More Willamette students are going Greek

by Natalie Pate '15,

  • Greek enrollment is rising at Willamette.

The numbers don’t lie. When the newly established chapters of Beta Theta Pi and Alpha Phi formed last 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 as of last spring, the organization boasted nearly 50 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.

The new chapter does not currently have organized housing on campus. However, Beta Theta Pi President Herschel Mapes ’16 says he’s eager for 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.”

Though Alpha Pi was just formally approved by the student government on April 30, Mithen is excited for the chapter’s future. She 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,” she says, “and giving a space for people that maybe weren't interested in Greek life before.”

Greek Numbers at Willamette

Willamette now has four female fraternities, commonly referred to as sororities — Alpha Chi Omega, Delta Gamma, Pi Beta Phi and Alpha Phi — along with five male fraternities — Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Sigma Chi, Kappa Sigma, Phi Delta Theta and Beta Theta Pi.

Three of the female fraternities are in Greek houses on campus near the Putnam University Center. This fall, Sigma Chi is housed in Doney Hall. The other chapters operate without formal, organized housing or have worked with alumni to establish housing off campus, such as Kappa Sigma’s house near Kaneko.

More information on Greek Life at Willamette can be found here.