‘We’re changing the environment here’: Southern Indiana chapter develops unlikely partnerships

If you were to ask the guys in Phi-Xi Zeta at the University of Southern Indiana what it takes to be a successful chapter, they’d tell you it’s all about partnerships.

And they’re not just talking a partnership with a national philanthropy once or twice a year. They’re talking regular partnerships on their campus and in their community.

So this year, they partnered with the university’s Dean of Students Office and another fraternity on campus.

It is all in an effort, High Alpha Sean Kennedy said, to be proactive instead of reactive. With the negative publicity surrounding Greek Life today and a push in some states like Tennessee to ban Greek organizations on college campuses altogether, the guys in Phi-Xi Zeta are trying to prove themselves now more than ever.

“We want to combat that image,” Kennedy said. “Before any measures are taken, we want to show the community that we are here for good and we are here to help them in whatever way we can.”

And that is exactly what they are doing.

For the first time this year, every member of the chapter took Joe Biden’s “It’s On Us” pledge.

It’s On Us is a national campaign launched by the former Vice-President to raise awareness about sexual assault.

Photo courtesy of Phi-Xi Zeta at the University of Southern Indiana.
Brothers Sean Kennedy and Kollin Macke from the Phi-Xi chapter take a selfie with staff members in the Dean of Students Office at USI. The chapter has worked hard to develop a partnership with DOSO this year.

In addition, the guys reached out to the Dean of Students Office to offer help with their “Mustache for Consent” event.

Mustache for Consent is an annual event at USI also dedicated to raising awareness of sexual assault and informing students about Title IX. But attendance has been low.

“We wanted to help them get their numbers up,” Kennedy said. “It’s not often that Greek organizations partner with the Dean of Students. The Dean of Students has a negative connotation. A lot of students aren’t aware of everything they can do to help students and organizations. A lot of people think that’s just where you go when you get in trouble.”

He said students would be surprised to know they actually host a lot of fun events. So Lambda Chi’s goal, as a chapter, is to reach out to individuals and members of other groups they’re involved in on campus to spread the word about how educational — and fun — DOSO’s events are, especially Mustache for Consent, which is scheduled to take place next week on USI’s campus.

“It (sexual assault) has affected a lot of our friends and a lot of people we know,” Kennedy said. “It’s time to take a stand and do something about it. We need to be the example on our campus and make sure that it is known that we’re taking a stand against it.”

They also partnered with another fraternity on campus, which is even more rare in the Greek world.

“We decided to reach out to every fraternity on campus,” Kennedy said.

Sigma Tau Gamma responded.

Together, they hosted a mixer at the local Denny’s where they had a pancake eating contest.

“It was really good because here you have two fraternities on campus that would normally be seen as rivals,” he said. “But by doing this, we realized just how similar we are and that our goals for the campus aligned.”

Kennedy said both fraternities have a history of following through, which is why they make such a great team.

“It’s all about networking. We’re all about making events larger on campus,” he said. “If we can help one another with our philanthropies, then we can raise a lot more money and have a lot more manpower to do it.”

Phi-Xi Zeta organizes two philanthropy events every year — one for Feeding America, Lambda Chi’s national philanthropy, and another for the Special Olympics in Evansville.

The two fraternities are considering joining forces on a third philanthropy for St. Baldrick’s Childhood Cancer Research Foundation, Kennedy said, which would be a first for USI.

“We’re changing the environment here,” he said. “We’re excited to look into the future.”

Kennedy, a senior who is graduating in a few months, has been reflecting on his time as an undergraduate member of Lambda Chi.

“It means everything to me and it has for the past four years,” he said. “Everything I’ve done in college and everything I’ve accomplished, I owe it to Lambda Chi.”

Kennedy admits he used to be a terrible student.

“I didn’t care about anything,” he said. “But Lambda Chi helped me realize that this does matter. It helped me discover why I’m doing what I’m doing and helped me develop the leadership skills I need to be successful.”

Kennedy has plans to be a teacher.

“Like everything in life, it’s not about what’s going on right now, it’s about how you can help make it better down the road,” he said. “My entire four years here, I’ve looked at it as what can I do to make it better.”

In Kennedy’s opinion, that starts with partnerships. That’s why he’s committed his final year as a chapter leader to building them.

“It’s good now,” he continued. “But I’m not going to settle for that. I want the guys after me to have an even greater experience.”

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