Until the brothers filled the building with sand for a beach-themed party, the community living space now referred to as 200 Church housed the Chi Psi fraternity.
In September 2011, Matthew Sorkin ’15 and Benjamin Hoynes ’15 arrived at Wesleyan and found themselves ambivalent toward Wesleyan’s existing Greek societies, though they would soon become key players in bringing Chi Psi back to campus.
“When we first found out about the former existence of Chi Psi, bringing it back seemed so unrealistic it was almost a joke,” Hoynes said.
According to a 2009 Argus article, Chi Psi first came to Wesleyan in 1844. Some of the chapter’s illustrious alumni include Bill Belichick ’75 and Eric Mangini ’94. In 2001, however, after several violations of the Code of Non-Academic Conduct, the chapter was shut down. Now, 25 pledges are determined to bring back Chi Psi and change its reputation for good.
The process began when Sorkin’s father, a Wesleyan alumnus of the Class of 1983, put him in touch with a Chi Psi alumnus in October 2011. During that Homecoming Weekend, several Wesleyan Chi Psi alumni held a conference with the potential brothers.
“They essentially told us that the administration would never allow Chi Psi back on campus and that it would be nearly impossible to pull this off,” wrote Alexander Sakhno ’15, one of the founding members, in an email to The Argus. “However, they also told us that if we happen to succeed, then our names and actions will be remembered as long as Chi Psi exists. We didn’t back down.”
In December 2011, the founding members—all freshmen at the time—drafted a petition for colony status. In February 2012, the national board granted that status.
“Being a colony is a beginning step toward becoming a nationally recognized chapter,” Sorkin explained. “If we show that we’re operating better than half of the other chapters, having good engagement with the community and with the University, and having social events, we think we’ll be recognized.”
The fraternity will petition for chapter status next year at the 2013 national convention at Wake Forest University. At that point, the colony will need to have at least 35 members. During this fall’s rush, the brothers added 14 members to their pre-existing 11; they hope to gain at least 10 more during another rush next semester.
“We will start official pledging this fall, and the process will be mediated by Wesleyan Chi Psi alumni,” Sakhno said. “Over the past year we have been meeting several times a week, we have held rush events, participated in Relay For Life in conjunction with Clark Three, and held several celebration[s] encompassing the National office, our alumni, and Chi Psis from schools like Amherst College and Rutgers.”
Chi Psi alumni have been integral in helping the colony through the process of gaining national recognition. In February 2012, alumni visited the University to lead a day of workshops on fraternity leadership and organization. In March, after the Wesleyan colony had been officially recognized, a national representative spent nine days with the founding members, during which time the founding members elected Sorkin and Hoynes as President and Vice President, respectively. Casey O’Neill ’93, who was a Chi Psi brother while at Wesleyan and who lives in nearby Connecticut, will act as pledge educator this semester, as all of the members are currently pledges.
Gaining official recognition from the University, however, is a separate process from gaining recognition from the national fraternity. While Chi Psi is currently registered as a student group, it does not have the same status as the other Greek societies on campus and is only a provisional member of the Inter-Greek Council. Sorkin explained that Chi Psi alumni will handle this portion of the process.
“So far this semester we haven’t necessarily been as focused on getting recognized by the University, partly because we can’t really control that—the alumni and national representatives will be more in charge of that,” Hoynes said. “But I would assume that now that we’ve reached some of our goals this fall, next semester there will be some steps as far as gaining official recognition.”
Once recognized by the University, the fraternity would ultimately like to be integrated into campus housing. Chi Psi once occupied 200 Church, but the building now functions as a program house for freshmen and sophomores interested in diversity activism. While the brothers would love to move the fraternity back into 200 Church, they acknowledge that the house now has a different role in the Wesleyan community.
“As cool as that would be for us, it’s not realistic, and it’s not something we’re going to really pursue,” Hoynes said. “We’re looking into a variety of options as far as housing is concerned.”
The national fraternity of Chi Psi will help the brothers find a house once the Wesleyan colony becomes an official chapter and operates according to national standards. Yet while the brothers are eager to move the fraternity into a house, they recognize that they can still have a substantial presence on campus without official housing.
“We’re happy with the progress we’ve made so far, and we feel we can contribute to the campus community even without a house,” Hoynes said. “There are other Greek organizations on campus that don’t have houses and still bring something to the table. Obviously that is a goal for us long-term, but right now we’re just focused on trying to earn the respect of the campus and let things fall into place with housing as we move forward.”
Hoynes emphasized that the revival of Chi Psi is in no way an attack on the fraternities currently existing on campus.
“The other fraternities do some really great things, and we have some good friends there,” Hoynes said. “I just would hope that as we move forward in this process, the campus community and the Greek community will be receptive and supportive of us and know that by no means do we want to disrespect any other fraternities here by doing this. We mean all the best, and we really hope to have good relations with all the other Greek organizations here.”
The brothers are hopeful that Chi Psi will be known on campus not only by its social events but also for its philanthropy and campus-wide programming.
“Chi Psi really takes pride in its motto, ‘A Brotherhood of Gentlemen,’” Sorkin said. “A fraternity shouldn’t just be like what you see in Animal House—it shouldn’t just be about having parties, but [it should be] about having events, forming life-long relationships with the brothers, engaging in the community, and having an impact on campus.”