February 23, 2001

A Fraternity With a Purpose

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They consider themselves a fraternity, but one for those who swore they would never join the greek system.

Although a member of the Inter-fraternity Council, the house is known to the Cornell community as “the greek alternative.” Members of the co-educational Sigma Chi Delta fraternity say they have built a reputation as an organization devoted to three principles: brotherhood, leadership, and service.

Throughout the year, this roughly 30-member fraternity hosts parties, dinners, coffeehouses, and barbecues. What distinguishes these events from many fraternity parties is that they never involve alcohol. The non-alcohol policy ensures that everybody will be welcome and not feel pressured to drink, according to Laurie Sanders ’02, president of Sigma Chi Delta. It also protects the brothers and sisters from potential liability issues, she mentioned.

“None of our pledging events or activities involve alcohol. Some of our members may like to occasionally drink alcohol, but it is never forced into our programs and nobody ever feels pressured,” said Sanders.

Sigma Chi Delta does not take part in formal fraternity rush, but does recruit by hosting events for potential members, including ultimate frisbee, coffeehouses, tubing at Greek Peak, dancing at The Haunt, ice skating, and dinner with the members of the house.

“Cornell is a really big place and we provide a smaller group of people that you can become close with,” said Sanders.

The pledge events and the sense of brotherhood within the house is what convinced many of the brothers and sisters to join.

“Many of my friends joined sororities, but I swore I would never do that. A girl that lived down the hall brought me to one of the rush events here and I just loved the atmosphere. Everyone is very close to one another and I feel comfortable here,” said Pamela Kelly ’02, service and philanthropy chair of Sigma Chi Delta.

“I saw that what other fraternity pledge events were like and I didn’t think they had anything to do with fostering the house’s principles. SCD’s did,” said Brian Kennedy ’01, vice president of Sigma Chi Delta.

Sanders explained the importance of their six-week new member orientation period.

“When someone pledges SCD, they learn something about us and about what we stand for, and in return, we as members learn something from the pledges,” said Sanders.

In addition to providing social events for members and students in the Cornell community, Sigma Chi Delta considers service to be the cornerstone of the fraternity.

“Service is very important to us to avoid being self-centered,” said Sanders.

Currently, the brothers and sisters of Sigma Chi Delta are working on a letter campaign to raise money for the Special Olympics. Earlier this year, they hosted a three-on-three basketball tournament to benefit Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

Some of the pledges joined Sigma Chi Delta with ideas for house projects.

“It would be great to have guest speakers come and address the Cornell community and stay with us at the house and do a service project with us. When Jane Goodall visited Cornell in the fall, she stayed at Eco House and cleaned up the gorges with students. Maybe we could do something like that,” said Justin Melendez ’04.

Although the brothers and sisters show a commitment to community service, they stress that they are not solely a service fraternity.

“We are a bunch of people that enjoy doing some service projects together on our free time,” said Brian Kennedy ’01, vice president of Sigma Chi Delta.

It’s Cornell house is the first and currently the only chapter of Sigma Chi Delta. Founded in 1981 as an Asian engineering fraternity, its membership was all-male. A “little sister’s program” did allow women to become honorary members. Sigma Chi Delta officially became co-educational in 1994.

Members are currently raising funds to buy a house and make the fraternity more of a permanent marker in the community. Currently, the rented house where Sigma Chi Delta is based does not display its greek letters in public view.

“Most of the community does not know that there is a coed fraternity on campus and by having a house, we can extend our roots and work with the community,” said Sanders.

The fraternity also has a supportive alumni base, which stays in touch with current brothers and sisters through an e-mail listserv and Internet chatrooms. This spring, alumni and current members will celebrate their twentieth anniversary.

According to Kristin D’Aco ’01, the twentieth anniversary chair of Sigma Chi Delta, the anniversary weekend events will include a formal banquet, a coffeehouse, and a trip to Taughannock Falls State Park.

Archived article by Seth Harris