By Mandy Morgan
Starting anything new, though it happens often in college, takes time, work and patience. The same goes for starting a new fraternity, something that the boys of ATO — Alpha Tau Omega — are learning this semester.
However, starting up a fraternity has not really been an additional load for them to deal with, instead it’s given them more direction.
“[The fraternity’s national consultants] kept reiterating that this is meant to be a supplement for our college career,” David Steiner, secretary of the fraternity, said. “They don’t want us to sacrifice our academics. They don’t want it to take away from school.”
The idea began when a friend came to Steiner and his buddies and proposed trying it out. At first they didn’t want what they thought a fraternity was: “the Hollywood version,” as Steiner put it. “We decided that wasn’t what we wanted.”
However, after educating themselves and delving into what being in a fraternity was about, they decided that starting one with a group of friends who all shared similar goals wasn’t a bad idea. They began looking for a fraternity that USU didn’t already have, and found ATO, a Christian-based fraternity, with headquarters in Indiana.
“We looked at a couple of fraternities, but we chose ATO because we really liked the values and ideals they presented,” said Ian Thorley, chaplain for the colony. “Plus they were very old, had very long traditions that we liked.”
For Thorley, a senior in French, the fraternity was a way to improve his own life and the lives of the people around him. Thorley, as colony chaplain, is the spiritual leader for the fraternity and is specifically in charge of helping keep the brotherhood strong amongst the members.
“The chaplain mostly focuses on setting things up to spend some time with each other,” Thorley said. “To keep having that friendship and brotherhood.”
To Steiner, establishing a new brotherhood isn’t much different than what he has already been doing the last few years with his own friends.
“A lot of these guys have been the friends we’ve hung out with for a while. Now we’re just giving purpose to hanging out and our friendships,” Steiner said. “We have purpose in mind, now.”
At the beginning of the semester, two national consultants came and helped the group — technically called an “interest group” before colonization — to recruit and start everything up. By two weeks, at the conclusion of interest group, the fraternity had grown from 12 guys to 22, and they were able to colonize.
“We had an official colonization ceremony; we’re recognized on campus by USU and recognized as ATO nationally,” Steiner said.
After the ceremony, which took place on Sept. 15, the consultants left and the colony was “basically kicked out of the nest, to see if we can fly,” said Steiner.
When it comes to goals that the fraternity has collectively, a requirement for charter-ship, there are specific national goals the colony must meet before they can have their own chapter.
It takes 12 to 18 months of operating as a colony before they can charter, and they must also have a minimum of 45 recruitments. After these goals have been met, they can officially start their own chapter and they can begin initiating members and have an official house.
What the current members of ATO figure is that they need to recruit younger, “quality guys,” Thorley said, since many of the existing members will be graduating in the next year, ATO wants everything to continue as smoothly as possible.
There are also academic requirements the fraternity must meet, both as individuals and as a group — such as maintaining a collective 2.8 average GPA.
“Personally I would like us to be seen as a fraternity of academic excellence,” Thorley said. Right now the group’s cumulative GPA is 3.5. Within all of ATO, the highest GPA nationally is a 3.57. Thorley believes they can beat it. “It’s just another reason to do as well in school as possible,” he said.
Ultimately, the fraternity’s goals for the year revolve around three different concepts: recruiting, service and academics, Thorley said.
Most fraternities and sororities identify with a specific philanthropy, and because ATO doesn’t identify with one nationally, a goal of the group is to find one.
As for the service, each member of ATO is required to do at least 15 hours of volunteer service, as well as hold a certain number of charity events, Steiner said.
“It’s a good way to have something to push us a little bit,” he added. “Honestly, how I see it is as a reason to do those things with my group of friends now.”
As for the welcome from the rest of the Greek community, “so far we’ve been pretty warmly welcomed,” Steiner said. “Everyone’s pretty excited to have a new fraternity around.”
When the colonization ceremony was held, a lot of other Greeks came, which the guys of ATO really appreciated, he said. They have already done an “exchange” which is like a big group date with girls from the local sororities.
“They love us and we love hanging out with them. It’s really cool,” Steiner said.
In all aspects, the guys of ATO are prepared to take on whatever comes their way and are excited to be beginning something new and big at USU.
Thorley’s advice for students considering involvement in the Greek community?
“I wasn’t involved my first couple of years, and since I got more involved I’m having a lot more fun,” Thorley said. “When I started, I felt like more of a student at USU, and this is one more way to be involved, a way to make USU mine.”