When the men of Delta Chi fraternity left their chapter house last year, they could only take a few things with them – a red rug with the greek letters in the center, a composite, a pair of large speakers. Each of these is on the first floor of 504 Jackson St., a house where five Delta Chis live this semester.
The fraternity announced in January that the DePauw chapter would close, days before the 25 undergraduate members were planning to participate in formal rush, the recruiting procedure for Interfraternity Council chapters. Delta Chi headquarters cited low rush numbers and high debt as reasons for closure.
“When we found out that our chapter was closing, we held regular chapter meetings kind of like we would anyways, and we had a few brotherhood-type events,” said junior Zach Donisch, former rush chair for Delta Chi. “Then people just lost interest, and I think that could be expected from a group of people who were seeing that tie that brought them together initially disintegrate.”
Ray Galbreth, executive director of the international fraternity (there are two chapters in Canada), said the organization plans to recolonize the DePauw chapter. The chapter was the fourth-oldest active chapter of Delta Chi and will remain so if the fraternity succeeds in re-establishing the DePauw group. In a colonization, the university allows a greek chapter to come to campus and recruit potential members to be a part of a new organization, aiming to build a chapter out of men who embody the qualities of the fraternity and have the motivation to help the revived chapter grow.
“We feel kind of cheated, in a sense, and disliked,” Donisch said. “We really want to be supportive to whoever comes in here next, but a large contingent of us find that hard considering the circumstance in which this is happening.”
If the recolonization is unsuccessful, Delta Chi will be the sixth greek chapter and third fraternity to leave the university in the past three decades. Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, Alpha Gamma Delta sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi sorority and Delta Zeta sorority went inactive, some for membership reasons similar to Delta Chi’s.
Members cited internal conflict in the early 2000s as the beginning of the shaky membership. In a story published in The DePauw in February, chapter adviser Jim Duncan ’10 cited drug problems and undedicated members the underlying cause.
“We are looked upon negatively by some of the Delta Chi nationals,” said senior Chris Granger. “That is unfair, and I do not like that because we are getting the reputation that was laid on this house 10 years ago.”
Donisch and Granger said they have experienced a poor relationship with the chapter’s alumni, and they believe it has been that way since before they joined the chapter. A few years ago, Donisch said, some members told their alumni to “get lost” when it came to revitalizing the chapter.
After a few years of low membership numbers – the chapter needed at least 45 men to meet the costs of the former chapter house at 912 S. Locust St. – the alumni brought in extra help.
The clash between DePauw’s members and the outside consultation furthered the downward slide.
“Most of the men in the chapter were either confused or reluctant to try something that different,” said Josh Orendi, an recruitment consultant from Phired Up, an educational firm specializing in membership growth.
What Phired Up called “different,” the men of Delta Chi called “weird.”
When the firm partnered with the chapter in 2009, they had weekly coaching calls with chapter leadership to discuss rush strategies, like handing out “business cards” and doing raffle-ticket giveaways.
“There were a lot of things you would have never seen on this campus,” Donisch said. “I think ultimately that kind of thing would be looked upon as strange or almost desperate.”
Phired Up advised the chapter to keep a phone list of potential members, telling the brothers to call the men and invite them to hang out.
But that’s not how it works at DePauw, the brothers said.
“If you know people, you hang out with them, and if you don’t know them, you meet them some other way,” Donisch said. “You don’t cold call people.”
Some of the undergraduates chose not to partake in the new strategies, while others participated and saw negative reactions. Phired Up saw this aversion to the new approach as a lack of dedication.
“What it told us is that they had a lot of desire to grow,” Orendi said. “They wanted good things for their chapter, but there’s a process they need to do get results, and they were choosing to not to do that work on a weekly basis.”
Granger, who was studying in China during the Phired Up partnership, said his brothers video-chatted with him saying “Dude, Chris – things are so messed up here.”
That year, Delta Chi initiated only three members. While the brothers felt confident for the next year’s rush, that effort never came to fruition, as the alumni told the men they would not participate in rush.
In March, the remaining members were moved to alumni status, meaning they are still Delta Chis, but no longer meet as a chapter and cannot recruit new members. Several of the men will live together in university-owned housing next year and will keep what they can of their Delta Chi property.
“Even as we do go forward, even as the chapter is gone, I feel like we … who are still remaining behind will still have that connection,” said sophomore Jordan Thomas. He will not be living with a group of Delta Chis, but he said he doesn’t regret his decision to join the fraternity.
Most of his brothers share that sentiment.
“I wouldn’t want to join another fraternity on this campus,” said senior Seth Tsui. “This whole experience has not made me want to associate myself with Delta Chi nationals, but I still feel a very close bond with the other members of this chapter.”
Tsui doesn’t think the recolonization will succeed because he doesn’t think there is a niche to be filled by another greek chapter. At this point, the international fraternity is waiting to hear from DePauw about plans for reviving the chapter.
“Look at Senior Hall. Look at Bloomington Street,” Tsui said, referring to the former chapter houses for Alpha Gamma Delta and Alpha Omicron Pi. “This is what is almost definitely going to happen to Delta Chi.”
This article was updated on Dec. 15, 2012 to reflect the following clarification: The membership problems that arose in the early 2000s did not cause the national fraternity to conduct a membership review of the DePauw Delta Chi chapter in 2001. The fraternity’s headquarters has no record of a membership review occurring at the chapter.