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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