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Troubled UND fraternity seeks a fresh start

GRAND FORKS - Shut down two years ago in the wake of a string of drug-related arrests, University of North Dakota fraternity Phi Delta Theta is on its way back.

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Forty-four members have been selected as members in what is called a “colony,” which means it is a chapter under probation. It will remain a colony until at least fall semester of 2014, when members will seek to regain their charter from the national organization.

Fraternity members during the fall semester in 2011, when the arrests happened, are not eligible to return. Eight members of the local chapter and a pledge were either cited or charged with drug offenses after a search warrant exercised by the Grand Forks Regional Narcotics Task Force in November 2011. That led to the national organization suspending the fraternity.

Bob Wolfey, an executive with the fraternity’s national headquarters in Oxford, Ohio, has spent the last two months in Grand Forks, recruiting members and developing the plan for reinstatement.

“We interviewed more than 200 individuals for membership,” Wolfey said. “We looked into their (grade-point averages), campus involvement, leadership experience and their values. The 44 we selected have a current cumulative (grade-point average) of 3.32. They are different ages and have different majors and backgrounds. It’s a very diverse group.”

Wolfey said the fraternity house won’t reopen for residents until next fall, but likely will be used for meetings and recruiting events during spring semester. The house has been vacant since late 2011, although local alumni have been managing the building and making some improvements, he said.

Phi Delta Theta was the first fraternal organization on UND’s campus, starting as the Varsity Bachelor’s Club in 1913.

Sean McClain, a senior commercial aviation student from San Diego, has been appointed as the colony president. He said hopes are to add 16 members during spring semester recruitment.

“I don’t want to say we had a black eye, but we had a problem in the past,” McClain said. “It’s a real exciting time for us. We’ve been given a unique opportunity to hit the ground running and rebuild a reputation of leadership and service within the community.

“Everyone knew the best thing to do was revoke the charter and work with the university community to get re-established.”