Student filmmakers set out to tell one side of Lambda Chi Alpha’s story

A new student documentary tells only one side of the history of Lambda Chi Alpha on campus. Photo by Lauren Gdowski.



Every story has at least two sides. Despite our hopes, knowledge of prior reporting and good faith approach to a new perspective, a student-created documentary surrounding Butler’s Lambda Chi Alpha chapter manages to tell only one. 

In July of 2022, junior marketing major Jackson Procise reached out to junior strategic communication major Jack Hudson to begin conversations surrounding the creation of a documentary about their fraternity chapter. Procise’s goal was to memorialize the history of the Alpha-Alpha Zeta chapter for present and future members, and contacted Hudson — his Lambda “little” — a filmmaker with experience in creative videography. 

Procise passed the reins to Hudson and his longtime partner at Babble Media, Emily Brown, a junior at Indiana University. This collaboration would culminate in a half-hour video documentary, premiered at the conclusion of the chapter’s celebratory Founder’s Day festivities on March 25, titled “Ever Growing: Passing The Lamp.” 

Humble beginnings 

The premiere was attended by a full house of current members, dedicated alumni and guests at the Lambda Chi Alpha house for the first public screening of the documentary; according to Hudson, future plans to list the film on the chapter’s website are in the works. At the final event of a day celebrating the chapter and its foundations, many attendees at the screening were in high spirits and full of Lambda pride. 

Brown shared that her involvement with the project was tied to the importance of Lambda’s history to both of her collaborators. 

“Jackson Procise reached out and said, ‘How much would it take for us to do a documentary on [Lambda?]’” Brown said. “He really wanted to make it happen, and [Procise] is also [Hudson’s] ‘big,’ so we’re all kind of connected. Knowing how much it meant, it was really important that we did it right.” 

“Ever Growing” is first and foremost a labor of love and loyalty to Lambda, which is evident in its coverage — or lack thereof — of the chapter’s closure and re-chartering. Though Lambda is not the only fraternity on Butler’s campus that has faced disciplinary consequences — and certainly not the first to be closed or kicked off campus — Lambda Chi Alpha’s history at Butler is a complex one featuring severe missteps and a quickly vanishing memory on campus beyond that of the public record. 

A forgotten history 

Between breaking coverage by the IndyStar in January of 2017 to extensive coverage from The Butler Collegian over the course of several years, the Alpha-Alpha Zeta chapter faced rightful criticism and scrutiny as a result of the actions of members at the time, which held the entire chapter responsible.

From alcohol and behavior-related conduct issues over time to allegations of sexual assault from multiple students in 2018, Lambda Chi Alpha and its history on Butler’s campus leave many crucial questions to be answered regarding its legacy and how current members are preserving it. The creation and premiere of “Ever Growing” presented a unique opportunity to tell the chapter’s story with timely honesty and humble accountability — doing it “right” as Brown said — an opportunity that the film’s creators ultimately did not take. 

Hudson said that he and Brown sought to educate current members on the history of the chapter, as well as capture stories from alumni that may be lost to the passage of time. 

We don’t want to forget that time, and we don’t want to forget the good, the bad, the ugly, and make sure that those mistakes don’t happen again,” Hudson said. “Moving forward [we hope to make sure that] all of our brothers are educated on the fraternity, but also that they know these stories that we [may lose over time] that are captured from some of our oldest alumni.”

Procise affirmed that through the creation of “Ever Growing,” he hoped to include alumni perspectives of the years that encompassed Lambda Chi’s closure and re-chartering. 

“Obviously, there are certain aspects of the events around the closing that we’re not going to put in a film like this,” Procise said. “[Our approach was to] tell the story as accurately as we can. The people we interviewed [from the time of the closure] did have different perspectives and had different opinions and feelings about [those] events. [Our goal was] being able to take all of those perspectives and incorporate them in an honest way.”

However, despite what may have been honorable intentions on the part of its creators, “Ever Growing” falls glaringly short in painting a comprehensive picture of the reality of Lambda Chi’s history on campus with any clarity or accountability. 

“A brief moment of adversity” 

Through interviews with former chapter president Trent Craig, who served as president at the time of the chapter’s closure, the documentary very briefly touches on the leadup and time period surrounding the chapter closure. The film contains one vague reference to parties the house hosted in interview quotes as the only direct description of conduct transgressions, mostly in reference to a letter the chapter received from Butler University notifying them of the terms of their assumed probation prior to the chapter’s closure, though the term “probation” is never explicitly used in the documentary. 

According to accounts told in “Ever Growing,” a letter from Lambda Chi Alpha headquarters placed the chapter at the time under the supervision of an “alumni advisory board,” and limited their programming until their eventual closure in 2017. 

In the documentary, 2016 chapter president Greg Stephens detailed the differing perspectives of members during this time of scrutiny on probation leading to the chapter’s closure. Stevenson describes the chapter as “fractured” during this time, due to some brothers’ conflicting feelings of hopelessness and inaction in response to criticisms and reviews of the chapter’s conduct — both from the university and headquarters. With a vague allusion to morale and low spirits in the chapter during this time, this segment of the documentary essentially concludes any description of Lambda’s alleged offenses that led to its closure. 

Cut to news footage of the house’s flag being lowered, as members huddle in a circle for a moment of remembrance. The documentary almost immediately moves on to depicting the sorrow and “resiliency” of the chapter and its members at the time as they faced what Hudson describes as a “brief moment of adversity in [their] chapter’s history.” 

“We did a lot of research into that [time], we read all the documents, and we pored through that,” Hudson said. “Of course, mistakes were made, but the idea wasn’t to harp on the fact that one person was responsible. [There] was over a decade of [events] that had occurred on campus in the house, all the way back to 2003. We wanted to cover more than, ‘Hey, the house got in trouble.’ There’s still enough passion around this, and there’s still enough alumni that stayed true to the teachings of the fraternity and stayed connected that within five years we’re already building ourself back on campus in a new house.” 

Herein lies an unfortunate lapse in the coverage “Ever Growing” presents; the narrow angle of the documentary’s framing of the chapter’s closure and re-chartering as a time of adversity and passion for its members eliminates any possibility of acknowledgment or accountability, especially when the film claims to approach Lambda Chi’s history with honesty. 

A missed opportunity 

When one considers the audience for the documentary — both current and future brothers as well as the public — and the potential it has to influence future perceptions of the chapter and its actions, the importance of painting a picture of the closure and re-chartering without rose-colored glasses seems all the more evident. 

As journalists, we understand the importance of researching and reporting the most accurate, timely story. Especially in complex situations with many parties involved or spanning many years, time and diligence are both required to tell complicated stories with justice. However, if a documentary film is intended to be used as both historical record and honest documentation of events, it cannot only feature the voices of the accused. 

Though Greek life is not an entirely dominant culture on Butler’s campus, its presence is not exempt from the network of exclusivity, connections and funding that allows it to continue as one of the shaping forces of the American collegiate experience. At Butler and at large, the cultural, social and financial power that fraternities and sororities hold enables them to define and reproduce their own reputations and images with projects such as “Ever Growing.” 

Jules Grable, Butler’s sexual assault response and prevention specialist, encourages Greek life chapters on campus to initiate open conversations about how they contribute to campus culture. 

“Start to have conversations about really hard topics; [take] one night to talk about toxic masculinity, rape culture,” Grable said. “What does it look like in our chapter? What are some things that we can do better? [That’s] a good place to start: educating ourselves and learning how we can do better, and admitting that we’re not perfect.” 

No matter who tells it, it is impossible to tell the story of Lambda Chi Alpha without telling the story of the harm members of the Alpha-Alpha Zeta chapter enacted. By referring to allegations of sexual assault or conduct violations as mere “mistakes” or attributing their presence as a brief interruption to the illustrious magnificence of a historical organization, those who do so eliminate space for serious consideration and prioritization of victims who were affected by such events. 

By abstracting or omitting the terms of the chapter’s closure, “Ever Growing” misses a crucial chance to address them head-on with humility, accountability or honesty. 

With all things considered, the production of “Ever Growing” should not be seen as an indictment of the current members of Lambda Chi Alpha, nor do critiques of the film extend as a personal judgment to those who created it. However, presenting a documentary to the public as both historical preservation and a contender for acclaim — Hudson noted that the producers plan to submit the project for a Regional Emmy award in November — subjects the work itself to scrutiny and critical reflection. 

Jack Paras, a senior biology major and member of the first re-chartered rush class, affirmed the distinction between the former and current chapter. 

“One thing we always say is that we are a completely different chapter from what [we were] previously,” Paras said. “We have such a different culture, and we have different ideals that we all work towards rather than what [the previous chapter] had in the past. I think the documentary shows that pretty well.” 

Paras’ sentiment is heartening, but does not align with that at the core of “Ever Growing.” The documentary positions its story of redemption and revival around the prevailing true values of Lambda Chi Alpha — faith, hope and love — which it claims only a few bad apples in its past did not align with. 

“Ever Growing” could not exist without an unwavering belief from both its creators and current members of the chapter that the values and ideals that fundamentally made Lambda a success in the past are those which fueled its current resurgence; the foundation of the organization is what its members believe has allowed it to prevail. 

Procise acknowledged that both Lambda Chi Alpha and Greek life at large should continue to have open conversations about their past and future roles on campus. 

“Although the documentary captured the deep sadness felt by brothers during the closure of Lambda in 2017, I believe it is a fair criticism to say that specific challenges leading up to the closure are not addressed in-depth in the film,” Procise said in an email to The Butler Collegian. “That said, as a fraternal organization working to lead progress within the Greek community, it is important we are honest about the issues of the past, moving forward in a way that promotes a culture of respect, inclusion, and safety for all.” 

Though artistically impressive and technically sound, “Ever Growing” doesn’t excel beyond the caliber of a self-congratulatory nostalgia project. The story the documentary tells is lovely, but it remains one that is fundamentally and woefully incomplete.


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