The 1988 video “Why Chi Phi” was not popular when its creator, Scott Benton, first showed the footage to his fraternity brothers. In fact, some thought it was downright embarrassing. It was not until Benton returned to USC for his master’s that he collaborated with an Annenberg student to edit the film and shape it into what today has been viewed nearly 120,000 times on YouTube and featured in a Huffington Post article.
“We wanted to create a kind of memento for ourselves, something that years later we could go back to and laugh at,” Benton said. “We were poking fun of each other as fraternity members, but also capturing how much we loved our fraternity and how proud we were of being Chi Phi.”
During the 1990s, however, the fraternity fell on hard times as upperclassman, who constituted many of their members, began to graduate. Due to a loss of leadership and members, Chi Phi could no longer afford to keep their house and left the Row in 1999. Now, the fraternity is coming back to USC after a 17-year hiatus.
Michael Coates, a Chi Phi alum and the head of the fraternity’s Eta Delta Career Advantage Program, emphasizes that Chi Phi was not banned due to behavioral issues or misconduct.
“Our house never had a problem with hazing or discrimination,” Coates said. “We were actually one of the more diverse houses, with one of the highest GPAs on the Row.”
According to the Interfraternity Council’s bylaws, IFC can choose to expand by adding a new fraternity chapter or recolonizing an old one if given the approval of voting members and IFC fraternity chapter presidents. Once members vote to open the expansion process, applications are sent out to various fraternal organizations.
IFC received approximately 15 applications from various fraternity chapters, with and without ties to USC, and narrowed the pool down to four chapters. These fraternities then sent representatives to the University to advocate for their respective houses in front of the IFC Executive Board and fraternity presidents. Once the presentations concluded, the chapter presidents voted to offer Chi Phi a chance to recharter their USC chapter in the Fall of 2016. Another fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau, was also allowed to recolonize their chapter in fall 2018.
“While I cannot speak on behalf of all of the voting members of the Interfraternity Council, two aspects of Chi Phi’s application and presentation that really impressed the Board were the amazing show of alumni support, and Chi Phi’s governing body’s genuine commitment to achieving excellence for their USC chapter,” IFC Vice President of Recruitment and Expansion Alex Budde said in an email to the Daily Trojan. “Chi Phi has many distinguished and impressive alumni that attended USC, and all have a deep passion for reestablishing a strong chapter by committing a lot of effort to ensure that happens.”
The new Chi Phi, according to Coates, will center around career development and the EDCAP program, which is modeled after the Marshall Business School’s own Career Advantage Program. Chi Phi members will be paired with one alumnus and one active member for one-on-one support in their chosen field of study. This peer support and access to alumni and their resources aim to develop career-driven young men with large professional networks upon graduation.
“The alumni are bringing their networks and knowledge to help these guys get their foot in the door, get access to opportunities and create a lifetime of career advantage,” Coates said. “I believe that we are creating a new paradigm for social fraternities and I hope that, because of this, Chi Phi becomes a sought-after frat on the Row.”
The fraternity also wants to revive the heterogenous image they had in the ’90s. According to Coates, Chi Phi has always been diverse, and now, they want to expand their definition of diversity to include men of different sexual orientations as well as transgender men, since their identification documents — such as a driver’s license — reflect their sex change. Coates also emphasized that Chi Phi seeks to recruit upperclassmen that have historically been ignored in the recruiting process in favor of freshmen.
“We are an incredibly diverse fraternity and have always prided ourselves on ethnic diversity,” Coates said. “Fraternities should reflect the school population and that has always been Chi Phi’s goal and we have been one of the few that have pushed [diversity] throughout our history.”
Chi Phi is currently in the recruitment process and plans to extend bids to about 35 students on their bid night Oct. 9.