Return of fraternities to campus sparks debate at Willamette University (part one)


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These stories were originally published in The Collegian of Willamette University in February and March of 2015 (dates and authors attached to each story.) They are printed here through the Northwest News Network, a collaborative project between northwest collegiate newspapers.

2 fraternities approved for housing on campus

By Bronte Dod, February 25, 2015

Two fraternities will have designated residential space on campus this fall.

The Greek Housing Board recommended the newly reestablished fraternity Beta Theta Pi for on-campus residency last semester. After rewriting their application and giving another presentation this semester, Sigma Chi was also approved.

The approval was given to two fraternities who have both lost their housing not due to low enrollment numbers––which is a common way fraternities could lose their residential space on campus––but because of behavior.

The University removed Sigma Chi from campus in the spring of 2013, when their private Facebook page was leaked and revealed misogynistic content, hazing and threats to University administrators.

Beta Theta Pi’s national organization revoked their charter in summer of 2011 after evidence of drug- and alcohol-abuse was discovered.

The Greek Housing Board consists of three students––the current Panhellenic Council and Interfraternity Council presidents and a non-affiliated student recommended by ASWU––and six other administrators from the departments of Campus Life and Residential Life.

Senior Brad Russell was a member of the housing board in the fall when he was IFC president. Russell said that allowing fraternities to have housing on campus provides an opportunity for bonding that can’t otherwise be achieved.

Emily Schlack, who was also on the Greek Housing Board last semester as the PHC president, said that residential space for fraternities will not be organized as it previously was.

In the past, fraternities have occupied dorms on the eastside of campus, but that will not be an option for Sigma Chi and Beta Theta Pi, according to Schlack.

Other options for the fraternities could include a designated floor on the westside of campus or the wing of a residential hall.

Both Russell and Schlack cited these options as a way to better integrate the fraternities with the rest of students who live on campus.

Schlack said that the housing board members discussed how residential space on campus could be beneficial for fraternities. But Schlack said that she brought a different opinion to the table.

“Maybe we should be asking not whether it’s good for [fraternities] to be on campus, but whether it’s good for the campus for [fraternities] to be on campus,” Schlack said.

President of Beta Theta Pi Herschel Mapes said that having housing on campus would be good for both the student living on-campus and for the newly-reorganized fraternity, which already has over 30 new members.

“Many people, including myself, thought that it would be probably a more positive way to come back on campus, and it would also probably ensure that they would be able to communicate with people on campus and I guess get along with people on campus better,” Mapes said.

Mapes said that keeping the living area drug- and alcohol-free––which the national Beta Theta Pi organization requires them to do––is much harder to regulate off campus.

Dean of Campus Life David Douglass said in a email that after Beta Theta Pi and Sigma Chi submit an updated list of members, “an appropriately-sized and located space can be found.”

The Board will continue meeting throughout the semester to finalize the housing situation for both fraternities.

Russell said that the new Greek Housing Board will make a decision on the location of the fraternities by the time the all-campus housing lottery occurs at the end of the semester.

 

Oh, brother

By Evann Zuckerman, March 4, 2015

It’s been whispered in classrooms and on Bistro couches, mentioned in frustrated ventings and sarcastic conversations, but I never thought that the day would come; the day when fraternities would be welcomed to live on campus.

A quick refresher: In spring of 2013, screenshots of the Sigma Chi Facebook page were leaked, revealing threats of “cunt-punting” a female administrator and evidence of domestic violence.

Student protests abounded and national media outlets paid attention–– but the boys were merely kicked out of campus housing and suspended from recruiting activities for one semester.

Beta Theta Pi on the other hand, was essentially disbanded in 2011 for drug and alcohol policy violations.

While a Facebook page may seem inconsequential, these posts were deeply disturbing for more than just their content, (which should have been enough to cause dismay).

Many Sigma Chi members held prominent campus leadership positions, and it was alleged that their on-campus housing was a site for policy breaking.

Though policy is broken all over campus, it is important to note that an established institution behaved this way and, in turn, received little backlash from University administrators.

In fact, it is interesting how much support is shown to our Greek organizations in general, when they are exclusive groups not accessible to “just anyone.”

Unlike clubs, membership is earned; dues range from $300-$900 with limited access to scholarships and social demands that are often described as “exhausting.”

What is to be gained from entering a Greek organization as opposed to other campus groups? To an outsider, the benefits seem small: a good set of biology notes, a promise of love from people you don’t know and maybe a resume booster.

Perhaps it is not what Greek life does for our student body, but what it does for Willamette.

Currently, the sorority houses on campus are required to fill a housing quota. Failure to do so augurs the loss of housing privileges.

Because they are required to fill a quota, they keep members on campus who could otherwise live elsewhere, filling space at the University so that it does not lose money.

While the current housing proposal does not directly implicate this process, it indicates that the administration does not take seriously the actions taken by students to remove Sigma Chi from campus.

Though it is proposed that certain blocks of campus housing will be devoted to fraternities, it would be easy to transition fraternity housing into a money-making machine.

I argue that it is not in the interest of the general student body to house any fraternity on campus, but in the economic interest of the University to keep students dependent upon on-campus housing.

Further, if the protests of the students who pay for their education and work to improve their campus are unimportant, then what is important to this University?

If we are keeping organizations on campus that endanger our student body––as I suggest fraternities do––to attract donors, why are we not marketing ourselves to different donors?

Housing fraternities on campus will only reinforce their presence on campus, and as we have seen in the not-so-distant past, that presence is not needed.

For more opinion pieces from Willamette students, continue reading here.

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