Without a house and unable to promise weekly parties, the brothers of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity are recruiting a very different brand of pledges this semester.
“The type of fish you get depends on your type of bait. Our bait is community service, fund-raising, sports and brotherhood values,” said Rushabh Shah, current TKE president. “In the past, those weren’t alwaysmthe types of guys we’ve gotten.”
But the fraternity’s reputation was not always this innocent. Last fall, with an 18-man pledge class and headed by Greek Man of the Year Paolo DeVito, the future of the fraternity seemed promising. The group would celebrate its success with weekly parties.
“Our reputation was our parties in the past,” DeVito said. One of those house parties landed the brothers in trouble with both the university and the city.
“One event can create a downward spiral,” Shah said.
That event took place when two underage female students reported to Campus Police that they believed drinks they were served at a TKE house party contained more than just alcohol.
Tests conducted at Temple Hospital revealed that one female had traces of Xanax in her system, and the other had traces of GHB, a popular date-rape drug.
The two female complainants reported who they believed their perpetrator was to the police: Aaron Schraeter, a then 18-year-old TKE brother serving drinks that night. On the night of Sept. 23, Campus Police, serving a warrant for narcotics, searched the TKE house located at the 1800 block of North 16th Street.
Although the police did not find any drugs, they found more than 200 people packed into the three-story rowhome during one of the fraternity’s weekly parties. Police said the party, where alcohol was being served, hosted 179 underage guests. Two days after the party, the fraternity was suspended by the University Disciplinary Committee.
Schraeter was charged with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment of another person and narcotics violations by Philadelphia’s Central Narcotics Unit.
Although they insist that he is innocent, Schraeter and his brothers said they understand why a fraternity would be blamed.
“When I told a friend from home I joined a frat, he said, ‘You roofie any girls yet?’ It’s a normal stereotype,” Schraeter said. The brothers bantered back and forth about the subject.
“Before this happened, we had just bailed ourselves out of debt. People would ask about it and I would joke, ‘Are you kidding me? We can’t afford roofies.’ I can’t joke about that anymore,” DeVito said.
Schraeter was also suspended by the UDC in early October following the incident. Though Andrea Seiss, assistant dean of students for Judicial Affairs, would not comment specifically on Schraeter’s case, she said that the role of the UDC in similar cases is to determine whether an individual poses a safety risk to the university. Schraeter has since returned to school but still faces charges from the Central Narcotics Unit. Although he was unable to speak openly about the case, Schaeter said it should be finalized by Feb. 22.
When contacted for comment, the Central Narcotics Unit would not disclose Schraeter’s exact court date.
The fraternity as a whole did not escape from the September party without punishment. The organization was placed on probation by the UDC until the end of August when it will make a presentation to the UDC in hopes of having its probation lifted.
“They are expected to remain in good standing through a series of risk management programs, on-campus meetings, a recently placed executive board, an in-depth presentation to administration and no social events,” Greek Life Adviser Daniel Folk said.
The organization also received $2,000 in fines from Temple, which the brothers thought were unreasonable. “I don’t think that money has taught us a lesson. It almost crippled our frat,” DeVito said.
Prior to the UDC hearing, the university raised their minimum fine charges for students found guilty of drug or alcohol use.
“Last year, for a first time offense the mandatory minimum fine was $50, and now it is $250. The second time offense mandatory minimum went from $100 to $500,” Seiss said.
Seiss said she believes this change has yielded positive results.
“I definitely see the students’ perspective. But I can count on my two hands those who have repeated offenses with drug and alcohol this year. Last year, we were off the charts,” Seiss said.
Although they may not agree with the fine stipulations, the TKE brothers appreciate the university’s efforts to combat drug and alcohol problems on campus. In fact, the fraternity plans on personally working to improve what they see as a major issue in Greek Life: underage drinking.
“I never tried to end underage drinking
because I didn’t think it was possible. Everyone knew exactly what was going on.
“The Temple Police said they knew what those red cups were for, and just to be careful. Now I know that what I was doing was wrong,” DeVito said.
If the fraternity’s probation is lifted, the brothers want to do something considered radical in Greek Life – hold a Non-Alcoholic Week, in which alcohol would be absent at TKE gatherings for seven days.
According to the TKE brothers, the only obstacle that may hold them back is the unwillingness of other fraternities
to evolve with them.
“We need everybody on the same page. All of the frats on campus need to change up their act, otherwise the same thing that happened to us is going to happen to them,” DeVito said.Matthew Raisman, president of the Temple University Greek Association, said very little on the presence of underage
drinking in campus fraternities. “I would hope that all Greek chapters follow the university’s guidelines,” he said.
Holly Otterbein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.