The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

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Diversity speaker promotes black fraternities

By Mike McPhee

Senior Writer

For members of historically African American fraternities and sororities, membership is a commitment that lasts a lifetime, said a prominent African American author.

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Dr. Lawrence Ross Jr., a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and author of the book “The Divine Nine: The History of African American Fraternities and Sororities,” spoke to a crowd of predominantly Greek students in the Weis Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday night.

“With African American fraternal organizations, it is built to be a lifetime love of activity … Our response will always be I AM a member, in the present tense,” Ross said. “Our leadership cannot stop once we get our degree.”

Ross said the historical origins of National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) fraternal organizations fostered their characteristic lifelong membership. The nine historically African American fraternities and sororities, nicknamed “The Divine Nine” in his book, were a way for African Americans in higher education to develop leadership, become first-class citizens and end discrimination.

Ross said it is the responsibility of fraternity and sorority members to uphold the ideals that their founders laid out for their institutions.

“When you are initiated into your organization, you have now told the world that you are about to follow the principles and ideals that your fathers created over 100 years ago. That means they expect you to actually live up to those principlesand living up to those principles is not a part-time job,” Ross said.

Despite the differences between “The Divine Nine” and other fraternities, Ross had other advice that was applicable to all Greeks. Using his past experiences as a guide, he warned students about the dangers of the “slippery slope” leading to hazing and about the importance of not becoming preoccupied with social events.

“The weak links are the ones who give us our reputations,” Ross said, adding that students should remember that they are constantly representing their Greek organization and must be consistent in their behavior.

“You cannot mold a person; you can grow a person. That’s the beauty of fraternalism,” he said.

Although he was advertised to the campus community as a “diversity speaker,” Ross did not directly speak on the topic of diversity in the Greek system at the University. The only NPHC fraternity with an active chapter at the University is Kappa Alpha Psi.

“My impression of the reaction of many students was that the idea of ‘black’ Greek organizations is racist, and therefore undermined the notion of the lecture as a ‘diversity speech.’ Students should also understand that the existence of historically African American fraternities and sororities stems from a long history of discrimination and the culture has been built up around that history,” Matt Tilford ’11 said. “While Ross’ talk may not have been very equitable in tone, it certainly still accomplished its goal of discussing diversity.”

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  • J

    James Rutledge RoeschOct 15, 2010 at 1:05 am

    At most, sounds like an issue of semantics to me, and certainly nothing worth an accusation of “lackluster reporting.” Whether Ross spoke “directly…on the topic of diversity in the Greek system at the University” does not really matter, since it is clear from the content of the article that he spoke about black fraternities and sororities.

    The key word is “directly,” and McPhee is right that Ross did not speak “directly” about diversity in the Greek system; instead he spoke about a topic pertaining to diversity in the Greek system. To blow such a frivolous technicality out of proportion into charges of “bias” is the true outrage.

    Obviously the event and the issue in general are very important to you, but do not kill the messenger because you believe he failed to do your cause justice.

    I do not need to have attended the event to tell when something is being made out of nothing.

    Reply
  • J

    JoeFishOct 14, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Hey Eric. I was there. I agree with certain points from both Marissa and James.

    First of all, I agree that Mr. Ross was in fact a diversity speaker; the purpose of a diversity talk is to provide a counterpoint to the white-centric fraternity system here on campus. The quote “Although he was advertised to the campus community as a ‘diversity speaker,’ Ross did not directly speak on the topic of diversity in the Greek system at the University”, while not necessarily factually incorrect, did obfuscate the issue.

    I do, of course, believe that students who believe black student organizations to be racist are very misinformed. If it is true that many people feel this way *after* a talk about the black fraternity system, however, it may be possible that the speaker was unclear in certain respects. Many of my peers and myself either did not see the point of certain aspects of the talk (for instance, when he demonstrated what “false pride” is by acting as a stereotyped caricature of a fraternity member – an action that was pointless if he didn’t think the Greeks at Bucknell are like that and patronizing if he did) or found many points to be alienating, in great opposition to the purpose of the event. The latter included segments in which he described how black fraternities and sororities, unlike others, are a lifetime commitment (which is simply false, and betrays one of the speaker’s biases), or how many members of black student organizations resist paying their dues, a point which simply didn’t seem to have a place in a discussion of the history of black student organizations and how they add to Greek Life.

    Finally, the article’s quote, even if it was disappointing to the speaker, is clear enough to read. It states very clearly to anyone who can parse collegiate-level sentences that Tilford *felt* that many *other* students thought black student organizations were racist *but they were wrong*. One cannot excuse a rash reaction to or a misreading of this quote by speculating about the author’s intent, of which one has no idea. To assume that the author has any agenda is dangerously and unjustifiably presumptive.

    Finally to Marissa, as a self-proclaimed “member of the media”, surely you must know that there are tremendous constraints on the publishers of newspapers, and that there often simply is not enough space in the article to quote a person on each side of an issue. This is not to mention that, as you did say after a re-reading of the quote, Tilford was *in support* of Mr. Ross and his cause, and that a quote on the other side of the issue would have to instead come from one of the students who did believe that black fraternities are racist. Furthermore, your assertion that the “starling (sic) low number (1)” of black fraternities is indicative of racism on the campus of one of “the most highest (sic) institutions of learning in the Country” is quite unclear. I acknowledge outright that Bucknell University is lacking in diversity, but I find no evidence that this is due to racism. The claim you are making is, in effect, that because there is an undesirable condition pertaining to race on campus, that condition must have been due to racism. This is a fallacy. Similarly, although I agree that the claim that Black Fraternities are racist is preposterous, you seem to have decided a priori that these sentiments are due to racism rather than to a combination of ignorance and lack of education on the part of many students of Bucknell and some unclear patches in the speech that aimed to dispel exactly these misconceptions.

    Joe Ruby ’11

    Reply
  • J

    James Rutledge RoeschOct 13, 2010 at 1:10 am

    Marissa,

    Now apparently just reporting the facts is offensive.

    Advocacy is not the role of news journalism. If McPhee were writing an opinion piece, he would be free to conclude whatever he wanted. As a news piece, there are no “conclusions.” News articles do not have “arguments” like op-eds or thesis papers. McPhee’s sole responsibility is to report on the facts of the event, not argue for or against its content. To do so would be committing one of the cardinal sins of news journalism.

    McPhee was not “insensitive” or “apathetic” towards “disenfranchised minority groups,” and certainly wrote nothing to “isolate” them. It did not “discount” or “discredit” anything or anyone. There was no “bias” in his article, which merely reported the facts of the event. McPhee’s job is not to argue whether minorities are underrepresented at Bucknell, or whether black fraternities and sororities are effective. To take such a stance – explicitly or implicitly – would be a serious violation of journalistic ethics. Leave that to the opinion pages of The Bucknellian.

    Your response levels lots of charges against McPhee, but cites little evidence. Please share what exactly was so outrageous about McPhee’s article. After scouring it, I cannot find anything that I can imagine anyone would consider offensive, and would like to know what I am missing.

    Lastly, Matt Tilford did not assert that “he left with the impression that ‘Black Greek Letter Organizations are ‘racist.'” His exact words were, “My impression of the reaction of many students was that the idea of ‘black’ Greek organizations is racist.” Tilford did not assert any personal beliefs whatsoever, just what he perceived others felt. So to say that his “assertion” was “preposterous” is very unfair to Matt. Perhaps Matt was wrong about what other students felt, or perhaps they were wrong to feel that way, but Tilford should not be accused of anything.

    Quite simply, this is a plainly written news article without a trace of offensive material. That you are so outraged over nothing is disturbing.

    Reply
  • M

    Marissa CalhounOct 9, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Greetings Mr. McPhee,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts in response to the recent Diversity Speaker Dr. Lawrence Ross. While the opening of your article was rather insightful in outlining the subject of this event- for an alumnus like myself seeking to learn more about the events outcome, I believe that the lack luster conclusions of your report failed to fully articulate the importance and relevance of having such a speaker in the context of our University’s attentiveness to diversity or lack thereof. In the future, I hope that you might be more sensitive and less apathetic towards ensuring that articles published in our University’s most prestigious publication, The Bucknellian, represent campus events in an unbiased manner and do not isolate already disenfranchised minority groups.

    Toward the conclusion of your article you said that, and I quote: “Although he (Ross) was advertised to the campus community as a ‘diversity speaker’, Ross did not speak specifically to the topic of diversity in the Greek system at Bucknell.” I think it is important to acknowledge the fact that not only did Ross speak to Diversity (or lack thereof) in the Bucknell Greek system, but his mere presence at the University represented Diversity (or lack thereof) in the Bucknell Greek system. The University’s decision and the organization’s involved persistence in bringing him was absolutely a show of their commitment to bringing Diverse perspectives to campus and an unappreciated attempt at enhancing the space for diverse voices in our campus community.

    The Ross speech at Bucknell discussing the complex history or Black Greek life in this country was ground breaking;it offered members who are apart of the Greek system and those who are not a chance to understand and acknowledge historical discrimination within various class systems in our society. It also permitted an African-American man to host a room full of Bucknell students who may be otherwise unaware an uneducated about Black Greek life. It is very unfortunate that your piece and those constituents who you mentioned, neglect to see that and would rather discount and discredit the work of these very honorable organizations.

    Lastly, I would like to address your choice to quote a Bucknell students opinion of the talk and as it seems Black Greek Letter Organizations.In your article you write that one student was left with the impression that Black Greek Letter Organizations are “racist.” Beyond the fact that this assertion by this student is preposterous, it is even more displeasing to a reader like myself that you failed to cross quote and neglected to include more than one students perspective on the matter. Am I to take it that others declined comment or that all of the organizaing parties fled the auditorium leaving you no time to gather their comments?

    As a member of the media, I find it utterly startling that your article abruptly concludes without presenting the vantage point of the other side. What makes us great journalists is our ability to responsibly create dialogue and speak truth to fear. When we fail to do this, we fail portions of our first amendment rights. In your article you sighted Kappa Alpha Psi. as the only chartered Black Fraternity at Bucknell. It seems to me that when you look at this starling low number (1), and the extremely low numbers of minority students participation in other Greek groups on campus, the question of racism should be turned to face another direction. These organizations certainly aren’t racist– furthermore, these organizations are the answer to the type of discrimination which clearly still exists amongst even our most highest institutions of learning in the Country.

    With Regard,

    Marissa Calhoun
    Bucknell University, 10

    Reply