Bonds of Brothers

Rani Gupta

Four months after Northwestern kicked Delta Kappa Epsilon off campus, members are trying to figure out how to exist as a fraternity without a house.

Although NU officials suspended the fraternity’s operations May 17 because of a Feb. 13 off-campus party that left two freshmen pledges hospitalized with alcohol poisoning, DKE members said they still plan to gather as a group.

“If anything, (the suspension) has brought us closer together,” DKE President Chris Gorbos said. “It’s made us think about what it means to be in a fraternity.”

Strengthening brotherhood

According to the terms of the four-year suspension, DKE cannot organize as a group on campus.

But DKE members said an official suspension cannot kill the friendship between brothers, and they still plan to spend time together.

“We’re all friends within the group,” said Gorbos, a Speech junior. “The fact that we’re kicked off makes us want to see each other more, the way you value something more once you lose it. … Now it’s like reunions every time we see each other.”

DKE Vice President Raj Babu said the suspension has forced the “diverse” members of the house to work together.

“We’re still a house and what we’re working on right now is strengthening our brotherhood,” said Babu, a McCormick and Weinberg junior. “All we have is our brotherhood right now.”

This may be best demonstrated by the members’ attitudes toward Winter Rush. Although DKE brothers could rush another fraternity if they deactivated, many said they would not change allegiance.

“There’s no way I would join another house,” said Jay Unnikrishnan, a McCormick sophomore. “I joined DKE for a reason and no other house really cut it for me.”

Even Serdjan Balach, one of the two pledges hospitalized, said he remains loyal to DKE.

“I joined this house for the people,” said Balach, a Weinberg sophomore. “I looked at other houses, but they didn’t fit me quite as well as DKE fit me.”

DKE is not the first fraternity to maintain loyalty after losing their house. Former Sigma Chi President Billy Hightower said he and his brothers also strengthened their bonds after losing their house.

Sigma Chi’s international organization suspended the NU chapter for serving alcohol in their house, which violated the fraternity’s probation.

Hightower, McCormick ’01, said fraternity members stayed close the year after losing their house. Most moved into apartments with each other, many threw off-campus Sigma Chi parties and the seniors organized a Sigma Chi formal in the spring.

Underground Fraternity

Sigma Chi’s gatherings were social, but members of DKE still are discussing the possibility of meeting less like friends and more like a formal fraternity.

“The group still wants to stay together,” Gorbos said. “We’re just not sure in what capacity.”

The main obstacle is the loss of the house, and the fact that members are now spread all over campus.

Members still are discussing the possibility of remaining as what would be classified as an “underground” chapter. If this is the case, the chapter would hold meetings off campus, pay national dues and participate in charity work and social events.

DKE national Executive Director David Easlick said DKE national does recognize underground chapters, but he has not heard from the NU chapter. He also said the NU members of DKE will be considered alumni when they graduate.

But because DKE is not recognized by NU or the Interfraternity Council, the fraternity members cannot use university space, participate in IFC decisions or rush new members.

“They shouldn’t be functioning as a fraternity in the meantime,” said Gregg Kindle, director of residential life. “The chapter does not exist as a group, so anything they would be doing as a group would be a violation of their suspension.”

Bitter taste

Gorbos said many DKE members are still bitter from Greek affairs’ lengthy investigation of the fraternity in the spring.

“Most of the disillusionment, anger and frustration is not directed at the fraternity, but at the university and the way they handled the situation,” he said.

Some members complained that the university misrepresented events of that night and failed to interview crucial participants, including some DKE members who were with the two pledges when they were taken to the hospital.

University officials said Baluch was in the hospital for five days and that he was found in a snowbank by a passer-by. But Balach said he was hospitalized for only about 36 hours and that he was not in a snowbank.

Balach also said the university misrepresented the events of the night as a hazing activity, and that he drank out of his own accord.

Despite the conflicting stories, DKE members said they know they made a mistake.

“We admit it; we screwed up,” Babu said. “And we took steps to correct it.”

The chapter conducted an internal investigation, during which it expelled the three seniors who threw the party and suspended others they determined to be partly responsible.

Many DKE members — even those who did not disagree with the decision to expel the fraternity — resented the university’s lengthy investigation, which wasn’t completed until three months after the incident.

Kindle said the investigation was conducted as quickly as possible, but university officials had to take the time to make an informed decision.

The May 17 announcement meant that DKE members who had planned to live in the house had to scramble to find housing. The university guaranteed housing for members of the fraternity, but many were forced to live under less-than-ideal conditions, including some members who began the year living in lounges at Bobb-McCulloch Hall.

Returning to campus

For many DKE members, the ultimate goal is to return to campus in a few years.

“A lot of different types of people have come together because we have a common goal, which is to come back as soon as possible,” Babu said.

Gorbos said the group’s planned charity work should convince NU that DKE members are serious about correcting their mistakes.

But Kindle said meeting as an underground fraternity would harm DKE’s chances to recolonize in the future.

Other fraternities have been kicked out of NU and returned in recent years. Administrators did not extend Phi Delta Theta’s housing contract over the summer of 1999 for various infractions including marijuana smoking in their house and an incident in which members threw garbage, paint and urine at people guarding The Rock. Their contract was renewed only one year later.

Beta Theta Pi was kicked off campus in 1994 for a series of infractions that culminated with a member falling out of a window. The fraternity was recolonized four years later and rushed its first pledge class in 1999.

Beta President Bassel Korkor belonged to that class. He said that when Beta was recolonized, it underwent tremendous changes. Beta is now a dry house, and all members must be active in a campus group and complete 30 hours of community service each year.

Korkor said administrators work “20 times more cooperatively” on housing issues with dry fraternities than with wet ones. He also said the university gave Beta a sizable loan, which the fraternity used to furnish their house and repair plumbing and electricity.

Korkor said he believes NU wants a strong Greek system because it improves student life and can help increase alumni donations. But by kicking out delinquent fraternities and aiding the reinstatement of positive ones, NU could remake the Greek system to represent what it wants to see, Korkor said.

“You get kicked off for something the university doesn’t like,” he said. “People they’re going to welcome back are the people who can prove they’re not going to do something like that. … There’s going to be a change in mentality. When you say fraternity, most people think of ‘Animal House.’ We want ‘Animal House’ to be far from the first thing to pop into people’s mind.”