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Summer 2014

A publication for members of the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors AFA1976.org | @AFA1976


I Hate to Tell You This: NPHC Organizations Won’t Survive Will their failure to adapt to the changes going on around them lead to their ultimate demise?


Because Race Matters Why is it that students of color are frequently recognized as secondary to the majority organizations on campus?

Why we need to have the potentially uncomfortable—and painfully necessary—conversations about race in today’s fraternities and sororities.

A LEADER IN THE HAZING PREVENTION MOVEMENT Tracy believes one of the best things we can do about hazing is to talk about the problem openly and honestly. In her college keynote A Conversation About Hazing, she tells real stories of hazing, its harms and the impact on both hazers and their victims. She frames the issue from a variety of perspectives and motivates everyone on today’s campus to come together to move their community forward. A national leader on the topic of hazing, Tracy urges students and staff to take an active role and avoid being bystanders on this vital campus issue.

Speaking Up “We can’t just care about hazing when someone dies. This is a problem, and students are being psychologically damaged everyday, and we almost never hear about that because, quite frankly, they’re ashamed to admit that it impacted them so seriously. We have to take hazing seriously at all levels.”


Tracy is the founder of HazingPrevention.Org and has shared her expertise with ESPN, CBS, ABC, and The New York Times.

(303) 745-5545 • info@campuspeak.com


editor’s note You likely noticed the front of this magazine reads “Summer 2014,” and you may have thought, “That must be an error.” Or, “Geez. These editors should really learn how to do their jobs.” Well, it’s no error. It is indeed November, but this is the summer issue of Perspectives. Let me explain. I am a person who prides myself of completed work, on not biting off more than I can chew, and on making good on my commitments, but with this issue, I did not do any of those things. You see, this issue was going to plan. It was put in motion at the 2013 AFA Annual Meeting when the editorial board brainstormed several concepts for the coming year’s magazines. There had been high-profile coverage of several recent campus incidents that focused on race and fraternities/sororities. Yet, the incidents were difficult to navigate, answers were illusive, and progress was short-sighted.

Heather Matthews Kirk Editor @hmk0618

We pitched the topic in an Association Update, and emails expressing interest in writing started to arrive in my inbox. We reached out to other potential authors who had written extensively on race. By June, I had a cluster of stories to be edited throughout July. The issue was shaping up well. And then, life got in the way of this volunteer Editor gig. You see, for the previous 10 months, my boss/mentor/ friend had been living with cancer. Despite treatment, her health took a sudden turn for the worst, and on July 18, she passed away. While she had been sick for months, death came quickly. It surprised and it shook me.

I thank you for your patience, because whether you realized it or not, you were waiting on this issue. And I hope it lives up to the wait.

My mentor was my organization’s executive director, Deb Ensor. She led our women’s fraternity for almost 30 years and by many accounts was an interfraternal giant. She was a change agent, a visionary, a driver, a person who made things happen—and not just for her own group, but for the interfraternal community, from professionals to students. In my mind, Deb was invincible, but it was not the case. In coping with her death, I threw myself into work. At the office, I had new traveling consultants to train, a magazine to publish, and programs to launch. I kept telling myself, “Next week, I’ll be able to focus on Perspectives.” I ignored emails from editorial board members offering help because I kept thinking, “I’ll focus on it tomorrow. I’ll reply by sending articles for edit.” Yet, I kept moving priorities at work ahead of these volunteer duties. What I realize now is I was grieving. Deeply. I thought if I was focusing on my job, I would be making her proud. As we learned in the spring issue of Perspectives, which focused on mental health, each person has hard-wired coping mechanisms, and my brain has always been wired to work. A lot of things slipped in those weeks—volunteer commitments, my marathon training program, connection with friends, etc. I shouldered my grieving by putting in long hours at the office, but somewhere around September, I came up for air. I began approaching things differently, and while a void remained, a new normal established itself. Perspectives came back into view. So while I regret how tardy this issue is, I know it is okay, because at some point, each of us will have to prioritize personal or professional above volunteer commitments. While I wish I had been a better delegator and let my well qualified editorial board members take the reins, I know it is okay, because as some point each of us has failed to accept help. And most importantly, I know it is okay, because each article is as relevant today as when it was written. No matter what time of year it is, the conversation around race is a crucial one. No matter the season, these perspectives will force us to ask hard questions and think about our roles uniquely. So I thank you for your patience, because whether you realized it or not, you were waiting on this issue. And I hope it lives up to the wait.



Summer 2014


from the president Hopefully as you enjoy this edition of Perspectives, you are also finding some time to rejuvenate, relax and recharge. The work we do can be exhausting and draining both mentally and physically. Be sure to find ways to take time for yourself strategically during the academic year. So start or continue that workout routine, go for a bike ride or hike, take a cooking class, travel, visit with family and friends, attend a baseball game, take a vacation, enjoy a staycation, read a book, or see a movie. Regardless of what you choose to do, find the time to take care of yourself—mind, body and soul. The ability to successfully manage not only your work, but yourself, is paramount to the quality professional you can be. “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

Thad Doyle 2014 President tmdoyle@uakron.edu

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

I came across this quote from Thomas Jefferson, and I thought it was relevant to our student affairs profession of educating, developing, mentoring and supporting young men and women to be the greatest versions of themselves. Through membership in our fraternal organizations, they are exposed to a variety of opportunities that might not otherwise have been available to them. From personal development and leadership development, to an appreciation of diversity and what it means to be a member of a values-based organization, our students get advanced co-curricular opportunities that prepare them to be the ideal employee, global citizen, partner/ spouse, and alumnus. As we find ourselves in times of increasing demands on our daily work due to limited staffing and resources, I challenge you to remember the potential impact we have from the daily work we do with our students. I would argue that no other profession has the unique ability to form positive and meaningful relationships with our students and colleagues while bound by common and shared experiences through our values, founding principles and rituals. This unique environment allows for transformative learning—personal and professional growth—to occur, while simultaneously creating dynamic fraternity and sorority communities. I hope each of us takes the time to appreciate and value the nature of our work and find it meaningful more days than not. This isn’t to say our work is constantly rewarding and never frustrating, demanding, challenging or just plain hard; but it’s also through these times we strengthen, enhance and elevate our work in preparation for the next time a challenge presents itself. For us to be the greatest versions of ourselves, we must be willing to devote time and discipline to take care of ourselves to provide the high level of engagement, involvement, counseling and mentoring we do on a daily basis. So be audacious. Be impractical. Be different. Be authentic. Be something. But in doing so, be great. Keep making the difference in the lives of so many young leaders in our fraternity and sorority communities, while also making an impact in the student affairs profession, the higher education landscape and beyond.


Talk about this at #AFAPerspectives

Perspectives is the official publication of the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors, Inc. (AFA). Views expressed are those of the individual authors/contributors/advertisers and are not necessarily those of the Association. AFA encourages the submission of articles, essays, ideas and advertisements. Submissions should be directed to the Editor, advertising queries to the staff. Submission Deadlines: Spring 2015: February 1, 2015 Summer 2015: May 1, 2015 Fall 2015: August 1, 2015 Winter 2016: November 1, 2015 Editor: Heather Matthews Kirk Zeta Tau Alpha Heather-Kirk@zetataualpha.org (317) 872.0540 | @hmk0618 AFA Staff: Jacob Burd Director of Marketing & Communication jacob@afa1976.org 2014 Editorial Board: Noah Borton, Delta Upsilon Fraternity Emilee Danielson Burke, Shippensburg University Annie Carlson, Wake Forest University Stephen Dominy, Kennesaw State University Holly Grunn, Bowling Green State University Scott Isenga, University of Central Arkansas Emily Perlow, Worcester Polytechnic Institute Natalie Shaak, Drexel University Nathan Thomas, Bradley University

in this issue

8 I Hate to Tell You This: NPHC Organizations Won’t Survive Gregory S. Parks, Ph.D.

Organizational longevity is not a given. Some organizations have existed for centuries and seemingly, are on a trajectory into perpetuity. Other organizations exist for a time and then peter-out. This author thinks their failure to adapt to the changes going on around them—on college campuses—may lead to their ultimate demise.

14 Staring Down Privilege: Inviting Conversation Leslie Webb, Ph.D. and Trina S. Tan

Webb’s dissertation sought to uncover the stories of white-identified social justice and anti-racism in student affairs educators. As she dug deeper into understanding her own adherence to the constructs, norms and practices that permeated her role as a practitioner, what she found was her own privilege staring her in the face time and time again.

24 Because Race Matters Michael A. Goodman

Why does it matter? We all can come up with some type of answer for this question. However, it is just as important to identify a few myths surrounding the work we do in this area.

Design & Layout Lea Hanson, Ph.D. Left Lane Communications, LLC lea@leftlanecommunications.com


Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors P.O. Box 1369, Suite 250 Fort Collins, CO 80522-1369 info@afa1976.org phone: (970) 797.4361 fax: (888) 855.8670


www.afa1976.org @AFA1976 AFA is a proud member of:

18 :: Failed Fraternal Inclusion: 22 :: Seeing Through Color Blindness

03 :: Editor’s Note 04 :: From the President 07 :: Letters to the Editor 27 :: Spotlight

The Foundation needs your support at the Annual Meeting! Please consider:

Make a donation to or buy from the Foundation’s Silent Auction. Our goal for 2014 is to raise $20,000! Since 1994, the Silent Auction has been the AFA Foundation’s most popular event, raising over $275,000. Donors and buyers help the Foundation fund projects aimed at strengthening our profession, including research and professional development programs—please help make this our best year yet!

All donations accepted on-site are critical to our future success! Make an annual contribution, consider a recurring gift, or make an “In Honor of ” donation.

2014 Award Recipients:

A Donor Den will be located in the exhibit hall and we’d love for you to stop by and discuss giving and learn about the great impact your gift can have on the Foundation and on AFA members.

• Anne Arseneau • Beth Conder • Anita Cory • Betty Quick • Greg Singleton • Steve Whitby






letters to the editor Facebook mentions about our spring 2014 issue Magolda Research is Interesting and Relevant

Encouraging all of my Association of Fraternity/ Sorority Advisors friends to read the spring 2014 issue of Perspectives, and specifically the special section titled “Community, Subcultures and Organizational Change” by Dr. Peter Magolda. A few highlights that stood out to me:

Tweets about our spring 2014 issue Jeffrey Cufaude @jcufaude

Fascinating to read an anthropologist’s description of your own keynote. Thx #afaperspectives

Donald Abels @donaldAbels

This is going to be a good one. #AFAPerspectives @AFA1976

AFA is a business and a family, formal and informal, and committed to sustaining traditions and changing. Members of the warm, collaborative, chaotic and sometimes inefficient enclave were all about creating a family-like ethos and the future of AFA rests on celebrating and encating these values.

Kahlin McKeown @kahlinmck

AFA members, regardless of their subculture affiliation, have honorable intentions and serious investment in and concern for the Association.

Just reading Dr. Magolda’s article in #AFAPerspectiveswhat an interesting thought to assess @AFA1976 in this way and cool article to read!

AFA subcultures are essential because they support and give voice to individuals outside of the mainstream and should be celebrated, not deemed as a threat to progress.”

Kevin Reynolds @ReynoldsKevin

I am a very proud member of the Association of Fraternity/ Sorority Advisors and appreciate the courage and the leadership of our professional staff and executive board officers for inviting someone in to shine a light on our Association’s culture through the Annual Meeting. I find myself a part of the fourth subculture (see page 20), however, I have a strong appreciation for the passion expressed by those in the third subculture. I also welcome those in the first subculture as I would love to share the story of AFA and how the Association has impacted my life both personally and professionally. Carrie Whittier Assistant Dean of Students Valparaiso University

Really enjoyed the Spring 2014 @AFA1976 Perspectives publication. Great contributions and important topics. @afa_ chat @afaf_1992

We Want to Hear Your Thoughts Tweet using #AFAPerspectives Post your comments Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors Email Perspectives Editor Heather Kirk Heather-Kirk@ZetaTauAlpha.org



Summer 2014


by Gregory S. Parks, Ph.D.


Talk about this at #AFAPerspectives

To criticize one’s country is to do it a service and pay it a compliment. It is a service because it may spur the country to do better than it is doing; it is a compliment because it evidences a belief that the country can do better than it is doing... In a democracy, dissent is an act of faith. —Senator J. William Fulbright Organizational longevity is not a given. Some organizations have existed for centuries and seemingly, are on a trajectory into perpetuity. Other organizations exist for a time and then peter-out (Sutton, 1983). Collegiate literary societies were once towering organizations on the university landscape. Their failure to adapt to the changes going on around them—on college campuses—lead to their ultimate demise (Armfield et al., 2011). Secret societies used to be dominant American institutions, at least up until the middle of the 20th Century (Tabbert, 2006). These findings should be no surprise. As Robert Putnam (2006) stated in his path-breaking book, “Bowling Alone,” “Americans are right that the bonds of our communities have withered, and we are right to fear that this transformation has very real costs” (p. 427). To intimate such a future, to ring such an alarm about National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) organizations is tantamount to heresy. Leaders and members of NPHC organizations have a deep and abiding emotional commitment to their respective groups (Parks et al., 2013). Such commitment is generally a positive thing. However, such affective commitment may lead many NPHC leaders and members to cast a subjective eye on the challenges these groups face. It is not uncommon for emotionally-charged concepts to have motivational and even deceptive influences on an individual’s thinking (Taylor & Hardin, 1991; Balcetis, 2008). A person who, for example, desires to see his or her organization cast in the most positive light may minimize or even ignore organizational blemishes. They may reject data, facts and information that force them to take a cold, hard look at the organization they love (Newman, 1999). Indeed, in the face of potentially negative information, organization leaders and members may simply put their head in the sand in an effort to ignore inconvenient truths (Karlsson et al., 2009). But time is not on the side of NPHC organizations. In the past 10 years, there has been an explosion of research on NPHC organizations (Parks & Bradley, 2011; Fine, 2003; Hughey & Parks, 2011; Jones, 2004; Kimbrough, 2003; Parks, 2008; Whaley, 2010). In just the past couple of years, that research has turned to understanding the nature and scope of challenges NPHC organizations face; this is especially so vis-à-vis membership. One line of empirical research highlights the persistent issues NPHC organizations have with hazing. These studies find the following: Prospective NPHC organization members may be aware of the hazing risks they face once they begin the unsanctioned, underground pledge process, but that does not necessarily mean they consent given the range of psychological



Summer 2014


pressures that come to bear on them before and during the pledge process (Parks, Jones, Ray, & Hughey, 2014; Parks & Ray, 2013; Parks & Southerland 2013). In addition, hazing is more physically violent within NPHC organizations than in North-American Interfraternity Conference and National Panhellenic Conference organizations. Hazing is more physically violent in NPHC fraternities than in NPHC sororities. In fact, NPHC fraternity hazing has become more violent, at least since the 1950s (Parks, Jones, Ray, & Hughey, N.D.). This should be no surprise given research showing men who have their masculinity challenged tend to act more hyper-masculine, and this may particularly be the case among groups known for having constrained notions of masculinity and anxieties about homosexuality (id; Hernandez, 2012; DeSantis & Coleman, 2008). In too many quarters, among NPHC members, the specter of violence is extoled in the line names and chapter monikers (Parks, Ray, & Cox, N.D.).

cover NPHC organizations must ask whether it is profitable to cover these organizations given the volume of litigation against them. With no insurance coverage, which is a real possibility in the coming years, NPHC organizations’ limited assets will be ripe for the picking. And once they are plucked clean, these organizations will go bankrupt. A second line of empirical research has begun to highlight the other crisis that NPHC organizations face—i.e., a dwindling membership, especially alumni membership. As a general proposition, and related to the broader issue of hazing, is that many NPHC members—at least undergraduates—believe “pledging” is a crucial ingredient to members’ organizational commitment (Parks, Jones & Hughey, 2013). Research suggests this is true, which should not be surprising given decades of social psychological research on concepts such as severity of initiation and liking for an organization (2013). However, these organizations have not, and arguably have not sufficiently tried to, figured out a way to create a membership intake process that deeply commits members to the respective organizations and their ideals but also strips away the harm to aspirants and significantly reduces liability. In the meantime, NPHC organizations are losing potential members to other student organizations, and while these groups have relied on the lifelong engagement of alumni members, that is no longer a sure bet (Thompson, 2000; Hernandez 2008). Accordingly, NPHC organizations no longer have the number and maybe even quality of membership they used to have. As a consequence, they may have less physical, intellectual and monetary capital than they had in the past.

Their greatness is too often predicated on what they or their individual members “did” and not what these organizations are doing.

Other work suggests NPHC members lack an adequate awareness of the consequences that flow from hazing activities, and thus there is a limited deterrent to hazing among NPHC organization members (Parks, Jones, & Hughey, N.D.). Even more, NPHC organizations may be defined by a broad organizational culture of rule and law violation, where people in positions of power fail to check such violations, and demonize whistle-blowers. Numerous, recent court cases underscore this may be an issue among organizational national leaders; thus, it should be no surprise it is also an issue amongst collegiate rank-and-file members (Parks, N.D.).

While these findings are not earth-shattering in and of themselves, they are deeply problematic given the increasingly litigious landscape in which NPHC organizations find themselves (Levy, 2013). Since NPHC fraternity hazing has become more violent, it is no surprise if more injuries and, ergo, more law suits result therefrom. Further, the legal landscape—while this is may be an unpopular statement—for organizations is one in which millennials may feel entitled to membership and may sue over the least of slights (like two women who sued one group, alleging they should have been initiated because their mothers were members), not to mention being physically brutalized (Osterheldt, 2013). Cast against this backdrop, courts must decide whether there is an agency relationship between NPHC organizations and their chapters such that the harms that befall hazing victims should be imputed to the national bodies. Moreover and more importantly, the limited number of insurance carriers who


Talk about this at #AFAPerspectives

I think NPHC organizations’ best days are behind them, and their demise is almost inevitable and fairly imminent. The good they do in the community lacks any true metrics and may lack any profound and lasting impact. Their greatness is too often predicated on what they or their individual members “did” and not what these organizations are doing. That dynamic cannot sustain these groups. Even more problematic is that there is a paucity of visionary leadership within these organizations. There are few men and women who seek to transform the elements of these groups that handicap and even undermine these organizations. While the college members are often blamed for the demise of NPHC organizations, which I do not embrace, they may very well hold the keys to the future of these groups. Fraternity/sorority professionals could help spur these young members on to being the change NPHC organizations so desperately need; but how?

Maybe F/S professionals could find ways to provide NPHC members and prospective members with a deep and meaningful understanding of the history, culture and contemporary issues that face NPHC organizations.

Let me propose something simple: I recently spoke with a friend of mine who teaches an undergraduate course on NPHC organizations. She is a historian but teaches the class from an interdisciplinary perspective. She noted the NPHC organization members were at a huge disadvantage in their debates about the relevance of their organizations when debating non-members in the class. She stated NPHC organization members were woefully ignorant about their organizations, leaving them unable to articulate and even envision the value of their groups beyond the standard platitudes one might hear uttered by NPHC group members about their organizations. Maybe F/S professionals could find ways to provide NPHC members and prospective members with a deep and meaningful understanding of the history, culture and contemporary issues that face NPHC organizations. To add, these future leaders could be taught how to think about and implement solutions to NPHC organizations’ challenges. Maybe, just maybe, NPHC organizations will survive and possibly thrive.


Armfield, F.L. Et Al. (2011). Defining the “Alpha” identity. In Gregory S. Parks & Stefan M. Bradley (Eds.), Alpha Phi Alpha: A legacy of greatness, the demands of transcendence. (p. 23-49). Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press. Balcetis, E. (2008). Where the motivation resides and self-deception hides: How motivated cognition accomplishes self-deception, Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2, 361.

Desantis, A.D. & Coleman, M. (2008). Not on my line: Attitudes about homosexuality in Black Fraternities. In Gregory S. Parks (Ed.), Black Greek-Letter Organizations In The Twenty-First Century: Our Fight Has Just Begun, (p. 291-295). Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press. Fine, E.C. (2003). Soulstepping: African American step shows. Champagne, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. Hernandez, M.D. (2008). Sisterhood beyond the ivory tower: An exploration of Black sorority alumnae membership. In Gregory S. Parks (Ed.), Black Greekletter organizations in the twenty-first century: Our fight has just begun, (p. 253-272). Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press. Hernandez, M. Et Al. (2012). What a man: The relationship between Black fraternity stereotypes and Black sorority mate selection, In Tamara L. Brown Et Al., (Eds.), African American fraternities and sororities: The legacy and the vision. (2nd ed.). (p. 384). Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press.



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Hughey, M.W. & Parks, G.S. (2011). New Directions. In Matthew W. Hughey & Gregory S. Parks (Eds.), Black Greek-letter organizations 2.0: New directions in the study of African American fraternities and sororities. Oxford, MS: University of Mississippi Press. Jones, R.L. (2004). Black haze: violence, sacrifice, and manhood in Black Greek-letter fraternities. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Kimbrough, W.M. (2003). Black Greek 101: The culture, customs, and challenges of Black fraternities and sororities. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. Karlsson, N. Et Al. (2009). The ostrich effect: Selective attention to information, Journal of Risk & Uncertainty, 38, 95. Levy, M.K. (2013). Judicial attention as a scarce resource: A preliminary defense of how judges allocate time across cases in the federal court of appeals, George Washington Law Rev., 81, 401. Newman, L.S. (1999). Motivated cognition and selfdeception, Psychological Inquiry, 10, 59-62.

Parks, G.S., Jones, S.E & Hughey, M.W. (in press) Hazing as crime: An empirical analysis of criminological antecedents, Law and Psychological Review. Parks, G.S., Jones, S.E., Ray, R., Hughey, M.W. & Cox, J.M. (in press) White boys drink, Black girls yell: A racialized and gendered analysis of violent hazing and the law, Journal of Gender, Race, & Justice. Parks, G.S., Jones, S.E., Ray, R. & Hughey, M.W. (in press). Complicit in their own demise?, Law and Sociol Inquiry, doi: 10.1111/lsi.12075 Parks, G.S. Ray, R. & Cox, J.M. (in press). Menacing monikers: Language as evidence, Wake Forest Law Review. Putnam, R.D. (2001). Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, (p. 427.) New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. Sutton, R.I. (1983). Managing Organizational Death, Human Resource Management, 22, 391.

Osterheldt, J. (2013, March 25). From drunken mistakes to college admission denials, they blame everyone except themselves, Kansas City Star.

Tabbert, M.A. (2006). American Freemasons: Three Centuries of Building Communities, (p. 198).

Parks, G.S. (2008). Black Greek-letter organizations in the twenty-first century: Our fight has just begun. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press.

Taylor, S.E. & Hardin, (1999). C.D. Motivated Cognition: Phenomena In Search Of Theory, Psychological Inquiry, 10, 75.

Parks, G.S. (in press). “Midnight within the moral order”: Organizational culture, unethical leaders, and members’ deviance, Thurgood Marshall Law Rev.

Whaley, D.E. (2010). Disciplining Women: Alpha Kappa Alpha, Black Counterpublics, and The Cultural Politics of Black Sororities. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Parks, G.S. & Bradley, S.M. (2011). Alpha Phi Alpha: A legacy of greatness, the demands of transcendence. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press. Parks, G.S. & Ray, R. (2013). Poetry as evidence, University of California Irvine Law Rev., 3, 101. Parks, G.S. & Southerland, T. (2013). The psychology and law of hazing consent, Marquette Law Review, 97, 1.


Parks, G.S., Jones, S.E. & Hughey, M.W., (2013). Belief, truth, and organizational deviance, Howard Law Journal, 56, 399.

Talk about this at #AFAPerspectives

Gregory S. Parks is an assistant professor of law at Wake Forest University School of Law. As a lawyer and a Ph.D. psychologist, his research includes social science and law; race and law; and black Greek-letter organizations (BGLOs). Professor Parks has published 10 scholarly books and nearly 30 articles, many of them on BGLOs, especially how they intersect with the law. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.


by Leslie Webb, Ph.D. and Trina S. Tan


Talk about this at #AFAPerspectives

“We cannot begin to dismantle the legacy of dominance without first engaging Whites in a deep analysis of our own role in perpetuating injustice.” -Howard, 2006

My dissertation research was a narrative inquiry that sought to uncover the stories of white-identified social justice and anti-racism in student affairs educators. I wanted to understand others’ experiences to elevate my own sense of responsibility in addressing and interrupting the continuous injustices present in my environments. As I dug deeper into understanding my own adherence to the constructs, norms and practices that permeated my role as a practitioner, what I found was my own privilege staring me in the face time and time again. I had more questions than answers, most of them related to how I was going to become an active participant in this work. I reached out to Trina Tan after reading a blog she wrote about social justice bullying. I was intrigued by not only the content of her posts (found at trinastan.com) but the method she used to convey some simplistic yet poignant thoughts about her experience engaging in dialog with colleagues and comrades. Trina delivered the material in a venue with which I had little experience—her blog. Today, many articles and reader bytes are coming to us in short, concise, listed formats. Perhaps it’s all we have time for.

Our Conversation

Leslie: Why is the topic of justice, social justice in higher education important to you?

Trina: (laughter) I can’t say I do a lot of this work

because I want to. A lot of my experience working in social justice often originates in survival and needing to search for meaning. I identify as a Filipina-American of an immigrant family, among other intersectionalities

of identity, and my desire to do this work is part of me wanting to be part of an institutional change that allows folks of marginalized identities to thrive in a system that isn’t historically made for them. I hope to turn my own painful experiences into something fruitful for my entire community.

Leslie: There were several overarching findings that came

from my study. One in particular was that race privilege is experienced and contrasted to understanding the “other.” I hope we have the opportunity through our dialogue to illuminate the need for the dominant population to reflect upon their privileges to better understand how those privileges play a role in their daily practice. Another finding from this study was that social justice has been hijacked in higher education in terms of how we talk about it, explore it, but ultimately do very little in our work to address injustice. One participant acknowledged the dissonance between her spheres of influence on a college campus in comparison to the work that is being done in the “trenches” so to speak (the community, society in general). What are your thoughts on this?

Trina: I believe social justice education is extremely valuable in providing opportunities such as retreats, workshops and dialogues on college campus. That said, as someone who has been on the higher education side of social justice education, as well as worked in the so called “trenches” of grassroots organizing within the community—if I want to put it in student affairs terms, this is a theory to practice equation. If there are folks who talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk—that doesn’t



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feel good to me. I believe social justice can be found in the community, but I also believe working in the “trenches” can look like turning a racist comment heard on campus into a transformative learning opportunity. Do I have to move the masses to make a change? That’s great work, but I also think it can happen one-on-one. At the same time, I agree there is a disconnect with many self-proclaimed social justice educators on college campuses, particularly those who have never actually gone out and done community advocacy work or even keep up with the news. On the other hand, it’s no secret student affairs professionals are overworked and often underappreciated, so another question to pose is—what are senior level leadership doing to support educators in having a life outside of the institution? Are departments creating a culture that allows employees to be current on events beyond the residential halls? Are we finding ways to actually allow folks to be active in the community?

Leslie: The complexity is real, isn’t it? We can’t simply gather up a bunch of tools and be done with it, can we? So, a specific example: The study participants articulated a preference for the phrase “culturally conscious” versus “culturally competent.” Competence suggested to them an arrival and an ending place, whereas consciousness allowed them to acknowledge the ongoing and continual nature of their progression. Thoughts?

Trina: I think cultural competence creates a much more linear perspective, and I don’t believe in arriving or ending when it comes to social justice education. I would co-sign the belief of a continual progression. I believe when you sign up to do this work, the education never stops. And there are benefits and disadvantages to that.

...Social justice has been hijacked in higher education in terms of how we talk about it, explore it, but ultimately do very little in our work to address injustice.

Leslie: Language and language use was an

important component of the research study. Although all participants identified as White student affairs educators or administrators, the language I chose to use in the research study was, “White social justice educators” and “anti-racism educators.” These terms did not resonate with the participants. They described, in varying ways, the watering down of the meaning of these terms and acknowledged the terms had become “buzz words” in various sectors of the academy. What do you think about this notion of terminology and “buzz words” related to your work?

Trina: This is like a triple-edged sword—on one side, you

have the accessibility of creating a trendy word where folks have a more shared understanding of what that word means, on another side it creates a social justice elitism that makes it hard for others to jump into the conversation, and on the other end, “buzz words” can cheapen the meaning behind the original message. So my answer is, it depends. It depends on who created the “buzz word”—was it a group searching to create their own language, because hegemony has failed to include their story?. Who is the audience? Is the “buzz word” created to make complicated matters easier for dominant folks to understand? Who is benefitting from the “buzz word” and whose stories are sacrificed in order to make this advocacy effort move forward? It all depends.


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On one end, there is a constant evolution of students coming in and new awakenings that keep educators on their toes. But there is a grief in this, too. I will never be done. I will never win a certificate or award that says, “You have arrived.” And in a field that glorifies certificates and awards banquets to show validation, that can be really hard. That can cause grief for folks who really lean on needing that validation, but when it comes to social justice work—it is not my responsibility as a woman of color to pat you on the back and affirm your so-called “allyship.” I think that part of saying “yes” to this work is recognizing that you may go in and out of consciousness and that there are multiple, maybe even contradictory ways, to get to the same answers— and that dissonance doesn’t always feel good.

Leslie: Yes, the tension of discomfort and dissonance

can be hard to embrace. Many years ago, I facilitated the “White caucus” portion of the Students of Color Conference for institutions in the state of Washington. I introduced the session with a personal acknowledgement that, “I am racist, sexist and homophobic.” The silence in the room was palpable. This statement was met with various responses, most of which allowed the participants to engage in deeper discussion about these admissions and how each was affected by this confrontational approach to inviting dialogue. Not surprisingly, one of the findings from my research study was participants’ need to move beyond transactional methods toward a transformative practice. Each of the participants discussed how easy it could be (and in some cases, has been at times) to hide behind their privileged

selves and avoid action-oriented, change-making work. How do you respond to the notion that justice work should be a responsibility of all, and not just those who are in the position of the oppressed?

Trina: I believe self-work is the responsibility of all. I believe everyone has a place in justice work. But I do not believe everyone is meant to be a social justice educator. With that said, I agree this work is not reserved for those of marginalized identities—it’s too exhausting and it’s not sustainable. Leslie: What would you share, by way of advice or encouragement, with your colleagues, practitioners and educators, around the country?

Trina: When it comes to giving advice or encouragement, my response would depend on who is reading this. But something I remind myself of is, “Be kind to yourself. Be gentle with yourself.” This is especially true when my own dominant identities cause me to make mistakes and unintentionally cause harm to others. As much as I need to find peace by forgiving others while holding myself accountable for my own mistakes, it’s also important for me to forgive myself-- and then do better next time. As Maya Angelou says, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” And that’s my commitment. Leslie: As I continue to reflect on the stories from

my research, I continue to see more clearly. I have a responsibility to boldly look at myself and how I show up in my communities. I have a responsibility to create safe spaces and invite dialogue and conversations about privilege, justice and personal responsibility. I have a responsibility to listen loudly to others’ stories and experiences. Documenting conversations is one of the ways I am choosing to speak up both on my home campus and in regional and national circles. I leave you with two questions: What is your role and responsibility in this conversation? How will you engage in a meaningful process of self-discovery and self-work to actively contribute to the conversation?


Howard, G. R. (2006). We can’t teach what we don’t know: White teachers, multiracial schools. 2nd Ed. Multicultural Education Services. James A. Banks, Series Editor. New York: Teachers College Press. Webb, L. J. (2012). Making meaning of whiteness: Life experiences that inform culturally conscious student affairs leaders (Doctoral dissertation, Colorado State University).

Why this research? Often general practitioners are not comfortable talking about inclusion and diversity, especially around topics of power, privilege and bias. This interview was prompted by Trina and Leslie’s desire to increase access around these tough conversations, particularly for those who work with students. Trina and Leslie are committed to creating spaces that welcome dialogue, regardless of knowledge, competency levels and various ways of knowing. Having vastly different backgrounds and experiences, they hope to share their stories and experiences as a mechanism to broaden the conversations taking place on campuses and in professional circles.

Leslie Webb is the associate vice president for student affairs at Boise State University where she provides support to student involvement and leadership, sorority and fraternity life, student media, career services, housing and residence life, multicultural and international student services, campus recreation, and assessment and planning. She has a Ph.D. from Colorado State University, a M.S from Western Illinois University and a B.A from Central Washington University. Her interest lies in staff development and increasing critical conversations around personal responsibility for change. Trina S. Tan is a graduate student at the University of Vermont in the Masters of Education in the Higher Education and Student Affairs program. She is from southern California where she got her Bachelors of Arts in English and was involved in statewide advocacy efforts as a student leader— issues ranging from undocumented student awareness, multicultural collaborations, and dismantling the “model minority” myth around Asian American Pacific Islander students. Before moving to Vermont, she was a grassroots organizer for President Obama’s reelection campaign.



Summer 2014


by Emily Perlow


The University of Alabama garnered headlines in April 2014 as the UA Student Government Association attempted to pass a resolution in support of the racial integration of the university’s primarily-White fraternities and sororities. While some may tout the resolution’s passage as a major victory, one UA student, Nathan James (2014, ¶2) stated “This resolution is a symbolic victory for equality at The University of Alabama. But if the student body thinks of it as a practical victory, we may be played for fools.” James is right; there is no victory here. While both the university and the organizations with chapters at UA have implemented many strategies to educate and encourage more inclusive recruitment practices, the barriers to inclusion persist. These barriers exist across fraternity and sorority communities nationwide. There is no victory in passing a resolution or changing a few practices that open a pipeline, only to have that pipeline become clogged by the norms, assumptions, policies and practices that prevent underrepresented minority students (URM) students from joining, feeling welcomed by and succeeding in primarily-White fraternities and sororities. Examples of these barriers include member selection criteria that privilege White student experiences, insensitive comments and microaggressions voiced by members or communicated through inappropriate party themes, housing requirements and attendance policies that do not account for a student’s socio-economic and family needs, pressure to purchase certain attire for recruitment or other events, rules and policies that ignore or suppresses cultural differences, and an emphasis on social status and appearance that that prioritizes Whiteness. It is time to confront the reality. Assuming the exclusion is remedied by attracting a few members with intersectional identities is arrogant and a mark of White privilege. While the spotlight focused attention on equal access to fraternal membership at UA, nearly every college campus and every historically-White fraternal organization needs to confront the harsh reality that ideological assumptions and norms embedded in the fraternity/sorority experience prevent and inhibit URM student inclusion.



Summer 2014


Critical Race Theory

Critical Race Theory (CRT), guided by five main assumptions (Solorzano, 1997), provides the framework to interrogate and transform structures, assumptions and norms that privilege some students in fraternities/ sororities and reinforce unequal access for others. 1. CRT premises that racism is a regular commonplace, prolifically present and deeply entrenched experience that pervades our everyday lives (Habermas, 1987). 2. Race is socially constructed as a tool to separate the haves from the have-nots. This social construction can be deconstructed by challenging the norms and assumptions that influence everyday decisions. 3. Society has established a White vs. other-race binary that privileges Whiteness and grants benefits to those with privilege including access to education, wealth, and resources that further enhance accumulation of additional privilege. Membership in a fraternity or sorority and its associated networks, mentoring and leadership development are an example of this privilege. 4. Because those in privileged positions have the ability to establish policies and practices, these policymakers often unintentionally marginalize URM voices. CRT gives voice to marginalized races through counterstories (Espino, 2012), those stories have not been part of the mainstream culture. 5. To break apart the hegemony of racism requires a collaborative approach. As fraternity/sorority professionals, we must challenge racism across institutions and organizations, including many of the practices and processes associated with fraternity and sorority life. To challenge racism requires us to first confront two important ideological assumptions: the notion of equity versus equality and the myth of meritocracy.

Myth of Meritocracy

One of the greatest challenges for underrepresented students interested in fraternity/sorority life is the myth of meritocracy, which posits that individual success is earned through hard work. This worldview places the responsibility for success on the individual rather than acknowledging the structures and institutional climates that support and inhibit students. For example, recognizing that race and class are heavily intertwined, first generation students from an under-resourced, underperforming urban high school may not at first be as successful navigating college. A recruitment selection process that heavily emphasizes academic performance without weighting the ways a


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Barriers to Inclusion Persist These barriers exist across fraternity and sorority communities nationwide. Examples include member selection criteria that privilege White student experiences, insensitive comments and microaggressions voiced by members or communicated through inappropriate party themes, housing requirements and attendance policies that do not account for a student’s socioeconomic and family needs, pressure to purchase certain attire for recruitment or other events, rules and policies that ignore or suppresses cultural differences, and an emphasis on social status and appearance that that prioritizes Whiteness.

student’s background and opportunities influence his or her performance may effectively eliminate some students from consideration. Even if a student does perform well academically, adherence to the meritocracy myth allows those in privileged positions to claim that the recruitment to initiation pipeline is more open while still expecting individuals to adhere to White normative expectations ranging from hair style, to language use, to dress. This creates a veiled impression of access without the support to ensure URM student persistence in chapters. As a result, sustainable change in policies and practices aimed at diversifying chapters may be unsuccessful because chapters fail to challenge status quo practices, policies and norms once a student joins. Even if students are able to navigate these barriers and join a historically-White fraternity or sorority, many URM students experience an unsupportive racial climate. Not only do many URM students often fail to find role models who understand their cultural experiences, but students experience numerous racial microaggressions, small unconscious acts of racism that negatively influence chapter climate (Solorzano, Ceja, & Yosso, 2000). For example, URM students are often treated as the exception to their race or are asked to represent their entire race. Additionally, stereotype threat, the fear students will confirm stereotypes about their race, produces anxiety, subsequently impacting a student’s willingness to take on leadership roles or speak out (Steele & Aronson, 1995). For underrepresented students to successfully navigate the fraternity/sorority

experience means they must assimilate to dominant norms, rejecting the counterstories that inform their worldviews (Cantu, 2012).

Equity Versus Equality

Creating an open inclusive environment for URM students in the fraternity/sorority experience requires us to distinguish equity from equality (Tate, 1997). The notion of equality assumes all individuals have equal access to the same resources and opportunities. However, this equality façade in fraternity and sorority life creates a false reality because not every student enters the recruitment process with the same types of social and cultural capital, the skills, knowledge and experiences that equip students to navigate in specific social situations (Bourdieu, 1986). In contrast, equity assumes individuals have unequal access to resources and that to achieve a truly inclusive fraternity/sorority experience requires us to address the structures that prevent equal access. In fraternity/sorority life, we can increase inclusion by implementing a number of recommendations.

Critically Challenging Racism •

Fraternity and sorority professionals have democratic responsibilities to promote real inclusion. Hope for inclusion lies in creating chapters that become “democratic social spheres” (Giroux, 2009, p. 445) where students are equipped with the tools to challenge the current ideological state. This cannot occur without creating an environment that fosters space for interrogation of privilege and gives voice to the myriad of experiences of URM students who can be influential brothers and sisters.

Even if students are able to navigate barriers and join a historically-White fraternity or sorority, many underrepresented minority students experience an unsupportive racial climate.

To create an inclusive environment for URM students requires us to interrogate our own beliefs and worldviews. We can do this by critically evaluating our own privilege and biases. We must then challenge students and other professionals to do the same.

We must question policies and practices and then change those that inhibit inclusion. Who do they benefit? Who experiences barriers because of those policies and practices? For example, if a chapter has a housing policy that requires members to live in the facility, how does this discourage students from joining who may need to live at home to help their families financially?

It is essential to challenge organizations to embrace intersectionalities as a source of strength rather than something to quell. Too many groups exhibit norming behaviors that minimize difference. Instead, these differences need to be celebrated and encouraged.

ethnicity. Through the telling of counterstories, learners are taught to question and challenge the status quo of human relations including large unresolved issues such as race (Brookfield, 2005).

It is also important to create spaces for racial dialogue and story sharing that allows students to capture their own class, race, religion or


Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241-258). New York, NY: Greenwood. Brookfield, S. D. (2005). The power of critical theory: Liberating adult learning and teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Cantu, N. (2012). Getting there cuando no hay camino (when there is no path): Paths to discovery testimonies by Chicanas in STEM. Equity and Excellence in Education, 45(3), 472487. Espino, M. M. (2012). Seeking the “truth” in the stories we tell: The role of critical race epistemology in higher education research. The Review of Higher Education, 36(1), 31–67.

Emily Perlow is the director of student activities at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. She serves on the board of the Northeast Greek Leadership Association as assistant executive director, is a volunteer for the Association for Fraternity/Sorority Advisors, and on the education committee for Alpha Gamma Delta. She is the recipient of the NGLA Philippi Award, the Theta Chi Citation of Honor, and the Beta Theta Pi Outstanding Fraternity/Sorority Advising Professional Award.



Summer 2014


In our work with fraternities and sororities, how often do we reflect on the role race plays in recruitment practices or how it shapes the experiences of members, chapters, organizations, and the fraternity community as a whole? In our estimation, not often enough. However, if we explore the history of fraternities and sororities, we learn these organizations were typically created and organized specifically around race. From the founding of Phi Beta Kappa in 1776 to the beginnings of many other organizations through the late 1960s, historically White fraternities in the United States were legally racially exclusive (Kendall, 2008), most going so far as to include racial segregation policies in their constitutions (Hughey, 2010). During this time of racial exclusion, Black collegians banded together to form Greek-letter organizations collectively referred to today as “the Divine Nine� (Kimbrough, 2003). More recently, people from other racially minority groups, including Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and others, formed Greek-letter organizations (Kimbrough, 2003). Recently, race has been at the center of fraternity and sorority conversations especially around recruitment,


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from discrimination in formal recruitment processes (Vendituoli & Grant, 2013) to conversation at one school around halting deferred recruitment in consideration of retaining students of color (Cathcart, 2014). Since fraternities and sororities have a history of organizing around race, there also tends to be an assumption students will join and maintain membership in organizations that reflect their own race. Yet, by simply looking in the organizations we advise, we know this is not always the case. We see students of color joining historically White fraternities and sororities and subsequently White students joining historically Black and multicultural organizations. We also know within Black and multicultural organizations, some students of color are choosing to join racially minoritized organizations in which their race is not overly represented. In other words, fraternities and sororities are experiencing students of races other than the (historically) dominant one within the organization showing interest, participating in recruitment/

membership intake processes and completing new member/ probate periods to become initiated members.

Conversations Starters

Higher education scholars and practitioners have written about and discussed race in relation to the organization of fraternities and sororities (Antonio, 2004; Torberson, 2009; Whipple, Baier, & Grady, 1991), but not as much emphasis has been placed on the complexity of race (Hughey, 2010), specifically in regard to its role in recruitment and retention. The dialogue has typically revolved around the idea of integration, rather than critically discussing how race shapes the experiences of individuals within these organizations, specifically those of marginalized racial identities.

Answer these questions to begin to critically reflect on how race relates to power, privilege and oppression within your fraternity/sorority community:

One inhibitor to having such critical conversations is the notion that “colorblindness” is positive. Critical Race Theory (CRT), as discussed by Delgado and Stefancic (2012), described colorblindness as a form of espoused “equality”— the idea that rules for and treatment of people should be the same across the board—without acknowledging that the daily experiences of people of color are shaped by their race. So, why is colorblindness harmful, especially within the context of fraternity/sorority recruitment and retention?

• In what ways are you cognizant of race in regard to retention?

Colorblindness, sometimes referred to as race-neutrality, attempts to ignore and maintain the roles race plays in preserving disparities for privileged and powerful populations (Gotanda, 2000; Harper & Patton, 2007). Many students of color bring their experiences of exclusion, oppression and unequal educational and social opportunity to predominately White campuses (Lewis, Chesler, & Forman, 2000). Additionally, students of color, often times, must negotiate their own sense of what it means to be a person of color in the face of racial/ethnic stereotypes (Ospina & Foldy, 2009; Ospina & Su, 2009). Colorblindness allows for the general disregard of the affect of race and racism. The use of colorblindness has allowed for the creation of many race-neutral initiatives in higher education that were designed to counter race-based programs/organizations, such as the “integration” of fraternities and sororities. Williams and Land (2006) argued that, “non-recognition of race reinforces and reproduces the flawed structure of society because it does not allow for the analysis of social inequality at the core of the problem” (p. 580). We challenge fraternity and sorority advisers to critically reflect on what role the notion of colorblindness (both students’ and institutional) plays in students’ perceptions of race and the fraternity and sorority experience. In light of the important role race has played and continues to play in fraternities and sororities, we ask our colleagues and fellow educators to engage in critical and open dialogues about race, as it exists today within the collegiate fraternity/ sorority community. We must openly and critically reflect on our understanding of race as it relates to power, privilege and oppression, as well as the intersecting identities within all social fraternities and sororities.

• What does race look like on your campus/in your organization? • In what ways are you cognizant of race during and in preparation for recruitment/membership intake process?

• Does your office keep track of the racial demographics of fraternity/sorority members across all councils and governing groups? What could the implications of doing this be on your campus? For the work you do? • What are the implications of racially “diverse” fraternity and sorority chapters?


References for this article can be found online:

Kathleen E. Gillon is a student affairs professional and doctoral candidate in the School of Education at Iowa State University. Her research and practice broadly encompass student access, equity and success in higher education. She is especially interested in the collegiate experiences of racially minoritized students who join historically white fraternities and sororities. Cameron Beatty recently completed his Ph.D. at Iowa State University in higher education administration with a graduate certificate in social justice. Cameron is currently a lecturer at Iowa State University in the undergraduate community leadership & public service program. Cameron has advised the National Pan-Hellenic Council and MultiCultural Greek Council at ISU. Cristobal Salinas, Jr. is a doctoral candidate pursuing a degree in higher education at Iowa State University. His research interests include access and equality for students of color. Cristobal has served as the College of Design’s multicultural liaison officer, where he provided assistance and guidance in understanding issues of diversity in the college, at Iowa State University, and beyond.



Summer 2014


By Michael A. Goodman


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Similar to many other university administrators across the country, I went into extreme community-reflection mode as soon as The University of Alabama sorority recruitment discrimination issue hit the news last year.

Was my community similar? Were my students discriminating on the basis of race or culture? Were my alumni contributing to a bias-filled environment? I paused and then remembered, it was not about me. It is not about any of us, for that matter. What this event did for us was open a window into the realities of many of our communities. This public and disappointing incident contributed to learning for those local and afar. It reminded us that the very makeup of the organizations we believe in, fight for and find solace in, are inherently flawed in the mere demographics we claim to include.

also left curious as to what happens next. And not just for Beta Theta Pi. Are others assessing the makeup of their organizations? Will they program around diversity and inclusion, as it relates to the findings? Evans et al. (2010) asserted, “As the majority group in predominantly White institutions, white students also are often the most privileged by the outcomes of this research” (p. 239), as it relates to white privilege and associated studies. There is a large opportunity here for further exploration, and it is my hope this is only just the beginning. Stepping outside of the organizational perspective and into the campus viewpoint, and also knowing what we know about the size makeup of our varying types of organizations, it is becoming more and more apparent that we need to evaluate the status of our councils and the way in which they are engaged. For starters, why is it that students of color are frequently recognized as secondary to the majority organizations on campus? Last year, I had a great conversation with a colleague regarding listing groups in the following order: Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic, Multicultural Greek, NPHC. The issue with this language is that it constantly places the majority organizations ahead of our multicultural and minority groups. It was at that point when our office made the commitment to alphabetize our groups in all communication, correspondence and language, as students are recognizing this order and viewing it as an order of importance. This little step has been one contributing factor in our attempts to make a difference.

Why is it that students of color are frequently recognized as secondary to the majority organizations on campus?

“WHITE. CHRISTIAN. CONSERVATIVE. STRAIGHT. AMERICAN. WEALTHY. URBAN” (Roupas, 2014). If you frequent “The Beta Theta Pi Magazine,” you will recognize this grouping of labels from its spring 2014 publication. The fraternity conducted a survey of itsundergraduate men, collecting demographic, historical and anecdotal information from members and new members. While the findings confirm Beta Theta Pi is predominately compiled of White, Christian, conservative, straight, American, wealthy and urban men, the author argues the article’s intent is for more than creating or obstructing diversity. Citing brotherhood as a core reason to explore the makeup of this undergraduate community, Roupas (2014) uncovered some interesting perspective. Specifically, 80 percent of men who pledged the organization in the fall semester of 2013 were White (Roupas, 2014). Let’s pause there for a moment.

Why is this important? Why does this matter? For starters, the general argument noting these statistics to not be about race, sexual orientation, national origin, age, etc., but rather, “about brotherhood” (p. 30), contributes to the devaluing of identity-development and the self-identification of contributions of members in the organization. Furthermore, this reminds me of the delusion, “I don’t see color.” As the article explores various layers of diversity among members, I am particularly appreciative that Beta Theta Pi is taking the initiative to recognize the status of the organization. And while I commend the publication of this in-depth and relevant report, I am

Again, so why does race matter? I imagine we all can come up with some type of answer for this question. However, it is next important to identify a few myths surrounding the work we do in this area. “Since the majority of college students are White, they are the group most often used as subjects in all kinds of research conducted on campus” (Evans et al., 2010, p. 239). The makeup of our fraternity/ sorority advising structures also mirrors the balance of this assertion, and the following points are common missteps in the way in which many view fraternity/ sorority advising.

Myth: “It’s not about privilege and oppression.”

Wrong—race has everything to do with privilege and oppression. Evans et al. (2010) argue White privilege to be dominant in North America since as early as Columbus. This assertion is hard to argue, especially if



Summer 2014


What table are you setting for students? Who has an invitation to the table? Is inclusion present and discussed?

we look around and take ownership of the demographics of our community. Evans et al. (2010) go on to contend, “Regardless of any other circumstance, a vast majority of Whites fail to recognize and take responsibility for the unhealthy and symbolic relationship between white privilege and oppression” (p. 238-239). See previous point, “This is about brotherhood” (Roupas, 2014, p. 30).

Myth: “With good intentions, it’s okay if I offend students.”

There are ways to constructively learn without crossing lines—as an advisor, there will be times when you are learning with students and have a unique opportunity to be vulnerable in that process. Though identified through the lens of workplace communication in the business world, Span’s (2013) notes regarding intent vs. impact are highly relevant to working with college students. Specifically, Span (2013) contended, “A lot of communication mishaps come down to this one issue: intent versus impact. Someone in a leadership position communicates something to an employee, but does so in a manner that doesn’t consider the potential impact, based on how the employee receives the message.” Employee/student are interchangeable in this example, as the point remains valuable in the context of work in higher education. Span (2013) concludes that to assist in a clear and concise manner (or in our case, supportive and contributing), we must think personal, listen with an open mind, and own up to our mistakes.

Who has an invitation to the table? Is inclusion present and discussed?

As we continue to learn from The University of Alabama recruitment concerns, it is important these conversations are occurring with all students. It is important other organizations are taking Beta Theta Pi’s lead and learning more about the demographics of their constituents. And finally, it is important that we are all open, able and willing to talk about race, including how it continues to play a role in fraternity and sorority life.


Arminio, J. (2000). Campus commons—waking up white. About Campus, 5(1), 29-30. Evans, N.J., Forney, D.S., Guido, F.M., Patton, L.D., & Renn, K.A. (2010). Student development in college: Theory, research and practice (2nd. ed.). Jossey-Bass. Roupas, M. (2014). This is about brotherhood. The Beta Theta Pi Magazine, 141(2), 20-31. Span, S. (2013, August 29). Intent vs impact: How do you communicate? [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://tolerosolutions.com/intent-vs-impacthow-do-you-communicate/

Myth: “I don’t see race, I’m ‘color-blind.’”

Please stop saying this. Seriously, this is not a thing. There are probably a dozen more misconceptions advisors make around race, however these points affirm Arminio’s (2000) argument, “Justness is not about being first in line, but rather, having a place at the table” (p. 126). What table are you setting for students?


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Michael A. Goodman is the former senior assistant director for fraternity and sorority life at Indiana University Bloomington, and is currently working for an education management foundation in China. Michael holds a bachelor’s degree in organizational communication from the University of Central Oklahoma and a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs from Indiana University Bloomington.

spotlight Community’s Commitment to Diversity Empowers Fraternity/Sorority Members to Reflect, Engage and Act. “We envision a sorority and fraternity community that recognizes that all individuals and ideas have value.“

individuals, and develop skills for interrupting inappropriate or marginalizing actions. Participants returned to campus with a plan for creating a more inclusive and understanding community through the relationships they established at the retreat.

So begins the Diversity Commitment Standard for the fraternity/sorority community at The Ohio State University. This vision creates the framework for what has become Finally, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life partners a culture-shifting initiative which was recognized with with the institution’s Intergroup Dialogue Program to engage the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors Diversity members of fraternities and sororities in Initiative Award (AFA Award). Ohio State’s ongoing intensive peer-to-peer discussions. four-tiered diversity education features The Intergroup Dialogue Program offers standards of excellence, chapter diversity The largest impact of the chapters an opportunity to engage in three programs, the Intergroup Dialogue Program, program has been the layers of diversity education: Ally, Advocate the Vice President of Student Life Diversity increased knowledge of and Activist, which are three layers of Retreat, and the Great Operations Officer introduction, engagement and action. skills and competencies for Transition Conference. Through these Chapters are recognized for their participation our community. Students efforts, the institution has been able to infuse in the program. The program encourages diversity education into all facets of its work have been at the foreground chapters to understand social action and their with fraternities and sororities. of advancing and increasing responsibility as a fraternal organization.

our standards as it relates On the chapter level, the institution supports Diversity education is infused into the to diversity education. programming to fulfill the Diversity operations of chapters through the diversity Commitment Standard. Each chapter is track at the Great Operations Officer expected to fulfill this requirement by hosting Transition Conference. This is a one-day educational programs and participating in programs on leadership opportunity for student leaders starting chapter campus. For example, these programs have included titles leadership positions. The goal of the diversity track during the such as “Eight Dumb Things Well-Intended People Say” and conference is to help new chapter leaders understand their role “Queer Civil Rights and the Oval Office.” The community in advancing diversity initiatives within their organizations. is able to leverage relationships with the institution’s multicultural center as well as the Fraternity and Sorority By focusing on the value of individuals and their perspectives Life Office to facilitate these educational discussions. While Ohio State is creating a safe environment for members of mostly passive programming, the standard ensures members fraternities and sororities to explore their own identity while are exposed to diverse thoughts and perspectives. learning from the experience of others. Programming through this initiative expands to the community level through the Vice President of Student Life’s Diversity Retreat. This two-day retreat utilizes a framework and facilitators from the National Coalition Building Institute to create a safe space for an honest discourse around identity and understanding. Through this retreat, chapter members are able to discuss perceptions and myths about identity groups, affirm pride in their identity, learn about the impact of oppression and discrimination on identity groups and

Spotlight highlights best practices and work well done. Is there an initiative working well in your organization? Email Perspectives editor Heather Kirk at heather-kirk@zetataualpha.org.

The program’s nominator described real, tanglible results: “The Sorority and Fraternity Life community has continued its commitment to diversity by enhancing several initiatives which provide an opportunity for students to reflect, engage and act. Through [the] Standards of Excellence process, chapters have been charged to re-think diversity education and the fraternal experience. The increased involvement from community members has been another impact of the initiative. Community members have been more engaged in diversity offerings on campus; attendance during Multicultural Center events has highly increased and students have reported having an active role in the development of initiatives for the campus to promote diversity and inclusion.”



Summer 2014


Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors www.afa1976.org P.O. Box 1369 Fort Collins, CO 80522-1369

H azing P revention .o rg is pleased to announce

has been awarded the

2014 zeta tau a lPHa grant for I nnovatIon In C ampus H azIng p reventIon and eduCatIon

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campus program each year that has been created through institutional-wide collaboration, and includes a $10,000 grant to the school to further build their hazing prevention programs for more information please go to h azingp revention.org

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