Where We Were
I was playing golf with my buddies at Overton Park on the first day of spring break. It was a perfect day, until I received an email from our Eminent Archon, Forrest Riddle, that our chapter has been placed under cease and desist due to hazing allegations. I was confused and worried. When we all came back from spring break it was clear that our fraternity life as we knew it would be changed forever. We had a stressful meeting where Forrest outlined the facts and told us that there was a very good chance our chapter could be taken away from us if we don’t fix the issue of hazing in our fraternity. Fingers were pointed and frustration among the members was high.
What followed this meeting were more meetings with national representatives and a lot of uncertainty as to whether or not our chapter could be saved. Jim Pope, a past Eminent Supreme Archon, served as a huge asset to our chapter’s rebuilding process. He led the member review, which was an interviewing process of each member in the fraternity to decide who would be on board with the “new” TN Zeta and who would not make the cut. During this process, our members who were involved in the hazing of pledges chose to do the honorable thing and admit their wrong-doings despite facing possible expulsion from the fraternity and disciplinary action from Rhodes. Following the member review we learned that some members of our fraternity had sadly been suspended or expelled due to hazing or lack of interest in the becoming a part of the “new” TN Zeta. The good news was that the vast majority of the chapter was permitted to remain members because they had proven to their interviewers that they were 100 percent on board with the new direction of the chapter and fraternity. We finished the semester on social probation and headed into the summer eager to come back with a fresh start and a fresh mindset on how our fraternity should run.
Where We Are
When we came back to Rhodes this fall, we were given the news that we would not be able to participate in fall rush because our alumni commission had not yet been formed and we had not had our chapter retreat to lift the cease and desist. For most of the chapters at Rhodes, not having a fall rush would basically mean the end of the chapter. However, TN Zeta is not like most of the chapters at Rhodes. We had our chapter retreat on the first weekend of September. It was executed by Deran Abernathy, the Associate Executive Director of Alumni and Chapter Services. During this retreat, I saw a side of our fraternity that I had never seen before. Members who normally did not speak out stood up and expressed their feelings towards how our chapter can do much better than we have. For the first time, we were able to confront our issues head on and create tangible goals that will challenge us. Each member got to make speak and make a promise as to how they would help improve our chapter. Brother Abernathy saw the retreat was a complete success and our cease and desist was lifted. The members knew it was time to get to work.
As previously mentioned, most fraternities would be completely demoralized by not having a fall rush. Despite our disadvantages, the brothers of TN Zeta were able to pull off one of the most impressive recruitments in our chapter’s history. Our fall rush started the day after the rush for the other fraternities on campus ended. The incoming freshman took notice of our chapter’s impressive demeanor throughout the first couple of weeks whether it was on the practice field or in the classrooms. I am proud to say that we took in the best 13 new members on campus this fall, all whom embody what it means to be a True Gentleman of TN Zeta. The campus saw our recruitment as miraculous, while we saw it as a recruitment we knew we could pull off if we all put our minds to it and worked together.
Throughout this fall semester the Eminent Council and the Alumni Commission have been working together in order make sure that our chapter doesn’t begin to fade back into its old complacent ways. The Alumni Commission led by, John Keesee and Clint Bailey, has been extremely helpful in helping our chapter plan events and getting our chapter in order. The chapter and Alumni Commission wanted to showcase our chapter’s rebirth to the school and the alumni. Homecoming gave us the perfect opportunity to do so and we were eager to capitalize. Thanks to the dedication to success that this chapter has, we hosted a fantastic homecoming for our alumni. During the event, there was food served by Central BBQ and alcohol provided by a 3rd party vendor in accordance with Minerva’s Shield. A couple days before homecoming, I went to the Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis and obtained some banners and donation buckets that would be used during homecoming. They have registered TN Zeta as one of their official donors and are very pleased that we will be helping them raise funds. The house was in pristine condition thanks to the power –washing that was generously funded by our Alumni Commission. Our football team, consisting of 12 members of our chapter including 3- year- starting QB Blake Box, destroyed Sewanee. It was a great day to be an SAE.
The Chapter continues to have intermural dominance. Our flag football A team and B team met in the intermural championship to give you a perspective on just how dominant we are. The freshman and sophomores tried to put a fight, but the upperclassmen would not be beat. Currently we have the lead in the Greek Cup and are ready for basketball to start.
Where We Are Headed
There is much to look forward to for the members of our chapter. Whether it’s our upcoming black-tie formal at The Cadre or cheering on our brothers on the football team as they fight to be back-to-back conference champions. With every chapter meeting each Monday, comes new opportunities and challenges for proving our excellence. What is great to see is that these are being brought to the table by other members than just the EC or AC. Henry Castner, a sophomore member, has taken on a new role of becoming a big-brother with a program in Memphis. He has inspired other members to join him in becoming a role-model for children. Study hall sessions have been held by our Scholarship Chair, Michael Stierer. To make sure that our scholarship stays on par with the new True Gentleman Experience, we have decided that any member who comes out of the mid-term with a GPA lower than a 2.5, will be placed on social probation and must commit to weekly study sessions with our Scholarship Chair. However, our members don’t want to just be on par with the TGE, we want to exceed it and have a better average GPA than the other fraternities on campus. I am also pleased to say that nearly all of the members that were suspended from the chapter last spring have been allowed back into the fraternity because of their commitment and love of our chapter.
I have never been as proud as I am about the state of our chapter. There were many times during the past 8 months where we could have just given up and handed over the chapter. We stayed strong because we knew that we were better than that and we wanted to prove it. We have seen how important this chapter is to not just our members but to our alumni as well. I hope that in the future we can continue to establish a strong connection with our alumni. A strong alumni connection means a strong chapter. Our members want to make our alumni proud. Like the phoenix we have risen from the ashes. It has been a long, hard journey to get to where we are today and the best part about it is that we want to continue climbing higher and higher to get to the status of an award-winning chapter.