Author: Taylor-Anne Esparza
Occidental College is home to sororities Alpha Lambda Phi Alpha, Delta Omicron Tau and Kappa Alpha Theta, fraternities Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Phi Kappa Psi and the co-ed fraternity Zeta Tau Zeta. But many students are not aware about the fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi and the sorority Sigma Lambda Gamma, which are also recognized Greek organizations at Occidental. The fraternity Omega Psi Phi is also present on campus, however it has not yet become officially recognized by the college.
During campus tours, these three fraternities and sorority are often not mentioned and therefore not known to prospective students. On top of that, Kappa, Omega and Gamma hold informational sessions rather than partaking in Rush week, which may also be a reason for their small numbers since they are not being presented to the prospective Greek students at the same time as the other Greek organizations.
OMEGA PSI PHI
Omega Psi Phi is a national fraternity that is part of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), which consists of nine historically black Greek organizations with a focus on community service.
Of the 13 chapters in Los Angeles, Occidental College participates in the chapter centered at the University of Southern California. Lambda, the Los Angeles-based chapter of Omega, consists of seven Los Angeles college campuses which aims to provide for a diverse brotherhood and a union of a variety of colleges.
Four men have represented Omega at Occidental College in the past four years, and with the graduation of three members last year, Edmond O’Suji (senior) remains the sole Omega member this semester.
Being the only Omega on campus, O’Suji finds recruiting new Omegas to be problematic. The pressure is on for O’Suji as Omega’s legacy at Occidental College lies in his hands.
“We reach out in the best way we can,” O’Suji said. ”I try to raise awareness that we are on campus by wearing my letters in some form as often as I can. We have a limited black population here [at Occidental] and that might be a big reason why I’m the only Omega right now.”
Omega is not allowed to recruit or publicly advertise on campus because it is not a recognized Occidental Greek organization, according to O’Suji .
“It would be a big step if we could go on campus [to advertise],” O’Suji said.
But with a bigger presence off campus, he spends most weekends at the University of Southern California, as many of his brothers live there and it is the location of their chapter meetings.
The Omegas organize and partake in a variety of events including the AIDS walk, clothing drives and masculinity forums. They also hosted their second annual back-to-school party, QUEriosity 2, at the California State University, Los Angeles, in late September.
“The majority [of our events] are geared towards impacting people in our local L.A. community,” O’Suji said.
Omega appealed to O’Suji as it spoke to him personally. He sought no other fraternity because he desired to be an Omega brother.
“I liked what they [the Omegas] stood for,” O’Suji said. ”Manhood and scholarship are two of the cardinal principles. Omega’s 101st anniversary is in November, and our founders had 11 degrees total during a time when it was hard for minorities to get any education. The principles the founders emphasized were things I agreed with.”
KAPPA ALPHA PSI
Kappa Alpha Psi also has experienced a similar challenge as Omega on Occidental’s campus in regards to the few students who are members of their fraternity. There was a two-year period with a complete absence of Kappas on campus until Desmend Jetton (senior) joined in Spring 2011.
Lambda Rho, the Occidental chapter of Kappa, currently has three active and two inactive members on campus. This specific chapter is shared with the California Institute of Technology, where there are presently no active members. Kappa is also recognized as a member of NPHC, yet they state they are not solely black.
While Kappa is a recognized Greek chapter at Occidental and are allowed to hold events on campus, they are still not as known to the student population as other Greek organizations.
They hope to plan a Kappa Week next semester to spread awareness, as well as organizing a K for Konsent Week to promote safe and consensual sex. They are also holding an informational session at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 4 in Weingart 220.
“We present the idea [of Kappa] to people, but after hearing about it, it’s up to them to want to join,” Kappa member Martin Pittman (sophomore) said.
Kappa can be said to be different from other Occidental fraternities because it includes a cultural aspect. This was one of the main reasons that led Pittman to join.
“It was important to me to find a black presence on campus,” Pittman said. “The African American culture and community, values and principles that Kappa was founded on resonated with me. There is achievement everywhere within Kappa.”
The Kappa organization does not want to pressure people into joining. They want prospective Kappas to realize that they are making a life-long commitment and to be excited about it.
“Commitment to a fraternity isn’t just three years, or however many you’re in school for,” Kappa member Jesse Wong (sophomore) said. “We work closely with the Pasadena Alumni. We meet with them and organize events.”
Wong told the story of a Kappa event in Northern California this past summer when he hosted 13 of his brothers in his house. He said it seemed absurd for them to stay at a hotel or anywhere besides his house.
“The bond is a unique thing that is constantly astonishing me,” Wong said. “It’s the belief in one Kappa. To work together to achieve a common goal.”
EPSILON GAMMA CHAPTER OF SIGMA LAMBDA GAMMA
Sigma Lambda Gamma is a national sorority that is set apart from other Occidental sororities because it prides itself in being multicultural. The Epsilon Gamma chapter at Occidental was established in 2004 and currently has 19 members that meet weekly for chapter meetings.
“There’s a stigma that we’re very exclusive, but we’re not,” Gamma member Karina Ortiz (sophomore) said. ”It might be because we don’t take part in events that other Greek organizations do at Oxy, like Rush Week.”
Instead of rushing, they are hosting Gamma Week Oct. 21-26 that includes events such as movies, bowling night and an informational session about their sorority on Tuesday.
Gamma President Linda Ream (senior) said that she likes the small numbers as it keeps the sisters closer. She believes that being a part of a sorority is not about recognition, but accomplishments.
“The numbers have never stopped us from doing any program or event[…] it’s just not one of our priorities to gain popularity on campus,” Ream said. “Recognition for our hard work and extensive programming would be nice, but ultimately what it comes down to is that you do not need to be acknowledged to do big things.”
Ortiz proudly proclaimed Gamma’s five principles and why she believes Gamma was the best choice for her, going into depth about what they mean and how she thinks Gamma exudes them.
“Academics, community service, cultural awareness, social interactions and morals/ethics are our five principles,” Ortiz said. “We have cultural events to show different views and we have begun to reach out to the Occidental community and other Gamma chapters. We are very academically centered and we are about the empowerment of the community and other women.”
Both Ortiz and another Gamma member Daniela Luna (sophomore) said that they were simply not looking to join a sorority, but Gamma spoke to them. Luna mentions the diversity and multiculturalism of Gamma as major factors of why she joined.
“I never really wanted to join a sorority [but] I knew that if I were to join, it would no doubt be Gamma,” Luna said. “I wanted an organization that empowered me as a Latina.”
The empowerment of women is another one of the forefronts of Gamma’s organization. The Gammas believe in sisterhood and being there for one another.
“I was really drawn to the social justice role that Gamma assumes,” Ream said. “We take sisterhood seriously, so we take the time to go support our sisters.”
Whether it be for the social aspect, or for a new community to be a part of, everyone has their personal reasons for joining Greek life. It is not even necessary to be seeking Greek involvement to find interest and get informed.
“I wasn’t looking for a sorority to join, it just stood out,” Ortiz said. “I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. It may sound cheesy, but we found each other.”
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