WSU Tunnel Paintings | Photo by Brett Hull | The Wright State Guardian
The tunnel painting for Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. was painted over in 2019, leading to open conversations about underrepresented groups on campus and policy change.
Student organizations have the opportunity to paint a square in the tunnel leading into the Student Union through the SOAR program, a Student Government Association (SGA) initiative, which started in 2016. According to SGA Speaker of the House of Representatives Dai’Shanae Moore, SOAR is still active but undergoing updates.
“The SOAR Program is a 5-tiered challenge program that is designed to help student organizations achieve their goals while also earning different rewards,” the SOAR webpage said.
In 2019, the painting for the Alpha Beta Mu Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. was painted over which caused sorrow for the chapter and led to discussions regarding policies for underrepresented student organizations.
According to Student Activities Program Director Gina Keucher, tunnel paintings for inactive organizations were painted over in 2019.
“What happened with that was student government came in and asked for a list of student organizations that hadn’t been registered in two or three years and didn’t tell anybody why, didn’t tell anybody what they were going to do,” Keucher said.
Tyler Willis, a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., says that although they are working to repaint the mural, the loss of the chapter’s original painting isn’t something that can be fixed.
“That was painted by our original charter members for our fraternity on campus,” Willis said.
Willis met with Keucher to discuss the significance of removing the mural and asked for changes to be made at WSU to protect NPHC and other underrepresented organizations.
Willis says the heartfelt conversations he had with Keucher and Student Union and Campus Recreation Director Eric Corbitt were stepping stones to creating change that would protect underrepresented groups on campus.
According to Keucher, the minimum number of members for active student organizations is six. After conversations with Willis, the policy changed to only require three members for underrepresented organizations such as NPHC fraternities and sororities.
Keucher recognized the significance of the chapter’s mural being painted over.
“It was not ideal, definitely really hard for the organization. And really, it was one of those mistakes that was really a blunder. It’s more than just an ‘oops’ because you can’t fix that, ” Keucher said.
According to Keucher, registered and active student organizations have access to funding and a space on campus along with a tunnel painting through the SOAR program.
In addition to lowering required membership to three members, NPHC organizations also have two semesters after they fall under the three-member minimum in which they will remain registered and active to allow them to do intake and bring in new members.
Dreams for the future
Willis recognizes the work Keucher and Corbitt did to protect underrepresented organizations but wants the WSU community to know that more change is needed to ensure equity among all organizations.
“I’m not going to say there’s been no progress made, obviously the [NPHC] plots are a huge step forward, but there’s always work that needs to be done,” Willis said.
Following the opening of the NPHC plots, Willis wants WSU to focus on policy change to serve and protect organizations like NPHC.
“I think the focus going forward really should be on policy. I’m talking about resources. I’m talking about funding. I’m talking about institutional support,” Willis said.
Willis wants the community to know that positive change is possible at WSU through open conversations.