By KAT SAUNDERS
A new campus club is bringing fraternity life to Mary Washington, but the school is standing behind its stance against Greek life.
A co-ed social fraternity, Alpha Mu Sigma, had its first rush for new members last week.
Although, OSACS has recognized a fraternity for the first time, the organizations co-ed policies, small size and limited off campus activity allow it to function as a normal club.
UMW officials have said that the group is not the start of Greek life on campus.
Alpha Mu Sigma President Kendall Haring, junior, said that she and three other students started the club last January to bring students from different social groups together.
“We want to bring a lot of different people with different interests together,” she said. “We wanted a club that will do community service but not be service based…just focusing on social aspects.”
Activities and some meetings will be open to non-members. The club will also function as a normal fraternity by including club rituals and traditions. There will be attendance, financial and volunteer requirements for members.
Members will be required to pay a membership fee to cover off-campus events, which will not be paid for by OSACS.
“Because we’re a club, we must be open to all students at Mary Washington but through our constitution we make sure that our new members will be dedicated to the organization,” said Haring. “It’s about making a lifetime commitment.”
Single sex sororities and fraternities are considered a violation of the University’s non-discrimination policy for clubs. Alpha Mu Sigma is co-ed, and is not recognized by any national association. All 14 new members and four officers are female.
According to OSACS Assistant Director and Alpha Mu Sigma adviser Steven Thomas, all of Alpha Mu Sigma’s rules and practices fall under normal club guidelines.
“Alpha Mu Sigma follows all of the same policies established for any group of students longing to form a club,” Thomas said in an e-mail statement.
UMW does not acknowledge or sanction Greek organizations. Thomas said that OSACS does not consider Alpha Mu Sigma an official Greek organization or have special regulations for the club.
“Since we don’t recognize any official Greek organizations and we don’t have a Greek system on campus, we currently do not have an official policy on Greek organizations,” he said.
Psi Upsilon, the non-sanctioned but internationally affiliated fraternity, has been active among Mary Washington students since 1996. According to President Andrew Catherwood, members of Psi Upsilon have been in contact with OSACS since last semester about changing school policy. However, the club has not attempted to get OSACS approval or official school recognition.
Catherwood suggested that OSACS should re-evaluate their policies on Greek organizations.
“The school needs to rethink its policies on Greek life because simply denying our existence is irresponsible,” said Catherwood, adding that earlier this semester school officials refused to discuss safety at off campus events because Psi Upsilon is not a sanctioned club.
Parties hosted by Psi Upsilon are known to become very large. A fight during one such party last November resulted in the hospitalization of a freshman student.
“We attract as many as 900 plus UMW students to our events, but [school officials] are unwilling to work with us or give us advice even in the name of protecting their students,” said Catherwood. “In my opinion, that is negligent. The school needs to adjust their Greek policies from black and white to include a gray area.”
Other students prefer to keep Greek activity off campus. Sophomore Sam Protich said that one of the advantages of Mary Washington is its lack of Greek organizations.
“I feel that the purpose of coming to a smaller university is to try to gain a fellowship with the campus as whole instead of trying to assimilate and practice the customs of a really small, exclusive group of people,” said Protich.
Sophomore Jessica Hedrick, who transferred to UMW from Virginia Tech this year, said she is disappointed that fraternity organizations are forming on campus.
“There were so many fraternities and sororities at Tech, and I was really happy to get away from all that,” she said.
As of now, Alpha Mu Sigma plans to remain a small organization. Off-campus events will include dinner parties. The fraternity is working with non-profit organizations such as Adopt a Soldier and the Fairy Godmother.
President Haring said that the club will remain open to non-members, even though she envisioned a more traditional sorority when founding the club.
“I think mostly people have negative reactions because they don’t know what it’s about,” she said. “They think of stuff like Animal House, instead of what we’re going to be doing.”