus.

The undergrads have a difficult task: to “rebrand” the Chapter and differentiate from the other fraternities. In this challenge also lies a tremendous opportunity: by attracting new members who are not just interested in partying, they will ultimately build a stronger brotherhood with lifelong members dedicated to its success.

Alumni Corp. Response

The Alumni Corp. Exec. Board supports the undergrads’ efforts to move forward in this new direction, and we’re asking all our fellow alumni to do the same. The benefits to Zeta Chapter from ending open parties are obvious:

  • Much lower risk of alcohol-related incidents that would jeopardize the safety and well-being of its members and guests—and the status of the chapter
  • A better class of new member who is interested in the core values of the Fraternity, rather than just having a place to get drunk
  • An infusion of younger alumni who will be dedicated to the success of the chapter after they graduate
  • A cleaner Chapter House that is subject to much lower risk of damage
  • An organization that will spend its dues on its own members, as opposed to providing free beer to whomever wants it
  • An organization that can spend its recruiting budget on the people it actually wants to recruit

To assist the Chapter, the Exec. Board members, including president Chaz Isaacs, advisor Matt Tomlinson, and treasurer Manny Fariñas, have been in close contact with the Chapter officers to ensure that they are meeting the terms of probation, are following the agreed debt-repayment plan, and are following a consistent and effective recruitment plan.

In addition, Chaz and Matt have been in regular contact with the National Fraternity and the College administration to advocate on the Chapter’s behalf and to help the Chapter officers communicate with these parties.

Latest Updates

Zeta Chapter has begun its transformation, although there is still work to be done.

Despite the restrictions of probation and the ban on pledging freshmen instituted by the College, the brotherhood conducted a dry rush program in January and was able to attract four new members. In addition, the brothers handed out “pre-bids” for the Fall 2016 semester and received commitments from 14 sophomores-to-be. Some of those who accepted these pre-bids turned down invitations to pledge other houses in the current semester.

With many of the current members graduating this spring, the brotherhood understands the importance of retaining the interest of these prospective members. In addition to meeting the terms of probation and paying down its debt, this is a main focus for the rest of the year. National has expressed support for the brotherhood’s plan to invite these prospective members to participate in chapter activities, such as fundraisers and community service events.

One of the ways the brotherhood has decided to differentiate itself from the other fraternities is to try to attract new members from varied social and cultural backgrounds. Fraternities at F&M (including our own) have recently faced accusations of being homogeneous in the best of cases, and racist and misogynistic in some instances. Zeta Chapter is trying to attract worthy new members from all backgrounds, many of whom feel that there is no place for them in the Greek system.

In their rushing efforts the brotherhood is trying to recruit members who would not have gone Greek in the past, and is making the point that new members will have more influence than they may have had in the past to mold the chapter into a place of their own.

Alumni Support

The purpose of this letter is not only to inform but to solicit your feedback and draw you into the important conversation regarding the future of Zeta Chapter. In other words, we need your help.

I want you as a Zeta Chapter alumnus to ask questions, express concerns, and most of all, offer advice and support.

  • How would you advise the chapter to attract new members?
  • How else can Zeta Chapter differentiate itself from the other fraternities at F&M?
  • What benefits would your ideal fraternity offer?

Please think about these things in advance of this year’s Phoneathon. When you receive that call in a few weeks, I strongly encourage you to offer your advice and support to the brother who has called you, and to get his perspective on things.

The Alumni Corp. Exec. Board also needs your help and guidance. I’m posting this letter on the Alumni Corp.’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/117027630423) so that our alumni can discuss the topics raised. I hope you will use this forum to offer constructive input and practical suggestions for Zeta Chapter’s success. I’ll also be happy to answer any questions and discuss anything related to Zeta Chapter via e-mail (brosenkrantz@zetaskulls.com) or phone (973-410-0286).

I apologize for the length of this letter, and I appreciate your continuing interest in Zeta Chapter. We really do depend on the support of our alumni to keep our chapter’s traditions alive at F&M while adapting to new challenges. On behalf of the other Exec. Board members, I thank you in advance for your assistance.

As always, I remain …


Brad Rosenkrantz ’95
Secretary, Zeta Alumni Corp.