Three years after they were removed, Theta Chi is returning to Ball State. The national board successfully negotiated with university officials to end the charter’s revocation from campus.
In 2018, the Ball State chapter of Theta Chi was disbanded after the Delta Kappa chapter violated the national policies, according to a 2018 statement from the national organization. Additionally, previous Ball State Daily News articles detailed problems with the chapter, including a 2017 incident discussed in an email obtained through a Daily News records request between Kari Murphy, then-director of Greek Life, and Ro-Anne Royer Engle, then-associate vice president for student affairs and enrollment services.
The email said: "Ro-Anne: I'm guessing this is from the Theta Chi report: http://www.ballstatedaily.com/article/2017/10/third-sexual-assault-reported-on-riverside-avenue. But I wanted to make you aware of this article if you weren't already. K [stet]"
Theta Chi was sued in 2018 by then-Ball State student James Bolt, who said he was slapped by another member, resulting in injury and medical expenses, according to the lawsuit.
Chris Hager, associate director of student life, said the chapter is preparing to return to campus with help from representative Cody Cline.
“[Cline] is working to meet potential members, talking to them about their potential involvement in the fraternity and having conversations with them about what it means to be a refounding member of the organization,” Hager said.
Hager began working at Ball State the year after Theta Chi lost recognition. However, before he started his position, Hager said the fraternity could return back to campus around this time because members responsible for the chapter disbanding would have graduated.
Before Theta Chi can be registered as a student organization, it will have to increase its member numbers.
“[Cline] is building interest so that he can build up a solid group of new members, so that they can work to get re-registered and recognized as a registered organization here at Ball State,” Hager said.
Hager said Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) is working with the Theta Chi national board to find alumni who can advise the new class to ensure they are creating a good name on campus.
Potential members could not rush Theta Chi during the same time as the rest of the fraternities on campus, and Cline had to begin recruiting members one week later than the rest recognized by FSL.
Hager said it hasn’t been too difficult to get members to join the organization because delaying recruitment is a standard practice a lot of national organizations do when reestablishing chapters on college campuses. Hager calls this “expansion recruitment” because the chapter is taking its time to recruit more members.
“It’s more of that one-on-one, individual approach to recruit students,” he said. “It’s more of an intimate approach because they are able to have those intimate conversations.”
Hager said Cline’s goal was to have 15 members by the end of Homecoming, but Hager isn’t sure if that goal was met or not because Hager said that information was not provided by the chapter.
The Ball State Daily News exchanged emails and text messages with Cline, asking for an interview, which he said he would do if he got permission from the Theta Chi national organization. However, after nine messages were exchanged over the course of two weeks, Cline never responded. Additionally, The Ball State Daily News sent two emails to the national headquarters requesting information for this story, but the organization never provided a response.
Hager said Ball State students don’t need to worry about the same problems occurring again when Theta Chi returns.
“Even if there are still students that are on campus who were part of the chapter before they lost recognition, they don’t look for them for membership, and they’re never asked to be part of the new establishment of the chapter,” Hager said.
Tom Axon, 1978 Ball State Theta Chi alumnus, said he had a positive experience with the fraternity, and when the chapter was removed in 2018, he said he was hurt by the decision.
“I’ve tried to stay very close with the chapter and direct the young men into certain areas of work,” Axon said. “I was taken aback by what I heard … I don’t know all the particulars, but I wasn’t happy — [I was] disappointed.”
Axon also said he felt there were many Theta Chi alumni who agreed with him and were hurt by the actions because the chapter had a “very good” tradition before 2018.
“They weren’t just hurting a few of us — they were hurting a lot of people,” he said. “There’s a lot of us, and we were looking forward to our time to come back.”
Axon said he is happy Theta Chi is returning to Ball State, and he hopes the university has done what it can to “get rid of the bad apples.” He is planning to work with the students joining the fraternity and connect them with other alumni.
“We are an engagement group, and we engage with undergraduates and look forward to working with them as community outreach,” Axon said. “They need to get to know their alumni, and later, they can use that for moving up in the world.”
While Axon is ready for Theta Chi to return, some students are not, including Brenna Large, freshman history and political science major.
Large is a Ball State Student Government Association (SGA) senator and heard about Theta Chi when one of her fellow senators was accepted into the fraternity.
“At the time this was happening, it was still close enough to the beginning of the school year that I hadn’t gained that recognition of all the fraternities and such, that I now have being on campus for nearly a semester,” Large said.
However, she said once she began to hear about Theta Chi in more detail, she was “extremely disheartened to hear they were coming back” because of the reputation it had on campus before.
“I feel like this group of guys is very solid,” Large said. “The ones I know are very nice, genuine people. But, I feel like that doesn’t excuse what happened in the past.”
She said Cline visited SGA Oct. 20 and believed he wanted to create a good relationship between the fraternity and SGA.
“When I specifically asked him about students who were upset that they were returning, he said he wanted those students to reach out to him,” Large said. “He was very willing to talk to students who were upset about their return to campus, which I thought was a very appropriate response to my question.”
Large feels her opinion on Theta Chi aligns with the majority of students, and although there is a new group joining the fraternity, there are still some concerns she has.
“I feel safe with the guys that I know [in Theta Chi], and I don’t feel like they are going to repeat what happened before,” Large said. “But, even though it’s a different group of guys, it doesn’t erase what originally happened in the minds of students.”
Contact Maya Wilkins with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mayawilkinss.