Editors note: Evan Mueller is a founding father of the Delta Upsilon fraternity at Webster University but did not renew his membership in Fall 2010 after returning from Webster’s Thailand campus.
Four years ago, an ambitious group of men struggled to win approval for Delta Upsilon, Webster University’s first and only fraternity. They battled students, who believed the exclusive nature of the organization corrupted the school’s core value of equality. They fought faculty and administrators who feared the existence of Greek life would make Webster less attractive to prospective students who were looking for a “different” college experience.
Alumni even threatened to end their support of the university if a fraternity was allowed. Yet the Webster chapter of Delta Upsilon was approved by SGA in the spring semester of 2008.
Not soon after, a sorority interest group was formed. A year after the first Greek organization formed at Webster, a sorority was approved. Getting Webster’s second Greek organization through SGA was less of a struggle; there was no good reason for a Delta Phi Epsilon to be blocked when a Delta Upsilon was already approved.
While DU and DPhiE often collaborate and attend each other’s events, the organizations have grown quite differently. Two years after Webster reached Greek equality, the sorority is thriving and the fraternity is on the verge of dying.
DU is on the decline because it has faced many of the typical problems organizations face at Webster. In the case of the fraternity, all of these problems were amplified.
Lack of interested new members
When picturing a stereotypical sorority, positive images of cute girls, community service and impeccable fundraising abilities come to mind. But picturing the stereotypical fraternity, ‘bros,’ beer pong, and wild parties are what people imagine. Fighting the stereotype was a problem during recruiting; those who wanted the typical frat were let down, and those who would have benefited from a social organization were turned off.
Unlike other clubs, which form around a similar interest, the fraternity is formed around a similar sex. DU men came from many different backgrounds and majors, making it more difficult than average to find a common vision of how the fraternity should be led.
Because the fraternity and sorority are exclusive, they are not funded by SGA. This means members must pay several hundred dollars each semester to cover the necessary insurance and social fees, which is very hard to rationalize on a college budget.
I didn’t join DU because of the party potential; I joined because I loved the camaraderie and the belief I would be a part of “Building better men,” DU’s motto.
I was recruited during my first semester at Webster (which is no longer allowed) when the energy to prove Webster’s skeptics wrong was at its highest. Things were really great for that first year: I attended the mandatory study hours in the library, worked several days of community service, and made some life-long friendships.
The fraternity peaked when it was officially chartered; the main goal had been achieved and there was no longer a clear direction for the fraternity. Without a strong vision, the organization began to falter.
The sorority faces many of the same problems the fraternity does, but because they are a year younger than the fraternity, they are able to learn from the mistakes made by DU.
The women of DPhiE did a great job continuing to expand after they were chartered. DPhiE also doesn’t face as much resistance from students due to their lesser stigma as a sorority.
As a result, DPhiE is able to get more attendance at their events and recruit more easily than the fraternity does.
I do believe there is a place for Greek life at Webster — it isn’t always easy to make friends outside of your major or your typical social circle, and Greek organizations help build an incredible bond between people. Though it is difficult to look beyond the stereotype, I think those who do dedicate themselves to DU or DPhiE will be given something immensely valuable.
I hope these organizations, especially DU, can learn from their mistakes and continue to grow, serving the campus and our community in a positive way.