Chi Psi is proud to have embraced non-discriminatory membership policies since our founding in 1841. This openness has afforded men in our Alphas the opportunity to experience Brotherhood with men of different ethnicities, religions, cultures, and sexual identities. On Friday, March 13, the New York Times printed an editorial in which the writer contends that nonwhite students in historically white fraternities “live a harsh existence of loneliness and isolation.”
While we completely understand that this article justifiably points out realities of some fraternity chapters, we know that Chi Psi positively enhances the college experience for all of our Brothers. To that end, we asked Brothers to share their thoughts and experiences with us. Rather than to argue with this article, our goal was and is to share with Brothers and the outside world just how different the Chi Psi experience is from that described in this article and other recent events. It is our hope to give our Brothers a way to positively articulate their experience in Chi Psi.
Below are just a few of the many powerful messages we’ve received so far. Please continue to share your stories with us at firstname.lastname@example.org by March 31. The author of the most well-written response will be awarded a scholarship from the Chi Psi Educational Trust.
Ekjot Grewal, Rho ’11
Why demonize an entire population of fraternity members instead of offering constructive solutions?
Dr. Matthew Hughey, the author of the opinion piece regarding race in fraternities offers the perspective that marginalization of nonwhite members occurs within traditionally white fraternities. However, his study of 31 nonwhite fraternity members across 3 colleges lacks the power to generalize across the board. The “paradox of participation” inherent in fraternities is not racial, but instead, individual.
Each fraternity is a family. With this family comes the same type of petty squabbling and tongue-in-cheek remarks you expect from your siblings. The inherent culture crisis of a fraternity lies behind the institutional traditions of that fraternity versus your personal attributes. Whether it is your religion, college major, cultural background, or choice of lunch for the day, your family will poke fun at it. In many ways, this paradox is an expression of mutual growth and understanding.
I am a non-white fraternity member of a traditionally white fraternity. My entire childhood had been a mixture of Indian roots on American soil. When it came time to start college, I could have joined a cultural fraternity and perpetuate the stereotype of segregating myself with who I look like or I could have chosen to spend my time with friends. Despite being the “3-4 percent” of my fraternity who was nonwhite, I never felt my individuality was threatened by the color of my skin but embraced the manner in which our organization continued evolving.
“White fraternities” may have been rich, protestant Anglo-Saxons in 1850 but upon graduating, at least ninety percent of my fraternity did not meet that definition. We are also Jewish, Catholic, atheist, Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim. We are physicians, lawyers, engineers, and artists. Even as I started medical school, my older and “traditionally white” alumni helped fund my medical research in the villages of the Dominican Republic.
It is within the walls of a fraternity house that brothers find the privilege of family. Schools should celebrate those houses that thrive and set this example.
“Bullet” Bob Burwell, Sigma ’77
Thirty years ago, I was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. I was living in Chapel Hill at the time and had many friends and clients working at UNC Hospitals. In May of 1994 when the first new classes of anti-retroviral medications were being tested, I signed up to participate in clinical trials. A most fortunate decision.
I was on a double blind study and having blood work done every month. By November my T-cell count had fallen sharply to 36 (600-1000 being the normal range). Honestly, I felt the end was near. I had to quit my job and became very depressed.
Even though I only lived 2 miles from The Lodge, I hadn’t visited in years. I’m not sure what made me decide to go by that day. Perhaps it was all the fond memories I had of my college days. I was warmly greeted and got to know many of the current brothers, watched b-ball, joined in for meals, and reminisced about times past. One night at an Alpha meeting, I told my story. It was difficult. Here I was, 40 years old, gay, withHIV/AIDS. This was in the mid-90’s. I had no idea how people would react. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of brotherly love and succor.
This group of young men became my best support group and gave me the energy, drive, and desire to survive. Here 20+ years later, I am still in good health and they are still my largest and best group of friends on Facebook. You guys know who you are, Alpha Sigma 94-98. I will always be grateful to you and all the memories of my days at Chi Psi.
Michael DeCroce-Movson, Pi ’17
I am a part of the Alpha Pi chapter of Chi Psi and though the reason I chose Chi Psi wasn’t because of their non-discriminatory membership policies, it is one of the things that I am most proud of about my fraternity.
My vice president is half Puerto Rican. One of my closest pledge brothers is of Pakistani descent. One of my favorite junior brothers (I’m a sophomore) is from Haiti.
I take issue with what Mr. Hughey says in his article, “The University of Oklahoma Video, and the Problem Fraternities Can’t Fix Themselves”. He argues, with testimony from some greek members at other schools, that nonwhite members have less than ideal interactions with white members, and that they are often seen as the “mascots”.
At my Alpha and assumedly, other Alphas throughout the country, we treat our brothers with respect. They are never the “mascot”, and their skin color and ethnicity is never a thought in my mind and my brother’s mind. I cannot speak for other fraternities, but for Chi Psi, I believe we have a history of racial tolerance and I love that about us.
J.P. Grasser, Tau Delta ’11
I wish to provide a perspective from the Greek community regarding your editorial (“The University of Oklahoma Video, and the Problem Fraternities Can’t Fix Themselves,” March 13). While Professor Hughey makes a compelling argument for the overhaul of Greek life on college campuses (largely supported with anecdotal evidence and an article he authored), many of his assertions approach logical fallacy.
Overt racism is neither caused nor perpetuated by fraternities, but is systemic to America’s institutions at large (prisons, police departments, equity in the workplace). If anything, fraternities serve as a convenient scapegoat to an otherwise faceless, pervasive enemy. Would a video of non-Greek students chanting racial slurs have reached the mainstream media? Surely not.
Though my fraternity experience was antithetical the one depicted in the Oklahoma video, it was marked by exclusivity. But, it was an exclusivity which transcended race, sexual preference, or socio-economics; our members claimed diverse backgrounds, yet were united through shared experience and common ideals.
Racism is a problem that fraternities like SAE can fix—in fact, they are uniquely positioned to do so. In practice, progress occurs through educational programming and outreach—which, I might add, is regularly funded by Greek organizations, due to colleges’ restrictive budgets.