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Sphinx “tradition” preceded Wabash University Delta Tau Delta death

Moderator: Hazing activist Andrea Ackerman long has claimed a connection between fraternity hazing at Wabash and activities of the Sphinx Club and the screaming match known as chapel sing at Wabash.
Theta Delta Chi Pledges Win Chapel Sing
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by Jacob Clough ’11

October 3, 2008

As the moment of truth drew closer, the Sigma Chi pledges advanced toward the Chapel, arms linked, faces painted red and black, singing their chant.

Homecoming got off to a rousing start Thursday morning with one of the most interesting spectacles Wabash College has to offer: Chapel Sing.

This well-known and beloved rite of passage has freshmen pledges from the fraternities, as well as a group of independent freshmen, line up on the mall to sing Old Wabash, the longest school song in the country, for forty-five minutes straight. Unfortunately for the freshmen, that’s not all they have to do.

The Sphinx Club was out in force to test the freshmen class’s knowledge of the school song. Armed with nothing more than their wits and their pots (and cigars, noisemakers, a mechanical parrot, white spray paint and a whole host of other devices), they spent the time taunting and tricking the freshmen, searching out those who knew the song and those who didn’t.

If a freshman messed up on the field, he was sent back to the Chapel, still singing, where he awaited his turn to demonstrate his skills to a group of other Sphinx Club members. If he messed up in the Chapel, the freshman would have a red “W” spray-painted on his white t-shirt. If he sang the song correctly all the way through, he would be sent back outside to continue singing and to continue being heckled.

In the end, four fraternities pledge classes were taken back into the Chapel to sing the song in unison for the Sphinx Club. The fraternity that did best was declared the winner of Chapel Sing.

The Beta Theta Pi freshmen, who were guarding the Chapel, received fifth place. The Delta Tau Delta freshmen came in fourth, the Sigma Chi freshmen, with faces painted red and black, came in third. Phi Kappa Psi came in second, and the winners of the contest were the nine pledges of Theta Delta Chi.

“We’re really proud of our guys, said Grant Gussman, President of Theta Delta Chi and a Sphinx Club member. “The competition was incredibly close. A number of houses and the independents have clearly invested a lot of time and it showed.”

“Any of the four finalists could have won; we just happened to come out on top. The story of the day was the freshmen and how everyone united for Wabash. This is one of our campus’s most sacred traditions, and it was exactly you always want it to be.”

The freshman Theta Delt pledge class was especially excited to attain this honor.

“It was one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever experienced,” said Theta Delt freshman Ben Foster. “I don’t think I’ve been as excited as I was [at hearing the winners] since grade school.”

One of the most interesting perspectives was Dr. Ethan Hollander’s. This is his first time seeing Chapel Sing.

“I’m speechless,” Hollander said, “it was absolutely incredible. I asked a lot of people what it would be like, and everyone gave me a different answer. Now I see why. There’s no way to describe it to someone who hasn’t seen it.

“I do have one question for the Sphinx Club, though: do you think in the future there might be a line for the first-year professors?”

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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