Senior Preston James Ross joined Sigma Phi Epsilon last spring, a time when the chapter had faced reports of a racial incident off campus. Following graduation, the chapter had seven members, including Ross, and a bill on their desk for approximately $5,600 in unpaid membership dues from the national organization.
“There was a moment where we were deciding: do we continue? Do we not?” Ross said. “Because of our alumni, because of the guys who have been here since their freshman year doing this, we all decided like, no, like, we’re gonna fight the good fight and we’re gonna push forward and change things.”
Ross never imagined becoming the president of the fraternity. But when the previous president stepped down to focus on other endeavors, the newly-initiated transfer student was ready to carry his leadership skills to a chapter that, he felt, had disconnected goals.
“I think we needed to find out, like, what exactly our mission was,” Ross added.“We had a lot of different people with their minds in a lot of different directions.”
$5,600 in unforseen debt is a troublesome situation for any organization. Ross recounts that Sig Ep had no warning for this large bill that fell at their feet. From what alumni and the current e-board can surmise, it was likely five or six years ago that one semester of dues was left unpaid.
As the fraternity is billed for their chapter’s enrollment for a semester only after that semester has ended, a failure to collect dues could have easily slipped them into this situation, Ross explained.
In this moment of great uncertainty for the chapter, the members turned to their vast alumni network. The chapter’s Alumni Volunteer Committee (AVC) asked the chapter to start a GoFundMe that alumni could be directed to for $10,000. In the two months since it was opened, contributors to the fund have donated $6,451, enough to not only pay off debt, but to start building a “cushion” fund for the AVC.
The goal of the AVC cushion fund will be to help pay dues in emergencies, have money in case of situations like this one, or to help support the chapter.
“Once our alumni came in and stepped in and really shared their perspective from when they were here, we really started to see things change. We’re not exactly where we want to be yet, but I think just from last semester to now, we’ve come a very long way.”
Since then, alumni have become more involved in the chapter’s events and rush activities. This year, Sig Ep elected to have a handful rush events over several weeks, than the traditional week set up. Recently, the chapter nearly doubled, adding six new members in their October bid.
Ross believes that the chapter needs to continue its commitment to the traditions of Sig Ep, while also being forward thinking.
“I think our biggest thing is kind of looking at traditions, of course, that we’ve always had, but just kind of asking the guys, you know, what represents us now? What are the kind of things that we want to see going forward?” Ross said. “And I think that with the woes that we’ve gone through, just kind of taking a deep look at everything.”