Reorganized fraternity struggles to rebuild itself after controversy

Review and reorganization of the USF chapter of Beta Theta Pi left the fraternity with seven active members, renewed good standing with the University and little else.

The chapter was suspended earlier this year for poor conduct at the fraternity’s international convention. A year ago, it was cited for violations of USF’s alcohol policy and accused of using SAFE Team golf carts to shuttle freshmen from an orientation event to the fraternity’s house party.

Since then, the fraternity’s remaining members have been trying to reestablish Beta Theta Pi within the USF community.

They began putting signs up around campus about two weeks ago in an effort to informally recruit new members.They hope to regain the stability that the chapter experienced last spring, when there were more than 40 members and many new recruits.

Every brother in the fraternity went through a review process, and the leaders were removed, said Nicholas Heller, former president of the fraternity chapter.

“We had a plan on how to get through it and get back to being a chapter with good status,” Heller said. “It looked good, but then we were kicked out.”

Heller and other former members decided to take on an “alumni” status.

The remaining members do not live in a fraternity house. However, several live in close proximity to one another off campus. They hope to have an off-campus house in the next two to three years, said Patrick Long, one of the remaining members.

As reported by the Oracle in September, the Beta Theta Pi House Corporation, which is made up of alumni, refused to pay rent on the house after the members left it on Aug. 14. David Schmidt, president of the Beta Theta Pi House Corporation, said the corporation has not paid any money to the University since then.

“The way the University (Greek house system) is structured, the House Corporation is only a financial backer,” Schmidt said. “If there is a shortfall, the House Corporation is accountable.”

Residents in the 14 Greek Village buildings sign a housing contract, Schmidt said, which means that their rent is paid to the University, not the House Corporation.

USF has not pursued legal action against the House Corporation, Schmidt said.

Heller said the alumni filed for bankruptcy, so the school cannot seek legal action against them.

Director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life Megan Vadnais said her office, along with Housing & Residential Education, is looking into opening up the house for another Greek organization, following the same application process as the original chapters.

“This would allow chapters not currently in Greek Village to apply for the facility,” she said.

The 30-year housing contract signed by all Greek organizations has its ups and downs, Schmidt said. On one hand, the organization is forced into a long-term commitment. On the other hand, it reduces the risk of having the house taken away.

“Greeks in housing expect to be in place for a long time, so it’s not a bad situation,” Schmidt said.

However, two other chapters have left Greek Village since it started in 2003, Vadnais said.

The remaining brothers have been trying to recruit new members for their fraternity and for a $500 scholarship they offer to non-Greek-affiliated males.

Beta Theta Pi members are looking to recruit males who do not necessarily want to “go Greek.” They may not be as focused on drinking and partying, and often make better leaders, Long said.

Last week, the fraternity invited a few new members to join, and members said they hope for more interest next semester.

However, it is difficult to find new members when there is little to offer, Long said.

Essentially, they are trying to garner additional members without the perk of having a house and without much experience in recruitment, Heller said.