Alpha Chi Sigma looks past chemistry ban toward future
On January 22, Alpha Chi Sigma was lifted from its six-month nationwide chemistry ban following a review of the fraternity’s insurance policy following a hazing incident at its Hampden-Sydney chapter in Virginia.
The insurance review began after an 18-year-old Hampden-Sydney College student was found dead in his dorm room in March 2017 after taking part in a hazing event at the fraternity. Toxicology tests showed the freshman’s blood alcohol level was more than four times the .08% limit for driving legally in Virginia.
Upon review of the fraternity’s insurance policy after the incident, it was discovered the fraternity was not covered to perform chemistry demonstrations nationally.
A chemistry demonstration is a real-time illustration of a chemical reaction, usually with dramatic observable effect.
In order to perform demonstrations, ACS nationally had to raise its membership fees and get a new insurance policy, which it has since done.
What Alpha Chi Sigma focuses most of its efforts on is science outreach, where they go to high schools or other on-campus organizations and do activities such as demonstration shows.
“We thought that we were pretty much covered to do chemistry demonstrations, but had something gone awry in the past, we would have been left holding the bag, pretty much,” vice president of ACS at Southeast Eric Puhlmann said.
The ban prevented prevented ACS from officially participating in Southeast’s Science Olympiad and the BeTween event on campus, an event held for girls between the ages of 11 and 14 to encourage their interest in science and chemistry.
It also prevented them from performing chemistry demonstrations at various high schools as an outreach event. ACS would normally perform four to eight chemistry demonstrations per semester.
Members of the fraternity are not required to be chemistry majors, but they do need to have taken the initial two chemistry courses that Southeast offers, CH185 and CH186 according to Puhlmann.
“We basically accept anyone who’s taken at least the first initial chemistry class in addition to the second,” Puhlmann said. “We have a lot of biology majors actually, in fact. So this is not just for chemistry students, this is pretty much open to all majors, as long as you have those two classes and you’re in good standing with the school, a 2.75 [Grade Point Average], just pretty much like all other fraternities.”
ACS assisted with the regional high school science fair March 5 at the Show Me Center. Fraternity members aided in judging the fair, determining the scientific worth of each project and analyzing how creative and how well each project was done.
“It’s our chance as scientists that are being developed to further develop those who haven’t quite made it to the collegiate level yet,” Puhlmann said.
Nationally, the fraternity hosts prominent speakers on campuses such as Bill Nye. Southeast’s chapter has yet to host a speaker, although it is something that they would like to do moving forward.
“We’re still growing on campus, and we really don’t know what we can do as a fraternity yet,” Puhlmann said. “I’m trying to open up the doors to a lot of things that we can do but we’re not currently doing.”
Alpha Chi Sigma, which has 18 active members who live on campus at Southeast, is the only professional chemistry fraternity in the United States and has been a mainstay on Southeast’s campus since 2013.