Beta’s return sparks support, hesitation
By Bronte Dod
In July of 2011, fraternity Beta Theta Pi was removed from campus and had its charter revoked by its national headquarters.
A formal agreement with the University stipulated that the fraternity would be allowed to reorganize after all its current members had graduated. While all but two have graduated from the University, Beta Theta Pi is moving forward with its reorganization process.
Beta’s removal was part of a nationwide initiative to change the reputation of the fraternity and eliminate the negative culture that had developed. When the national organization began investigating Willamette’s chapter of Beta Theta Pi, they found evidence of alcohol and drug abuse and what national representative for the fraternity Jeff Betz called “bad culture.”
Betz said that he is aware of issues on campus that might make students hesitant to accept another fraternity. He cited the incidents of Sigma Chi and tension between Greek and non-Greek students.
Betz said that by recruiting men who fit with the national organization’s Men of Principle initiative, the chapter could be a positive addition to the Greek community.
“It’s a place that we want to be at and that we can be successful at,” Betz said. “The University wants us here, too. The University doesn’t necessarily see this campus without having Beta on it long term.”
Currently, eight men have received and accepted bids to join Beta Theta Pi. Betz said he hopes to have around 40 men in the fraternity by the end of the academic year.
Junior Herschel Mapes is one of the new members. He said he initially didn’t see himself joining a fraternity at Willamette, but wanted to be a part of something new.
“I was really saddened to see that in the last few years fraternities have [been shown in] a negative light,” Mapes said. “I wanted to bring a more positive aspect.”
The reorganization comes less than two years after Sigma Chi had their private social media page leaked, which revealed misogynistic content, hazing and threats to University administrators. Sigma Chi lost their housing and was barred from participating in social functions for a semester.
In response, the President’s Working Group on Harassment and Sexual Assault conducted research and recommended changes to policies, some of which have already been implemented.
When asked if the Sigma Chi incident had prompted discussion about changing the timing of Beta Theta Pi’s reorganization, Director of Student Activities Lisa Holliday said, “No.”
The agreement had already been made between the University and the national Beta Theta Pi fraternity organization.
“I don’t believe that those two are related,” Holliday said. “That was a group of men in Sigma Chi that made those choices, and I think it would be unfair to other fraternities to say that, ‘Because this fraternity did this, we are going to say you are doing these things, too,’ or something like that.”
“We’re in a better place than we were at the time of the Sigma Chi incident,” Holliday said.
In contrast to the sorority reorganization that was initiated by Willamette’s Panhellenic Council earlier this year, the fraternity’s reorganization is driven by the national organization.
The University’s Interfraternity Council will work with Beta Theta Pi in the spring when the fraternity decides to join formal recruitment and become a recognized student organization by ASWU.
Phi Delta Theta president and senior Kevin Liebson said that his organization had concerns when they discovered IFC had no control over whether Beta Theta Pi could return.
“At this point in time there are a lot of people who still remember Sigma Chi and remember that entire incident,” Liebson said. “Some people think it’s past and some people are moving past it, but Phi Delt is very well aware that people are still hurt by that situation. It was a situation that really rocked Greek life in a negative way.”
Kappa Sigma also went through the reorganization process three years ago. President Mike Harder said that they are very supportive of Beta Theta Pi’s return, and hopes that the entire campus responds well.
Sigma Chi president and senior Jorden Noyes said that the fraternity made a lot of changes since their private Facebook page was leaked.
“What happened last year was a lot of rebuilding and a lot of realigning of our values and what [made] that kind of stagnation that put us in a bad culture,” Noyes said. “Since then, we have always been perpetually looking back on that, always focusing on how that affected us.”
Noyes said that Sigma Chi is very supportive of Beta Theta Pi’s reorganization, and thinks that it will have a positive impact on the Greek community.
“I can see how some concerns could develop,” Noyes said, “but with this being a refocusing and seeing the effort that everybody is putting into this to promote a better culture than has been in the past, I think everyone has been working really effectively toward that, and that’s honestly really promising.”