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The Affinity Commons at Ohio Northern University was awash in royal purple and old gold on Sunday, March 27, when the men of Omega Psi Phi – one of the historically African-American fraternities and sororities that make up the “Divine Nine – held an on-campus site show to initiate new members and announce their intention to form a full chapter on campus.
“The Divine Nine is huge. This is something I get a lot of questions from high school students and athletic rookies. They constantly want to know if we have chapters,” says Holton Watson, assistant director of multicultural development.
The fraternities that make up the Divine Nine are Omega Psi Phi, Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Phi Beta Sigma, and Iota Phi Theta. Sororities include Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta, and Sigma Gamma Rho. Omega Psi Phi holds the distinction of being the first Greek organization to be founded at an HBCU (historically black college or university) when it began at Howard University in 1911.
The addition of Omega Psi Phi to the existing Greek UN organizations is seen as another step in improving diversity, equity and inclusion on campus. While the University offers many clubs and organizations for cultural representation such as the Black Student Union, Asian American Student Union, and Latino Student Union, a social fraternity with its own accommodation increases the level of identity and inclusion of students who would like to join, in keeping with Omega Psi Phi’s motto: “friendship is essential to the soul”.
Currently, the relationship of the UN with the brotherhood is as a member institution of what is called a cluster. Clusters are regional chapters that serve students from a group of colleges and universities that share geographic proximity. The UN is part of a cluster with Bowling Green State University, Tiffin University, Findlay University and the University of Toledo. Eventually, the UN hopes to have enough interested students to form its own chapter.
At the on-campus event, two UN Omegas; Holton–Watson, BSBA ’20, and Yishaq Watson, a recent accounting graduate, joined three insiders from the University of Toledo, and one from BGSU and Tiffin. Two other UN students; Nichal Johnson, a junior finance student, and Gerald Harris, a junior marketing student, joined Omega Psi Phi last year, and in fact, it was Johnson who started the drive to connect the UN to brotherhood. . They were all given cardigans as part of the ceremony, which they put on briefly before changing into military-style fatigues for the second half of the event: the step show.
Step dancing is a tradition that dates back to the earliest days of fraternities in the 1900s. It is a form of percussive group dancing with roots in African and Caribbean dance. Members of the incoming class performed a routine together, with various individual members being asked to perform individual pieces such as songs or recitations from the story of Omega Psi Phi. The omegas present gathered at the culmination of the ritual to finalize the initiation of the new members of the fraternities.
One of these Omega men was Jeffrey Rollins, Northwest Ohio Area Representative and Membership Chairman for the Xi Tau Chapter of Omega Psi Phi. “There’s a big reason why this could have happened,” Watson said. “He’s connecting with chapters across the region and he was able to help bring that to fruition.” Rollins actually has a connection to the UN as his wife Rochelle Hall RollinsPharmD ’12, and nephew Michael Hunter, BS ’09, both present. His familiarity with the University helped him see how Omegas could thrive in Ada.
“It was a great experience working with the UN. We have seen that there is a commitment to make this happen and that the UN has the caliber of students who meet our standards. Everyone from administration down went above and beyond what I’ve seen at any other school I’ve worked with,” Rollins said.
The UN hopes that events such as the Omega Psi Phi trade show, as well as the broader effort to bring a full chapter to campus, will continue as they represent action elements of the UN’s commitment. improve diversity, equity and inclusion on campus. In June 2020, President Dan DiBiasio announced to campus a series of steps the University would take to accelerate change and make more positive progress in these areas. Other elements included changes in structure and policy, recruitment strategies, basic teaching and learning requirements, and campus life, many of which would be aided by the presence of a fraternity. Divine Nine on campus.
For more information on this subject, please contact the Office of Multicultural Development.