Respect not a given

By Gus Bode

Last week my commentary in “A Case of the Small Town Blues” generated much anger and debate, less regarding my assumption of racist acts by Southern Illinois police departments than of my criticism of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.

Over the past week I have had several conversations with people regarding those comments, and, not that I feel the need to explain or justify my opinions, I just want to set the record straight. My comments were not a personal attack on the fraternity or any particular member of the organization. I saw a problem and felt the need to address that problem.

And, I am not anti-greek, as my column may have suggested. In fact, I think the greek system is wonderful. If utilized for the purposes and reasons for which fraternities and sororities were founded, these organizations provide excellent opportunities for students to build leadership and character. But, if used for personal agendas and vain aspirations, of what value are they? How do they then benefit members?


In my Black American Studies class we talked about a “culture of power” which minorities must conform to in order to be productive, successful members of society. Well, it is my opinion that the Divine Nine is a “culture of power.” Dominated by blacks, it is a culture that, for almost 100 years, has produced doctors, lawyers, politicians and other prominent professionals. It is a culture whose future is contingent upon our generation of students belonging to these organizations. Given this, why would such a power structure set its standards and expectations of black students so low in comparison to our tradionally white counterparts? Can the traditions and histories of these organizations really be maintained and built upon if we continue to expect so little of student members? After all, it is not like they are incapable of excelling academically, but have they been given a motive to do so?

Moreover, I think there is a dire situation at this University. Not only are many members of black fraternities and sororities not living up to their full potentials, but they use these organizations as their playgrounds. They use their memberships to pull social status, disregarding the premise on which they were founded, the reasons for their existence. They waltz around campus like they are a force to be reckoned with, demanding respect and other titles and privileges they have not earned. Call me awkward, but whatever is in the water hasn’t gotten to me yet. I could care less about letters and do not place these people on pedestals just because they demand that attention. In my eyes, respect is something to be earned, not something people should be entitled to because they belong to some fraternity or sorority.

And while I recognize that not all members have this type of mentality, there are enough T-shirt wearers to reflect negatively on the structure in its entirety. But for those of you who are about your academics and are active in the University and local communities, I commend you. You are true examples of what it means to be Greek.

This is a call to all black Greeks. Stand up and claim leadership and responsibility. You all have the ability to rally black students together in larger numbers than any other registered student organizations on this campus. You all are in a position to help address the issues facing black students at this University, i.e. freshman retention rates, graduation rates among black males and most of all the lack of unity among black students. Be that support mechanism for which your organizations were intended. Your voice, presence and influence permeates throughout this campus, so be heard, but with good reason.

Ashley is a senior in journalism. Just Call Me Miss Right appears every Thursday. These views do not necessarily reflect those of the DAILY EGYPTIAN.