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Seth Totten, a junior studying engineering, is the president of Ohio University's chapter of Phi Delta Theta.

Building a brotherhood as a fraternity president

Friendship, sound learning and moral rectitude are the three principles of Phi Delta Theta, or Phi Delt. Ohio University has its own chapter of Phi Delt, with around 50 members. The chapter and all the members are led by fraternity president Seth Totten, a junior studying engineering, who seeks to ensure the brotherhood lives up to these three principles.

According to its website, there are around 1,700 students involved in sorority and fraternity organizations at OU, with 11 active organizations in OU’s Interfraternity Council. Phi Delt has been around at OU since it was chartered in 1868. It was founded by three bobcats, Thomas L. Hughes, Edison B. Miesse and J.W. Shinn. 

A Youngstown area native, Totten said the appeal of OU lay within the campus and distance from home. Now about halfway through his third year, he said his experience thus far has been amazing.

“I enjoy every second of being here,” he said. “College Green, Court Street, all that stuff is really fun to me, and this is a great place away from home.”

Totten joined Phi Delt during his freshman year in the fall of 2021. He said he chose to join a fraternity in order to meet new people and make friends. According to him, what set Phi Delt apart from the other fraternities on campus was its value of brotherhood over all else.

“I didn’t really interact with other fraternities,” Totten said. “I only rushed Phi Delt because, for me, it was this or nothing. I didn’t think I was going to join a fraternity, but from what I heard, Phi Delt sounded a lot more like a true, close group of friends.”

Additionally, Totten said Phi Delta is one of the cheaper fraternities on campus. Semesterly dues are $600, with a $50 discount if members pay upfront. The chapter does have a house that is $700 a month per resident for rent and those who are not living in the house must pay a “parlor fee” because it is the fraternity’s responsibility to pay for the upkeep of the house.

That parlor fee adds up to around $150 a month, depending on how many people end up living in the house. Those who have to pay that fee are charged $750 per semester for the parlor fee and dues combined. Additionally, there are occasions when members are charged extra expenses for socials or date parties.

Totten became president in January 2023 and will continue to serve in the position until the next calendar year. 

Having a leadership role in the chapter was not new to Totten, as he had been community service chairman and vice president prior to his current position. He said his main goal when he took office was to set the chapter on the right track again.

“The semester before I took the presidency, we only recruited three guys,” he said. “Right after I took president, we recruited just about 10 guys in the spring. We raised $2,000 for our philanthropy, Live Like Lou, and we were all getting our community service hours in. It felt like a good brotherhood again.”

Totten said although the role is rewarding, being the president of a fraternity is a lot of work.

“The president takes care of every single external factor,” he said. “I take care of things with the university, things with our headquarters, things with just our chapter advisers on campus, along with our alum”

Totten said even some of the newer members in the chapter are not aware of the time commitment it takes to run a successful brotherhood.

“I feel like that’s also something that not a lot of members are aware of just because they just see me sitting at the front of the room at chapter telling them what they’re supposed to be doing for the week,” he said. “But then after that, I have three weekly meetings I have to go to with members of the university, my executive board and just other random stuff throughout the week I have to take care of. I call it ‘the shield.’ I have to protect the chapter.”

Totten said his proudest moment as president was when he found out Phi Delt won a Silver Star Award for Outstanding Chapter Excellence at the Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute.

“We did really good in the past year,” he said. “We had actually hit the recruitment numbers that GHQ (general headquarters) gave us. We had no money due toward them for our dues, we had zero incidents and I found out that was like the first one (Silver Star Award) we had won in like a decade, so I was really proud of that.”

However, Totten’s life is not all business, as he said his best memories from college so far are the times he has spent with his brothers. 

He said his favorite memory was committing two Sundays to watch all “The Lord of the Rings” movies with some of the other fraternity members. Although Totten said the movie marathon ended with everyone vowing to never watch a single one of those movies again, he still looks back on that time with fondness.

Looking back on his presidency, Totten said the sentiment that initially drew him to Phi Delta still rings true today: a true brotherhood.

“I don’t feel closer to anyone besides my blood family than I do with my friends from the chapter,” he said.


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