A fraternity is a value-based organization of men who share a bond of ritual, friendship, service and brotherhood. Members of a fraternity make a commitment to upholding the values of the organization itself. Through their common experiences centered on a pursuit of higher education they build bonds that last a lifetime.
Fraternities have been an important aspect of American colleges and universities for over two hundred years. Over the course of history, two types of fraternities evolved: local fraternities and national fraternities. Local fraternities refer to organizations that exist on a limited number of campuses, usually less than three, and have no national governing structure. A national fraternity is an organization that has chapters - groups of men belonging to the fraternity that attend one college or university - across the country. These fraternities have a national governing structure and professional staff that provide support to their chapters. Currently, 66 national fraternities with undergraduate membership exceeding 750,000 are found on over 800 college campuses in the United States and Canada.
For much of Willamette's history, fraternities have been an important component of student life. Social clubs and societies began developing as early as the 1850s. Following World War II, President G. Herbert Smith invited national fraternities and sororities to affiliate with the local organizations at Willamette. Phi Delta Theta, Beta Theta Pi and Sigma Chi were installed in 1947; Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Kappa Sigma were established in following years. Each organization at Willamette is a chapter of a national fraternity.
While rooted deep in history, the fraternity membership remains a valuable experience. Today, nearly 20% of Willamette men choose to join a fraternity during their undergraduate years. Hundreds of Willamette alumni are grateful for the opportunities afforded them by their membership, while current members learn timeless skills of leadership, scholarship and social interaction.
Brotherhood, the strong friendship and respect that exists between members, is the foundation of the fraternity experience. By depending upon each other in many aspects of life, members develop a deep and unique bond with one another. Every member combines the concept of individualism within the framework of mutual cooperation. Fraternities at Willamette University consist of members with diverse backgrounds, making the experience that much more valuable.
Fraternities provide their members with many social benefits, helping men meet new people and develop strong friendships both inside and outside of individual chapters. While chapters often have formal and social functions each semester, fraternity men also learn valuable social skills, preparing them for later in life. 71% of those listed in Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities are Greek, and in these positions, social skills are essential. While there can be a preconception that fraternities are purely social outlets that disregard responsibility, at Willamette this is not the case. Each organization has nationally implemented risk management policies and insurance, as well as the expectation that their events comply with University policies.
Willamette University is a premiere liberal arts college and its fraternity community reflects that reputation. In each Willamette fraternity, academic achievement is a primary objective in an effort to improve scholarship. Fraternity men encourage each other to excel both within and outside of the classroom.
The fraternity community offers numerous opportunities to gain valuable leadership experience. Each chapter governs itself by its own elected officers. Every member contributes a vital role in the general operation and advancement of his fraternity. Offices range from planning community service events, improving scholarship and coordinating social events to presiding over the entire chapter. The Interfraternity Council serves as the governing body of the fraternity community at Willamette. Its executive board is elected from the membership of the University's fraternities and each chapter has two delegates that attend IFC general meetings. In addition, fraternity members are involved in many of Willamette's campus organizations, including Associated Students of Willamette University (ASWU) and Willamette Events Board (WEB). Fraternity men also serve as leaders in a variety of staff roles at the University, such as RA's, intramural supervisors, and in Community Service Learning.
One important foundation of the fraternity experience is serving the community. Fraternities contribute to the community in many ways, two of which are philanthropies and community service. Community service is visible all across Salem as fraternities participate in various community outreach programs. Fraternities also plan philanthropies where they raise money for specific charities and organizations, such as the Make a Wish Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, the Union Gospel Mission, Bush Elementary School and others. The fraternities truly embody and support Willamette's motto, "Not unto ourselves alone are we born."