New direction for OSU's historically black fraternities, sororities should raise dwindling numbers

Presently, Divine Nine has one undergraduate member at Oregon State University. There is a problem. That problem is a lack of awareness, according to Jason Dorsette.

Divine Nine, also known as the National Pan-Hellenic Council, is a collaborative organization of nine historically African American fraternities and sororities.

Back in October, Brandon Lee, interim assistant director for Greek life, stated that he was working to gain the resources to make Divine Nine have a better presence on campus.

Since working with Dorsette, the center director at Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center, student participation has slightly improved.

"From my experience, a lot of students aren't educated that there are frats and sororities with the emphasis on black (people)," Dorsette said. "They don't know D9 exists, and they don't know that it can be for more than black students."

Few people on the student, faculty and administrative level knew there was a problem to solve, Dorsette said. Dorsette credits Larry Roper, vice provost for student affairs, and incoming vice provost Susie Brubaker-Cole for "displaying a thirst for knowledge."

"There is definitely a commitment," Dorsette said. "Larry Roper has been very supportive."

The low numbers at Oregon State University are not unusual for universities along the West Coast, and certainly not within the state of Oregon. Divine Nine organizations are at other universities, such as Portland State University and the University of Oregon. Although the community is small, Dorsette admits that Oregon is a special case.

"Oregon is a very unique place," Dorsette said. "(High numbers) made it to California. I guess it just skipped over Oregon."

Brubaker-Cole would like to see the fraternities and sororities in Divine Nine thrive as they does at other universities.

"Divine Nine organizations have a long tradition of thriving on many campuses that are similar to OSU, and we'd like to see them not only continue here ... but grow in membership and overall impact on creating a vibrant student life at OSU," Brubaker-Cole said.

Anderson DuBoise, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., is the only student in a Divine Nine fraternity on campus.

DuBoise agrees with Dorsette regarding the lack of awareness, but attributes the lack of black people within the community as a cause for the dwindling numbers, as well.

"When you have a larger black community, you have larger numbers," DuBoise said. "We would rather see (Divine Nine) die than bring people in just to bring them in."

DuBoise said black culture is building here at OSU.

Zeta Phi Beta, a predominantly black sorority, will come out Friday. He chose to be a part of the National Pan-Hellenic Council as opposed to the Interfraternity Council for the history that sculpted the historically black Greek-letter houses. And while their situation is displeasing, small numbers create a bond that's difficult to find within other Greek organizations.

"We're all really, really close," DuBoise said. "I feel supported so much so that I almost forget that I don't have support from the school."

At this juncture, Dorsette and Lee are working on educating the community about Divine Nine. Later, they hope to receive more funding, and then membership and student interest.

Dorsette remains optimistic that the reason OSU does not recognize Divine Nine is due to a lack of awareness, not indifference. Dorsette said that in five years, if the work he and Lee do reaps little change on campus, it will change his opinion.

"I find it hard to hold people accountable for the things they do not know," Dorsette said. "However, when you become aware of the issues, and knowledgeable of the issues, then you can be accountable."

Ria Rankine

Greek and clubs reporter

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