New rush for a new house
After a year of upheaval and disciplinary measures, Alpha Tau Omega will participate in a delayed rush this year as the fraternity’s new leadership tries to rebuild the house’s image.
ATO will recruit pledges the week after other Hillsdale fraternities host their rush from Oct. 23 to Oct. 30.
The fraternity’s new president, junior Spenser Murphy (Hillsdale ’11) said he hopes the delayed rush week will attract the attention of men who might not find a home in the other Greek houses on campus.
“We’re not taking away from other houses,” Murphy said.
The delayed rush week is a significant step for the chapter that had two classes of men resign from active status last year because the fraternity broke its own rules and leadership members lied to the administration about initiation practices, Dean of Men Aaron Petersen said.
Only 11 members of the fraternity are left, mostly sophomores.
Those men are trying to address the problems in the house and rebuild it, Murphy said, focusing on the ideals of the fraternity, of brotherhood and molding men to be virtuous.
“ATO is a values-based fraternity and its values are rooted in Christianity and that’s really something we’re striving to get back to — that standard of what a fraternity is supposed to be,” Murphy said.
Petersen said the fraternity must prove to campus leaders that its intention to change is genuine.
“They have a credibility problem,” Petersen said. “They’re trying to break free of their reputation.”
Petersen said his office has tried to help support the new leadership’s claims.
Sophomore Cody Eldredge (Hillsdale ’11), the fraternity’s secretary, philanthropy chair, and alumni relations chair, said Petersen’s involvement has been encouraging and necessary.
“Contrary to what people might have heard, the administration is not trying to hinder our progress,” Eldredge said. “It’s trying to help us.”
Petersen said he hopes the fraternity will develop strongly this semester. The house has been on social probation for almost a year.
“I want to seem them thriving on campus — thriving visibly on campus from their principles,” Petersen said. “Not just survive in a charade.”
When two classes of ATO men deselected for disciplinary reasons within six months of each other, Murphy said president Larry Arnn sat down with the active members last semester to talk seriously about the future of the fraternity.
Murphy said Arnn gave them a choice.
“If we stuck with it and it didn’t change, the consequences were going to be very big for everyone in the house,” he said.
They could either leave the fraternity, or commit to reforming it.
All but two members stayed.
“We’re all a bunch of college guys and we’re going to make mistakes,” Murphy said. “We understand that and the dean understands that. But, there are clear expectations for how far is too far and there will be clear consequences.”
Eldredge said the choice was worth it.
“It may be tough, but I’m not going to back off and take the easy route,” he said. “We’re not going to invest our energy and resources to let this fail.”
Petersen said he supports the new leadership, but their commitment will be tested over time.
“It should be pretty clear in the next 12 to18 months what this group’s about,” he said. “If the chapter’s serious it should be thriving.”
Murphy and Eldredge said their goal is to win True Merit, the highest award for an ATO chapter, representing academic, philanthropic, and house excellence. Hillsdale’s ATO chapter has never won the award.
Eldredge said the key to a strong fraternity is brotherhood more than friendship. He said the house got in trouble last year because members thought loyalty meant not holding each other accountable.
“You have to keep your family in check,” Eldredge said.
“I count on fraternity organizations to take their commitment to holding themselves accountable, seriously,” he said. “I don’t think I need to babysit them.”