Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity is growing at MSU.
Greek organizations on college campuses often conjure images of raucous parties, hazing rituals and binge drinking. Just about everyone has a preconceived notion when it comes to fraternities and sororities.
The Michigan State University chapter of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity is working to change those perceptions. The Sammys, as they are called, have seen something of a resurgence on campus in recent years.
“It has been amazing seeing us grow so quickly,” says fraternity president Sebastian Mandell. “I’ve seen the fraternity nearly double in size since I joined, and I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon.”
Mandell joined the fraternity in the fall semester of 2016 and counts himself among the 45 members at MSU.
“We’re hoping that this year is going to be our biggest year. We’ve been talking to kids and getting them to join the fraternity,” says Maverick Levy, the frat’s alumni chair.
Levy and Mandell credit the increased numbers to the fraternity pushing back against the stereotypical perception people have of Greek organizations.
“In the news recently, you see a lot of negative things about fraternities and things they’re doing wrong,” Levy says. “We’re really trying to change that image.”
Mandell adds, “Our role is to help create a positive view of Greek life on our campus, and also help raise money and awareness for special causes to help our community.”
Sigma Alpha Mu was traditionally a Jewish fraternity. Since its founding in 1909 at the City College of New York, the organization promoted Jewish ideals in its members. The fraternity began accepting men regardless of faith in 1953, but still promotes Jewish recruitment. Chapters often partner with Hillel and Chabad on campuses.
While many of the chapter’s founders are Jewish, Mandell says the Sammys at MSU try to recruit all kinds of students.
“We welcome a diverse group of people who all respect the Jewish roots and traditions of our organization,” Mandell says.
Lawrence Levy, Maverick’s father, hosted a meet-and-greet for Sigma Alpha Mu this summer to give Sammys of all ages a chance to come together.
“The diversity is really getting out there, at least in the local chapter at MSU and it’s really been great,” the senior Levy says.
A Detroit Country Day school graduate, Levy was a Sigma Alpha Mu pledge in Fall 1988 at MSU. He also sits on the Jewish Studies Advisory Board at the university, which promotes the study and awareness of Jewish life. Thirty years later, his son carries on the tradition.
“When my son rushed Sammys, I was proud of him — that he was continuing on in the Greek life,” Levy says.
Sigma Alpha Mu’s philanthropic work is also helping to change perceptions about fraternities and is a draw for prospective members.
“As a chapter, we do a lot around our community,” Mandell says. “We have a brother that is diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, and we have had an event the past two years to raise money to support the Children’s Tumor Fund and its goal to advance research and medical care.”
The Sammys’ core values act as a lodestar in their push to change how frats are perceived.
“We’re trying to spin the image that fraternities are bad things,” Maverick Levy says. “It’s more about being close, being brotherly and being friendly.” @