Revitalization of a Tradition
Jason Johnson, Epsilon Epsilon Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated
Ival Gregory, Manager, Oklahoma State University
Hazing—an ugly word and an even uglier action with harsh consequences. Unfortunately for the Epsilon Epsilon (EE) chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the consequences were all too real. In 2007, the chapter was suspended for at least five years for hazing violations. The fraternity was shocked, the community was shocked, and the students were shocked. This incident was a blemish on the fraternity as well as Oklahoma State University (OSU). However, this event also was an opportunity for growth, development, and change for all parties involved. From a fraternity standpoint, EE’s suspension exposed a serious problem that needed to be addressed. The organization had to take a hard stance against hazing and revise how to educate members and potential members on the dangers of hazing. The situation also encouraged OSU to educate all fraternities and sororities on hazing and the dangers involved.
Fast forward to three years later. The landscape at OSU and within Alpha Phi Alpha had changed drastically. The students that were involved in the 2007 incident at OSU were no longer there; all had graduated or transferred to another school. School administration had changed, and there was an effort to increase diversity on campus. The administration considered all options that would increase minority enrollment and retention at . One reoccurring theme was the importance of the fraternity and sorority community to minorities, especially black students. Predominantly white universities with strong black Greek organizations typically have higher minority graduation rates and retention.
At that time, OSU had five of the Divine 9, the name of the nine historically black Greek letter organizations. The administration felt if all NPHC organizations on campus were thriving, it could naturally lead to an increase in minority enrollment. The most logical step for OSU was to begin with the organizations that were suspended. What began as a brainstorming session eventually led to the reinstatement of the EE chapter.
Representatives from both the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Affairs and the Office of Multicultural Affairs began meeting informally in late 2009. The conversations grew to include a number of other officials. On at least one occasion, Alpha Phi Alpha was represented by a National Vice President and several other alumni officers from neighboring chapters and the district level.
The university was favorably impressed by the processes that were outlined for the education and training for both members of a new chapter at OSU and for the graduate advisors who would guide a resurrected EE. The sincerity and dedication of those who were proposing the early return of Alpha Phi Alpha were also compelling in this instance. Based on the new focus of the national organization and the announced support of the regional officers on December 2, 2010, OSU officially welcomed back Alpha Phi Alpha as 13 new members were initiated into the fraternity.
The success of this chapter was a priority of both Oklahoma State and Alpha Phi Alpha. To ensure the new members were focused on academics and community service, the two agreed on a one-year social probation for the chapter. The members had all rights and privileges; however, they could not host any social events. As an advisor, Jason Johnson had mixed emotions about this decision. He felt it was necessary, but that it also could lead to rogue activities. In order to prevent such activity, the co-advisor, Desmond Harvey, and Johnson challenged the new brothers to define their legacy during this time. Not only did they meet the challenge, they surpassed it.
In the spring semester, they held more than 15 community services events and partnered with other student organizations on campus. One of the best received events was a weekly study hall named “AlphadEEmics,” which was held at a local nonprofit coffee house. Students were encouraged to attend to get free tutoring on various courses and all proceeds from the coffee house were donated to the American Red Cross. These new members are committed to Alpha Phi Alpha’s aims: manly deeds, scholarship, and love for all mankind. This was evident by the amount of work they have accomplished in their short time back on campus. During Black and Gold week, they held two signature events that addressed issues within the black community as well as the university community. The Test of a Man series was created to address societal ills and stereotypes targeting young men. Bullying was the first topic of the series, focusing on the rash of student suicides from cyber bullying. Another seminar was entitled Men Ain’t Boys, a film and discussion addressing the stereotypes of black men in America, fatherhood, and manhood.
The students who have become members of Epsilon Epsilon Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., have exceeded the expectations of all concerned. They do well academically. The fill many leadership positions at OSU. They serve their fellow students and the surrounding community. They have raised the level of expectations for other NPHC organizations on our campus. And, yes, they have aided the university's mission of recruitment, retention, and graduation of minority students.
It has been a roller coaster of emotions having the Epsilon Epsilon chapter back on the OSU campus. Their return renewed a sense of pride and higher expectations within the NPHC family. However, with those expectations comes even greater responsibility and accountability. Although these young men have taken a step in the right direction to distance themselves from that 2007 situation, they also have to bare the burden of being a member of Alpha Phi Alpha and the standard that comes along with it. It’s Johnson’s honest belief that these men are well on their way to becoming difference makers on campus and understanding the true meaning of “First of All, Servants of All and We shall Transcend All.”