African-American Greek life loses prominence on campus

Michael Lopick

Past and present members of African-American Greek life believe students don’t join black sororities and fraternities becasue of a lack of visibility on campus and the presence of negative stereotypes.

Timeka Rashid, associate dean of students and 17-year member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, is concerned for the future of African-American Greek life on campus. She thinks these organizations need to showcase the scholarly benefits of being a member instead of just the fun and good times.

“We need to increase the visibility of what we do beyond the step teams and parties,” she said. “We need to show our education and scholarship.”

Rashid said that out of 1,800 members in Kent State Greek life, only 12 are members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council.

The council is made up of nine historically black fraternities and sororities referred to as the “Divine Nine,” five of which are present at Kent State.

The Student Multicultural Center hosted a Soup & Substance event earlier this month for students and faculty to voice their opinions on the state of Kent State’s African-American Greek life under the council.

Five Kent State alumni answered questions from students and provided insight on their experiences with African-American fraternities and sororities.

The discussion pointed to hazing as one of the main reason for African-American undergraduate students’ lack of interest in black Greek life.

Alexandria Peebles, senior psychology and Pan-African Studies major, was disappointed that in her five years at Kent, she never saw the benefit in joining an African-American sorority.  

“I don’t need anyone to hurt me or beat me down for them to respect me,” she said. “When I was thinking about joining my freshman year, my impression was that the sorority members were extremely exclusive and not inviting. Once you see something like that, you get very turned off.”

Marion Styles, associate director of admissions and 37-year member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, said he believes African-American students have a right to be wary of hazing. He called current members to strive to change the perception of African-American Greek life.

“The pledge process, or what is called hazing now, mimics the struggles of real life in a contained way,” he said, “but for me to call a man my brother I don’t have to beat him down. We have to realize that we have negative images being perpetuated. It’s the current undergraduate members responsible to begin to change that.”

N.J. Akbar, Kent State’sdirector of minority student recruitment and retention and 10-year member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, stressed that one member’s actions do not represent the organization as a whole.

“You see individuals acting as the organization, but it’s bigger than them,” he said. “My life as an Alpha is more than those five or so months of pledging and the brothers that can take things too far.”

Freshman engineering major Angelo Norvell has been contemplating joining an African-American fraternity and thinks that if they can learn from past members, students will begin to show more interest.

“I look at the panelists and see their pride in their organizations and the hope they have for their [organization’s] futures,” he said. “I want to be able to wear those letters and feel that pride in my brothers, but until students start seeing that, African-American fraternities and sororities will keep declining.”

Contact Michael Lopick at [email protected].