Continuing the Conversation: Respect for Self & Others

Post by Guy Davis (Beta Nu ’84), Alpha Kappa Lambda Member Education Committee Chair

Recent events involving fraternity chapters on college campuses has caused me to reflect on my fraternity experience as an AKL at Virginia Commonwealth University in the 1980’s.  I do not intend to be the “old guy” exposing how it was “different or better in my day.”  I do wonder how in a time where diversity education is common and civility on campus is emphasized, there are still incidents of racism and alcohol use that results in deaths in fraternities.  As a college student in the 1980’s I do not recall widespread discussion of diversity and multiculturalism on campus at VCU or in general.  In fact I clearly remember the first discussion of diversity I had was in a psychology class lead by Dr. Napoleon Peoples at VCU.  Dr. Peoples created an atmosphere where we felt safe to discuss race, gender, sexual orientation and differences in general.  And while most colleges now have a course or competency requirement that emphasizes understanding and appreciating differences, it is clear a great deal more discussion needs to occur.

The intent of this post is not make me and my brothers sound like perfect students or angels, trust me we were not!  We had our share of social functions that had to be reined in by VCU administration and AKL Headquarters.  But I do remember us having serious discussions about the future of our chapter and even our university.  Since Beta Nu was a young chapter being chartered in 1985, we were a young fraternity working to establish a good image and gain “respect.”  Of course we were told that you don’t gain respect through having parties.  We did not initially agree with this notion, but we came to see that earning the respect of our administration and peers, would take hard work.

I am proud to be an alumnus of Alpha Kappa Lambda Fraternity, Beta Nu Chapter and a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University.  I can only imagine the disappointment and in many cases anger my peers who are alumni of the University of Oklahoma felt after hearing the details of the incident involving Sigma Alpha Epsilon on their campus.  Having worked on a university campus for the past 25 years I have supported the fraternity and sorority community, often advocating a developmental approach to working with fraternities and sororities in resolving systemic problems.  I can only imagine how my friends who are alumni of the OU system felt and how this will impact their support for the fraternity and sorority community. It is unfortunate that a fraternity incident became the lead story on the six o’clock national news and that the only resolution was disbanding the chapter and expelling two students.

I ask that you, my brothers in Alpha Kappa Lambda, remember a simple concept, while it takes time to earn respect, that respect can be lost in a few seconds.  If you respect yourself, you will not say disrespectful things about others or plan functions intended to degrade others.  Just think how will what you say play as the lead on CNN?  Or is it more likely to be on TFM?

“We judge ourselves by our noblest acts and best intentions but we are judged by our last worst act.”

-Michael Josephson

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It Starts Here: A Conversation on AKL & Social Justice

Post by Cody Pritchard, Coordinator of Member Education

In the midst of working with our members on chapter operations, financial management, leadership development, and alike, we often find ourselves as AKL National Headquarters staff engaging in discussions on current issues, especially within the fraternal community.  We use these topics, good and bad, as opportunities to educate ourselves and members.  This blog is the result of some of our recent discussions.  Our intent is to provide AKL members, friends, partners, and colleagues a glimpse at what we are doing to address these issues.  As a Fraternity staff, we have a responsibility to engage our members and communities in this dialogue to further develop Men of Character Committed to Making a Difference.

With that said, our most recent discussion centered on these questions; What does a diverse AKL look like? and What are we doing to educate our members on social justice issues?  While the circumstances in which this discussion originated are unfortunate, we took this opportunity as a staff to engage in a highly developmental dialogue around race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity.  The recent incidents at the University of Oklahoma, University of Texas, and University of Pennsylvania to name a few, were the premise of our discussion.  The unfortunate reality is that these types of incidents seem to be coming more and more prevalent.  Whether they are occurring more often, increased reporting, or media attention they are gaining, as staff of a national fraternity and ultimately as positively contributing members of society, we cannot ignore such incidences.

As members in AKL, we subscribe to our Five Ideals.  We pledge ourselves to “treat others as [we] would have them treat [us].”  We “respect the opinion of others.”  We “commit [ourselves] to a style of membership in Alpha Kappa Lambda that is an educationally and socially maturing process.”  Part of that process includes engaging in the educative process around diversity and inclusion.  It means joining with our campus partners and being advocates for social justice.  It means recruiting and engaging with individuals who may look, speak, and think differently than us, all while respecting and appreciating the differences that exist and using them as opportunities to develop our own identity.

Every year, college men across the country participate in fraternity recruitment.  Many of us can agree that one of the “selling points” fraternities use at times is the idea of diversity by saying “our chapter is really diverse (said in your best bro voice, of course).”  But what does that really mean?  Do these fraternity men even know what is meant when they use this as a recruitment tool?  How do they define diversity and inclusion?  Are we, as a staff, educating our members on what this means?  Are we truly doing our due diligence in ensuring our members are practicing what they preach?  Simply having a member or two that may come from a different background does not make a chapter diverse.  To say such indicates a failure to recognize the beliefs and Ideals to which we subscribe.

So we pose these questions to you; What does a diverse AKL look like?  How does AKL educate on social justice issues?  How do we ensure our members are being provide an “educationally and socially maturing process?”  To be quite honest, we don’t have all of the answers.  To claim so would be ignorance on our part.  That said, we know ignoring the issues is not a part of the solution.  The solution starts with conversations occurring just like those at NHQ this week.  We have a responsibility as a staff, as members of AKL, as friends, colleagues, and campus partners to engage our peers in the discussion.  We have a further responsibility to take those conversations and begin acting upon them.  We have a responsibility to speak up when others are being beat down, belittled, and oppressed.  We have a responsibility to be Men of Character Committed to Making a Difference.1383493_740587969372667_6116364172563654939_n1972248_460139530754903_1638697404_n

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