With the popularity of movies like Animal House and Old School, the word ‘fraternity’ often conjures images of rowdy guys playing beer-pong in dirty basements.
But at Penn, this is not the entire picture. In addition to housing a number of co-ed professional and service fraternities, Penn also features one traditionally Greek co-ed fraternity and another female-friendly — but not officially co-ed — fraternity.
Though Interfraternity Council organization Pi Lambda Phi lets females live in its house, it is not officially recognized as co-ed by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, according to IFC President and Wharton senior Shawn Woodhull. However, Pi Lam does not like to make the distinction about official designations, said president James La Marre, a College junior.
“Girls are involved in our events and live in the house, and we pride ourselves on being a fraternity founded on ideals of diversity and tolerance,” he said
On the other hand, Delta Phi — better known as St. Elmo — is Penn’s only co-ed Interfraternity Council organization. According to St. Elmo President and Engineering senior Julio Erdos, in addition to being the only co-ed frat on campus, St. Elmo is also the oldest Greek organization at Penn, founded in 1849.
The process of recognizing women as members — which began in the 1970s — was not a simple one. Erdos explained that because of the general liberalization of society, particularly at colleges like Penn, women had been accepted as social members. Yet it was not until 1980 that they received voting privileges and membership rights.
“While [the national Delta Phi organization] was not initially wholly receptive to the change, the strength of the Penn chapter allowed us to become co-ed, and relations with the national organization have since been improved,” said Erdos.
Even after their official incorporation as a co-ed fraternity, it was almost another 10 years until women were permitted to live in the house or serve as president. Since then, St. Elmo has had a number of female presidents.
Eros acknowledged a number of concerns about welcoming women, such as how Penn’s Delta Phi chapter would fit into the national organization, and St. Elmo being the only co-ed organization in the IFC.
However, Eros explained, the co-ed experience is a wholly positive one.
“The purpose of the IFC is to provide for cooperation and collaboration between its member chapters — not to determine their membership,” he said. “A co-ed fraternity is wholly consistent with the goals and aims of the IFC and OFSA, and only adds to the richness and vibrancy of Penn’s Greek system.”
Another potential concern about turning a traditionally all-male organization co-ed is lack of “brotherhood” in the form of male camaraderie.
But rather, he continued, including women makes the group “more balanced and perhaps even more mature than it might otherwise have been, without losing any of the closeness.”
Genevieve Fischer, a College sophomore and member of St. Elmo, said she decided to rush the fraternity after she participate in sorority rush and found that it wasn’t for her.
“I instantly felt like family at St. Elmo,” Fischer said. “It’s such a tight knit community and I can’t image being happier.”Comments powered by Disqus
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