Delta Kappa Epsilon has returned to the University of Mississippi as of January 2019, pending approval from national headquarters.
The new DKE colony was established after a group of friends, unsatisfied with their experiences during recruitment and pledgeship, decided to reinstate the fraternity.
“Some of us ended up with fraternities. Some of us just dropped (out of) rush because (we) were not interested in the other ones,” current DKE colony president Levi Sumrall said. “I personally went through pledgeship, and I felt like there was just something missing.”
Sumrall pledged Delta Psi in fall 2017 but did not complete pledgeship or become a formal member of the organization. He said the idea for establishing a new fraternity on campus started as a joke told by sophomore business major Cameron Gatewood in the winter of 2017.
“It sounded crazy at first, but miracles happen. It’s been progressing pretty well,” said Jacob Debouck, a sophomore business major and DKE president-elect for the 2019-2020 school year.
The friends researched fraternities and eventually decided to contact the national headquarters of DKE about becoming a colony, which is a probationary body of a national fraternity or sorority that is recognized by their university but is waiting approval from national headquarters. The group chose DKE because of their appreciation for the organization’s motto: “Friends from the heart, forever.”
“Six or seven of us met in a kind of off-room in Lamar, not even an actual room, and we just started talking about our plans for wanting to start a fraternity. It kind of took off from there,” Debouck said.
The national headquarters quickly responded to their inquiry and began working with them to establish a colony.
“We’re super excited to be coming back to Ole Miss,” said Craig Dick, DKE national director of chapter services. “We were the first fraternity in the state of Mississippi, so this is one of our recolonizations that we’re most excited about. We’ve been waiting a long time for this. We’ve taken extra time to prepare for this one, too.”
The group’s priorities right now are to expand membership on campus, establish bylaws and look into establishing a house, according to Debouck.
Currently, the organization is looking into off-campus housing, but they expect to move into a DKE-owned house on campus by fall 2020, according to Dick and Sumrall. Sumrall said the DKE national headquarters currently owns the house that is occupied by Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity.
However, Charlie Kuhlmann, the president of Pi Kappa Phi, said his chapter plans to be on campus for “many, many years.”
“I can say with confidence that there are no credible threats to my chapter’s continued operation,” Kuhlmann said.
DKE has been a chapter on the University of Mississippi campus several times. The chapter was suspended from the campus in the mid-1980s following a hazing incident but returned to Ole Miss in 2000 after a long absence.
They most recently left campus in 2007 after being investigated and subsequently suspended by the University Judicial Council. This suspension was a result of some members of the fraternity using racial slurs against and assaulting African-American freshman Jeremiah Taylor when he attended one of the organization’s events in August 2007.
“We kind of have a tarnished name based on being kicked off recently, but that’s something we’re looking to change,” Debouck said. “We want to bring that good name back to it.”
The colony currently has about 20 members, according to Sumrall, and is looking to expand slowly to preserve the intimacy of the group. They aim to add about 20 new members per semester.
“We’re encouraging growth, but we want to make sure that everyone feels the closeness of the fraternity,” Debouck said. “That’s something that, just in the past, we’ve all kind of looked for, and it works really well with our group just because it started out with a small group of friends. It feels like we’re just expanding our friend group rather than recruiting members for a fraternity.”
In order to receive an official charter from the national headquarters, the DKE chapter will need to meet the average university fraternity membership of around 70 members and demonstrate fiscal and risk management responsibility, according to Dick.
Sumrall said the national headquarters is currently monitoring DKE, and the local colony will have to fill out paperwork for the national headquarters in order to become an official chapter.
The DKE colony has already elected officers for many positions, including a secretary, a philanthropy chairman and a treasurer.
“As far as elections and all that go, we want to run as efficiently as possible, so we thought it’d be best if we started establishing positions,” Debouck said. “The people that are in office now are the people that we first elected just to kind of get the thing running and establish positions. We just elected our next group of officers, but the term won’t start until the fall.”