If you’re a Jewish UCLA student, and unless you live under a rock, you’ve definitely heard of the new Jewish fraternity Sigma Alpha Mu, also known as Sammy. Just kidding! Sigma Alpha Mu is still small, but is growing rapidly due to its developing reputation for positive values and ideals.
The fraternity’s UCLA chapter was founded by Dan Meade and Brad Widawer during their freshman year. During an interview, Meade explained that even before coming to college, he was interested in joining a fraternity. However, after coming to UCLA and joining one, he was disappointed by what he saw. He realized that the fraternity and its bonding activities were all centered around drinking. There was little substance or focus on positive values. He realized that he wanted to be in a fraternity that was centered instead on “camaraderie and friendship”.
Widawer on the other hand was not interested in joining a fraternity as he simply did not see himself as a “frat guy”. However, a friend from USC convinced him to talk with a Sigma Alpha Mu representative who wanted to create a group at UCLA. After speaking with the representative, Widawer realized Sigma Alpha Mu’s unique nature and that he shared the same values that the fraternity was founded upon.
The two students came together and decided that they wanted to create a new fraternity. They wanted to break the mold and build a fraternity that was vastly different than the notorious, stereotypical ones. Their efforts paid off because last week, on Feb. 21st, Sigma Alpha Mu at UCLA officially chartered.
Sigma Alpha Mu stands out in many ways in comparison to the average fraternity. For example, the fraternity is extremely diverse, bringing together students from all walks of life. “If you got all these people together in a room and asked a random passerby, they would not guess that we’re a fraternity,” said Widawer. Part of the reason that this is the case is because of the fraternity’s unique recruitment policy. Any student who reflects the values of the fraternity is accepted. There is no judging, no reason to act “fratty,” and no hazing process. Everyone feels comfortable being himself. Sigma Alpha Mu wants people to join because they like the group, not the name. Sigma Alpha Mu also doesn’t believe that bonding has to be done through drinking. Instead, it believes that the members should come together through brotherhood activities and philanthropy events. Widawer went on, “Our members are simply a group of guys… who are really in it for more than just partying. They’re in it because they want to make a difference”.
In addition, the fraternity emphasizes strong character development and therefore helps its members improve themselves. All members are invited to join leadership committees, which have certain responsibilities to the fraternity. Having everyone in these committees allows the members to directly support the fraternity, creating an even deeper connection between the brothers of Sigma Alpha Mu. Of course, academic success is also very important to each and every member and, as a result, the fraternity has already won an award for the highest GPA among all fraternities on campus.
However, Sigma Alpha Mu does not only want to create strong bonds within the fraternity. It also urges members to join outside clubs and organizations on campus—you’ll find Sammy’s in Chabad, Hillel, JAM, JLIC, SSI, and Ha’Am.
Being in its infancy, Sigma Alpha Mu provides prospective members with the opportunity to be part of a great project. These men are building a new fraternity, creating an organization that will have great effects on the school long after they have graduated. “They can look back and say, ‘Wow, we did something amazing.’”
The development of Sigma Alpha Mu at UCLA is a brave undertaking. Its members want to create an organization that is vastly different from all the other fraternities in both ideology and nature. In spite of the many challenges facing them, they have succeeded in overcoming every obstacle in their way. The fraternity is quickly growing, and it will certainly be interesting to see the effects it will have on our school in the years to come.