Fraternities and sorority want more university support, official recognition

October brings football games, changing leaves and Greek life at most universities. But at St. Thomas, sororities and fraternities are considered clubs, which makes the Greek part of the college experience less visible.

Senior Meghan Peterson, Gamma Sigma Sigma president, said Gamma is on a fine line between a club and a sorority.

Gamma Sigma Sigma actives and pledges gather in JRC's auditorium Monday, Sept. 27 for an informational meeting and initiation. (Cynthia Johnson/TommieMedia)
Gamma Sigma Sigma actives and pledges gather in JRC's auditorium Monday, Sept. 27 for an informational meeting and initiation. (Cynthia Johnson/TommieMedia)

“St. Thomas doesn’t allow ‘Greek life’ per se on campus,” Peterson said. “In the eyes of St. Thomas, we are an on-campus club, but in the eyes of our national board, we’re a sorority.”

National ties create problems

Assistant Director of Campus Life Tara LaFerla said St. Thomas clubs with national ties often run into problems, such as money issues.

“Some clubs have ties to national offices, but they are still using student activity fee money,” LaFerla said. “For the day-to-day operations, that national office doesn’t run the club. So when clubs do their budget request with USG, they’re asking for some of the student activity fee money. Ultimately, when an undergrad is paying the fee and that money is being tied to a national office, it’s a conflict of interest.”

Gamma Sigma Sigma and Sigma Chi are the two major sorority and fraternity clubs on campus with ties to national offices.

Peterson said the sorority and fraternity clubs want more St. Thomas support.

“It’s unfortunate that St. Thomas doesn’t have Greek life. It could add a lot to our campus,” Peterson said.  “It’s sad that we’re the only sorority club on campus. I think we would have more competition if there were other Greek organizations for girls on campus, but I think it would be an added experience to the college community.”

Fraternity unaffiliated with St. Thomas still attracts students

Sigma Tau Omega is a fraternity that is not recognized by the university, but has St. Thomas students as members.

Sophomore Anthony Guidotti, Sigma Tau Omega executive vice president, said the fraternity enjoys doing service around the St. Thomas community, but St. Thomas makes it hard for them to spread their message.

“We’re really not looking for funding from the university, but unfortunately we can’t advertise on campus because we’re not a club,” Guidotti said. “This makes it hard for us to get our mission out there and it’s hard to build people up as leaders if we can’t advertise.”

Clubs must manage without fraternity and sorority houses

St. Thomas sorority and fraternity clubs are not allowed to have houses, a signature symbol of Greek life.

“A lot of people say if you don’t have a house, then it’s not Greek life,” Peterson said. “But really, it still is Greek life. We still have our Greek letters, we wear our pins, and we still do things that other Greek organizations do. We just aren’t allowed to have a house because we are a club.”

Guidotti said he is frustrated there is no regular meeting place for his fraternity.

“Because we’re not a St. Thomas student organization, we cannot reserve any rooms on campus,” Guidotti said. “And then because we don’t have a house, it makes it hard to have structured meetings.”

Guidotti said he wishes the university would be more supportive.

“We just want to promote selfless service,” Guidotti said. “We don’t promote the animal house stereotype with drinking and partying. Sigma Tau Omega is about education and creating leaders, creating gentlemen.”

University guidelines regulate “exclusive” clubs

Sorority and fraternity clubs also deal with membership issues. According to the St. Thomas club handbook, there can be no “arbitrary exclusion on basis of race, color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, or handicap” if the club is not exclusive. Peterson said she was just informed of this a few months ago.

Service Vice President Alex Martynec and Service Assistant Malorie Schmidt discuss volunteer opportunities during Gamma Sigma Sigma's initiation. (Cynthia Johnson/TommieMedia)
Service Vice President Alex Martynec and Service Assistant Malorie Schmidt discuss volunteer opportunities during Gamma Sigma Sigma's initiation. (Cynthia Johnson/TommieMedia)

“Apparently, if boys want to be a part of Gamma, we have to allow them,” said Peterson.  “We didn’t know that before because a guy has never tried to rush.”

Peterson said a male student from Augsburg contacted her, “but he didn’t show up to initiation.”

Senior Jeremy Priem, Sigma Chi president, said they do not have to deal with this problem.

“We are slightly unique because we are considered an exclusive club, meaning we do not have open enrollment and are given the authority to decide who can become a member,” Priem said.

Sigma Chi does include women.

“Our chapter does elect a female representative each year and she receives the title of ‘Sweetheart,’” Priem said.  “She is a woman who is seen to posses the values and ideals of the fraternity and represents them in her everyday activities throughout the campus and community.”

Priem said he wants Sigma Chi’s mission to be known to all St. Thomas students.

“We just want to expand our presence on campus as we look to sponsor more unique events in which the entire student body can enjoy,” he said.

Cynthia Johnson can be reached at

8 Replies to “Fraternities and sorority want more university support, official recognition”

  1. Very well written and points out many obvious fact that University does not want to recognize. There is so much potential in regulated service fraternities and sororities. On faternity that is recognized by the University that was not mentioned in this article is the Knights of Columbus. The mission statement of the Knights is a Catholic, social, fraternal organization based on the principles of charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism dedicated to serving the Church through its involvement in the campus community and in the neighboring communities of the University of St. Thomas. Many would agree that this is the mission statement of many service based greek organizations. UST could stand to profit in public relations and prospective students by recognizing greek life.

  2. Excellent article! If Fraternities and Sororities were allowed to flourish with the support of the University, we would see a huge spike in potential for community involvement as well as school spirit. Hamline University recognizes multiple Greek organizations and provides housing for them, and Theta Chi holds the most popular events on that campus. To have that space UST Greeks could call their own makes it much easier for them to organize events for their fellow Tommies and for service, as well as building the bonds of Brotherhood/Sisterhood. The relevance of Greek societies on campus would add a fresh, new, constructive element to UST’s social dynamic, provide more opportunities for the student leaders of UST to collaborate for the future, make good men and women even better, and build leaders for the future of America while supporting citizens in need.

  3. I agree with Jack Dowd. The University seems to be holding a double standard and it’s not right. I think the University, and the surrounding community, has much to gain by embracing service based greek organizations. These fraternities and sororities are not what Hollywood plays them out to be.
    Also, I fail to see why Sigma Chi is considered an exclusive group, and so does not have to worry about gender problems. Why is Gamma Sigma Sigma not given this status, and why can’t Sigma Tau Omega be granted this status. Personally, I feel that any women who wanted to join a fraternity could create a sorority. I don’t see what is wrong with that. The Knights of Columbus only allow men, and they are a major Catholic organization. What’s wrong with fraternities and sororities that have similar mission statements not being recognized. 

  4. As with David Yates, I agree with Jack Dowd. The double standard set forth by the University doesn’t seem fair and is really hindering what could be an excellent way to improve community relations. In my understanding, most fraternities and sororities must fulfill a service requirement, much like UST clubs and organizations. Therefore, Greek organizations could be a very beneficial thing for the community
    Another interesting point that this article didn’t mention is that St. Thomas used to have a thriving Greek life. What happened that made the University no longer welcome fraternities and sororities?
    I again agree with David about Sigma Chi’s “exclusive group” status. What distinction do they hold that Gamma Sigma Sigma and Sigma Tau Omega do not? If the University is indeed scared off by the Animal House stereotype, perhaps they should investigate further what these organizations stand for and what they do.
    Greek life to me seems to be a huge factor in a college experience. We are a University of about 6200 undergraduate students and yet when I give tours I can’t talk about these potentially great organizations.
    To sum it up, maybe the University should set forth requirements or an official statement as to why full-on Greek life isn’t a part of this great…

  5. Sigma Chi is an “exclusive” group because they are selective in their membership and that they only allow men to be official members.  The article stated that Gamma Sigma Sigma technically allows men to join, however there has never been any serious interest.  The University currently has an unofficial ban on any new “Greek” organizations.  Therefore, Sigma Tau Omega has been declined club status.

  6. In response to questions about Sigma Chi’s “exclusive status,” this just means that the group is able to refuse the membership of women, hence: exclusive membership. Because of the exclusive membership, Sigma Chi does not receive any funding from the University and so has to pay for food at recruitment events, etc. out of pocket. Gamma Sigma Sigma, I would assume, does receive funding from the University, and thus, is required to offer membership to anyone, regardless of gender.

  7. I would just like to clarify that Sigma Chi is identified as an exclusive club by both UST and Sigma Chi. Sigma Chi only allows males who have been selcted and gone through a process of pledgeship and initiation in order to be considered a member. The Clubs and Orgs handbook has a rule that clearly states a club or org at UST must be open to all or the club will not recieve regular funding from the university, unless it’s a one time event or project to benefit the great community (See pg.10-11). We believe the University is justified in this respect as the funding for clubs comes from every student, regardless of whether or not they are in a club, and therefore their money should be going somewhere they have the oppurtunity to join and utilize. While Sigma Chi does have a “Sweetheart” as the story suggests, I think Jeremy’s quote was taken a tad out of context becuase we only have one Sweetheart who is chosen by the brothers. She is not allowed the same privleges as a member, such as attending regular chapter meetings. Iota Tau chapter of Sigma Chi is committed to working with the University to improve the stigma against Greek Organizations; but we also realize that there is a basis for this negative stigma not just in hyberbolies in the media; just look at recent events at…

  8. As stated by Tommy Glass, UST did indeed have a Greek community once upon a time. As I understand it, there was an incident that caused injury in one of the “Greek” houses, and the University decided to step in, so to speak. Granted, without proper maintainence of the Greek community, there can be problems that do arise. On the other hand, if UST were to keep watch over the growth of these organizations AND give more public recognition of their achievements and existence, I feel that having a Greek society could be very beneficial not only in the surrounding community, but as another facet of the University. Many prospective students give higher preference to a school with a Greek society because it is an interest.

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