If not enough members are recruited during upcoming fall recruitment, University of Idaho’s Alpha Tau Omega chapter could potentially lose its chapter house, said Nickolaus Stutzman, ATO alumni and member of ATO Alumni Committee.
Part of the reason ATO’s member numbers are low stems from a September 2012 incident involving underage drinking, when 22 ATO fraternity members were expelled by the national organization — leaving 12 members to rebuild the chapter. Stutzman said the group is working with their nationals about the issue, but will not know the result until next fall.
“It depends on the amount (of money) the alumni are willing to give,” Stutzman said. “This happens every year. We have five to 15 guys living there when rush starts and try to get enough to pay the bills. It’s just a waiting game.”
UI Greek Adviser Matt Kurz said ATO has always been a smaller fraternity — even so, having more than half of its members kicked out puts it in a tough position.
“To go through something like that — where two-thirds of your members are kicked (out) at once, it’s a big change,” Kurz said.
Kurz has been a part of five recruitments since working at UI, and said because all fraternities have different priorities, membership numbers have a lot of fluctuation.
Other than in 2009, when Sigma Phi Epsilon voted as an organization to disband its chapter, although it had the opportunity to continue — Kurz said he has not seen a fraternity shut down as a result of low recruitment numbers.
“There is never a pattern. Some fraternities have consistently low numbers — ATO happens to be one of them,” Kurz said. “It doesn’t mean that’s a bad thing, it just means what they consider as an average number for a pledge class might not be the same as some of the other fraternities on campus.”
Although the ATO fraternity has consistently had low numbers in the past, Kurz said, he thinks that the amount of members in a chapter does not define the strength of the organization.
“Fraternities and sororities aren’t bound by a chapter facility. On our campus, we look at the Greek ‘house’ as the most important part of that organization, but the house is really irrelevant,” Kurz said. “But, like ATO, the organization is really about the students who are a part of it –whether they choose to recruit one member a semester or 500, that’s their decision.”
Kurz said although living in a house is part of the Greek tradition, it is important to separate the differences between an organization and the house they live in.
“Even if ATO’s house is gone, they will still be a student-run organization,” Kurz said. “And that’s the core of what I think fraternities and sororities are — a student organization who makes decisions as a group.”
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