By Ben Putano, Ohio Lambda #728
I consider myself very lucky as I reflect on my first weekend at Kent State during my freshman year. I followed a group of new friends to a fraternity cookout, where I was told there would be food, beer, and girls. When I arrived to the house that afternoon, there was no beer—or girls for that matter—but plenty of food, volleyball and a group Phi Delt brothers. Later that night, I went back for a bonfire, talked with several members, played chubby bunny (look it up), and I was hooked. On day one of my college career, I found a great chapter from the best fraternity on the planet. Like I said, I was lucky.
I texted my dad that day to tell him I was hanging out at a fraternity. He replied, “Be careful”. And I said, “No Dad! Would you believe that the fraternity has an alcohol-free property? Don’t worry!” He said back, “Isn’t that an oxymoron?”
In a way, Phi Delta Theta is sort of an oxymoron in the fraternity world. Over the past decade, we have grown faster, stronger, and smarter than many any other fraternal organizations. In the words of Brother Rich Fabritius, “We have colleges calling us, wanting us on their campuses.”
It’s a turbulent time for many Greek communities, and many organizations are doing little to help themselves. Excessive drinking and hazing has pushed many chapters and organizations to the brink of existence. I’m proud of the tough decisions that Phi Delt has made, the example that it has set, and the benefits that it provides to young men.
I think the reasons for my pride and the Fraternity’s success is simple, but it may not for the reasons you would expect. When Phi Delt adopted alcohol-free housing, we set the groundwork to become the best fraternity that we can be. Now, I am definitely not some anti-booze snob who will stick my nose up at the sight of alcohol, but I do believe that there is a time and a place for drinking, and our policies have established the guidelines perfectly.
Living in an alcohol-free property at Ohio Lambda for three years, I was reaffirmed of this over and over. Yes, my brothers and I would go out and have fun, but at the chapter house, we made our own fun, like kids playing on a playground. We bonded and grew to know each other in unaltered states of mind. In the absence of alcohol, we focused on each other, and we became a better chapter because of it.
I also believe that much of Phi Delta Theta’s success stems from the Fraternity’s approach to leadership conferences. The training that our members receive at Kleberg, Recruitment Workshops, and the Presidents Leadership Conference, in absence of alcohol, is second-to-none. There is NO WAY we could have an effective conference, waking up at 8 a.m. and going until 10 p.m. for three days, if our members were out drinking the night before. Because of this, our members return to their chapters after a conference and they are prepared and motivated to make serious change at their school.
When I was at PLC this winter, I had a friend also attending a conference for his fraternity at the same time. After the weekend, we exchanged stories. The majority of his energy was spent out at bars and wild excursions through the city. Although it sounded fun, I knew his experience could not top my own. Phi Delt takes preparing its leaders seriously, and it shows in the quality of our chapters and our alumni. We are a different breed of Fraternity man.
Phi Delta Theta has always been a leader in the fraternity world, but it has never been truer than it is today. I believe that in an uncertain future for fraternities, Phi Delt is preparing itself greatly for long-term success. Because of the decisions we’ve made and the vision we possess, I feel confident that Phi Delt will truly be a Fraternity for life, and for my son’s life, and for his son as well.
I am grateful for an opportunity to give back to a Fraternity that has given me so much. I’m Proud to be a Phi.