Opinion: Albion’s Greek Life Tradition is Being Threatened

Tau Kappa Epsilon members lounging in their house during the 1940s. Items of fraternity tradition can be found throughout this picture, like the TKE paddle on the left (Photo Courtesy of Albion College Archives and Special Collections).

Greek life first appeared on Albion’s campus back in 1905, when former student J.C. Floyd, established Delta Tau Delta at midnight. 115 years of Greek tradition is now on the line as fraternity brothers are threatened by the removal of their beloved house cooks.

The Alpha Tau Omega House in 1911 was the first fraternity house to be on Albion College’s campus. In 1899 the public view of fraternities and Greek life was conflicted and President Ashley suggested in a meeting with the Board of Trustees to bring a fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega, to campus and build a lodge by the railroad (Photo Courtesy of Albion College Archives and Special Collections).

This ongoing struggle between the Board of Trustees, Bon Appetit and Greek fraternity members isn’t something new, though. The same thing has happened before.

I was sifting through the Presidential Papers of former President Melvin Vulgamore when I found an announcement from a small liberal arts school in Ohio. In 1995, Denison University’s Greek fraternity brothers had been struggling against their Board of Trustees while trying to retain their houses and cooks. On April 25, 1995, the Denison Board of Trustees announced that all fraternities would be required to eat on the college meal plan catered by Bon Appetit and move out of their houses and into residential dorms. 

Many of Denison’s fraternity brothers spoke out about their devastation in the university’s school paper, The Denisonian

“The Board of Trustees has made a decision that won’t solve any problems,” said Doug Cassidy, a member of Beta Theta Pi and the Interfraternity Council (IFC) president. 

Other fraternity members spoke out in the article as well.

“I feel a loss of brotherhood,” said Jamie Falik, a member of Phi Delta Gamma. 

25 years later, a student calls out for the end of Greek life in a Denisonian article, “Greek life: An affront to the liberal arts and Denison’s greatest sin.” Since 1995, the percentage of students involved in Greek life at Denison has dropped from 51% to 21%.

Considering that at the time of this decision in 1995 and the subsequent drop in Greek life participation, it is possible that the loss of the Fraternity kitchens and cooks could lead to that same catastrophic decrease in members at Albion. 

A Denisonian article published in 1995, “IFC Responds to Trustee Proposal, Offers Own Solutions” has very similar language and values as the “Help Fight Corporate Greed at Albion College” petition created by Albion students, which has over 4,000 signatures (Photo Courtesy: Denison College Archives).

Former president of Tau Kappa Epsilon, Trevor Hill, said that his fraternity would lose between 2-10 members in the process of being moved to a meal plan.

“For every person that leaves it would raise the price for everyone else. So it could turn into a domino effect,” said Hill.“However, knowing what this house means to the guys, they probably would rather leave Albion then lose TKE forever.” 

It is clear from President Vulgamore’s papers and the Denison University articles that the Board of Trustees and Bon Appetit are doing more behind closed doors than they are willing to admit. 

A 1996 Pleiad article stated in reference to the Board of Trustees, saying that, “for most students, fall colors and expensive cars are the only signs of this conclave of Albion’s benevolent aristocracy. The event is neither well-publicized nor, for most students, well-noticed. We think that’s a grave mistake.”

The decision was never about Greek students strengthening their connections to non-Greek students like Leroy Wright suggested in his email. The disregard for people’s jobs, students’ welfare, and college tradition seems to be spreading. This behavior demonstrates that it has always been about Bon Appetit capitalizing on each and every student while Albion College’s Board of Trustees destroys 115 years of tradition.

1 Comment

  1. I feel that a tremendous part of my Albion education was what I learned being involved in the fraternity. I am very disappointed that the college is actively diminishing the value of the Albion fraternal system and I surely believe that this will hurt the college bottom-line in the long run.

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