Senior Brandon Carey is the final remaining member of Pi Omega Delta (POD). After years of the fraternity hemorrhaging members, this year may be its last chance at surviving.
He joined the fraternity his sophomore year because the members of POD, his Bigs at that time, helped him come out of his shell. Before pledging his freshman year, Carey was the awkward misfit from a cookie cutter suburb in Maryland. The guys that pledged him challenged him to try new things, to be more social and to put himself out there.
“I thought if these guys are opening their door for a weird chubby kid, what is there not to like?” said Carey.
The thing that Carey really enjoyed about POD was the lack of body politics. He attempted to use this as a selling point this semester while trying to find people to take over the fraternity. He explained that being a part of the fraternity was not the main identifier for members. Your personal goals and pursuits were more a part of you than the frat would ever be.
“Who you were as a person, your identity, always always always came before the organization and the letters,” said Carey.
If people couldn’t pay dues, that was fine. They’d set up a payment plan. If members couldn’t come out on weekends for two weekends straight, that was no problem.
To Carey, there’s definitely a frustration for not being able to sell these points to other students, but he recognizes that maybe that’s just not what people are looking for.
After Carey pledged and received his letters, there were a total of nine brothers. What followed was what seemed like an endless stretch of membership loss. By the fall of 2016, when the fraternity was placed on probation for an administrative/logistical reason, unrelated to discipline or behavior, only four members remained. Carey studied abroad that semester and by the time he returned from Hong Kong he was one of two remaining brothers. By the time the organization’s probation was lifted, in the spring of 2017, only Carey remained.
POD had been built back from two people before: in 2010, the mid 90s and late 80s. “I know it’s hard work but not impossible,” said Carey.
People don’t want to associate with the negative ramifications of probation, so it’s difficult to counteract the stigma. New rushes also want assurance that they will have a brotherhood, but Carey can’t show them that alone. Carey believes these factors adversely affected interest in POD.
According to Carey, what makes POD worth keeping alive is the connection formed between new members and alumni. They gave Carey support. He could call anyone. He could send an email and get a response in 30 minutes.
Unfortunately, Rush Week did not go the way Carey had anticipated. Earlier last week, he decided to suspend recruitment for a combination of personal and logistical reasons. He and the previous members had been through a lot. Trying to build back the fraternity by himself proved to be a difficult and emotionally demanding task, so much so that his decision to suspend recruitment was influenced by him not wanting to put that weight on the one person rushing POD.
“You can build back an organization from two people. But my worry is based on the people who showed genuine interest, they are good people, they’re fantastic people, but knowing what I’ve been through the past year, knowing that I’d be damning whoever is left with that [task], I can’t in good mind put someone through that,” said Carey.
Carey is graduating this December. Pledging takes about a month. But in reality it takes the whole year for the new members to become fully acquainted with how the frat is run. The fact that he will be gone next semester only further complicates things.
“I am a stubborn person. Everything else in my life I’ve made work, but this is the one thing that I can’t. It’s taken eight months of humble pie for me to realize this is my first real ‘L,’” said Carey.
Despite the need to accept defeat, Carey reminisces on the best aspects of POD. According to Carey, the memories that people have of POD and 204, their suite in Reimert, will remain strong. Carey believes that if anyone wanted to bring POD back at any point in the future, they could. His hope for POD is that at some point in the future, someone will come along and look at what they were as an organization and will want to bring it back.
Carey said, “We’re in good standing, we’re just going to be dark, inactive. Think of Fry in “Futurama” when he’s in the cryotube. I acknowledge there might not be a future and I’ve mostly made my peace with it. There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s way out of my control.”