The pledge against fraternities

Despite a long-standing ban on fraternities and sororities, Queen’s is seeing an emergence in Kingston-affiliated Greek societies

Despite the ban, Kingston is home to three fraternities — Zeta Psi, Kappa Sigma and Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) — and one sorority, Alpha Pi Phi. 

Only one year since their inauguration last March, the Kappa Sigma fraternity near Queen’s now boasts around 40 “brothers”. From focusing on philanthropy and building a strong social community, Mitch Wilson, ArtSci ‘18, one of the vice-presidents, said that their fraternity’s goal is to build connections.

However, Kappa Sigma have to call their chapter the “Kingston Colony” as Queen’s has a student government sanctioned ban on fraternities and sororities.

This ban means that fraternities and sororities can’t be officially affiliated with the University or use AMS resources to promote
their organizations.

As per section 27 of AMS Policy Manual 3, fraternities and sororities are defined as groups “that are exclusive in membership and have secret oaths or pledges”, contrary to the AMS’ policy of inclusion.

Queen’s is one of the only Canadian universities to have an outright ban on these societies. The University of Toronto alone has 26 Greek organizations. Closely following suit, UBC has 21 and Western has 17.

Despite the ban, Kingston is home to three fraternities — Zeta Psi, Kappa Sigma and Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) — and one sorority, Alpha Pi Phi.

All have formed within the last eight years, with two Greek organizations popping up just in the last five years.

Nearly all fraternities and sororities in Canada, and those at Queen’s, are chapters of organizations originating in the United States.

To recruit, fraternities and sororities rush — a period of assessment for potential members. Upon selection, these new members pledge to the organization.

Due to the lack of affiliation with the university, finding people to pledge is difficult, the fraternities say. Fraternities and sororities aren’t allowed to recruit during Orientation Week, at events such as Queen’s in the Park, where clubs typically receive sign-ups. Because of this limited access, Kingston Greek organizations are forced to the outskirts of events.

Most pledges they receive, the fraternities say are from word of mouth and Internet marketing.

An aspect of rushing a fraternity has the pledges throw their own party at a “brother’s” house. One of the main requirements of getting accepted is making sure you’re able to socialize well with the rest of the fraternity.

However, no fraternity or sorority interviewed would reveal what their initiation entails once a pledge becomes a member of
the society.

“We can’t give out that information. That information is privy only to that sorority. It’s a standardized thing. Each sorority has a different process. I know our process but I have no idea what another sorority would do,” Holly McCann, president of Alpha Pi Phi told The Journal.

At Queen’s, the ban has been in place for the past 84 years. The rule originated in 1933 in response to Arts and Science and medical students forming two separate fraternities in the 1920s.

The ban was disregarded by the medical student fraternity, who were then tried against the AMS court in 1934 for “contravention of the AMS constitution.” After being found guilty, they were no longer eligible to participate in all student political, social and athletic activities for a full year.

In 2013, the issue of Greek societies was back on the table.

The AMS executive re-evaluated the ban in January 2013. Assembly voted in favour of the ban again, a decision that was then endorsed by Queen’s Senate.

At the time, the AMS also revised the wording to remove the specific mention of the International Order of Odd Fellows and the Knights of Columbus — two non-Greek societies.

Mitch Wilson is one of the “founding fathers” of Kappa Sigma. Wilson said the idea to start a fraternity came to current President Trev Shanahan, Sci ’18, who along with five other friends brought the vision to life.

“We wanted to have something more personalized to us. We wanted the idea of us being part of a fraternity, but we also wanted to do something ourselves and make it where we could be in a position to direct things the way we wanted them to go,” Wilson said.

“We just wanted to have the opportunity to do exactly what we wanted in terms of philanthropy, social events and really just customize it ourselves.”

Alpha Pi Phi is the only Kingston-affiliated sorority that has been active since 2012. The sorority currently has 20 active members involved in their chapter.

President McCann told The Journal that in being a part of the sisterhood, each member is required to fulfill both 20 hours of philanthropy or volunteer hours a semester and maintain a certain GPA.

“If you follow sororities on Instagram all you see is these beautiful girls partying. We have different girls from all disciplines of school who all come together and create this unique sisterhood,” McCann said.

She finds that by not being AMS sanctioned, they’re disadvantaged compared to other Queen’s groups by not having access to classrooms or other valuable services on campus.

“It kind of limits our students in a lot of ways, but it’s also beneficial. Because we aren’t a Queen’s sorority we have members that are in college as well. It just opens up membership to other schools. If someone from RMC wanted to come out and join, they are more than welcome. We do have active members from St. Lawrence College as well.”

In addition to being required to uphold the sorority’s academic and philanthropic criteria, members of the sorority pay a membership fee of about $250.

McCann explained that their price is lower since they don’t have a sorority house —membership at a U of T sorority can cost as much as $1,000, she said.

“There are a lot of people in our fraternity that honestly, as much as it sucks to say, just didn’t really have friends,” Harrison Drew, president of Zeta Psi told The Journal.

Drew noted the importance of taking in those who struggle socially, saying that induction into the fraternity will instantly give them a group of 40 best friends.

While being affiliated with the school would make aspects of Greek life easier, the fraternities say they aren’t currently motivated to move beyond their status of being Kingston affiliated clubs.

Carolyn Thompson, Vice President (University Affairs), said that, though it’s not something that the AMS would endeavour to do itself, any student can approach AMS Assembly to put the issue of the fraternity or sorority ban forward.

“Given the way that Assembly works, if they make a strong case that this is something that is good for our students, our Assembly will make that decision and they will vote on it. I can’t tell you which way that would go but it would definitely be up to Assembly.”

Even asked what the reversal of the Greek life ban would look like, Thompson said she wouldn’t be able to comment.

“I’ve never been in a place where I would be around fraternities or sororities. So I don’t think I would ever know what the positives or the negatives would be and as I’ve been here, there have never been fraternities or sororities on campus. I don’t think I can say.”

With the emergence of new fraternities and sororities, Thompson said she thinks it’s a valid argument for people to bring up to Assembly.

“If it’s something that’s important to them, then they should bring it up and talk to our Assembly about it because they have the right to do so,” Thompson said.

“We need to make sure that’s accessible for everyone to come and voice their concerns, their opinions and debates.”


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