April 2,1998

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Low-key fundraiser is typical of Concordia frat

Teke in a Box raises $3,850 for charity

Teke in a Box had mercifully mild weather this year. The annual fundraiser for Dans la Rue, which sees TKE fraternity members camping out on the street, raised $3,850 from passersby. That brings to nearly $29,000 the money raised by the fraternity over seven years of holding the event.

For 36 consecutive hours, members of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity stayed in or near the makeshift shelter on the corner of Mackay St. and de Maisonneuve Blvd. W., near the busiest corner of the Henry F. Hall Building. When there were people around, they canvassed them for money. In the wee hours of the morning, they talked among themselves and tried to catch some sleep.

It was Allan Chown's third year, and definitely the easiest. "Two years ago, the cold was brutal, and it was windy," he said. "Last year, it was cold, too. But this year, it was warm, except for some rain on Thursday."

Like any annual event, it sort of organizes itself, Chown said. "The city knows we need to use that corner all night, and have parking for the Winnebago. The University knows about using the corner and needing access to the washrooms all night. And Dans la Rue knows that they're going to supply us with pamphlets, and so on."

The well-known mission, run by Concordia alumnus and honorary doctorate Father Emmett Johns, operates out of a Winnebago van that cruises the city, dispensing comfort to street kids. While Teke in a Box is on, the van parks overnight on the northeast corner of Mackay and de Maisonneuve. It supplies sleeping space for overflow from the shelter, which only holds three or four people, and it's an endorsement of the event.

Teke in a Box is probably the most visible manifestation of Concordia's minuscule fraternity presence. Here, "Greek" means what it should mean. For several generations, however, on the conventional campuses of North America, "Greek" has stood for a tradition of elite clubs on campus with names in the Greek alphabet, a nod to the traditional classical education. These clubs provided fellowship, and often had a tradition of good works, giving students a start towards the service clubs of adulthood.

Over the years, particularly in the U.S., these clubs, called fraternities (from the Greek frater for brother), became associated with wild beer-drinking parties and degrading hazing rituals. It was a stereotype that has proved hard to bury. The female counterpart, sororities (from soror, for sister), escaped that fate, but they have also suffered somewhat from the charge of elitism.

Concordia has sororities and fraternities, but they are small and little-known. TKE has 26 undergraduate members, and no frat house. "In a way, I kind of like it," Chown said. "It keeps us from being Americanized." By that, he means devoted to beer, sex, status and hell-raising.

There are only two surviving TKE chapters in Canada besides Concordia's. "The one at Western is just like an American chapter, but the one at Ottawa is like us. It's kind of nice when we go to the U.S. [for TKE events], because we're known as being different, and everyone wants to meet us."

Hazing was never big in Canadian fraternities, and it would be out of the question at Concordia, where "rushing," as the early weeks of recruiting are called, consists not of selecting from among thousands of desperate applicants, but of patiently explaining what a fraternity is. "I don't mind that," Chown said, "but it bothers me if they have that negative image."

- BB

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