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Kappa Sigma members Gilbert Baltazar, Eduardo Diaz-Salazar, Kyle Farber and Creager Cain, from left, pick up trash along Highway 99W north of Monmouth Saturday as a fraternity community service project.
October 23, 2012
MONMOUTH -- Donovan McFadden said if you had asked him three years ago if he wanted to join a fraternity at Western Oregon University, he probably would have declined the invitation.
"I would have said `It sounds fun, but I don't party that much,'" McFadden said. "But I was also one of those people who were ignorant about it and stigmatize it ... as people just interested in partying."
McFadden's a different man these days, wholly focused on establishing Kappa Sigma, a traditional social fraternity, on campus.
"On the day we're initiated, we'll be founding fathers of Kappa Sigma at WOU ... it will be great," McFadden said.
"I won't lie, there will probably be a tear shed when that happens," added Jordan Sollman, another WOU student and McFadden's eventual fraternity brother, with a chuckle.
Two years ago, students made overtures to administrators about creating the first Greek organizations at Western in decades.
There's now an infrastructure in place. Student leaders who initiated the sorority Kappa Delta Chi and fraternity Omega Delta Phi at WOU say they will be "colonies" for their respective national organizations by the end of the term.
The seeds for Kappa Sigma were sown in late 2011. The group is now a colony with 24 members and has been a visible presence at WOU during events such as homecoming week. It plans to recruit enough pledges this winter to bring the total to 60 and to become an official Kappa Sigma chapter in 2013.
"We've put in a lot of hard work," Sollman, a sophomore, said. "I think after we're successful with this, I think you'll see other fraternities and sororities follow."
The university has spent the last two years penning guidelines and expectations for Greek organizations and addressing liability issues, said Megan Habermann, Western's interim director of student leadership and activities. It's also added a fraternity and sorority life program.
Western's Greek groups don't have houses -- in most cases, the organization has to have enough funds to purchase or lease a residence on its own.
Sollman said a motivation behind starting a fraternity at WOU was to create a more traditional college experience that the university sometimes gets knocked for lacking.
"During homecoming, you get that big show of pride at Western," Sollman said. "I wanted to see that all year, not just for a week."
At the same time, Kappa Sigma and the other fledgling groups are trying to quash stereotypes. There had been concerns from some students and staff because of the rowdy or elitist rap that hounds Greek life.
While Kappa Sigma had a hand in many of the activities planned at Western during homecoming, it also had its members picking up trash along a 6-mile stretch of Highway 99W as a community service project.
"We're trying to create a community that veers away from that stuff," said Trenton Nettles, who works for WOU's student life and activities department.
"I hear the word `frat' and I cringe because it connotes bad things," he said. "We're a fraternity -- a group of men going in the right direction."