Band of Brothers is an investigative collection that examines the experiences of black males in Washington College’s traditionally white fraternities. In Half One, we examined the position of private connections in influencing pledging, the impression of the choice to hurry a white fraternity and how race did—or didn’t—influence the brothers’ present experiences. Half Two explored the elements stopping brothers from partaking with black Greek organizations and the cultural variations between black and white fraternities in St. Louis. In our third and remaining installment, we’ll talk about the relationship between Washington College and St. Louis’ Nationwide Pan-Hellenic Council organizations, in addition to methods to bridge the gap between black college students and black fraternities.
Reuben Hogan is exclusive. The 2018 Washington College graduate was not solely a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. as an undergraduate, however he additionally went by way of the rush course of for Beta Theta Pi. When he arrived at Washington College, he and a fellow black male scholar had an concept of the sort of Greek life expertise they have been on the lookout for.
“Originally, when we first came, we’re like…‘We’re definitely looking for black Greek life,’” Hogan stated.
Whereas Hogan was fascinated about black fraternities, he was used to a principally white instructional setting. Hogan was nervous about how he properly he would slot in a predominately black area.
For Hogan, it was easy; in becoming a member of an on-campus fraternity, he needed to make buddies and have a great time. He struggled with reconciling his racial id together with his engagement in a white fraternity.
“I would have denied that it was ever about race, because I was specifically trying to make it not about race,” Hogan stated.
Hogan discovered himself in the remaining half of the rush course of for Beta Theta Pi when he started to additional ponder his involvement in a white fraternity in consequence of race relations in St. Louis at the time of his arrival at the College. The capturing of Michael Brown only a semester earlier than, on Aug. 9, 2014, pressured Hogan to reexamine his personal racial id and how he operated inside the Greek group at the College.
“I was really kind of on the fringes of the black community, but all these things happened and it sort of had two effects. I think the first was that it really forced me to start asking a lot of question about this. And I think the second part was that it forced a lot of other people to start asking these questions,” Hogan stated.
Whereas he nonetheless views the members of Beta Theta Pi positively, the conversations he had with some of the brothers about Michael Brown’s dying and the subsequent outrage in Ferguson that sparked nationwide consideration didn’t sit properly with him. Hogan felt that the occasions in Ferguson impacted him in a different way than his friends.
“There were a couple of guys I would have conversations with, even guys in my pledge class that were essentially like, ‘I don’t understand why this is exactly an issue. He had robbed the store right beforehand; so, I don’t understand why this needs to be talked about right now?’” Hogan stated. “It was in moments like those where I would hear someone within Beta say that [and] it really made me go, ‘Wait a minute, that could’ve been me. That could have been any other black student on campus.’”
Hogan needed social justice work and service to be central elements of his Greek expertise. He discovered that some brothers inside his chapter have been much less keen about his passions and joined an on-campus fraternity for the social scene.
“‘Our job is not to do anything in the service realm; our job is not to ask all these questions about social justice. We’re just here to have fun.’ It was this sentiment that was expressed by one perfect person singly, but was echoed by several people within the fraternity,” Hogan stated, about trying to convey the beliefs he needed to the group.
What helped him make the choice to go away the rush course of and start his path to turning into a member of a traditionally black fraternity was the encouragement of black upperclassmen who let him know that he had different choices for partaking in Greek life.
“Black women usually run Wash. U.’s black community and they were the first ones to reach out to me when I was starting the process with Beta to let me know I could do something else,” Hogan stated.
Realizing that Beta Theta Pi was not the proper match for his pursuits, Hogan shared these sentiments with some of the males in his pledge class. They have been understanding and inspired him to pursue different choices, since he would “probably be dissatisfied joining this group.”
“One of them put it perfectly…‘If you want to do that, I’m not going to take that away from you. It sounds like you really are driven by that, but I don’t want to do that. That’s not why I joined this organization,’” Hogan quoted the pledge as saying.
With the help of these each inside and outdoors of the College Greek group, Hogan determined to decommit from the pledge course of. In the fall of his junior yr, Hogan crossed into the Alpha Eta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
On reflection, Hogan says the tradition of black Greek organizations was additionally a pull think about his choice to go away Beta Theta Pi throughout the pledge course of.
“Black Greek life is a forever-type commitment. Traditional Greek life [is] a four-year-type commitment,” Hogan stated.
The lifelong dedication to becoming a member of a Nationwide Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) group was a supply of delight for Hogan. As a present Alpha, he and his brothers take the significance of steady engagement very significantly.
“We actually have a protocol for when brothers die, how we’re supposed to handle it. Unfortunately, one of the guys in our chapter passed away; and we had to use that, that sort of ritual that we did,” Hogan stated. “It’s that serious. It can be that far-reaching of an opportunity.”
Along with rising as a person, a scholar, and group member, Hogan has additionally skilled the skilled advantages that include partaking in a NPHC group. The private connections prolong past the bounds of the Alpha Eta chapter.
“It’s still nice to see somebody else because you know, your organizations have similar values, you know, probably that you share a lot in common because you saw value in the same sort of lifestyle. So, it’s likely to then produce friends in the future.”
“When an organization extends past four years when you’re in graduate school and you happen to meet another black Greek, that’s a networking opportunity—and there are so few black individuals in upper academia that…[it doesn’t] even matter what organization you joined,” Hogan stated. “Black Greek recognizes black Greek.”
Whereas his engagement in each white and black Greek communities is exclusive, his potential to navigate Washington College and St. Louis just isn’t. Hogan’s story represents only one of many Washington College college students who overcame the limitations launched in Half Two: logistics and lack of consciousness.
Hogan was a scholar who was closely concerned each on and off-campus; he served as the president of the Affiliation of Black College students, a Resident Advisor, and the vice chairman of the Alpha Eta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Hogan was additionally the scholar speaker at the School of Arts & Sciences commencement ceremony this spring and is at present interviewing for medical faculty. His successes at and past Washington College point out that there’s a well-worn path for black males who want to interact in NPHC chapters in St. Louis.
Nevertheless, Hogan was additionally uncovered to Greek life previous to his arrival at Washington College. Numerous relations, together with his older sister—who’s in Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. —are members of NPHC organizations, and he was in step workforce in highschool. Hogan’s experiences, together with these of junior Malik Stewart, who’s the president of the Omicron Sigma chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., lead us to think about how people with out prior publicity to NPHC organizations can interact in the St. Louis Greek group.
Bridging the connection
Almost each brother we interviewed expressed robust curiosity in becoming a member of a black fraternity, and would have strongly thought-about doing so, if not for barriers-to-entry akin to the logistics of a city-wide chapter and the lack of information about the membership choice course of for black fraternities. Prior household connections to black fraternities have been typically figuring out elements in whether or not a brother will proceed to pursue a black Greek in spite of these aforementioned obstacles. As Mike Jones, an Omega and Saint Louis College alumnus, said in Half Two, “The city-wide thing is a foreign concept.”
Hana Johnson, program coordinator for fraternity and sorority life, advises college students in NPHC chapters. She helps particular person chapters and works with the NPHC council’s government board which plans initiatives and packages for the college group. Johnson additionally sits on the St. Louis Coalition, a gaggle of college professionals who advise NPHC chapters at St. Louis-area educational establishments.
Consciousness is one of the most vital obstacles to partaking in the St. Louis Greek group. Based on Johnson, this barrier is centered on how each college students and the administration speak about Greek life.
“Another barrier regarding interactions is the dominant narrative or assumption on our campus that, when the words ‘fraternities’ and ‘sororities’ are spoken, the first thing people think of is [Interfraternity Council] and [Women’s Panhellenic Association] organizations,” Johnson stated.
Jones acknowledges that the totally different membership consumption course of for Divine Nines might function a barrier to those that are unfamiliar with easy methods to strategy black fraternities.
“When you talk about the intake process in terms of how fraternities as a whole sell their fraternity, it’s more of you come and seek me,” Jones stated. “And that can be a barrier within itself, especially being on a PWI [campus] where we all need each other.”
Johnson acknowledges the significance of every chapter’s membership consumption course of, and believes an answer should protect the tradition of NPHC organizations.
“I believe it is important to preserve the integrity and individuality of each NPHC organization’s membership intake processes, but widening the scope and platform these organizations have created a better opportunity for learning and growth, both in terms of membership size and awareness about NPHC,” Johnson stated in a press release to Scholar Life.
Recruitment for city-wide chapters may be harder for an on-campus chapter, as a result of brothers should go to a number of campuses so as to attain college students, in line with Jones. Washington College lacks the historical past of constant involvement in NPHC fraternities, which can influence how a lot time NPHC fraternities spend on campus, in accordance with Jones.
“What oftentimes happens is you go to the places where you’re going to get the most return. Oftentimes, Wash. U. is not that place,” Jones stated.
Jones believes that it’s crucial for NPHC chapters in St. Louis to rethink how they strategy Washington College college students.
“You’re going to have to have different approaches even to how black Greeks sell themselves to potential members,” Jones stated.
Each Jones and Johnson have thought-about potential options which will assist improve Washington College college students’ consciousness of city-wide NPHC chapters.
“We can be more intentional to use chapter- and council-specific language and engage in more conversations around ensuring the stories and experiences of all fraternities and sororities are told,” Johnson stated.
Jones proposed using the present community of Washington College college students who’re present members of NPHC organizations to usher in extra college students who’ve an curiosity in becoming a member of. Present areas resembling the Hamsini Dwelling Studying Group, also called the Black Home, might assist facilitate connections between black Greek and college students, in line with Jones.
Johnson sits on the STL Coalition, a gaggle of professionals who recommendation NPHC chapters at numerous establishments in St. Louis. The coalition works to make sure that every campus is as constant as potential in relation to advisement, help, accountability and improvement for these chapters, in line with Johnson.
As a result of scholar involvement is inconsistent, the presence of help employees, like Johnson, is vital in making certain that college students are conscious of all choices out there to them in the Greek communities on and off campus.
“From my perspective, we must work to place a strong emphasis on the importance of providing NPHC chapters, as well as other culturally-based fraternities and sororities, a wide and visible platform to make their organizations, missions and values known on our campus,” Johnson stated.
“I think in this environment, in a city-wide environment where presence is always going to be up and down. So, you may have some years of consistency but it’s not always like that. I think you have to have consistent presence in terms of faculty and staff,” Jones stated.
Johnson famous that the Division of Scholar Affairs Strategic Plan, commissioned by Dr. Lori White, emphasizes continued help for NPHC and different culturally-based fraternities and sororities.
One technique outlined to enhancing help for “targeted groups” on campus is to “benchmark best practices in student activities with a particular focus on fraternity and sorority life.” One particular end result of the 2017 Fraternity and Sorority Life Activity Pressure was to “identify ways to ensure the fraternity/sorority community is accessible and open to all students in the Washington University community,” in line with Johnson.
None of the brothers we spoke to in Half One remorse their expertise in becoming a member of a white fraternity. All expressed satisfaction of their relationships with brothers, and of their private progress that stemmed from their involvement of their respective fraternities. Nevertheless, the curiosity expressed signifies that there’s potential for progress of engagement with NPHC chapters in St. Louis. With the help of campus companions, resembling Campus Life, and extra outreach from black Greeks in St. Louis, experiencing a stronger presence of black fraternities on campus is inside the realm of risk.
Finally, discovering group, wherever it might be, is a vital facet of the school expertise. Whether or not in an NPHC group or an IFC group, discovering a way of brotherhood and belonging is a sentiment expressed by brothers in each varieties of Greek organizations. Having help is necessary, particularly for black males at the College.
“I think that people should ultimately go wherever they find a community that makes them happy because being black at Wash. U., man, it’s hard,” Hogan stated.