Phi Kappa Psi, Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternities return to campus

The Vanderbilt chapters were suspended in 2018 and 2019, respectively, for violating the university’s risk management, hazing and recruitment policies.

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Laura Vaughan

The Phi Psi house next to construction of the new residential college, captured on October 26, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Laura Vaughan)

Ekta Anand, Senior Staff Writer

Vanderbilt’s Tennessee Delta chapter of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity returned to campus in Fall 2022, following a 2018 suspension due to risk management and recruitment violations. The Tennessee Nu chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity plans to return to Vanderbilt’s campus in Spring 2023 after a 2019 suspension due to hazing and risk management violations.  

Both Phi Psi and SAE are part of the Interfraternity Council. Two other IFC chapters — the Gamma chapter of Phi Gamma Delta and the Gamma Omega chapter of Theta Chi — are eligible to re-establish on campus in the next two years. According to Kristin Torrey, director of the Office of Greek Life, Phi Gamma Delta was suspended from campus for five years after risk management and new member education violations and plans to return in Fall 2023. Theta Chi has not been an established chapter at Vanderbilt in over 50 years, and the earliest opportunity for the national fraternity to re-establish itself at Vanderbilt is Fall 2024, per Torrey. 

Vanderbilt’s chapters of Alpha Epsilon Pi, Beta Theta Pi and Phi Delta Theta — three other IFC chapters — were reinstated in Spring 2021, Fall 2021 and Spring 2022, respectively.

“IFC is excited to have these chapters return to campus,” senior Ben Powdermaker, IFC president, said in an email to The Hustler. 

Vanderbilt’s Theta Beta chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., a National Pan-Hellenic Council chapter, returned to campus in April 2022 after being suspended in 2019. 

Omega Psi Phi was suspended for one year (the 2019 – 2020 academic year) after three years of failing to meet the minimum standards set forth for all chapters within the Vanderbilt Greek community, including those that are part of the Greek Member Experience program,” Torrey said. 

Return of Phi Psi

Phi Psi, which currently has four members, was originally scheduled to return in Spring 2022. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, changes were made to this timeline. Torrey said that the university has worked with the Phi Psi national fraternity to plan the chapter’s reinstallment recruitment efforts. First-years are eligible for IFC recruitment starting in Spring 2023.

The university worked in conjunction with the national fraternity on a return agreement as a part of a collaborative judicial process that scheduled their [Phi Psi] return date for Fall 2022,” Torrey said in an email to The Hustler. 

Construction for a new Phi Psi house began in February 2021 and was completed in Fall 2021, according to the Phi Psi Facebook page. Torrey said the renovation was conducted while the chapter was suspended and financed by the Phi Kappa Psi House Corporation. 

Phi Psi President Henry Zhu, a junior, said he hopes to increase the fraternity’s membership during the Spring 2023 semester with an emphasis on inclusivity. 

“We’re really trying to create a safe place for people, no matter whether they are here to party or if they are a potential member,” Zhu said. 

Sophomore and Phi Psi Vice President Qwynn Foster added that the chapter is working to address anti-Greek Life sentiment in the wake of the Abolish Greek Life movement, especially alleged exclusion and perpetuation of harassment.  

“I met with people like Project Safe, the BCC and the KCPC because my goal is to make those networks have more outreach to places that don’t normally get it,” Foster said. “I really felt that this was an opportunity for a Greek org to make a difference and challenge the normative toxic culture.” 

Foster said the connections they made with these centers will be helpful in reaching a wide range of students during recruitment. 

“I’m very passionate about creating a space that’s safe for queer people and people of color,” Foster said. “I think that fraternity space is a beautiful space to be able to make connections to make lifelong friends. We just hope to be able to create that space on campus.”

According to Zhu, Phi Psi will be allowed to host parties and other social events on campus in Spring 2023. 

“We really want to go into next semester ready to greet people with open arms,” Foster said. “Our goal is to look beyond what is in front of us and go to places where people aren’t likely to rush.”

Return of SAE

Torrey said that SAE’s return was also scheduled alongside the SAE national fraternity as a part of a collaborative judicial process. She said the chapter would be moving back into its residential space on 25th Avenue. David Pascarella, SAE national director of communications, stated that the chapter will begin recruitment on Jan. 9. The national fraternity held an informational session on Nov. 10 in anticipation of recruitment.

Staff from SAE’s Fraternity Service Center and SAE alumni will be on campus starting January 9 to establish the Emerging Chapter. We are encouraged by the overwhelming interest and support we have received from the Vanderbilt community and look forward to rejoining the community in January,” Pascarella said in a statement to The Hustler. 

According to Pascarella, the chapter, SAE staff and alumni will set goals in member education, risk management, health and safety, recruitment and chapter operations and collaboratively work to reach them in order for the chapter to earn its charter. Pascarella did not specify what these goals could include. 

In October 2021, Gage Wolt and Donovan Golich, the SAE managers of expansion and redevelopment respectively, published a message regarding former members of Vanderbilt’s Gamma chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon allegedly believing they could return to campus as part of SAE in Spring 2023. The message disputed this claim, citing fraternity policy which states that SAE does not accept students who have already been initiated into another fraternity. The DKE International Fraternity closed Vanderbilt’s chapter in February 2021 after violations of health and safety, associate member education and hazing policies.

Torrey echoed these sentiments, referencing the lifetime membership that a fraternity ensures. 

It is a standard practice among national fraternities for students not to receive bids for membership once they have been initiated into another fraternity.  Fraternity and sorority membership is intended to be for a lifetime, so once someone is initiated into the organization, they cannot join another,” Torrey said in an email to the Hustler. 

The Oct. 21 message came in conjunction with an email from Torrey to students interested in IFC denouncing off-campus operations of former DKE brothers. In the email, Torrey criticized the fraternity-like operations of former DKE members and echoed the SAE national fraternity’s message about these students returning as another fraternity. 

It is critical to understand that neither DKE nor any potential future iteration of the organization will exist or be recognized on Vanderbilt’s campus as long as an unrecognized off-campus group operates,” Torrey’s email reads.