After two years of fishing for takers in its bid to reestablish ties with fraternities, the University of Colorado announced Wednesday that it has reeled in two outside chapters, making the launch of its own Interfraternity Council official following a 12-year hiatus.

Phi Delta Theta and Sigma Tau Gamma will be moving onto the Boulder scene in the upcoming academic year, although, technically, there will be no fraternity houses to move into. At least, not at first.

"Neither one of them have plans to have an actual facility," said Stephanie Baldwin, Greek Life assistant director for the university. "They would like to focus more on recruitment and setting up the chapters for success."

Fraternities officially broke off from the university in 2004 after the alcohol-poisoning death of Chi Psi pledge Lynn "Gordie" Bailey Jr. In the aftermath, CU asked the groups to sign an agreement to delay rush until the spring and ensure each chapter had a live-in supervisor.

Boulder's fraternities — there are currently 19 — didn't bite and instead formed an independent, off-campus Interfraternity Council.


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CU has been trying to start its own Interfraternity Council for the past two years without success. Sororities and multicultural Greek groups are affiliated with the university and have two CU staffers as advisers. CU is believed to be the only university in the country with a Greek program where fraternities aren't affiliated with the school, but other Greek organizations are.

In October 2015, CU officials were in talks with two outside fraternity chapters to affiliate with the university. One of those chapters, Delta Sigma Phi, decided to join the independent council instead.

The requirements CU pushed that deterred the Greek groups are no longer on the table, Boulder campus spokesman Ryan Huff said.

In fact, Baldwin said she doesn't know why the existing Boulder fraternities won't link up with the university.

"The invitation was definitely extended to them and continues to be extended," Baldwin said. "They have made the decision not to engage in conversations with us."

'Is the door closed? No'

Marc Stine, Greek Advocate for the independent Boulder Interfraternity Council, said members of the existing IFC have talked plenty with CU. They just haven't liked what they've heard.

"The carrots dangling out there, but what's the stick?" Stine asked. "What do I have to agree to? What are the obligations? What authority that undergraduates currently have total control over would they be ceding to a new council or university administration?"

When CU approached the independent IFC two years ago to discuss a potential merger, Stine said his organization was turned off by parts of the deal CU said were non-negotiable, such as the university's involvement in fraternity discipline and sanctions, advisers and financial disclosures.

"It's not that the fraternities are anti-CU," Stine said. "These guys are true Buffs for life. They don't like not being affiliated, but they're not willing to give up their independence they've worked so hard to build."

Baldwin confirmed that their policies have not changed within the last two years.

"If the conditions for being a recognized student organization today are the same as they were two years ago, there's probably no point in having a meeting," Stine said. "Is the door closed? No. Are we going to knock on it? Unlikely."

Second try

Phi Delta Theta, the largest fraternity to feature an alcohol-free housing policy, founded a chapter in Boulder in 1902, but left campus in 2002. Sigma Tau Gamma, with 76 chapters across the country, including one at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, will start its second state chapter at CU.

Dean Anderson, director of recruitment and growth with the Sigma Tau Gamma headquarters, said being among the first chapters to kick off the new university venture was appealing because of the amount of support the school was providing.

"One of the most reassuring things for me was the amount of help and resources the campus is able to provide," Anderson said. "I think they've been wanting to see an interfraternity council return to campus, so we saw this as an opportunity to be good campus partners, which is what, ultimately, made this the ideal destination for us."

As the founding father of a Greek life chapter without a house, Anderson said he loves clarifying that a fraternity isn't a house. While he said Sigma Tau Gamma might pursue a facility down the road, that shouldn't deter students from joining.

"It isn't the bricks and mortar," he said. "It's the bond that's created."

With a history in Boulder, Phi Delta Theta pointed to its strong alumni support as a set up for their success.

"Our long-standing history and legacy at Boulder brought us back," wrote Sean Wagner, chief operating officer for the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity and Foundation, in an email.

CU officials said this venture feels different than the one that went bust two years ago.

"When two years ago, that relationship didn't necessarily work, we really thought long and hard about which groups could be those founding groups for this system," Baldwin said.

Representatives of the two Greek organizations made a trip to Boulder in February and talked to administration and student leaders.

The university is trying to figure out a way to make the groups visible on campus without having the stereotypical fraternity house.

"It's not unheard of to have a fraternity without a facility," Baldwin said. "At one point, they may have that discussion, but that's not a first priority for them."

'People are happy'

CU's pursuit of a fraternity merger rests solidly in the relationships developed between legacy organizations, their participants and the school.

"I firmly believe in the power of fraternities and sororities if they're done in the right way," Baldwin said. "The affinity the students build with the institution is very long-lasting. In my experience, you often see fraternity and sorority members coming back year after year, and they're likely donors and have great influence."

Baldwin wants to make sure the relationship is mutually beneficial. She touted the promotion of recruitment and other marketing aspects as a big win for fraternities that join the CU IFC. In addition to marketing, CU can provide free access to campus resources such as training for sexual misconduct prevention and alcohol education.

Stine said the independent IFC is doing just fine — growing, actually — without these perks.

Peak IFC membership last school year was more than 1,800 undergraduate men. Fifteen months from today, the organization will grow to 22 fraternities.

"We're growing. We're providing more programming. We have a good working relationship with the police, the fire department and the city. I think people are happy," Stine said. "Our guys know what they've built and are proud of it and don't feel like it's respected by the university."

Elizabeth Hernandez: 303-473-1106, hernandeze@dailycamera.com, twitter.com/ehernandez