If you have never learned the difference between a square knot and a sheepshank, it is unlikely you would be eligible to join a new fraternity in the making at Ohio State University.
Epsilon Tau Pi, a fraternity exclusively for Eagle Scouts, may soon be established at OSU. The organization was founded at the University of Dayton in 1999. Before OSU becomes the home of its second chapter, the fraternity must first stabilize as a colony.
“Essentially the colony has to fulfill certain requirements to become a full chapter,” said Michael Hammes, founder and former chairman of Epsilon Tau Pi. “They have to demonstrate that they can recruit members, do fundraising, things like that.”
Zach Brown, a senior in biology, founded the fraternity’s Beta Colony at OSU. He said this organization is definitely not about tying knots and whittling wooden ducks.
“This isn’t the stereotypical helping old ladies across the street in olive green shorts,” Brown said. “There are Eagle Scouts from all walks of life. Right now there’s a candidate that sings rock.”
It is hard to imagine Brown wearing a red neckerchief and canvas belt. He seems well suited for hanging out on a California beach.
“I’m a person who likes to have fun,” he said. “It’s all about having fun and building bonds.”
Brown started off as a Cub Scout at the age of six. He said he has always enjoyed camping and being outside, but he never imagined he would take scouting this far.
“Only 2.5 percent of all Boy Scouts become Eagle Scouts,” he said. “I realized it’s not the requirements that keep people back. The reason people don’t achieve the rank of Eagle is because they quit.”
Brown said he was inspired to start the OSU chapter of Epsilon Tau Pi after reading an article about the fraternity in the Cleveland Plain Dealer last summer.
“I didn’t find too many organizations on campus that promoted unity and closeness. If they can find 40 Eagle Scouts in a university of 7,000, there are bound to be some here,” he said.
Edwin Frey is the national secretary for Epsilon Tau Pi. He said it was not until Brown got in touch with them that organization started to think about expanding nationally.
“He contacted us out of the blue. It was pretty cool,” Frey said. “What I’m hoping is that membership at OSU will kick up a little bit, and it will become a full chapter.”
Brown applied for a permit for the student involvement fair last year in order to attract members. At the time, 13 people had shown interest. Brown said he was disappointed when only one person followed through.
“It hasn’t been a cakewalk to get this done,” he said.
The Beta Colony is made up of Brown, one full member and two candidates. The candidacy period lasts from six to 10 weeks. At the end of that phase there is a ritual consisting of a weekend’s worth of service in which candidates become full brothers. Brown said once the group has 10 or 12 members, he will apply to become officially recognized by OSU.
“If the primary focus of the fraternity is social, they need to petition within the Inter-Fraternity Council,” said Heather McGinnis, assistant director at the Ohio Union. “It’s the governing body for all social fraternities.”
McGinnis said a majority vote of the council is needed to acknowledge a new social fraternity. She said it is a much more complicated process than applying as a service organization.
While having fun and building relationships are important to Brown, he noted that service is a central part of the fraternity’s purpose. In response to the April 13 fire which kiled five students, members of the Beta Colony distributed 500 informational sheets throughout campus neighborhoods east of High Street. The fliers included information about topics such as safety and escape routes during a fire.
“I think its something people overlook. It’s like ‘It won’t happen to me,'” Brown said.
Brown is scheduled to graduate at the end of this quarter and said he is feeling the urgency to recruit new members.
“I sent out fliers throughout south campus dorms. Time was running out, so I needed to get the ball rolling,” Brown said.
He plans to remain active with Epsilon Tau Pi when he returns for graduate school in the fall, but he said he will not be as directly involved with the program.
Hammes said as long as Brown recruits good people, the Beta Colony will succeed.
“The best thing about Epsilon Tau Pi is that every member is a trained leader. That’s what Eagle Scouts are,” Hammes said. “The best advice I can give Zach is do the best you can while it’s your show.”