It was a warm spring day in Oxford and Sophie Maness, then a first-year student, was anxiously awaiting initiation. Following the initial ceremony with the rest of her pledge class, she and a few other girls whose last names started with the letter “m,” sat excitedly in Minnich Hall counting down the minutes until their names were called.
On April 8, Maness officially joined Miami University’s Pi Beta Phi chapter, or “Pi Phi,” along with 59 0ther new members of the 2017 pledge class.
Four months later, on Aug. 8, the Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women international organization issued a press release announcing that Miami’s chapter was closed, effective immediately.
For Maness and her fellow sisters, the decision came as a shock.
“Before we were initiated, we had a meeting where we were told our nationals was going to be deciding if we were at risk of losing our charter,” Maness said. “[We were told] it would be decided within a week and if that were the case we were not going to be initiated.”
Former Pi Phi member sophomore Julia Edie said their president, senior Elizabeth Glover, read aloud to the chapter a letter from headquarters’ Grand Council that claimed the organization would not give the “go-ahead” to initiate the 60 girls in the 2017 pledge class on April 8 if they believed the sorority was going to be shut down.
Shortly after Miami’s greek recruitment in January, Pi Phi was placed on social probation by the Pi Phi headquarters. The chapter had already been working with Mary Tatum, their probation officer, prior to recruitment.
However, the Pi Phi headquarters ultimately allowed the chapter to initiate the 60 girls in the 2017 pledge class in April.
“We did have the option to wait to be initiated until the fall,” Edie said. “But who is going to be the one person out of 60 girls who would choose to wait? It didn’t seem like a very positive mindset.”
While Maness, Edie and the rest of the girls who joined Pi Phi in the spring understood the chapter was in jeopardy, they believed the chapter’s standing with their national representatives had improved at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.
Tatum, their probation officer, congratulated the girls at the last chapter meeting and told the members that it was okay to place a deposit down for a date party during the 2017-2018 school year, Maness said.
All 60 members of the 2017 pledge class ended up paying their first year dues to the Pi Phi headquarters, which was $672 each for a grand total of $40,320.
The girls were told the money would be going toward “their experience.” However, that experience only lasted officially from April 8 to Aug. 8. Three of those months were spent off campus during summer break.
Eily Cummings, a spokeswoman for the Pi Beta Phi international organization, acknowledged that warnings had been communicated to the Pi Phi executive board throughout the past several years.
“Each Pi Phi new member was given the option to choose whether she would like to be initiated or not, knowing the chapter was on probation with Pi Beta Phi, and the charter was in serious jeopardy,” Cummings said.
Additionally, Cummings confirmed that the dues paid by the 2017 pledge class were for the experience delivered by the chapter in the spring.
On July 14, all of the Pi Phi members at Miami received an individual email from the Pi Phi Grand Council informing them that the council would be taking a vote on whether or not the chapter would be closed.
The council cited in their email to Miami’s Pi Phi members that “the Fraternity has invested a great deal of resources into Ohio Zeta [Miami chapter] over the past 10 years. And Grand Council has not seen indicators that these resources have resonated with the chapter or made a positive impact on the member experience.”
The Grand Council encouraged the girls to write letters, which they would read before taking the vote.
All 60 members of the 2017 pledge class sent a letter in, as well as a professional action plan that suggested the implementation of three committees devoted to academics, campus involvement and philanthropy. The girls also contacted MUPD in the hopes of conducting a seminar on alcohol abuse in the fall.
“A lot of these events that nationals hold against us happened when I was twelve,” Maness said.
Maness was referring to an incident in 2010, in which the Pi Phi chapter was suspended for a year after poor behavior during a spring formal that left the Lake Lyndsay Lodge in Hamilton trashed and damaged.
When the Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women announced the closing of Miami’s Pi Phi chapter, specific reasons for the shutdown were not given.
Headquarters cited “many factors” that “led to this decision,” namely that members had not met their chapter’s standards “in regards to risk management and the lack of commitment to Pi Beta Phi’s core values.”
According to Cummings, there are no official plans to open up a dialogue between the university and the headquarters in regard to re-establishing a Pi Phi chapter at Miami.
“There is not a current return agreement in place with the university but Pi Phi hopes to have conversations with the university regarding this possibility,” Cummings said.
Edie and Maness, despite the disappointment, remain optimistic their pledge class will remain friends.
“It was a short experience, and I’ll miss the feeling of being involved in a community, but our sisterhood will continue,” Maness said.