Lyon College ranks 2nd nationally for fraternity participation

By Emily Van Zandt Originally Published December 13, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated December 12, 2012 at 9:57 a.m.
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Kappa Sigma brothers Sean O’Toole, left, and Jon-Michael Poff clean up brush at the Batesville Community Theatre during Lyon College’s annual Service Day in September. The school ranks second in the nation in fraternity participation.

— Brotherhood has a big pull with students at Batesville’s Lyon College.

According to a recent survey by U.S. News & World Report, Lyon ranks second in the nation in fraternity participation, with 92 percent of male undergraduates participating in a fraternity in the 2011-2012 school year. The only school that scored higher was Welch College in Nashville, which had 98 percent of male undergraduates participate. The next highest ranking Arkansas school on the list, Harding University, had 45 percent participation in fraternities the same year.

“I was surprised,” said Kenton Adler, project research associate, instructional technologist and staff adviser to Zeta Beta Tau. “When you’re in the middle of it, you don’t realize it’s that big.”

Fraternities at Lyon are relatively small compared to chapters at schools in Fayetteville and Conway. Zeta Beta Tau recently had its biggest class ever graduate with 10 students. The club currently has around 18 members. The size is about the same for Alpha Psi Epsilon, Kappa Sigma and Tau Kappa Epsilon, the other fraternities on campus. Each fraternity and sorority at Lyon occupies space in the Barton & Brown Apartments on campus. Lovingly referred to as Apartment Row, the buildings used to be dorms.

“It’s kind of unusual, since most fraternities [at other colleges] will own a house just off campus,” Adler said.

The apartments are owned by Lyon and fall under campus guidelines.

Though the majority of male undergraduate students at Lyon end up in a fraternity, the school doesn’t push participation to incoming freshman, said Zeta Beta Tau President Andrew Schwarzkopf said. When he first came to campus, Schwarzkopf was hesitant to give fraternity life a second thought.

“When I got here to Lyon, I didn’t want to and told myself that I wasn’t going to involve myself in Greek life,” Schwarzkopf said. “But eventually, I started hanging out with some guys from ZBT, and we became good friends, and I realized that I wanted to be part of that.”

A Houston native and a

biology and psychology major, Schwarzkopf had at first seen fraternities as nothing more than an expensive social club. But ZBT eventually became a place where he could get help with classes and feel part of a family away from home.

“Lyon is well known for being a difficult college, and fraternities tend to be a huge retention tool,” Schwarzkopf said. “For a lot of students, it’s their first real time away from home, and to have that kind of support system is really key.”

Choosing to become part of a fraternity does have a cost. According to Schwarzkopf, members of ZBT currently pay $600 in membership dues each year. The money is distributed to cover national dues, parties, retreats and philanthropy. And then there’s the time commitment.

“Time is a huge part of college and how to organize how you spend it,” Tau Kappa Epsilon President Dylan Drum said. “I feel like being in a fraternity requires a lot of time that some people don’t have to give.”

Many of the fraternities on campus participate in service days and projects throughout the year, both separately and as a big group.

“They’re all very service-oriented and steer a lot of their social activities that way,” Adler said, “things like danceathons or participating at the Arkansas Scottish Festival. Each fall there’s a dedicated service day where the fraternities go into the community to houses that need yardwork or painting.”

But like the fraternity stereotype would suggest, the social clubs are sometimes just that — social. Despite being on campus, fraternities are allowed to throw parties at their houses, including alcohol for those 21 and up. Because space can be tight, parties seem to never limit themselves to one house or another.

“Each frat has a similar setup. People dance downstairs and maybe [there’s] an open apartment upstairs to hang out,” Schwarzkopf said. “Huge crowds will gather on the row. So even if it’s a TKE party, for example, people will go into other houses.”

With the popularity of fraternities on campus on the rise — Schwarzkopf expects to see up to 20 new members this spring — Lyon may soon have to upgrade the space dedicated to Greek life.

“There have been talks about that, and it appears the only reason it hasn’t happened is cost issues,” Schwarzkopf said. “If fraternities keep growing, I would say that the frats are going to need a lot more room to expand in the future.”

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or evanzandt@arkansasonline.com.

Staff Writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at 501-399-3688 or emily@syncweekly.com.

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