Off-campus organization Skulls, known as Phi Kappa Sigma when it was an on-campus fraternity, is in the process of attempting to move back on campus both in name and into their old house.
The fraternity, which was founded at Penn, suspended the organization’s Penn charter and closed its Alpha chapter on Sept. 16, 2012 following the death of John Carroll University student Matthew Crozier.
Crozier was at the Skulls house on Locust Street for an unregistered New Year’s Eve party when, at around 3 a.m., he tripped while approaching a second flight of stairs in the house. He fell 30 feet and died from his injuries on Jan. 5.
The chapter was evicted from its Locust Street house and the fraternity ceased to exist officially, and no members formed an off-campus organization at that time. In fall 2015, a group of freshmen decided to try to recolonize the fraternity’s chapter by establishing an off-campus group. They formed an interest group and reaching out to the fraternity’s national headquarters to begin the process of becoming an official chapter, and eventually moving back into their house on campus.
“I actually originally had a really close group of friends and the thing is that everybody was like when you join a new frat, you’re kind of blending in with a new group of people,” Wharton sophomore and Skulls President Garrison Xian said. “For us, it’s just like, instead of joining an old identity or trying to fit into someone else’s identity or another organization’s identity, why don’t we do something on our own?”
Xian said the group has gained the support of the national fraternity, which will start discussion with the University to start the process for the group to become the official campus chapter.
“We spoke to nationals about it and nationals was super supportive because, of course, this is the Alpha chapter,” Xian added. “Nationals is backing us completely.”
The chapter’s support from its national organization was confirmed by Executive Director Timothy Schug.
“As you know, Phi Kappa Sigma was founded at Penn and there is always that desire to have an active chapter on campus, let alone because of the caliber of the institution,” Schug said. “The process for Phi Kappa Sigma’s return is ongoing as we work with the University, our own timetable and the resources necessary to ensure the long-term viability of a chapter with respect to Phi Kappa Sigma’s relationship with the University.”
The national chapter expressed interest in eventually having a future chapter move back into the on-campus house in 2014, but discussion regarding the move was not initiated until last fall. The process is still in the negotiation stage.
“Regardless of whether any national organization is interested in recolonization, no formal process has begun at Penn,” Director of Penn’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life Eddie Banks-Crosson said.
Xian said that during initial talks with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life in February last year, the organization warned the group of the lengthy procedure required for a chapter’s re-establishment on campus and told the members they were “way better off just joining [an existing] frat.”
Xian said he and his friends are undeterred, but said negotiations at this point were mainly between the national organization and OFSL. Current Skulls members are unaware of the progress of the talks.
“We know it’s going to be a difficult process but we still decided to go through with it,” Xian said. “After that, they said they’re willing to have conversations about it this year and they want it to come from nationals instead of us because they need a lot of lawyers to negotiate this entire deal through.”
College junior and President of the Interfraternity Council Bradley Freeman said he was not aware of the recolonization discussions.
“I don’t have any information on Skulls moving back on campus,” Freeman said. “This is the first I’m hearing of this.”
OFSL, the national headquarters and the Penn chapter are currently unable to confirm a timeline for when the chapter will officially be recognized as an on-campus fraternity and will be able to formally recruit again.
“At this time, I do not have an answer as to when the organization may begin recruiting students on Penn’s campus, despite the positive interest many students have shown when inquiring about our return,” Schug said.
Xian added that he does not see the chapter coming back on campus any time soon.
“Coming back on campus, I can’t see it happening in the next few months. I haven’t thought that far ahead honestly because I’m the current president and for me, I feel like I just want to take steps, one small step at a time,” Xian said. “I think that when that does come, it’ll be at that time that we look into how we can brand, how we can market to freshman.”
However, Xian remains optimistic about the future of the organization’s chapter at Penn.
“Honestly, I’m pretty excited about it,” Xian said. “In my opinion, I think, just based upon how receptive nationals has been and the fact that they are talking to the University about it and even the fact that you heard about it, I think that it’s definitely moving in the right direction and moving at a good pace.”