By Graig Graziosi
Youngstown State University student Richard Benge’s best college experiences are tied to his Greek organization.
He hopes to continue those memories, though he has hit a snag — there is no chapter of his organization on YSU’s campus.
Benge, who is currently studying exercise science, is a transfer student from Thiel College in Greenville, Pennsylvania where he was an initiated member in the Greek fraternity Delta Sigma Phi.
Shortly after beginning his first semester at YSU, Benge began considering the possibility of reviving Delta Sigma Phi on YSU’s campus.
“The biggest reason for my interest in trying to revive the group is the fact that I’m an initiated member of the fraternity. … It was the best experience of my life. My hope is to give that experience to YSU students interested in Greek life,” Benge said.
Delta Sigma Phi existed on YSU’s campus from 1962 until the mid-1990s. While YSU still offers an array of Greek organizations for student involvement, Benge isn’t willing to give up the ideals of his organization, which focus on encouraging men to be better members of society.
“The group’s motto is ‘Better Men, Better Lives’ and the three main principles are culture, harmony and friendship. Historically, Delta Sigma Phi was the first [Greek] organization in the United States to allow members of both the Jewish and Christian faiths, because in the late 1800s and early 1900s segregation was a major social issue,” he said.
While Benge has a passion for his project, establishing a new fraternity at a college can be a daunting task. Almost all Greek organizations are controlled by national chapters that have final say over the inclusion of their groups on a college campus. Benge will have to convince both his national chapter and YSU — where about 2.5 percent of the student body is involved in Greek life — that setting up a new fraternity chapter is a viable endeavor.
“[A limited interest in Greek life] is definitely a bit disheartening, but it’s not something that just exists at YSU. A big part of nationals deciding whether or not the chapter would be successful is talking to prospective members as well as faculty and staff to determine what role we would have on campus as well as what we want to focus on,” Benge said. “As for my plans to overcome lack of interest, the biggest thing I would like to do is create an open environment where non-members and members can hang out and get to know each other on a personal level. … I think relationships with other fraternities as well as non-Greek organizations are important — not just for a new chapter but for established chapters as well.”
Carrie Anderson, assistant director of student activities, helps oversee the implementation of new student organizations and Greek organizations into YSU. While Benge’s case hasn’t yet been reviewed by student activities and as such is up in the air, she does caution that there is a wide valley between an idea and a fully functional Greek organization.
“A Greek organization isn’t like a normal student group … we need to meet with Richard and his organization needs to make a decision as to whether or not they think a chapter is viable. We’ll have to consider that as well. It’s too early to make any predictions,” Anderson said.
Benge recognizes he has a long road ahead but hopes that at some point, future Penguins will wear the letters of the frat that so influenced his college experience.
“This project is in its very early stages and is at least a year away from anything major happening on campus,” Benge said. “That said, I want to get this into student’s heads in case they are looking for something different on campus.”