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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, June 15, 2024

Former SigEp brothers establish Pi Rho Omega as independent fraternity

–The final executive board of Sigma Phi Epsilon at 92 Professors Row on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, days before announcing their intention to disaffiliate from their national organization.

The brothers of the former Sigma Phi Epsilon (SigEp) chapter announced last Thursday the establishment of Pi Rho Omega (Pi Rho), the local and independent fraternity the brothers are transitioning to.

According to Pi Rho Spokesperson Ben Kaplan, the brothers voted on the new name on Dec. 11 after formally disaffiliating from the national SigEp organization on Nov. 15. He said they waited until the start of the semester to make information about the new name public so the announcement would correspond with the start of classes.

Kaplan, a junior, explained in an email to the Daily that all brothers were invited to submit new potential names for the fraternity and the group quickly formed a consensus around the name Pi Rho Omega.

The selection of a new name is just one step in the fraternity's larger process of restructuring, Kaplan explained. Since the formal disaffiliation in the fall, the fraternity has undergone a period of self-reflection and rebuilding, he said.

“We felt that the structure and the dynamic provided for us by a previous affiliation was not best serving our own needs and the needs of Tufts,” he said. “What this whole process has really been about is just kind of bringing things in line with what we're about and what Tufts is about… As an independent fraternity, we have more [discretion] to choose the broad path that our fraternity takes on campus and the values that we embrace.”

Kaplan explained that the fraternity aims to restructure by realigning itself with a set of core principles the brothers identified in the reflection process.

“After our decision to disaffiliate, we immediately formed a number of internal committees to kind of go over the structure, the values, the principles and the practices of our fraternity,” Kaplan said. “Each of these different groups of people all kind of formed a part of what is now Pi Rho Omega.”

Kaplan explained that the group hopes to align itself with values such as inclusivity and diversity. These core values serve as the roots of the newly established fraternity, according to Pi Rho President Matt Masi-Phelps.

“Our brotherhood is founded on a diverse membership and the principles of Ambition, Integrity and Resilience,” Masi-Phelps, a junior, wrote in a letter posted on the fraternity’s website.

Kaplan said financial inclusivity is a main priority for the fraternity moving forward. By disaffiliating, the group is no longer bound to national dues, which had previously proven as an obstacle for some brothers, he said.

"By becoming an independent organization, we have been able to significantly lower our dues and become much more flexible with financial aid," he said. "In terms of financial inclusivity and the ability to accept all members, regardless of their financial situation, we've been successful in that."

According to Kaplan, the next steps in Pi Rho’s restructuring phase will center on its first recruitment phase this week.

“We’re approaching this upcoming rush week with a degree of intentionality that says 'we want to build as diverse of a new member class as possible,'” he said. “What’s most important is that we’re really looking at rush and our recruitment as an opportunity to build a strong and inclusive new member class that will allow us to continue to play this positive role on campus.”

While an all-gender membership policy was up for consideration in the rebuilding process, Kaplan said there are no immediate plans to make this change.

“Right now, we’re just focused on reintroducing ourselves to the Tufts community,” he said. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I can say that as an independent organization, we have quite a bit more leeway to decide the long term trajectory of our fraternity. I don't think it will ever be something that we'll take off the table.”

Kaplan said that despite these overarching changes, there will not be a significant difference in the fraternity’s day-to-day behavior. He added that fraternity's code of conduct policies have remained very similar to their previous policies, but he declined to comment on specific bylaw changes that may have resulted from the restructuring process.

There will be no differences in how the fraternity interacts with the Interfraternity Council (IFC), the Inter-Greek Council (IGC) and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, which have all supported Pi Rho throughout its transitional period, Kaplan said.

According to a Nov. 18 2015 article in the Daily, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life Su McGlone expressed the university’s approval for the decision of the brothers to disaffiliate from the SigEp national fraternity.

“The university fully supports their decision and looks forward to working with them in their efforts as a local organization,” she told the Daily in an email.

According to IFC President Robert Jacobson, the IFC is fully supportive of Pi Rho's decision to choose their new fraternity letters. He said that while the IFC had no role in the fraternity's restructuring process, the council is excited to work with the newly established Pi Rho.

“I think that the students that make up these organizations are very thoughtful and able to reflect on the values that they want to represent and that are actually reflective of who they are as individuals,” Jacobson, a senior, said. “When an organization is able to do that reflection and realize that the values of their national organization no longer align with what they want to present to the Tufts community, then it's important that they are able to take a step away and create something that is actually in their own image.”

Jacobson said that the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life’s responsiveness to the unique needs of members of Greek life at Tufts has been central to Pi Rho's restructuring process. He added that he believes that the office prioritizes Tufts students before the national fraternity organizations, which he said is crucial to a healthy Greek community at Tufts.

Jacobson explained that the actions of the brothers of Pi Rho and Pi Delta, the local fraternity that disaffiliated from national fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPI) last year, demonstrate the self-reflective nature of the overall Greek community.

“What we're seeing with these two houses is a reflection of the students that are part of the Greek life as a whole,” he said. “In the Greek community, you'll find very thoughtful and aware students of what they want to project to the greater Tufts community, the values that they want to represent and be a part of, and continue to pass on through their organization.”