Polk County Itemizer Observer
Article by Craig Coleman
Photo by Pete Strong
MONMOUTH — When describing Western Oregon University and his experience here during the beginning of his freshman year, Gabriel Jenks said he’s personally found something missing among students.
“School pride,” said Jenks, a Wolves football player. “And it’s not just sports.
“A sense of community,” he continued. “I think in some ways, there are a lot of people who come to WOU to get their education and quickly move on … there’s not really a sense of belonging.”
Jenks said his older brother’s experience as a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity at Oregon State University had always been something he wanted here in Monmouth.
That opportunity hasn’t existed at WOU. At least not until 2011.
Jenks, along with classmates Adriana Carrillo-Garcia and Reinaldo Ayala, have spent the past few months spearheading the creation of the first social fraternities and sorority in Western’s history.
The three are in varying stages of starting chapters of national Greek organizations — Lambda Chi Alpha (Jenks), Kappa Delta Chi (Carrillo-Garcia) and Omega Delta Phi (Ayala).
Carrillo-Garcia said friends of hers at OSU, which has Oregon’s largest Greek system, got her involved in initiating something at WOU.
“I like the idea of the sisterhood, meeting new people, traveling with them,” she said. “It’s about the connection you get with people.”
Jon Tucker, director of Student Leadership and Activities at WOU, said over the years there have been both casual inquiries about fraternities or sororities or statements about Western being better off without them.
But there’s never been a demand from students — or a school stance against them, he said.
“Our standpoint is like they’re any other group,” Tucker said. “We’ll work to support what students want.”
The three students separately approached administrators this summer. How the groups will be affiliated with the university and establishing a governing group are some of the issues Western is now researching.
The hope is a policy regarding Greek organizations could be put into place within the next six months. Oversight would be done under the school’s student leadership department, he continued.
Colonization involves several phases, beginning with an interest group and ending with a formal charter. The process at WOU will likely take one or two years, Tucker said.
“We think we will end up having a handful of fraternities and sororities after these are up and running,” Tucker said. “It’s exciting. As WOU grows, as more students come here, this is a natural progression.”
The students, meanwhile, will work directly with national leadership of their respective organizations, recruiting members, fundraising and developing guidelines.
Ayala, a freshman from Woodburn, said he and nine others have already been recognized as an official club at WOU, working toward a charter.
Before coming to WOU, Ayala said he wouldn’t have been interested in fraternities.
“What I knew about them was from movies or the media, the partying and negative things,” he said. “But I was ill informed.”
Ayala has received help with his effort from OSU’s Omega Delta Phi chapter, a multicultural fraternity.
“They focus on leadership, community service, academics … I like what they do.”