Pi Kappa Phi on road to earning charter

By Gwenn Barney

A new old fraternity is back in town.

Last night, Pi Kappa Phi fraternity was voted into… A new old fraternity is back in town.

Last night, Pi Kappa Phi fraternity was voted into Pitt’s Interfraternity Council as a “colony,” ending an eight year hiatus for the Pitt chapter. The fraternity is now on track to become a fully chartered member of the council within the next two years.

“We are official,” Chris Shade moments after learning the colonization news. Shade is the expansion coordinator for the fraternity’s national organization.

“The fact that we’re welcome by other organizations and all our hard work was recognized makes it that much better,” said junior Sean Zajdel.

The fraternity enjoyed a long run on Pitt’s campus between 1978 and 2003. Eight years ago, the group surrendered their charter amidst sinking membership and rising debt. The group’s new colony status allows fraternity members to participate in IFC events, but they can’t cast votes on council matters.

It is the only national fraternity to own and operate a national nonprofit philanthropy. Since 1977, it has owned Push America, an organization that benefits people with disabilities.

The fraternity’s current resurrection began when Zajdel, a brother at Albright College in Reading, Pa., transferred to Pitt, only to find that his fraternity didn’t have a chapter on campus. Zajdel didn’t arrive on Pitt’s campus planning to begin a chapter, but the topic came up in conversation with friends.

“Starting it was sort of a surprise,” Zajdel said. “It was just an idea I had with two or three friends. Soon we had three to seven guys and then that grew to 15. Now we have upwards of 30 guys.”

Pi Kappa Phi went through several steps to become colonized by the IFC. After contacting the administration and IFC leadership to spread news of its intentions, Zajdel and his group verified that they had more than 20 members, all with GPAs above 2.75.

They then enlisted professor Jocelyn Kauffunger to fulfill the requirement of a chapter adviser. The brothers submitted a letter of intent, statement of goals and objectives, and basic governing documents to round out the final step of the application process.

In addition to these required steps, members of Pi Kappa Phi attended a Feb. 16 IFC meeting to present their fraternity’s ideals and goals to the council.

The fraternity is the first to complete the colonization process since Delta Upsilon did so about one year ago.

“They’ve really been on the ball with their whole-interest group presentation,” IFC President John Hasley said.

Hasley believes the fraternity has the potential to make significant contributions to Greek life on campus, especially with recruitment and philanthropic efforts.

“They bring a new kind of energy to the way they recruit,” Hasley said. “Other chapters will be driven to recruit more expanded demographics.”

Freshman Bryan Greene was one of the friends who helped Zajdel start the fraternity.

“We thought starting a fraternity would be an awesome resume-builder at first,” Greene said. “But after a few weeks of hanging out with the guys, we became really close and developed a really good sense of brotherhood. These are a group of guys where we can turn to one another if we need anything.”

The more Greene, Zajdel and friends learned about the fraternity and its philanthropic work, the more fervent their commitment to the success of the Pitt chapter became. They began recruiting in earnest in November.

Shadearrived on campus just before spring break to help the Pitt chapter continue its recruiting and set up a leadership board. He also led the Pitt members through their first initiation ceremony on March 2, when 25 members officially became brothers.

The fraternity plans to initiate another 10 members today. A third set of 10 men are on track to be initiated by the beginning of the fall semester. These initiates would bring the chapter’s ranks to 45 members come fall, about the average for established campus fraternities.

“For a school of this size, it’s pretty good,” Shade said.

Shade has helped several colleges build Pi Kappa Phi chapters, but has noticed a special philanthropic enthusiasm among the Pitt brothers.

“Push America is the main focus with this group more so than any other group I’ve worked with,” Shade said.

The brothers have already put this enthusiasm for philanthropy to work. Last week, they staged their first event, a late night hot dog and hamburger sale behind Fuel and Fuddle on Oakland Avenue. The event raised over $250 for Push America.

“It wasn’t a huge event,” Green said. “It was something to get our feet going.”

In three weeks, the brothers plan to stage their first large philanthropic effort of the semester, a bike-a-thon. For this event, members for Pi Kappa Phi will peddle stationary bikes for two days straight, collecting contributions that will be donated to Push America for each mile they pedal.

The bike-a-thon is set to run from April 14 through April 16, either beside the William Pitt Union or in Schenley Quad.