Students reestablish Phi Kappa Tau fraternity after 30-year hiatus

Phi Kappa Tau fraternity returned to Greek Row, marking the largest expansion at USC in the past five years. (Krystal Gallegos | Daily Trojan)

After a 30-year hiatus, Phi Kappa Tau fraternity was officially approved by the University last year to return to Greek Row. Over the past year, the fraternity has grown and now marks USC’s largest Greek expansion in five years. 

After experiencing financial troubles in 1988 that led to its eventual dissolution, students reestablished the fraternity with a focus on anti-hazing policies and strengthening community relationships.

Phi Kappa Tau, which was established as USC’s fourth fraternity in 1918, gained 30 members at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

“Our chapter was always in good standing and was never kicked off for hazing or anything like that,” Phi Kappa Tau president Seth Novosel said.

According to Phi Kappa Tau Vice President of Alumni Relations Beau Classen, many alumni continued the organization’s traditions throughout the chapter’s 30-year hiatus. Novosel, a senior majoring in business administration, said the fraternity’s Chairman of the Board of Governors Rick Rice hosted weekly tailgates for alumni and was a major player in advocating for the chapter’s reestablishment. 

“I think they just wanted their fraternity back [and] they just wanted kids to have the same bond they did,” said Classen, a senior majoring in communication. 

According to Novosel, the University previously restricted Greek life to its 23 fraternities. He said Phi Kappa Tau waited for an opening to reestablish their chapter, which came when several hazing allegations resulted in some fraternities losing recognition on campus in the last five years.

The University officially opened expansion opportunities in 2016, Novosel said. Alongside Rice and other alumni, Phi Kappa Tau’s national organization approached USC about restarting their chapter. Darryl Thompson, associate director of organizational growth, said the national chapter met with USC in spring 2016 to consider bringing the chapter back to campus.

The national organization also had to get approval from the Interfraternity Council to reestablish the chapter, IFC President Matteo Mendoza said. 

Novosel said IFC and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Leadership and Development worked together to assess the organization’s proposal. Once the proposal was approved last October, the national organization began recruitment for leadership positions within the chapter as part of the reestablishment process.

According to Novosel, the summer-long recruitment process required in-person visits with members of the national organization, speeches outlining their qualifications and phone interviews with higher-ranked staff at the national headquarters in Oxford, Ohio. 

“The membership that they were able to achieve in their first semester on campus is nothing short of impressive,” Mendoza said. “I think it’s a testament to the strength of Greek life that they’re already seeing so much success.”

Phi Kappa Tau’s progress was also recognized at the IFC’s awards ceremony. The fraternity was recognized with the Rise of Troy award for its excellence in recruitment. 

Additionally, Novosel received the award for Emerging Greek Leader of the Year for his efforts in coordinating the expansion.

Now entering its second operating semester, Phi Kappa Tau is promoting a staunch policy against hazing, since numerous fraternities have lost recognition due to hazing violations in recent years. 

“Our founding was predicated upon a similar [anti-hazing] circumstance. [The founding members] saw that as an opportunity to change [hazing culture]” Thompson said of the USC chapter.

Novosel said he is proud of the efforts the IFC is making to move away from a supposed hazing culture.

“I think Matteo has done a fantastic job of really making a change on this culture and I think this year we are really going to notice that change,” Novosel said.

This article was updated at 8:43 a.m. on Aug. 29. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Phi Kappa Tau was officially reestablished in Spring 2019. The fraternity was officially reestablished in Fall 2018.

The Daily Trojan regrets this error.