Cornell University officially welcomed its newest fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau, at a chartering ceremony in Kennedy Hall, held on Sept. 29.
After two years of recruiting, organizing and establishing an image, the members were initiated as brothers and the house became recognized by the Phi Kappa Tau national fraternity.
“From a personal standpoint, it is a true honor to be the refounding fathers of this chapter. The guys that joined the house with me wanted something different from the typical fraternity and I want us to continue to be a positive influence on the Cornell community,” said Thomas Aichele ’02, president of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity.
The fraternity plans to utilize resources from Cornell Outdoor Education (COE) to provide team building events for the pledge class to get to know each other and the brothers in the house.
According to Jason Hudes ’02, new member recruitment chair for the fraternity, the brothers plan to take their pledges hiking, rock climbing, snowshoeing and to the high ropes course.
“This is a good way for us to educate our new members to be Phi Tau men without other degrading activities,” Hudes said. “We are hoping it will be a good alternative to other types of pledge activities because I feel that some fraternities haze because they have nothing else to do. It is poor planning on their part.”
Suzy Nelson, associate dean of students for fraternity and sorority affairs and Jason LeGrand, a former staff member in the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, pioneered the pledge program that the fraternity plans to implement this spring.
The administration saw it as an alternative to the traditional pledge activities and wanted a fraternity to pilot program. According to Hudes, the fraternity eagerly accepted. The new member orientation will be a major focus of the fraternity, Hudes said.
“It will reinforce that trust is essential to brotherhood,” Aichele said.
The process of organizing the chapter at Cornell began in February 2000 when members of the Phi Kappa Tau national fraternity traveled to Ithaca to recruit members. They visited residence halls and hosted informational sessions on campus to promote the fraternity.
The national fraternity started a colony, which is an unofficial fraternity chapter which must organize itself to conform to the national fraternity’s standards in order to become a chartered chapter. Initially, seven students joined the colony, but expanded to 16 by the end of the year.
As a colony, members hosted its annual fundraiser, “Phi Tug.” This event consisted of teams of people competing in tug of war. All of the money raised was donated to Hole in the Wall, a program for terminally ill children. Last year, Phi Kappa Tau raised $700 for the charity.
Over the summer, the colony was recognized by Cornell’s Interfraternity Council as the most outstanding chapter at Cornell.
“I think this served as a springboard for the members to work hard to gain our charter,” Aichele said.
Also this summer, the national fraternity also named Cornell’s chapter the most outstanding Phi Kappa Tau colony. Shortly after this distinction, the colony was approved to receive its charter.
The difference between being a colony and being a full-fledged fraternity is the brothers are formally recognized as brothers of Phi Kappa Tau and can apply for various scholarships from the national fraternity. Currently, the chapter has 37 active members.
According to Aichele, Phi Kappa Tau was a chapter for several decades before it was disbanded in 1995 due to declining membership. Over the summer, the newly-chartered fraternity moved into its previous house on The Knoll. The house is owned by fraternity alumni.
“All of the brothers would like to see the fraternity expand. We have some long-established traditions that we would like to share, and I would like to see the younger brothers run with these ideas in the coming years,” Aichele said.
“Many people have told us the we need to be careful not to fall into a post-chartering slump, but for this group of guys I know that won’t be an issue,” said Dennis DeMarco ’03, brotherhood chair of the fraternity. “We will continue setting an example for other Greek organizations on alternative ways to hold successful social, philanthropic and new member education events.”
The Interfraternity Council (IFC) also expressed their encouragement to the new brothers.
“Phi Tau is an amazing group of men who represent their fraternity with dignity, moral character, pride and honor. They are a model fraternity and will continue to be for many years,” said IFC president Brian Strahine ’01.
Archived article by Seth Harris