“Courage” Means Many Things To Many People

By Mary Beth Seiler
Director of Greek Life – University of Michigan

“Courage” means many things to many people, and as I think about its meaning in Greek Life, Phi Delta Theta comes to mind.  I remember clearly the 1998 closing of the University of Michigan Phi Delta Theta Chapter.  That fall, serious violations of risk management policy couldn’t be ignored, and this large and popular fraternity with a long and proud history was suddenly gone.  It took courage on the part of the international organization to do the right thing.  I thought it was the right thing then and now, twelve years later, there is no doubt that it was the right thing.

That wasn’t the end of the story however. When Phi Delta Theta returned to the University of Michigan campus, it did so as an alcohol-free facility.  Once again, this was a courageous move on the part of the international organization.  Alcohol-free fraternities did not exist at the University of Michigan, and Phi Delta Theta knew that this would be difficult.  The courage of its convictions existed not just at the international level but at the local level as well.  University of Michigan alumni of Phi Delta Theta were steadfast in their desire to reestablish the chapter as alcohol-free, no matter how difficult.  It turned out that it was, in fact, difficult to experience the success it desired for the new chapter.  In the next few years other organizations jumped on, and subsequently off, the alcohol-free band wagon.  Phi Delta Theta, however, did not waiver.

Today, Phi Delta Theta is a successful chapter in an alcohol-free facility.  Members are leaders in the Greek and Campus Communities.  Their house is a showcase.  Most importantly, they are attracting the men who are willing and able to live by the values of the fraternity.  I am extremely proud of the courage that Phi Delta Theta at the University of Michigan has demonstrated in the past and continues to demonstrate every day.  It is with the utmost respect that I congratulate the Fraternity on its 10th anniversary of alcohol-free housing.  You are truly among Michigan’s “leaders and best!”

Mary Beth’s blog post is part of a series to celebrate Phi Delta Theta’s Brotherhood: Our Substance of Choice campaign, a 10-year celebration of alcohol-free housing.  Read the white paper, written by Dr. Edward G. Whipple, Past President of Phi Delta Theta and Vice President for Student Affairs at Bowling Green State University, recapping 10 years of alcohol-free housing.

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Regrets & Missed Opportunities – Not At Kentucky Epsilon

By Chris Motley
Kentucky Epsilon (Kentucky) Chapter Adviser

Regrets and missed opportunities – Two things that the Kentucky Epsilon Chapter at the University of Kentucky has not had to endure since re-chartering in March of 2003. We attribute a great deal of success in this area to the commitment the Fraternity made to eliminate alcohol in chapter housing along with the hard work and dedication of Kentucky Epsilon to follow the direction that the Fraternity put forth.

When it comes to alcohol free housing, Kentucky Epsilon is unique in the fact that we re-chartered into the alcohol-free housing program. There where no predispositions, and in my mind, this fostered a better acceptance of the program put in place. We were willing to do whatever it took to get the job done and to be a part of the bigger picture that is Phi Delta Theta. Reflecting back, we recognize how much of an impact it has had on our success. It has cultivated the relationships within our brotherhood, promoted sound learning and success academically, taught us respect and has assisted in recruitment and building our brotherhood.

The most fundamental principal that Phi Delta Theta founded itself upon is brotherhood. Being able to live in quarters that are neat and clean and most importantly free of alcohol has allowed Kentucky Epsilon to sustain a tight brotherhood where every brother perceives one another as part of their family. It has differentiated us from other fraternities and has dismantled stereotypes of what fraternity men are and what they stand for. Kentucky Epsilon has set the bar high on what it means to be a fraternity man and more importantly a brother.

Alcohol-free housing has cultivated an environment that has allowed the brothers of Kentucky Epsilon to come home to a place where they can develop their academic record. The Chapter has maintained a cumulative GPA above the all men’s average since re-founding in 2003, and we have been able to maintain the cardinal principle of sound learning since inception. We can honestly say that alcohol-free housing has promoted this principle and allowed us to stay on the straight and narrow when it comes to academics.

Finally, recruitment has also been positively impacted by the implementation of alcohol-free housing. It has allowed us to promote the Fraternity in a positive light and be clear minded in deciding the best possible candidates to become a part of this brotherhood. Since re-chartering in 2003, Kentucky Epsilon has grown at an average rate of 27% each year; 24 men in the Spring of 2003 to 138 in the Fall of 2010. The appearance of the house has evolved into the benchmark for what student housing should look like, and we are very proud of this accomplishment. We couldn’t have done it without the direction that the Fraternity put forth to eliminate alcohol from the chapter quarters.

Kentucky Epsilon is honored be a part of the 10-year success of the alcohol-free housing program and is looking forward to the next 10+ years. We feel that it has led to a great deal of success within our Chapter’s operations, and we will continue to follow the direction that the Fraternity has set forth. Kentucky Epsilon is unequivocally gracious for the Fraternity’s leadership in this area.

Chris Motley’s blog post is part of a series to celebrate Phi Delta Theta’s Brotherhood: Our Substance of Choice campaign, a 10-year celebration of alcohol-free housing.  Read the white paper, written by Dr. Edward G. Whipple, Past President of Phi Delta Theta and Vice President for Student Affairs at Bowling Green State University, recapping 10 years of alcohol-free housing.

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You Will Usually Find The Leaders ‘Out On A Limb’

By Dr. Will Keim

I am not a member of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. I am a D.U. It was, however, my great honor to be decreed a member of the very select group of The Order of The Sword and The Shield by Phi Delta Theta. My son JJ was with me that night and the look of pride in his eyes that he held for me will never be forgotten. Several Phi Delts are great friends and Dr. Thomas Sparky Reardon is much like a brother to me, one that in my family life, I never had.

Friendship, Sound Learning, Rectitude. Morrison, Wilson, Lindley, Drake, Rodgers, and Rogers. The Immortal Six. Could they have ever imagined on a cold December night in 1848 in Ohio that their vision would create a Fraternity of great leaders? A fraternity clearly ‘out on a limb?’ First in offering a free magazine to its members; a pledge button, a pledge manual; first to hold every major office in the United States; a brother on the moon; staunchly and primarily anti-hazing; and for our purposes of discussion today, the national leader in substance free living facilities for its members. As my dear friend, mentor, and hero Sparky Reardon offered at the old Mid-American Greek Council Association meeting in Chicago when Phi Delt made the announcement, “Even pigs don’t poop where they sleep.” He also offered, when I asked him if he was nervous explaining the new substance free living policy to his first group of undergraduates, “Will, I was shaking like a dog poopin’ peach seeds.” I have never seen that, but the image made quite an imprint in my mind!

I applaud Phi Delta Theta for inspiring and empowering the fraternities to make a smart move toward substance free housing much like the women’s groups had done years before. It doesn’t take long to realize when you visit a sorority chapter house why it is such better shape than the average fraternity house: The absence of alcohol and alcohol related damages and problems. In fact, I have often heard when people visit a clean and orderly well-kept fraternity house, “Wow…this looks like a sorority!” The highest compliment and given because the brothers live like human beings. Who led the way? Phi Delta Theta. Who stood at the base of the tree and waited for the branch to break? The rest of us. As Sparky likes to say, “If you’re not the lead dog in the sled dog team, the view is always the same.” Phi Delta Theta, since its inception, has been the lead dog in almost every major area of goodness, greatness, and rectitude for the entire Greek Community.

A fraternity that historically appealed to Hank Ketchum, J. Williard Marriott, Doak Walker, Wes Welker, University of Alabama President Robert Witt, US Vice President Adlai Stevenson, Neil Armstrong, Tim Conway, and Frank Lloyd Wright, now appeals to young men who value service over substance abuse, brotherhood over barbarity, and love of others above love of self. Ten years after the Great Decision to go substance free in housing, ten years after the predictions of the end of the Fraternity, ten years after Phi Delt went out on the limb, IT IS STRONGER THAN EVER!!! Leadership is lonely, and though many have now climbed a little farther out on the limb of sanity, Phi Delta Theta continues to lead the way, reap the benefits, and consider new frontiers of character driven decision making to encounter and pioneer. One can only imagine what is next for Phi Delta Theta!

The Phikeia Oath says, in part, “I will strive in all ways to transmit the Fraternity to those who may follow not only not less, but greater, than it was to me.” Any brother who has imagined, instigated, and installed the substance free living facilities policy has done just this. And to the undergraduates who had to make the real changes in their community life together in the face of other fraternity’s staunch ridicule and criticism: You have my respect, my admiration, and my thanks that someday my son JJ might have the opportunity to become a brother of yours and not only live through the process, but become a man among fine friends, great learning, and personal rectitude because of it. God Bless Phi Delta Theta and the lives it has changed and saved! I am honored to be your interfraternal brother.

Dr. Keim has spoken to over 2,500,000 students on over 2,500 different campuses about leadership. He earned his Ph.D. from Oregon State University and is married with four children. Dr. Keim is a member of Delta Upsilon Fraternity and has received many fraternity awards for his contribution to improving Greek life. He has published numerous books, videos, and articles and is a long-time friend to Phi Delta Theta. At the 2009 Emerging Leaders Institute, Will was awarded with the Order of the Sword & Shield, an award given to a non-member who has promoted the attainment of higher education, shown an appreciation for Greek letter societies, and proven to exemplify the principles of friendship, sound learning, and rectitude.

Will’s blog post is part of a series to celebrate Phi Delta Theta’s Brotherhood: Our Substance of Choice campaign, a 10-year celebration of alcohol-free housing.  Read the white paper, written by Dr. Edward G. Whipple, Past President of Phi Delta Theta and Vice President for Student Affairs at Bowling Green State University, recapping 10 years of alcohol-free housing.

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Alcohol-Free Housing and the Georgia Gamma Chapter at Mercer University

By James M. Hunt, Mercer ‘06

During my time as student at Mercer University and as a chapter president at Georgia Gamma, I often questioned the effectiveness of an alcohol-free housing policy in the fraternity world. Mercer University is a dry campus, and although no fraternity was allowed to have alcohol in its campus facility, many chapters would violate this policy. As an undergraduate, I remember feeling challenged by the campus culture, and as a chapter we too struggled to meet the international expectations when others around us were functioning very differently. Admittedly, there were many times in my collegiate years when my chapter, as many probably do, struggled to adhere to the policy.

Alcohol-free housing came at an opportune time for the Georgia Gamma chapter. Just as the policy was coming into place, Mercer University was completing construction on a new Greek Village on campus with beautiful new homes for all campus fraternities and sororities. As Georgia Gamma was moving from its old lodge to the new fraternity house, parties and events with alcohol on chapter property were no longer a focus of the chapter. Although I still felt challenged by the policy, I quickly realized that alcohol-free housing helped keep our new home in great condition (well, as great of condition that college men can keep a house in.)

Since 2006, I have worked as a Fraternity/Sorority Advisor at Florida State University, currently serving as the Associate Director of Greek Life at FSU. All too often I see chapters on my campus struggle with managing the risks associated with alcohol. And as I reflect on my own undergraduate fraternity experience, I am much more appreciative of Phi Delta Theta’s alcohol-free housing policy now than I was then. Like most fraternity chapters, we were never perfect at Georgia Gamma. But alcohol-free housing did something for my chapter that I did not realize until recently; it changed the focus of our chapter house from a place to party to a place to enjoy the society of our brothers.

Sure, we had plenty of parties and social events as a chapter, and today as a Greek advisor I regularly tell my students that I hope they have plenty of responsible fun as a part of their Greek experience. But the reason I have come to respect our Fraternity’s policy on alcohol-free housing is that when I reminisce about my experiences in my chapter house, I don’t remember crazy parties or the smell of beer-soaked carpet. I laugh as I remember hanging out with my brothers and all of the absurd moments (crazy conversations, inappropriate jokes, exploding stuffed Teddy bears, many other stories that, as we say in the South, simply wouldn’t do to tell) that brought me closer to my brothers and my Fraternity. Alcohol-free housing is not about stopping fun or about keeping alcohol completely out of the Phi Delta Theta experience; it is about returning the focus of our fraternity to its founding roots.

I believe that alcohol-free housing has served our great fraternity well over this last decade. Phi Delta Theta was leading the fraternity world in this effort ten years ago, and it continues to lead today. As for Georgia Gamma, alcohol-free housing has helped the chapter keep its house in great condition and a place where brothers and Phikeia are proud to bring friends and family. But most importantly, the Georgia Gamma chapter house continues to be at the center of what I believe to be an unparalleled developmental experience for Mercer men…commitment to The Bond of Phi Delta Theta.

James Hunt’s blog post is part of a series to celebrate Phi Delta Theta’s Brotherhood: Our Substance of Choice campaign, a 10-year celebration of alcohol-free housing.  Read the white paper, written by Dr. Edward G. Whipple, Past President of Phi Delta Theta and Vice President for Student Affairs at Bowling Green State University, recapping 10 years of alcohol-free housing.

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Alcohol-Free Housing – A College President’s Perspective

By Dr. Bobby Fong – President of Butler University

In 2009, the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity re-installed a local chapter at Butler University.  That fall saw the opening of a refurbished “Castle,” which had served as home to the chapter since 1929.  The Fraternity’s return, however, also was accompanied by a new commitment to alcohol-free housing.

As president of Butler University, I know that alcohol abuse remains a major problem on university campuses.  In the 2007 report Wasting the Best and the Brightest, published by the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, over 40% of college students surveyed had engaged in binge drinking.  Within the fraternity and sorority population, however, the incidence of reported binge drinking was 67%.

Alcohol abuse in Greek life has been associated with hazing, deterioration of living facilities, rising insurance costs, injuries, sexual assaults, and death.  The anticipated benefits of an alcohol-free housing environment include a renewed focus on friendships, academic achievement, leadership development, and service opportunities.

The Indiana Gamma Chapter of Phi Delta Theta at Butler has asserted that their house is not a bar but a home where students live in an environment that enables academic success and brotherhood.  The members seek to excel as campus leaders.  Their success will lead to better recruitment and retention of brothers, revitalization of alumni involvement in the chapter, and an improved public image for Greeks.

This past year, in celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding at Butler, the Chapter was recognized for its LEED-certified building renovation, won the university’s Student Government Association Legacy Award for being the organization that made the biggest impact on campus, and had one of its alumni leaders, Phillip S. Kappes, honored with the Phi Delta Theta Legion of Merit.

I commend the Indiana Gamma Chapter for its auspicious beginning and look forward to its continuing success in implementing an alcohol-free housing policy as a cornerstone for encouraging members to embody academic distinction, servant-leadership, and lifelong friendship leavened by the qualities of confidence, honesty, and reliability.

May other national fraternities look to this alcohol-free housing policy as a model that could help change the binge-drinking culture on college campuses across the country.

Dr. Fong’s blog post is part of a series to celebrate Phi Delta Theta’s Brotherhood: Our Substance of Choice campaign, a 10-year celebration of alcohol-free housing.  Read the white paper, written by Dr. Edward G. Whipple, Past President of Phi Delta Theta and Vice President for Student Affairs at Bowling Green State University, recapping 10 years of alcohol-free housing.

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A Personal Perspective on Alcohol-Free Housing and How It Changed My Chapter

By Sean Wagner – Associate Executive Vice President

I recently returned to my alma mater (Widener University) for my Chapter’s (Pennsylvania Mu) 25th Anniversary celebration.  Of course, 15 years into my Chapter’s history, and halfway through my collegiate career, an interesting thing happened to Phi Delta Theta; the alcohol-free housing policy was implemented.  While this meant a lot of things to a lot of different people, what it meant for me at the time, as a 20-year-old chapter president, was that I now had to make sure this policy was enforced and that we were not recruiting new members at Friday and Saturday night parties at our house.

While I can go on and on about the trials and tribulations of that experience and that what I learned during those years is a big part of who I am today, what I realized during my time back on campus is how the transition that my chapter brothers and I went through has now impacted the brothers now residing at 511 E. 13th St.

My Chapter brothers were great guys, and to this day are some of my best friends.  Prior to alcohol-free housing being implemented, we were pretty content on meeting the potential new members that came down to rush and to our parties on weekends, just like everyone else on Greek Row.  But once July 1, 2000 arrived, we were forced to get out of the house and recruit men that weren’t just looking for a party.  We had to search for those who were interested in learning what we were all about and why we had a house that wasn’t full of beer cans and puke.

I will never forget talking to one potential new member who was referred to us by his RA.  John Lynn was a freshman with a 4.0 GPA and all the leadership potential in the world and wanted to make an educated decision about the organization that he was about to join.  John wanted to know if he could truly get as much out of the experience as he was planning on putting into it.  I’m not going to lie, recruiting John was an exhausting process as he examined every single aspect and detail of our organization and received input from the people that mattered in his life.  I think we recruited him for about three weeks including a four hour Q&A session in my room where he eventually decided that Phi Delt was right for him.  John would later go on to become my little brother and give and get plenty as he succeeded me as Chapter President.  This started a slow transition for our chapter of recruiting through referrals, activities on campus, and organizations to find individuals that were better men than us, always pushing the Fraternity further ahead.

So here we are 10 years after the policy was implemented.  While recruitment numbers are down at Widener and we’ve lost a few chapters, Penn Mu is bucking the trend and bringing in terrific leaders.  They have had the largest spring recruitment classes for the last three years (Widener features deferred recruitment for freshmen). They aren’t perfect, but the membership roster does boast four student orientation leaders, three IFC officers, and five presidents of major student organizations on campus all within a Chapter of 22 members (largest on campus).  I take no credit for what is going on there now as I am only an alumnus who lives 600 miles away, but I take solace in the fact that the chapter continues to evolve learning (both the good and bad) from their predecessors, and that what was a tough transition for those of us who went through it, has turned into a success for the men of Pennsylvania Mu.  As a proud alumnus and a guy who has spent the last 7 years as a GHQ staff member, this is reassuring and seems to be a microcosm of what we have seen throughout Phi Delta Theta, a continual evolution of our chapters under this policy, aspiring to live out an oath familiar to all of us: “…to transmit the Fraternity to those who many follow after, not only not less, but greater than it was transmitted to me”.

Sean has been a member of the Fraternity’s GHQ staff for over seven years serving as a Leadership Consultant, Director of Expansion, Director of Alumni Services, and is currently the Associate Executive Vice President.  Sean graduated from Widener University (PA Mu) with a Communications Degree in 2002 and received his Masters in Public Administration and Non-Profit Management from Northern Kentucky University in 2009. A native of Philadelphia, Sean currently resides in Cincinnati with his wife Michelle where he also serves as a board member of the Inner City Tennis Project, an organization that teaches health and life lessons through the sport of tennis, ran in Flying Pig Marathon as an Iron Phi member of “Team Fat Guy” raising money for ALS and the Phi Delta Theta Foundation, and is a member of the Who Dey Nation.

Sean’s blog post is part of a series to celebrate Phi Delta Theta’s Brotherhood: Our Substance of Choice campaign, a 10-year celebration of alcohol-free housing.  Read the white paper, written by Dr. Edward G. Whipple, Past President of Phi Delta Theta and Vice President for Student Affairs at Bowling Green State University, recapping 10 years of alcohol-free housing.

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Celebrating 10 Years of Alcohol-Free Housing – Read the White Paper By Dr. Edward G. Whipple


USA Today highlighted a story on October 22, 1997, with the headline “Can dry (alcohol-free housed) fraternities survive on campus?” Ten years after full implementation in 2000, Phi Delta Theta can respond with a resounding YES proving that fraternities can not only survive but thrive. Brother Edward G. Whipple (Hanover ’74), Past President of the General Council and current Vice President for Student Affairs at Bowling Green State University, helps Phi Delta Theta celebrate this milestone with a follow-up white paper to his “Alcohol-Free Housing: Does It Make A Difference” in 2005.

The Fraternity has experienced positive results regarding the seven key reasons for implementing an alcohol-free housing policy and expects such results to improve annually. Phi Delta Theta still faces important issues associated with alcohol-free housing but believes that all of them can be resolved with time as well as committed student and alumni leaders.

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