When the historically Black fraternity Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. was founded at Howard University in 1911, it had only three students. Today, the number of active members in Temple University’s chapter remains nearly the same.
“It is members versus men,” said Christopher Zeigler, the vice president of Temple’s Omega Psi Phi Inc. chapter.
The fraternity derives its value from the quality, not the quantity, of its members, he added.
There are 28 fraternities and sororities at Temple. These are grouped under “umbrella councils” like the Interfraternity Council, the National Panhellenic Conference, Multicultural Greek Council and National Pan-Hellenic Council.
The National Pan-Hellenic Council governs Omega Psi Phi and other historically Black Greek-letter organizations known as the Divine Nine. These national organizations, which were created when racial segregation policies were still in effect, remain today as an outlet for Black students to serve and support their communities and one another while pursuing their degrees.
Temple has seven fraternities in the Interfraternity Council and six sororities in the National Panhellenic Conference. These two majority-white councils total more than 1,470 members, according to Temple’s Spring 2018 Community Report. The others are much smaller: The National Pan-Hellenic Council has 54 members, and the Multicultural Greek Council has 132.
Temple currently has six of the Divine Nine, consisting of four fraternities and two sororities, on campus.
Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity Inc. is a Multicultural Greek Council fraternity that, like Omega Psi Phi, is small in number. It has five members, according to Temple’s Spring 2018 Community Report.
These small numbers can make for closer relationships between members, said Franky Acosta, the president of Lamda Theta Phi’s Temple chapter. Acosta stays in contact with fraternity alumni who graduated and reaches out to them for professional advice, he added.
“We try to find people who fit our culture and hold the same values as us,” Acosta said. “We really get to build a support system professionally, socially and emotionally.”
Rush processes differ between the Multicultural Greek Council, the Divine Nine, the National Panhellenic Conference and Interfraternity Council.
Some Divine Nine organizations, including Omega Psi Phi, do not hold annual rush events on campus, Zeigler said. Instead, current members may extend invitations to friends or classmates.
“I met a member in my class…and now we are brothers for life,” Zeigler said.
Ashley Johnson, a junior public health major and member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. — which is part of the Divine Nine — learned about rush from her freshman year resident assistant, who was going through the process at the time.
Johnson rushed in Fall 2017 and likened the process to interviewing for a job — a very important job. Potential new members bring their unofficial transcripts to informal rush and then submit their official transcripts, grades, a letter describing why they want to join and a recommendation letter written by a current member for formal rush.
After that, an interview is conducted between the potential new member and someone in a leadership position. New members will receive a bid and take a final test to measure their knowledge of the specific sorority and the history of the Divine Nine. After dues are paid, they are accepted into the sorority.
“Out of all the orgs, to me, [Sigma Gamma Rho] was the one that was most friendliest, the ones most active in the community,” Johnson said. “It is not one that is extremely popular, but it stands for a lot.”
“A lot of our information isn’t as publicized,” said Treshanna Stidman, a senior public health major and member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. “It’s harder to find out what those requisites might be or whether you qualify.”
Rush processes at Interfraternity Council organizations, like Kappa Delta Rho, usually consist of a week of rush events at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters.
KDR, which gained 21 new members this spring — three times the Spring 2018 membership of Omega Psi Phi — hosts rush events in the spring and fall, said Alec DeLaurentis, the vice president of KDR. Temple’s chapter of KDR currently has 74 members.
“We don’t have a certain number we try to hit,” DeLaurentis said. “We just try to pick genuine guys who are the best fit for our organization.”
Omega Psi Phi’s four founding principles are “manhood,” “scholarship,” “perseverance” and “uplift,” Zeigler said.
“The current principle I like to exemplify is perseverance,” Zeigler added. “My girlfriend passed away last year. It was a rough time for me, but thankfully my brothers were there for me and after that I knew they were brothers to me.”
Delta Sigma Theta’s values for its programs are physical and mental health, political awareness and involvement, international awareness and involvement, educational involvement and economic development, Stidman said.
“Everything we do as an organization on a grand scale revolves around those things,” Stidman added. “All of our programs are going to be based on those five.”
More support from Temple could help these organizations grow in number, Stidman added.
“Organizations of color could get more allocations and resources that other councils already get,” Stidman said. “More knowledge should be spread about our council.”