Sigma Chi fraternity brothers stand in the formal room, waiting for a special girl to arrive. A white rose, the fraternity’s flower, is handed to her as the brothers serenade her with their sweetheart song and welcome her into the fraternity.
She is now their sweetheart.
For Interfraternity Council (IFC) fraternities, their sweetheart is a big part of the organization who gives them support and is someone to lean on if the members ever need to talk about something happening in their lives or even just need help with their education.
“Interfraternity council is a self-governing body that works closely with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and represents members of 13 fraternities at Ball State. IFC consists of nine executive council members, a voting representative from each fraternity and the chapter president from each fraternity,” the Ball State University Fraternity and Sorority Life website said.
The Sweetheart of IFC fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon and Alpha Phi sorority member, Blythe Miller, got elected in fall of 2022.
“I always wanted to run for a certain fraternity … I started to watch their current sweetheart, and so I started to hang around the fraternity more,” Miller said.
Sweethearts for fraternities have been around since the 1920s, starting with the Sigma Chi sweetheart and auxiliary women’s groups like the International Sigmas and Little Sister groups, according to the Sigma Chi website.
According to the IFC fraternity, Sigma Chi President and third-year Ball State student Joseph Gassensmith, the sweetheart for Sigma Chi tends to have philanthropic and service efforts to focus on during her time with the fraternity. Their focus right now is the Huntsman Cancer Research Institute, which specializes in women’s cancer research.
The characteristics of sweethearts tend to be the same ones the fraternity members have to have as well. According to Gassensmith, this mainly includes loyalty to the fraternity and an extroverted personality.
When it comes to the ages of sweethearts, they are usually third-years or fourth-years, and they normally run for the position alone. Sometimes, two sweethearts are in one fraternity, one as a third-year and one as a fourth-year.
“I know that certain fraternities do paired sweethearts, so one senior and one underclassman can run as a team,” IFC fraternity Theta Chi sweetheart and Alpha Chi Omega sorority member Seattle Greenwell said.
There are two different types of nominations when it comes to the sweetheart elections. There are open applications for women to fill out, then there are nominations by one of the fraternity members.
According to IFC fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon president and Ball State student Josh Novack, the way to get nominated by a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon is to hang out around the house more and talk with members of the fraternity.
Once the women are nominated, or re-run if they were past sweethearts, they have to prepare a two to three minute speech to give in front of members of the fraternity. Their speech must show how much they care about the fraternity and what they would like to do in their role as sweetheart.
“Going into the speech, I was very nervous. I was intimidated by the other girls running, mostly by their past sweetheart [who] was running,” Sweetheart of Sigma Chi and sorority Alpha Phi member Brooke Fuller said.
After the speeches, the fraternity members vote, which then leads to the welcoming of the newest sweetheart of the fraternity.
“I was invited back to the house that night. I walked in, and they handed me flowers,” Fuller said.“They serenaded me with the sweetheart song. I wasn’t nervous or anything about it, it was more excitement.”
The duties of a sweetheart can vary when it comes to the fraternities. The values of the fraternities could bring out different duties for the sweethearts.
“[Sigma Phi Epsilon] really like when the sweetheart is hanging out with them a lot,” Miller said. “I go above and beyond and like bringing them food like cookies or my buffalo chicken dip.”
For the sweethearts, doing some of the duties can cost a good amount of money throughout the semester. According to Novack, a decent portion of the fraternity’s budget goes toward the sweetheart, so she doesn’t have to pay out of pocket when it comes to helping out with events.
The sweethearts are invited to all of their fraternity’s events throughout the school year. For some events, the sweethearts are required to show up and help out.
“The most that they’ve asked me to do is to hand out name tags for one of their alumni dinners,” Miller said.
As for how the women feel being a part of the fraternity, they are normally treated like a member themselves. The fraternity members make sure they have what they need to be comfortable and safe in their homes, according to Gassensmith.
Miller said they gave her a parking spot at their home, so she could come and hangout anytime she wants. It made her feel like royalty, and she is humbled by it. Other sweethearts feel the same way.
“I know I’m not initiated, so I can’t consider myself a member, but I feel a part of it,” Fuller said. “I feel like I’m connected with them on a different level from when I started.”
Contact Mya Cataline with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mcata_20