Dear Prospective Brother,
What follows is an introduction to Phi Alpha Tau, a bit of our history, what we are looking for in new members and what they can expect, and some of the nuts and bolts that make us who we are. As one of the most respected and accomplished organizations on campus, Phi Alpha Tau has always been a professional group of close colleagues in pursuit of better communication, a better Emerson, and by extension, a better world. The history of our fraternity is closely tied to the history of Emerson College itself. Without Emerson there would be no Tau; without Tau, Emerson would be a very different school.
In 1880 Charles Wesley Emerson opened The Boston Conservatory of Elocution, Oratory, and Dramatic Art. The focus of the curriculum was communication. The new College grew and evolved, changing its name in 1890 to Emerson College of Oratory. A tipping point was reached in the late 1890s when the school administration attempted to establish control over student debate society, which was an important aspect of student life. A number of students and teachers disagreed, feeling that student debate should be self-governed. This was the catalyst for the formation of Phi Alpha Tau.
In the years following the Civil War, fraternal societies of varying degrees of secrecy became popular on college and university campuses. Walter Bradley Tripp, the eventual founder of Phi Alpha Tau, was a faculty member, as well as a high ranking Mason in Boston. Tripp picked from amongst the brightest male students and formed a secret society dedicated to furthering the communicative arts, promoting the College, and fostering close friendships.
Phi Alpha Tau was officially incorporated in a 1902 charter and established the alpha chapter at Emerson College. The fraternity grew with the college and developed chapters around the country as Emerson College of Oratory became increasingly recognized for its excellence in the communicative arts. Yearbooks show that officers of many successful organizations were also brothers of Phi Alpha Tau. At Emerson, that trend has continued to the present day, despite losing secondary chapters to large national fraternities or lack of interest.
Today, the alpha chapter is the first and only remaining chapter of Phi Alpha Tau, and a respected institution of Emerson College. Recognizing that Phi Alpha Tau is as unique as Emerson itself, there are no current plans to colonize new chapters. Instead, we focus energy on developing alumni networks to support a select handful of students in the alpha chapter, something large numbers-driven national fraternities with costly overheads can not claim to do.
The Phi Alpha Tau experience consists of pledging, active involvement as a student, and a rich alumni network whose roots are deepest in Boston, New York, and Los Angeles. Prospective candidates are recruited from around campus by the active brothers and we seek members from all degree programs. Friendships tend to be lifelong as the fellowship experienced as a student is both deep and meaningful, often transcending age as older members, both alumni and honorary, find themselves mentoring younger brothers.
Phi Alpha Tau is not a residential fraternity, nor are we a social club. As students, we are serious about our preparations for careers in communications and we conduct fraternity business as if we were a company in the real world. For example, the president of the alpha chapter is legally and symbolically the Chief Executive Officer of Phi Alpha Tau, Inc. At work, we lean towards formality and professionalism, but when the work is done, we celebrate with style. Phi Alpha Tau is not a shortcut to industry connections and is not interested in recruiting for those purposes. That being said, our members are widely recognized on campus for their achievements.
Phi Alpha Tau does induct honorary members, based on special criteria. The fraternity also grants two special honorary awards: the Joseph E. Connor Award and the David Brudnoy Award. Honorary members include beloved professors on campus, communicators around Boston, and players on the national scene. Our advisor on campus is Matthew Finn, Assistant Director of Faculty Administration and Information.
Consideration for Phi Alpha Tau is based upon many aspects: a strong grade point average, visibility and involvement on campus, strength of character, integrity and potential. We tend not to pledge first semester freshmen – convinced that allowing oneself the time to experience all options leads the best to our pack.
What can you expect to achieve with Phi Alpha Tau? We believe that Emerson is a special opportunity that should not be wasted, and to that end, we expect much of ourselves as students. Tau is a way for us to learn and develop ourselves in real world scenarios where the stakes are high, but not as consequential as they are after college. That being said, members get what they put in, and each member decides for himself what his level of commitment will be.
Over the last decade our young alumni have gone on to do many wonderful things in film, broadcasting, journalism, creative writing, acting, theater management, marketing, political communication, new media, and teaching. But let us be realistic. Our hope for brothers is simply that during their time at Emerson they strengthen their major through involvement in fraternity projects and experience the early successes necessary to encourage future development. That does happen on a regular basis, as it has for more than 100 years.