Black fraternity considered

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An informational meeting about starting a chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, a historically black fraternity, at Baker University was scheduled for Thursday, Residence Life Coordinator Henderson Hill said.

Hill, an active member of the fraternity, said when he started work at Baker, he made it a point to not mention his fraternity connection.

“When I came here, I didn’t want to make it a big deal,” he said. “It’s not that I’m ashamed of my fraternity or anything, but it should really be student driven. It was cool (students) were interested, but it was never me who pushed it.”

According to its Web site, http://www.kappaalphapsi1911.com, the fraternity was founded in January of 1911 on the Indiana University’s campus. Hill said, historically, Kappa Alpha Psi is a black fraternity and was started to encourage black students to succeed at the collegiate level.

“Initially, all Pan-Hellenic fraternities and sororities were founded as African-American fraternities and sororities,” he said.

However, Hill said more recently, the fraternity is much more diverse.

“In recent years, I have met some of my brothers who are Asian, I have Hispanic brothers, I have white brothers even in this province,” he said. “So it started for African-American males, but it has grown and changed and is welcoming to all college men. (Not being black) doesn’t mean you won’t identify with the organization.”

Hill said freshman Ron Atkinson initially came to him with questions about the fraternity and how to get a chapter started at Baker.

Atkinson said he wanted to find out more about Kappa Alpha Psi because he had two uncles who were in the fraternity.

“We’re not blessed with a lot of diversity at Baker,” he said. “None of the fraternities at Baker embodied what I was trying to get.”

He said he was joking around with friends one day and thought it would be nice to get a black fraternity at Baker.

“I started to wonder how we could get a chapter chartered,” Atkinson said. “So I went to Henderson to find out if it would be possible.”

Atkinson said his previous knowledge of the fraternity was all positive.

“When I was in elementary school we had Kappas do community service at my school,” he said. “(The fraternity) grabbed me.”

Hill said bringing a historically black fraternity to Baker’s campus would promote diversity.

“It would be very beneficial to students because it would add another level of diversity to campus,” he said. “I think the greek system we’ve got (at Baker) is great, but it’s not for everyone. This would be offering another option. This would definitely be an awesome dynamic of more diversity on campus. We can’t have enough diversity.”

Sophomore Kelly Vaughan said several Baker women have been working to start a historically black sorority on campus as well. However, they have had several obstacles to overcome.

“It would be a good idea for the minority students,” she said. “People have been trying to do this numerous times, but it doesn’t succeed because nobody can decide which sorority to have.”

Vaughan said one major problem is that women have mothers, grandmothers or other relatives who are part of one particular sorority and want to also be a part of that one.

“I have an aunt who is an Alpha Kappa Alpha, but other people have other family members in different sororities,” she said. “You can’t get into an agreement.”

In addition, Vaughan said nine women are needed each year to keep the sorority running.

“We can’t guarantee nine people every single year,” she said.

Even with the barriers keeping a historically black sorority from Baker, Vaughan said it would be beneficial for Baker women.

“It could provide a strength for minority students,” she said. “The sororities we have know have help with homework, etiquette classes and formals. It would bring a social unity between the minorities on campus.”

Even though there would be several challenges, Hill said taking the steps to start a Baker chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi is doable.

“It has to be a student-driven initiative,” he said. “Students have to be serious and committed and it can happen.”

Hill said he invited a few of his fraternity brothers who live in the Leavenworth and Kansas City areas to the informational meeting to talk with the interested students.

“(The men) need to make a connection with my frat brothers,” he said. “It will push this along further. These are very powerful, influential and sincere men.”

In order for the idea to become a reality, Hill said support is needed.

“Some people are fearful of new things, but I think this will be a positive thing,” he said. “I would hope that the Baker family and community and the campus as a whole will support this is something that does happen.”

Atkinson said many people have preconceived notions about historically black fraternities.

“I think a big misconception about historically black fraternities is that you have to be black to be in it,” he said. “And that’s just not the case.”

If the fraternity is chartered, Atkinson said it would be historic.

“It’s my understanding that Baker is the first institution of higher education in Kansas and we’ve never had a black fraternity here,” he said. “If we can do this, we’d be making history.”