Silver screen cinema in the 21st century has romanticized fraternities with images of Zac Efron drinking out of kegs on lawns, the promises of lifelong brotherhood and big old houses sardining copious young men together under one roof.
Since its conception in 1926, Southern Oregon University or what it was also known as Southern Oregon College(SOC) and Southern Oregon State College(SOSC), have hosted a myriad of clubs and student organizations. Similar to other campuses, the school has provided spaces for everything from medieval enthusiasts to a flying club. But despite the many diverse groups, our campus has lacked one of the oldest traditions which usually runs synonymous with colleges: greek life.
Michael Archer, a freshman from San Francisco known simply by his last name to his peers, has been starting to resurrect a presence of greek life since the beginning of the school year, when he contacted the frat Kappa Sigma about setting up a chapter in Ashland.
“Me and friends were talking about why there were no frats and we thought about what it would take to start it,” Archer said, “One of the guys in the original group had a friend in Kappa Sig.”
Archived editions of this paper from the 1970’s, as well as, school yearbooks show some images of Greek life, but none hint as to why it disappeared. Campus folklore varies depending on who you ask, but recurring belief seems to be that the university did away with them in an attempt to clean up its party image. While there are a few professional fraternities, groups that are specific to certain majors and meet to connect on projects, current rules might explain why social f
raternities and sororities haven’t come back.
Jennifer Fountain, Director of SOU Student life says that frats and sororities being kept off campus hasn’t been because of their media portrayal, but instead due to their principles of gender exclusion. Student life rules and Title IX say that clubs or organizations can’t discriminate based on race, sexual orientation or gender. The concept of frats only allowing males and sororities females has been historically known but lies in direct conflict of the school’s policy.
Often, the law passed in 1972 named Title IX may cause confusion for some. While most often heard when discussing college sports programs, Title IX covers all aspects of government aided establishments and is defined by their website as, “a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity.” However, the upper greek offices contest that the law doesn’t affect their same-sex establishments and even have coalitions to sponsor politicians that uphold this belief.
While Kappa Sigma is the only fraternity currently trying to come to SOU, it can be seen how others who would be interested in attempting a resurrection would have given up trying to navigate the fine print. However, Archer isn’t alone in this quest to become a Kappa brother, and join the ranks of notable member Jimmy Buffett. This fall when he called the fraternal line, help promptly responded.
Kirk Sasaki, a recent San Diego State alumni, serves as an area recruitment manager for Kappa Sigma and travels the west coast setting up chapters at universities. Sasaki continues to recruit young men who he thinks can reap the benefits that he has from being involved in the frat.
When he was a freshman at the Southern Californian school that boasts an enrollment of over 33,00, Sasaki wasn’t sure where he quite fit in, until he joined Kappa Sigma.
“Kappa Sigma opened a lot of doors for me and I saw personal growth in maturity and public speaking,” Sasaki said in a phone interview, “It’s a melting pot of different backgrounds and puts everyone together.” The chapter organizer made a stop in his campaigning at SOU a few weeks ago after he had been contacted by Archer about setting up a section at the school.
Requirements across chapters can vary but some that were enforced at SDSU and will potentially be similar at SOU include: a minimum grade point average of 2.0 as well as involvement in another student club or organization.
Archer has gathered other individuals who are interested in starting the fraternity but has met resistance. Some students have expressed that they don’t want greek life to return and others even go as far as to say that the lack thereof was one of the influential factors to choosing SOU.
“I’ve been called a rapist and sexist just for saying that I want to start this,” Archer says casually, “but If our school wants to promote diversity and show that we are our own group, we should be able to.”
The reputation of fraternities has become somewhat derogatory in America with heavily documented cases of sexual assault and the notoriety of partying. Archer and Sasaki aren’t oblivious to this stereotype, and both are quick to dispel that this notion is to why the fraternity is looking to open a chapter here.
“We aren’t animal house and were not just here to party,” said Archer.
It would seem that Kappa Sigma isn’t the only greek organization that is trying to move into Ashland, as Jennifer Fountains has been contacted by a sorority as well as the first ever “frarority”, which does not base its membership on gender, about establishing a presence.
Theta Pi Sigma, established at UC Santa Cruz in 2005, claims to be the world’s first queer, gender neutral frarority. This organization which does not turn away pledges based on whether they are male or female would not have a problem dealing with inclusion as they founded the group to promote inclusivity.
While the university might be close to recognizing these groups and allowing them funds, Fountains says that idea of them moving into an official house would be a whole new discussion. Obtaining a living quarters that is not part of the family housing or dormitories would involve an expansion of resources.
As for Kappa Sigma, they are close to having 35 members interested and committed to joining the fraternity which would give it “colony” status. Once a recognized colony by the school and officially part of the Kappa family, the men will work on establishing a hierarchy with democratic vote. This is when Sasaki steps aside. Archer plans to run for president against whomever else wishes to be in charge.
Though his goal is to be in charge of the chapter, just having the option of an all male group on campus is what drives him.
“It’s a different experience and these men are looking for connections,” Archer responded, when asked why not just try to run another club on campus. “You don’t have to make sure that your teeth are brushed or that you smell nice before meetings,” he continues, “It gets a bad rap, but it’s prestigious.”