Black Greek-Lettered Organizations

Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity’s Unremitting Hypocrisy and Discrimination

Black Greek Lettered Organizations

(Photo Credit: Mase TV)

On October 28, 2013, Erica Green, a writer for The Baltimore Sun, reported that a Morgan State University undergraduate student, Brian Stewart, asserted that he was rejected membership into Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. because he is openly gay.  When it comes to discrimination based on sexual orientation, Kappa Alpha Psi arguably has the worst record of all Black Greek Lettered Organizations.  Brian Stewart has an impressive academic record and a demonstrated record of service.  Kappa Alpha Psi was founded for the sole purpose of achievement.  Unfortunately, many chapters of the Fraternity are not living up to its founding purpose.

Brian Stewart’s case is not an anomaly—it’s exponentially becoming the norm. 

Many Black undergraduate and graduate males who have outstanding records are being denied membership into Kappa Alpha Psi for bigoted reasons, especially if some Kappas know or suspect that they are gay.  This Fraternity was founded in response to the unsettling racial discrimination experienced by Blacks on the campus of Indiana University in 1911.  Today, many of the organization’s chapters are embracing discrimination and employing it as a tool of oppression to prevent diverse candidates from joining.

While many Kappas claim that they are committed to achievement, they are voting against candidates who have strong records of demonstrated achievement, and they are voting for candidates who have poor academic records and limited community and extracurricular involvement.  Some of the fundamental reasons why these candidates with poor records are being voted into the Fraternity are they agree to be hazed, they are not noticeably or openly gay, they do not have records that make the corrupt members envious, and they represent the type of inadequate achievement that numerous extant members champion.

Many Kappas are devoted to the good of the Fraternity and do not discriminate against any candidate.  They vote based on what the Founders have delineated as the qualities of effective Kappa Alpha Psi members.  Those expressed qualities do not excluded candidates who are gay or who are thought to be gay.  Kappa Alpha Psi has numerous openly and undercover gay and bisexual members.  With this being the reality, why do many members in various chapters across the nation have such hostility toward gay candidates?  Are the heterosexual members of the Fraternity afraid that they will have sexual intercourse with new gay members? Perhaps.

Many current members of Kappa Alpha Psi were rejected for discriminatory reasons, including being openly gay or being suspected as gay, as undergraduates and had to find alumni chapters at other institutions to be admitted into the organization.  By no means does this indicate that alumni chapters do not discriminate—they do.  This means that the only way they became members was they had to locate an alumni chapter that did not discriminate. 

One of the most unacceptable cases of an alumni chapter of the Fraternity discriminating against an exceptional candidate occurred at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  The Madison Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi rejected a candidate who had credentials that were superior to most of the members of this chapter.  Unfortunately, this great candidate is a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in a department with two professors who are members of the alumni chapter and who are also envious of this young man.  They worked tirelessly to sabotage his candidacy for membership by telling blatant lies about him, including that “he is gay,” “a crazy Marxist who will blow the building up,” “does not complete his work,” and “does not do good work.”  One of these two professors told the other that the candidate “was talking bad about him” and told him that the candidate said that “he cannot teach.” 

This lead to the two aforementioned individuals (with the help of another graduate student in the same department who is a Kappa) convincing enough members to reject this young man.  When this young man informed the National Headquarters of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. about what happened, he was told the Fraternity’s leadership would investigate the situation and contact him.  It has been over three years and he has not received a response, although he has contacted the national officers several times each year to follow-up about his case.

Similarly, the alumni chapter at Paine College in Augusta, Georgia rejected an excellent candidate for membership because enough members suspected that he was gay.  This candidate even had recommendation letters from a couple of the leaders of the alumni chapter, but they wrote the recommendation letters only to fool him that they were going to support him and vote for him.  This young man with a fine academic and community involvement record was rejected because he “looks like he’s gay,” “is feminine” and “acts like he’s gay.”

At Albany State University in Albany, Georgia, an undergraduate student with a remarkable record was rejected by the undergraduate chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi because “he’s gay,” “he already thinks he’s a Kappa,” and “he ain’t gonna pledge.”  All of these were assumptions made by some of the undergraduate leaders of the chapter who influenced enough people to reject him.

The aforementioned cases highlight the hypocrisy and discrimination that is taking place in many chapters of Kappa Alpha Psi across the country.  Without higher education administrators intervening to stop discriminatory practices used by many Black Greek Lettered Organizations, including Kappa Alpha Psi, this egregious discrimination will persist.  It’s time for higher education administrators to require that candidates for membership into Black Greek Lettered Organizations be voted on solely by national officers at their respective national headquarters.

More people who have been discriminated against by Black Greek Lettered Organizations should come forward and share their stories and evidence.  You can fight effectively against this discrimination by promulgating your experiences to higher education administrators and state and national politicians. 

Today, call upon Kappa Alpha Psi and other Black Greek Lettered Organizations to change the way that membership voting takes place.

Contact Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.’s national officers right now.  Let the national officers know that no form of discrimination by any of their chapters and members is acceptable.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Black Greek-Lettered Fraternities and Sororities and Hazing

On college and university campuses across the nation, a phenomenon that has been going on for a tremendously long time persists: hazing. While hazing happens in non-Black Greek-lettered fraternities and sororities, the particular focus of this article is on the hazing that takes place in Black fraternities and sororities. The reason that I am electing to focus on Black fraternities and sororities is I am seriously concerned about how dangerous practices engaged in by some chapters of Black fraternities and sororities may not only be putting the emergence of new Black leadership at risk, but also continuing to put the lives of young Black men and women at risk. Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough, President of Philander Smith College, a historically Black college in Arkansas, has penned a book that does a fairly decent job of highlighting the problems with hazing and other problematic behavior of some chapters of Black fraternities and sororities across the nation: Black Greek 101: The Culture, Customs, and Challenges of Black Fraternities and Sororities.

During the Civil Rights Movement, Black fraternities and sororities played a significant role in participating in the struggles for justice and equality. After all, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a member of the first Black fraternity to be assembled, Alpha Phi Alpha.  Even during the 1970s, Black fraternities and sororities were playing instrumental roles in positive dimensions of the Black Power Movement. While hazing was taking place during the 1950s and 1960s (and even before the 1950s and 1960s), the constant occurrence of such egregious hazing was not as serious as it is in our contemporary moment. As a strong supporter of Black fraternities and supporters, I want to see them abandon hazing. I have many friends and family, including my father who is a member of Omega Psi Phi, who are members of Black fraternities and sororities.

Meaningful relationships can take place without engaging in hazing. Hazing is a violation of criminal law and is grounds for immediate expulsion from the academic institution in which the violators are situated. Black men and women have been murdered, made permanently handicapped, placed in comas, rushed to emergency rooms, taken to intensive care units, and etc. because they have been hazed in such brutal ways. Each Black fraternity and sorority has policies that forbid hazing. The reason why so many people have been victimized by egregious acts of hazing is many of the leaders in these organizations are allowing hazing to take place. Many of these leaders will say in public that they are against hazing and will punish those found guilty of hazing, but many of them are the main ones who participate in hazing.

Higher education institutions and state legislatures are going to have to place harsher penalties on fraternities and sororities and the individuals involved in hazing. People are dying and/or having their lives severely altered by being victimized by hazing. For those who were tricked into being hazed, I feel sorry for them. I do not feel sorry for the individuals who already knew that they were going to be hazed and ended up having something terrible happen to them. We have to assume greater individual responsibility.

I call for national and local leaders of Black fraternities and sororities to become more active in supervising and monitoring the activities of your membership. If you are really serious about being against hazing, then you will take serious actions to help to dramatically decrease hazing incidents. We are losing some of our potentially great American leaders because we are allowing hazing to continue to take place. To those who are involved in hazing people, stop beating your fellow brothers and sisters! Stop trying to alienate those members and new members who refuse to be hazed! I think that it is really crazy that many members of Black fraternities and sororities would not have the same respect for members who refused to be hazed. I know that the founders of your organizations would be ashamed of the egregious acts of hazing that have taken place in the last 10 years.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison