Author: Leah Glowacki
Oxy’s diverse, driven student body has recently been expanded by the student-initiated membership to Phi Alpha Delta, the world’s largest co-ed, professional Law fraternity. Since the start of the semester, 22 students’ desire to create and join the unique academic organization demonstrates a great, growing interest in law among Oxy Students.
Phi Alpha Delta’s rich history explains and emphasizes its purposes. According to Phi Alpha Delta’s website, the fraternity arose from a legal controversy that transpired in 1897 when the Supreme Court of Illinois adopted a rule for admission to the Illinois bar. The new rule affected students preparing for admission to the bar and motivated them to organize the Law Student League. Students designed the league to protect their rights. They secured the passage of an act by the Illinois Legislature that would exempt them from some of the rule’s requirements. Though the Illinois Supreme Court would not recognize the exemptions, a test case was partially successful in the Supreme Court. More importantly, the trial erected close associations between members of the league, cementing their decision to preserve connection and form the Lambda Epsilon Fraternity in 1898.
As interest in Lambda Epsilon rose among legal professionals, members decided to reorganize the fraternity and disperse its benefits to a wider audience. On July 16, 1902, delegates to the annual Lamda Epsilon convention, held in South Haven, Michigan, resolved to dissolve Lambda Epsilon, essentially replacing it the following day with the South Haven Articles. The Articles, Constitution, Ritual and Rules were proposed and adopted with the name Phi Alpha Delta, on Novemember 8, 1902. The Chicago Kent College of Law chartered the first Phi Alpha Delta chapter that same year. By 1911, Phi Alpha Delta had reached the west coast and alumni chapters had also developed in Chicago and New York.
Instances in Phi Alpha Delta’s history carve its identity and separate it from other law fraternities. At the start of World War I there were 37 active and 15 alumni chapters. Almost all went inactive by the war’s conclusion. The Great Depression forced the cancellation of the 1933 Phi Alpha Delta convention. Worse, World War II saw the closure of law schools and the inactivation of chapters that had been re-charted since the First World War. The 1940 Convention was postponed indefinitely and the number of active chapters was reduced to six.
Immediately following the conclusion of the war, successful reactivation efforts began. 50 chapters attended the 1946 convention. In 1950, Phi Alpha Delta became the first law fraternity to eliminate race restrictions. This feat marked the beginning of two decades of Phi Alpha Delta prosperity, best evidenced by the 1966 launch of P.A.D Day at the Supreme Court, a tradition still celebrated today. 1966 also witnessed the initiation of the complete supreme courts of Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire to Phi Alpha Delta. Notably, Tom c. Clark, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court at the time, served on Phi Alpha Delta’s executive board and performed the initiations.
Windsor University Law School became the first international school to charter a Phi Alpha Delta chapter in 1969. Its steps were traced by Puerto Rico’s Catholic University during the same year. Following these memberships, Phi Alpha Delta leadership added “international” to the fraternity’s title. During the following year, the fraternity eliminated the male only restriction, merging with Phi Delta Delta, the world’s oldest and largest law fraternity for women, two years later. Mathew Sandy, a former international justice of the Phi Alpha Delta executive board, said this merger was revolutionary. “I think that the admission of women was a real watershed in the history of the fraternity. They came in and brought in different viewpoints. They really improved chapter operations,” he said.
Phi Alpha Delta received a federal grant in 1979. It helped to develop a program of juvenile justice and law related education and to build the PAD public service center, which provides law-related education for students at the middle and high school levels. Karen Massey, a member of the international executive board, said the grant allowed Phi Alpha Delta to benefit youth. “It has a real impact on how we see students then relating to society and carrying out their rights and responsibilities as a citizen in our society,” she said.
The following year, Phi Alpha Delta established their pre-law program. The first pre-law chapter was established in 1981 and the program’s popularity subsequently exploded. An attractive aspect of the program is that it sponsors a pre-law conference and expo, providing undergrad students preparing for law school the opportunity to network with brothers and sisters at the alumni and law school level. Phi Alpha Delta remains the only law fraternity to offer a pre-law program.
Phi Alpha Delta offers membership to presidents, governors, senators, congressmen, judges, lawyers, law students, and pre-law students. Past presidents involved in the organization include William Howard Taft, whose initiation took place inside the White House, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. Other prominent members are Warren Berger, past Supreme Court Justice, senators Joseph Biden, Joseph Lieberman, and Hillary Clinton, and congressmen James Senssebrenner and William Jenkins.
In 2002, Phi Alpha Delta celebrated its centennial commemoration in Washington D.C. The organization claims “100 years of service to the student, the school, the profession, and the community.” According to its mission statement, the fraternity’s core values include integrity, Compassion, Courage, Professionalism, Service, Diversity, and Innovation, characteristics not unlike those valued at Oxy.
Phi Alpha Delta’s history at Oxy is short but intriguing, considering its dependence on student dedication. “The initiative to bring Phi Alpha Delta to Oxy is solely student driven,” Valerie Savior, on-campus law-advisor, said. Elizabeth Shdo, interested in taking advantage of Phi Alpha Delta’s opportunities and resources, initially approached Savior about bringing the academic fraternity to Oxy. Current President of the fraternity, Alexander Nourafshan, with support from Savior and fellow charter members, spent last semester utilizing Shdo’s ideas, hopes, and foundational research along with his own aspirations to create an on-campus law organization, to guarantee Oxy’s membership by the start of second semester.
“There was a senior that had been trying to establish Phi Alpha Delta and was coming to the end of her time at Oxy, so she turned the reins over,” Nourafshan said. “I noted the lack of a pre-law organization on campus and decided that assembling some sort of group of law interested students would be beneficial. In working closely with Valerie and a few other students we made the decision that going the fraternity route as opposed to just the law society would work better,” he said.
As first semester came to a close, Nourafshan’s dedicated organization of information materialized. The charter members joined Phi Alpha Delta prior to leaving campus for the holidays. Becoming a member of Phi Alpha Delta entails a process dissimilar to that of pledging an average campus fraternity. Before they can participate in the formal initiation process, prospective members must fill out an application and meet certain academic standards. Like in other fraternities, membership dues are required. One incentive to joining Oxy’s Phi Alpha Delta chapter this semester is that current dues for freshman, sophomores, and juniors are $100. Phi Alpha Delta requires all members to pay $70 while the remaining $30 supports Oxy’s chapter. Next year, costs will rise to $100 a month per year, not including any additional fees the Executive Board might add to the national fee.
According to Phi Alpha Delta’s website, “The purpose of this Fraternity shall be to form
a strong bond uniting students and teachers of the law with members of the Bench and Bar in a fraternal fellowship designed to advance the ideals of liberty and equal justice under law; to stimulate excellence in scholarship; to inspire the virtues of compassion and courage; to foster integrity and professional competence; to promote the welfare of its members; and to encourage their moral, intellectual, and cultural advancement; so that each member may enjoy a lifetime of honorable professional and public service.”
Members’ commitment to fulfilling their fraternity’s purpose creates countless benefits. Phi alpha Delta concocts a community. “Students will [ ] form a community around a shared career interest,” Savior said. Phi Alpha Delta members site this quality as their fraternities most beneficial. When asked what Phi Alpha Delta really means, Karen Massey eagerly described the bonds she formed as a member of the fraternity.
“It’s the people. It’s the friends that I’ve made since the moment I joined in law school through to this day. PAD-were a fraternity and we believe in that. Everyone I’ve met, they are my brothers and sisters,” Massey said.
Jack Miller, also a past Supreme Justice, shared similar reactions.
“Over the last several years, the friendships, the bond of fraternalism is probably the single most enjoyable experience I’ve had in the legal profession,” he said.
Further, participating in Phi Alpha Delta allows students to determine certainly if law is the correct career choice. “Since securing exposure to the legal professions in the form of internships is challenging – law internships are generally reserved for law students – bringing Phi Alpha Delta to Oxy will create more opportunities for students to explore the legal professions, which will enable students to make informed decisions about the career path,” Savior said.
Nicholas Weinstein, a charter member of Oxy’s Phi Alpha Delta Chapter, said he joined the fraternity to de-fog his future. “What I hope to gain from PAD is just a better understanding of the law to make sure that it’s really what I want to do as a career,” he said.
Establishing networks and forging communication between undergrad students, law school students, and lawyers, is arguably Phi Alpha Delta’s greatest consequence. “Phi Alpha Delta [ ] leverages the resources the Career Center has to offer by expanding the legal community beyond the Occidental alumni legal community,” Savior said. The Fraternity closes the gaps between law-bound students at Oxy, where resources are inherently limited by the school’s size, and students at large Universities. “It offers them an entire network that’s unaffiliated with the Occidental campus,” Nourafshan said.
Beyond connections between individuals, Phi Alpha Delta also erects relations amongst schools. Oxy Students can communicate with members of Phi Alpha Delta chapters at major Universities, including UCLA and USC. Communication may create opportunities for students to see speakers and attend law-related programs that they would otherwise miss. In fact, Oxy’s Phi Alpha Delta chapter hopes to provide inside access to its members, through private visits to local law schools next year.
“The organization will bring attorneys from the region to campus and students will be invited to other campus’ Phi Alpha Delta programs, so an even larger network of peers pursuing legal professions can form,” Valerie said.
Prior to their initiation, charter members of Oxy’s Phi Alpha Delta chapter concentrated on advertisement and recruitment. This semester, they have bigger plans. The ultimate goal is to have an LSAT prep course, provided exclusively to Phi Alpha Delta Members at a discounted cost, established by next year. The organization is fundraising throughout the semester to reach this aim.
Over the years, students’ growing interest in law school prompted Oxy to increase supportive programs related to law. Currently, the CDC offers workshops, panels, and law school information sessions. It also creates opportunities for Oxy students to introduce themselves to alumni in the legal professions, and helps students prepare personal statements for law school.
Currently, according to the Law and Society Association, in an effort to prepare interested students for law school, Oxy’s department of politics, charged by Professor Peter Drier, is searching for a professor with law experience to teach a combination of courses in various fields of public law.
There are over 270 Phi Alpha Delta Chapters chartered and more than 270,000 members initiated. Oxy’s chartering and Oxy students’ memberships prove two things. 107 years after its foundation, Phi Alpha Delta continues to expand the dispersion of its service, benefits, and programs. More visible within our bubble is the truth that Oxy students are enthusiastic in the pursuit of their interests and aspirations.
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