Greek life grows on campus with addition of new chapters

by University Communications,

The numbers don’t lie. When the newly established chapters of Beta Theta Pi and Alpha Phi came to campus this spring, the number of students involved in Greek life grew to 34 percent — one of the highest percentages in recent Willamette history.

This doesn’t surprise Lisa Holliday. As fraternity/sorority advisor and director of Student Activities, she says the increase may stem from the “newness factor.”

“Willamette students are interested in starting their own thing,” she says. “Being part of a new organization provides really interesting opportunities.”

Making a Comeback

Both Alpha Phi and Beta previously existed on the Willamette campus.

Alpha Phi, a women’s fraternity, was last here in 1978, when its chapter closed due to low membership. But as the years passed, interest in Greek life resurged. In 2013, the university’s Panhellenic Council reached out to Alpha Phi to reform on campus, and now the organization boasts 46 members.

Alpha Phi President Tashana Mithen ’17 says Alpha Phi’s mission and philanthropy rang true for a lot of students.

“The values of Alpha Phi are very cohesive with our values here at Willamette,” she says. “We strive to encourage informed and involved individuals who foster their intellectual curiosity.”

Beta, on the other hand, closed in 2011 due to evidence of alcohol and drug abuse. As part of the closure agreement, the Willamette chapter maintained the right to try to reopen one day.

When all but two of Beta’s former members graduated, Willamette students secured support to bring the fraternity back to campus.

As the new chapter does not currently have organized housing, the university granted Beta on-campus housing for the fall on the first floor of Doney Hall.

Beta Theta Pi President Herschel Mapes ’16 says being back on campus will allow the fraternity to create a positive environment for fellow students and within the new chapter itself, which has more than 30 founding members.

Fostering a Positive Environment

The new Beta chapter is focusing on the international fraternity’s motto, “To Develop Men of Principle for a Principled Life,” which is based on the five key themes of mutual assistance, integrity, trust, intellectual growth and responsible conduct.

“A lot of people are interested in bettering campus and breaking down negative things, such as substance abuse and sexual assault,” he says. “I want to help create an environment where, even if someone isn’t part of the fraternity itself, we will listen to their critiques and find ways we can improve our chapter and Greek life at Willamette in general.”

Similarly with Alpha Phi, Mithen says members are dedicated to fostering a supportive environment for students of all backgrounds.

“Many of us had the hopes of creating all kinds of change within the community and giving a space for people that maybe weren't interested in Greek life before,” she says.

Though the chapter was just formally approved by the student government on April 30, Mithen is excited for the chapter’s future and believes it’s already making a difference with the first-year members by being open-minded and helping them develop as individuals.

• Article by Natalie Pate ’15, politics and French/Francophone studies major