A transition of power can be awkward and emotional, but when Joseph Brueher became president of the Interfraternity Council (IFC), the transition happened smoothly inside a Moscow coffee shop.
Brueher and his predecessor, James Trayford grew close while Brueher was chapter president of Sigma Nu and Trayford held the IFC presidency.
“(Brueher) was one of those people that was like one of my pulses on the community,” Trayford said. “He was one of those people that I always went to just check in and see like how are people feeling about these things or like what does the community really want their IFC to do.”
Because of this close relationship, Trayford was able to guide Brueher through the process as soon as he chose to run for the position of presidency.
“When he decided that he was interested in running, we met up and got coffee and just talked about it and talked about the experience of going from chapter president to leading the fraternity community on our campus,” Trayford said. “That was really the start of our transition process.”
After Brueher was elected, he and Trayford continued to meet to exchange stories, experiences, questions, advice and files for three to four weeks.
None of the stories or advice could have prepared either of them for what Brueher’s experience would become after COVID-19 changed everything.
“I was IFC president during a relatively calm time on campus,” Trayford said.
Unfortunately for Brueher, things were not so easy.
Looking back, Brueher was interested in leadership from the very beginning.
He admired IFC ever since he went through the formal recruitment process as a freshman in August 2016.
Brueher became president of his own chapter as a sophomore, a year or two earlier than most.
Levi Lunceford, a Sigma Nu brother, said their chapter really looks up to Brueher and respects him because he always seems to do what’s right and leads by example.
“There’s not a moment that’s too big for him,” Lunceford said. “He just puts himself as a great example for everybody else. He’s the first guy in the meetings and the last one out of them. He’s also the type of guy to volunteer for everything he asks others to volunteer for.”
Because of his experience as chapter president, Brueher believes that he developed a good perspective which has prepared him for his role in IFC.
“I have a better understanding of the way chapters operate now that I’ve experienced it from the (IFC) president’s side,” Brueher said. “I can give advice to chapter presidents based on my own experiences in the role.”
Lunceford is not only Brueher’s pledge brother but also his IFC vice president of judicial affairs. He explained that when he and Brueher each decided to run for the top two IFC positions, they went in with hopes but not expectations.
“(Brueher) went into our speeches with no real expectation for how the election would turn out despite already previously being chapter president and an excellent candidate for IFC president,” Lunceford said.
Lunceford said that when the two walked out of the hall on election night after obtaining their positions they shared a look that said “Wow, I can’t believe we won.”
Little did they know, it would not be what they expected.
“Recruitment is really the life blood of fraternities,” Trayford said. “Without new members, fraternities don’t survive.”
Recruitment is an important aspect of the Greek system, and while the university faced enrollment declination, the IFC also dealt with shrinking recruitment numbers for more than four years.
The fall of recruitment registration numbers means fewer men attending the University of Idaho have shown enough interest in Greek life to sign up for formal recruitment.
Trayford said they have been dealing with this decline for too long, and he saw it as a personal call to action. So when he was elected as IFC president in November 2018, he decided to use the opportunity to focus on recruitment.
Brueher and Trayford both took on platforms that emphasize the importance of the experience of formal recruitment. They both believe that is what keeps their community alive.
“The fraternity community is not monolithic,” Trayford said. “It is incredibly diverse. Every fraternity provides a different experience for their students and for their members.”Unlike many universities across the country, UI was able to have an in-person, interactive, almost normal formal recruitment process for the fraternity men and potential new members (PNMs) by simply following social distancing guidelines and wearing masks.
This may not seem too difficult but when it comes to college students following rules, things can get out of hand.
PNMs were able to visit each chapter house and spend some time interacting through outdoor games and conversation for formal recruitment.
The fact that these men were able to meet their potential new brothers face to face is a large feat overlooked in typical circumstances.
Face-to-face interaction meant so much more to all the new students coming from high schools that didn’t have a prom or a graduation ceremony.
This differed even from the UI sorority recruitment experience, which was completely virtual until Bid Day where new members moved into chapter houses.
Most other IFC’s could not have pulled this off but also, no other IFC has Joseph Brueher.