A group of students attempting to form a Kappa Sigma fraternity on the Southern Oregon University campus have been denied recognition from the university after months of debate over the effect the organization would have. As one of his last moves in office, former SOU President Dr. Roy Saigo released a document declaring that any formation of Greek life on campus would not be recognized by the school and that the issue would not be reconsidered for another three years.
“I had hope that Saigo would see the value in Greek life and wouldn’t give into the stereotypes,” said Michael Archer a sophomore at SOU who initially reached out to the national Kappa Sigma fraternity to form a group in Ashland. “If we were on a campus at a school that respects all the political and ideological views I think this would have been a lot easier.”
“I think it’s a positive move,” Hannah VanBrunt, an SOU student and member of the Honors College, said of the denial. In April VanBrunt wrote an open letter to the Siskiyou, SOU’s student newspaper, stating “the risks Greek life could pose to the SOU campus are not worth the camaraderie that may arise.”
According to reports compiled by Bloomberg, in the spring of 2015 alone, 133 fraternity and sorority chapters at 55 U.S. colleges were “shut down, suspended or otherwise punished after alleged offenses including excessive partying, hazing, racism, and sexual assault.”
“I’m not angry at the people who wanted it on campus nor am I angry at anyone involved in Greek life," VanBrunt said in an interview after the decision was released. "I was mostly just concerned about the institution itself moving back to campus.”
As the colony of Kappa Sigma members continued to grow during the past school year, so did concerns of students who saw the organization as doing more harm than good. In April the school held a Greek life forum in order to gauge the amount of students who were opposed to it and bring their issues to light. While some stated they were worried about the exclusive nature of fraternities, others went further, saying that the absence of Greek life played a huge role in their decision to come here.
“When I was looking at SOU I was actually really happy to see that there was no Greek life," said Erica Lautrup, a staff member at SOU’s Women’s Resource Center. "There are a lot of schools that have it and it’s very divisive.” At the forum, Lautrup also quoted research gathered by John Foubert from the University of Oklahoma in 2007, stating that men involved in fraternities are three times more likely to commit acts of sexual assault than other male college students.
“It doesn’t encompass the whole spectrum of fraternities,” Archer said in response to student’s accusations. “They were just going off of baseless stereotypes and stuff that they saw in the media.”
“We get put under from what you see from 'American Pie' and those average stereotypes. They think we’re racist or transphobic,” said Tony Suverkropp, a member of the Kappa Sigma colony. “That’s definitely not the case.”
“As much as it’s unfair to blame people who want to do things for things that haven’t happened yet, it’s very realistic to look at how Greek life functions on other campuses, and see that it is really dangerous,” said VanBrunt.
According to Archer the group will still form under the national Kappa Sigma Fraternity. They are not yet a recognized chapter, however, and are still in the process of fulfilling the necessary requirements. He says they will still rush in October and campaign in the campus’ free speech zone outside the Stevenson Union.
“Whether people like us or not, we are still a recognized colony by Kappa Sigma and we have freedom of association under the Constitution,” he said.
A chapter of the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity established in 2012 was the first in 40 years to be established at SOU, according to a 2012 Mail Tribune article. Establishing members of the Psi Theta chapter emphasized it was not a social fraternity where members live in the same house.
Records of other fraternities disappear after the 1970s, when several articles were published about partying at fraternities.
Southern Oregon University student Hannah Jones will be editor of The Siskiyou in the fall.