TKE colony collapses

The Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) fraternity chose to discontinue their expansion effort at the University of North Alabama. Currently, UNA’s Colony 755 owes between $3000 and $9000 to the national headquarters. 

According to the fall 2019 grade reports, TKE ended the semester with 21 total members. However, at the beginning of January, only three members remained. But what led to this drastic decline in membership?

“It’s a long story filled with a lot of sighs and convoluted woes,” said former member Joseph Deno. “The basis of it was a breakdown in communication. People didn’t want to pull their weight, and this created differences.”

TKE began their most recent expansion effort in the fall 2018 semester. Colonies spend two years building membership and involving themselves on campus before they officially charter. Colony 755 would have become official at the end of the spring 2020 semester.  

Ashley Christman, the director of Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL), reported that this was TKE’s first attempt on record to charter at UNA. However, their advisor, Charles Marcus Anderson, first attempted to start a TKE chapter on campus in 2011. 

Anderson started his undergraduate career at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Ala. In 2008, he transferred UNA and led the expansion as an undergraduate.

“There were ill will intentions from other IFC fraternities,” Anderson said. “One in particular came in particular from some of the Delta Chis. Eventually we reached our two-year limit and [Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life] Mr. Smith and [Director of Student Engagement] Mrs. Jacques told us the efforts should cease.”

In 2018, Anderson had the support of TKE headquarters and Director of Expansion Nick Kimble. Recruiting began, and by the end of Fall 2018 TKE had a total of 23 members.  

“[I joined TKE because] I kind of wanted to get more involved on campus,” said former member Matt Inglehoff. “I was kind of hanging out with the same people, who were great people, but I kind of wanted to expand a little more. I brought it to my parents and apparently, I had family members who had been in the exact same fraternity. I was like ‘Okay, that’s cool. I guess I’ll try that one out.’”

Aside from campus involvement, philanthropy and community service also draw in possible new members. 

“[When] I heard about the opportunity to help St. Jude out, which is TKE’s philanthropy, is what made me sign up,” Deno said. “I met the guy who had come down from nationals and I was like this isn’t something that’s my predetermined disposition, this is something that’s like clay, it can still be molded into whatever you want.” 

Although the colony secured members, financial problems plagued the chapter. The Mardi Gras inspired party, “Madri Pardi,” attempted to raise money for St. Jude. Instead, it ended up costing the fraternity because none of the party’s expenses 

were covered by student allocation. 

“The event could have been allocated as there was no alcohol and it was at a university facility, the Mane Room,” Deno said. “No one really knows the figure of how much Mardi Pardi was. That was the first thing for me that kind of sparked a red flag. I had recently only come on exec in August [2019]. Even then, we were looking at financial statements and trying to plot out where money had gone…We never really got what was spent where.”

Without money from student allocation, expenses came directly from TKE’s bank account with the university. 

“At one point I think the money kind of all got lumped in together,” Anderson said. “So that when we deposited to the account it was very hard for us to differentiate between what should be separated as going towards an expense and what should have been profit.”

The fraternity continued to struggle in securing funds from student allocations. Last year it missed the fall deadline to apply for allocations to cover the costs of attending their national conference in Atlanta. Instead, they submitted a request in the spring. 

“I was under the assumption that everything was going to go through the allocation committee,” Anderson said. “[I trusted] my undergraduate who filled out that information.” 

Although they submitted the request on time, the allocations committee denied it due to errors in the paperwork.

“We went ahead and had the money charged to our account hoping for the allocations to come through,” Anderson said. “That didn’t happen.” 

The same issue happened again this year, adding to the organization’s financial problems and putting stress on the members. According to the student allocation records, multiple conferences and events were denied due to improper documentation. They also were not a registered student organization (RSO) this fall.

Chair of Budget Oversight James Trentham reported that if time permits students can always resubmit their requests for funding. 

“I tried to talk with some of the TKEs to figure out what happened but there’s nothing really clear on why everyone just left,” said Madison Ball, the Interfraternity Council (IFC) President. “It sounded mainly like from the president before there was bad leadership.”

Ultimately, a combination of financial strain on its members, pressure from their adviser and unnecessary rules and regulations that come with Greek life inspired members to leave. While Christman stated in an email to Ball that headquarters chose to discontinue to colony, Anderson says the choice belonged to the remaining members. 

“That decision was just based on the fact that there were not a lot of people to help build the organization,” Anderson said. “And as an adult, and I know that students are stressed as is, that kind of pressure being on so few members wasn’t worth the headache and wasn’t worth the academic detriment.” 

Ultimately, the financial strain from the fraternity’s debt led members to drop out of the colony.

“It just felt like shoving money down the hole; it was way too much, at least for me, to handle financially,” Inglehoff said. “I wasn’t a part of the fraternity until last semester…If I had known what I know now, I probably would have stepped back.”

Plus, pressure from their adviser created internal strife.  

“[Anderson] was very charismatic in the most damning way possible,” Deno said. “You’d want to please him, but then sometimes you would and then you’d feel terrible about it. The pressure from him caused mental strife in my personal life and even affected my family life.”

Inglehoff and Deno also felt they didn’t need FSL and IFC regulations to dictate their friendships. 

“We’ve all made a lot of connections with each other and gotten a lot of new friendships,” Deno said. “During the lifespan of TKE a lot of those relationships were tested in a lot of different ways. When it was being tested, through all the various situations, it sucked. But after it ended and we all got out, there was a newfound sense of camaraderie and reinvented friendship between all of us because we weren’t held back by X amount of rules or regulations. There were no more guidelines.”

Since the colony’s collapse, former members maintain their bond outside of organizational affiliations.

“It was kind of under all these stipulations you had to follow, it was kind of sometimes aggravating,” Inglehoff said. “In certain situations where we all got together and did stuff, you know, it was nice, it was fun, but being able to do stuff now where there aren’t a lot of stipulations and rules we have to follow is sort of like a new form of friendship.”

Former members, advisers and members of IFC can all learn lessons from this collapse, and even though TKE’s expansion failed to charter, it did facilitate new friendships.

“I don’t really have any ill-will towards anyone that quit aside from the feeling of betrayal,” Anderson said. “They stepped away for their own reasons and I can understand precisely why they did that. All those accusations, of course, I don’t feel that they were warranted.”

With IFC’s four-year expansion policy, campus could welcome TKE back in the future. In the fall of 2021 UNA will welcome Alpha Sigma Phi, followed by Kappa Alpha Order in 2023. 

“TKE might be gone now, but eventually they can come back,” Ball said. “Once we give them a date, they can come back at that time, start recruiting, and building their chapter back up. It would have been nice to have TKE still around but, you know, stuff happens and hopefully we can prevent it in the future.”