A fresh start

Rani Gupta

Theta Chi members are trying to rebuild a house after their international headquarters ordered a reorganization that kicked out seven members, caused others to quit and left the fraternity with eight of 41 members.

Last May, Theta Chi International placed the chapter on probation and dried up the house. National representatives interviewed the 23 returning members and invited back only 16, said Matt Valangeon, Theta Chi international’s director of chapter development.

But eight members of the fraternity quit after the reorganization, Valangeon said, including Matthew Lineen, who was president at the time.

“I was asked back in, but they kicked out a lot of my friends,” said Peter Johnson, a McCormick senior. “They were asking me to choose between the fraternity and the people in it.”

The remaining members must tackle the goal of recruiting new members. Theta Chi President Zack Hargrove said the chapter’s goal is to rush more than 30 members by the end of the year, a feat accomplished last Winter Rush by only Phi Delta Theta and Zeta Beta Tau.

The chapter has already rushed its first pledge of the year, Speech junior Tom Gibes, who brings the membership up to nine.

“It was the opportunity to build something up from the ground floor,” Gibes said. “Every person plays a really important part in the rebuilding process. That’s something that really excited me.”

Hargrove, a Weinberg junior, said the members are honest when asked about their low membership.

“We basically tell them that this is a new Theta Chi,” he said. “The response is, ‘It’s cool that you’re so small and get to make it what you want it to be.’ I haven’t heard a single negative comment so far.”

THE REORGANIZATION

Many current and former members of the fraternity accused the national headquarters of making up charges to justify the reorganization.

David Westol, Theta Chi international executive director, said the organization identified the major concerns as attitude problems, low membership and a lack of involvement in campus and Greek activities.

But members believe the reorganization was largely based on a bad image around campus and their rush t-shirts, which read “Worst Fraternity Ever,” a joke from “The Simpsons.”

“I think (the national organization) just plain didn’t like us,” Johnson said. “We weren’t the typical fraternity. They wanted us to have a float in the homecoming parade and just be what they were expecting. They really flipped out over that shirt.”

Westol said the international headquarters has ordered more than 35 reorganizations in seven years.

Valangeon conducted 20-minute interviews with all members of the fraternity except seniors. From the interviews, and other factors such as academics, the national representatives decided who would be kicked out. Those members will be granted alumni status when they graduate.

In accordance with national policy, the fraternity does not tell members the reasons they are not kicked out. Valangeon, who conducted the interviews, said the major problem was that the members were not knowledgeable about the fraternity.

Some complained that the short interviews eliminated some of Theta Chi’s most valuable members.

“I didn’t feel that any of interviews they gave us could have told them enough about us as a person,” said Matt Snyder, a Weinberg junior who was kicked out of the fraternity. “I felt like any reaction they got would be pretty superficial unless anyone divulged inside information against us.”

Members said they were pitted against each other by the national representatives when they were given member lists and asked to highlight who they thought should be asked to leave.

Weinberg junior Evan Newell, who remains in the fraternity, said none of the members – including him – would target anyone else.

“As far as I know, we all said everyone should stay,” he said.

But Westol said the “members themselves helped us by communicating who they felt should be asked to rejoin and who should be put on suspended status.”

The aftermath

Before the reorganization, several members had decided that if one member was kicked out, they would quit the fraternity. The conflict between those who left the fraternity and those who wanted to stay hurt relationships within Theta Chi.

“A lot of friendships were actually ruined by the process, which is why they should have thought about what they did and done it properly,” said Lineen, a McCormick senior.

After the national fraternity announced they reorganize NU’s chapter, some members painted graffiti on the house and damaged the common rooms.

“Prior to the decision to reorganize, we were great. We were really close friends,” Lineen said. “It wasn’t until the decision to reorganize came about that there were problems.”

Most former members said they are still friends with some of the remaining members and said they respect their decisions.

“I have no animosity toward them,” Lineen said. “I think it’s great that they decided to continue with (the fraternity). I wish them the best of luck.”

But even though most may be on good terms, there is some bad blood.

“Some people stayed because they wanted a place to live,” Snyder said. “They put that over friendship.”

Picking up the pieces

The existing members of Theta Chi are optimistic about their future on campus, and have been cleaning their house and stepping up philanthropy efforts.

“The people in the house are willing to work hard,” said David Stone, a Weinberg sophomore. “Everyone is willing to do what they can to fix up the house and get it running.”

Theta Chi’s reputation is already improving, Hargrove said.

“In one word – and I’m guilty of this, too – our image was that we were lazy,” Hargrove said. “We realize there’s a whole other avenue to being a fraternity. We were like the place to go and get drunk. And now we’re a dry house.”

The chapter is now on good terms with the international organization, Hargrove said.

Westol said the international headquarters and area alumni have scheduled more visits, set up an advisory board and plan to help the chapter financially.

NU’s Greek system has also been supporting the chapter by providing them with contact information to help them rush upperclassmen. Interfraternity Council President Phil Ordway said the fraternity is in no danger of being excluded from IFC, despite their low membership.

And despite the loss of most of their fraternity, the remaining members even view the reorganization as a positive step in Theta Chi’s history.

“(The reorganization) was the best thing that could have happened to the house,” Newell said. “We’re much more unified now than we were before.”