By Eddie Francis
For more than a century, an effective leadership network for black male college students has existed with dynamic results. The fraternities of the National Pan-Hellenic Council—Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Phi Beta Sigma, and Iota Phi Theta—have helped provide members with avenues to become effective leaders in communities around the world.
As Iota Phi Theta celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013 and Phi Beta Sigma celebrates its centennial in 2014, (with Alpha Phi Alpha having celebrated our centennial in 2006 and both Kappa Alpha Psi and Omega Psi Phi having celebrated their respective centennials in 2011), questions loom about the effectiveness of our organizations.
Going into 2014, there are five critical issues that black fraternities, namely members of NPHC, must address:
1. Membership Selection
From chapter to chapter, black fraternities have come under fire for how we select potential members. In the court of public opinion, there are too many members who simply don’t seem to uphold the aims and ideals of our organizations as evidenced by behaviors such as academic mediocrity and poor social skills. At the same time, too many chapters are criticized for denying membership to men who appear to fit the respective missions of our organizations very well.
Black fraternities must clearly identify and define what makes a potential member a quality candidate and the chapters must be consistent. This is serious business. We are expected to stand on the shoulders of great men like Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington Carver, Carter G. Woodson, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, Arthur Ashe, and countless other Black Greek luminaries.
2. Hazing in Black Fraternities
We continue to see national media stories on a consistent basis about hazing incidents among black fraternities. Hazing is not unique to our ranks, however, it affects the black community more significantly than any other community. NPHC organizational leaders have worked tirelessly to discourage hazing but significant alternatives are needed. In my commentary, “Improving the Black Greek System Through an Intellectually Rigorous Intake Process”, I call for our organizations to adopt an intake model that is based on an extensive vetting process, human resources training modules, and use of human resource metrics.