Pi Lamda Phi Eliminates Prejudice

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Photo Courtesy of Pi Lambda Phi

Members of Pi Lamda Phi pose at Relay for Life

They huddled together at Relay for Life this past Friday night, already traveling in a pack. They walked the track together, visibly enjoying each other’s company. Their yellow shirts stuck out in the sea of purple, a clear and poignant message, “Eliminating Prejudice since 1895.”’

Pi Lambda Phi fraternity, “Pilam” for short, recolonized at St. John’s less than a month ago, but its positive presence is already being felt both in the Greek community and on campus in general. Over the last three weeks, more than 30 men ranging from freshman to graduating seniors made the commitment to join the brotherhood as re-founding fathers.

“We select men that are all about character, morals and values,” Patrick Spanner, who has been assigned to advise the chapter from the national headquarters, said. “When we are looking for men that is what we look for. It is a very diverse group. From all different backgrounds, all different majors.”

The brotherhood demands the basic requirements  from its members such as a high GPA and appropriate conduct, but unique to the organization, it requires all members to be apart of another organization on campus. Spanner explains Pilam prides itself in having well-rounded men that are active members in their university community.

The new members this semester include men from all walks of life, Resident Assistants, ROTC members, Student  Government Inc. leaders and many more.
“People ask us what is a stereotypical Pilam. I kind of like to say there is no stereotype,” Spanner said. “We are about breaking down barriers. Our
mission from our creed is about
eliminating prejudice.”

With over 150 chapters on various college campuses across the country, Pilam is looking forward to bringing its mission and values back to St. John’s after a two-year leave of absence. Spanner reiterates Pilam is very passionate about its mission, “… all men are created free and equal,” the creed states.

Christian Schwoyer, a graduating senior, was attracted to Pilam because of its mission in particular.

“I think St. John’s is a great campus for this because we are so diverse,” he said. “And, with our philanthropy, the eliminating of prejudice, it is a perfect setting.”

Pilam was founded at Yale University in 1895 as the first non-sectarian fraternity.  Meaning they were the first fraternity not to discriminate based on race or religion.

In the 50s Pilam was the first fraternity to initiate a person of color. Today they continue to live out this calling to eliminate discrimination and prejudices.

“I think one very hot topic [today] is LGBT,” Spanner said. “It is all about those characters morals and values. I don’t always agree with some of my brothers. I have my beliefs, but it’s not about judging them or taking sides. It is about accepting them for who they are and as a person.”

Spanner, who graduated from Eastern Washington University last year and now works for Pilam Nationals, believes deeply in the mission of eliminating prejudice. He explained he had several gay brothers in his own Pilam Chapter in Washington, but that never mattered to him or any of the
brothers. This is his third expansion and he has high hopes for the St. John’s colony.

“Whether people are pro-Greek, neutral about Greek or Greek life isn’t for them, I hope as these men start putting on different events on campus or they
see them, they come check us out,” he said.

Over the last few weeks, Spanner and the other advisors met with as many students as possible. The main goal was to get feedback about the St. John’s
community and the Greek system. While doing so, Spanner and his fellow recruiters looked for men that had values consistent with the brotherhood, Schwoyer being one of them.

“I always wanted to do Greek life,” Schwoyer said. “I just felt like there was no fraternities I really connected with that well. So then I got this opportunity and I loved the elimination of prejudice and stuff like that. They are a perfect fit for me.”

So far, Spanner and the new members have found the process of re-colonizing at St. John’s successful.

“This is the most welcoming Greek system I have ever been apart of,” Spanner said. “Everyone is so open to us coming in.”

The re-founding fathers have been busy learning Pilam’s history and immersing themselves in the community. The men will be initiated as Pilam brothers by the end of the semester.

“They are very mission oriented. It’s not just, ‘okay we are going to say we do these things’, we are actually going to work at it so we actually stick to our goals and our mission,” Schwoyer said. “This is what a fraternity is supposed to be.”

As of next fall, Pilam will install a traditional six-week process, made up of learning the values, operational training, personal development and building bonds.

“We want to give back to elevate the Greek system,” Spanner said. “I already think it is a great system. Great organizations. But, you can always raise the bar.”