This storyline is from a collection of the Journal of Sigma Phi Epsilon and The Omegan published by Theta Upsilon Omega which merged with Sigma Phi Epsilon in 1938.
Our fraternity roots began silently at Monmouth College in March of 1907 as the Tau Lambda Phi Fraternity. This chapter of men started a local fraternity which meet on campus in 'sub rosa'* existence.
"Following the founding, routine matters claimed the attention of the members for the most part. The lure of maintaining and of becoming a part of a group was undoubtedly a determining factor in their banding together. There were stringent regulations existing on the Monmouth campus against fraternities at the time. "Because of this, between 1907 until 1923, most of the activities involving fraternity activities on the Monmouth College campus were shrouded in secrecy."
To fraternity members today, it has to be unimaginable in this time frame of 1907 onward to learn men were found to be associating with a fraternity could be asked to leave their studies (expelled) by the college administration. It is not surprising that these men were somewhat reticent about hazarding an extensive program of activities. From the records, however, it is to be gathered that pins were purchased, social functions, or 'fussers' as they were known, were held periodically, and new men were voted into the fraternity.
Tau Lambda Phi maintained no residence at this early date. It is interesting to note that meetings were held in offices, rooms of members, in secluded spots in the country, and in buildings of the college. When the records bear a motion to the effect that no more meetings are to be held in college buildings, one would seem to be justified in inferring that the members of Tau Lambda Phi had been involved in some unfortunate experience in which the college administration was also a party.
Various Tau Lambda Phi members started to consider where the chapter stood as a fraternity, more or less the result of extending the bonds of brotherhood beyond the confines of the local campus. The records suggest that the matter of affiliating with Pi Rho Phi was discussed at some length before any action was taken.
"During the years 1909 and 1910, negotiations culminating in the affiliation of Tau Lambda Phi with Pi Rho Phi, a national fraternity maintaining chapters in Ohio and Pennsylvania colleges, were taken up. From records concerning this national, it seems to have been neither more than a common interest group, no national officers being supported nor evidence of national conventions being held at stated intervals."
The scope of information which may exist within the historical archives at Monmouth College on Tau Lambda Phi fraternity, its membership, and the scope of existing memorabilia is presently unknown. We invite assistance of volunteers to explore records at Monmouth College to broaden our understanding of those early years.
*[sub rosa, under the rose (from the practice of hanging a rose over a meeting as a symbol of confidentiality) : sub, under + rosa, ablative of rosa, rose.]