ALL IS NOT WELL: The Cultural Issues Within The National Honorary Band Fraternity

Kappa Kappa Psi Fraternity (KKPsi)  and Tau Beta Sigma Sorority (TBS) are honorary service organizations whose primary purposes are to serve college and university band programs. Some of their acts of service include service projects, fundraisers, social events, and other activities centered around university bands and music in general. These organizations have been in existence since 1919 and 1946 respectively. Originally KKPsi was an all male organization and TBS was its all female counterpart. This is no longer the case as both organizations currently welcome members from both genders, share a national headquarters, and meet together for national conventions. But it wasn’t always this way… One incident changed this.

The Rutgers Incident

This incident detailed the fraternity’s initial reaction to allowing women to join the fraternity. Title IX of The 1972 Education Act stated: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…” this law primarily affects athletic programs,  but also impacts honorary organizations like KKPsi.

In 1973 the chapter at Rutgers (Alpha Phi) was the first chapter to admit women into the fraternity under the new law. As a result…  the national body suspended their chapter and revoked their charter. In defiance of the suspension, the former members chartered a new organization under the title: Mu Upsilon Alpha Honorary Coed Service Fraternity for the bands at Rutgers. The new fraternity sent letters to all the chapters of KKPsi explaining why they left the fraternity and received responses ranging from letters of support to hate filled manifestos.

The National body of KKPsi offered the former brothers of Alpha Phi chapter the opportunity to appeal their suspension at the 1973 National Convention, but the members of the new fraternity respectfully declined. The history page of the Mu Upsilon Alpha website includes a comment pertaining to its unique history: “In 1978, Kappa Kappa Psi went co-ed. Since that time Kappa Kappa Psi has made countless efforts to re-establish the Alpha Phi chapter. The Brothers of Mu Upsilon Alpha have declined, and although Kappa Kappa Psi has much to offer Mu Upsilon Alpha, the Brothers continue to let their fraternity which they built from scratch grow and flourish…” The Mu Upsilon Alpha Fraternity recently merged with Mu Beta Psi National Honorary Music Fraternity as its Pi chapter.

Is This Another “Rutgers Incident”?

I believe the fraternity has encountered another “Rutgers Incident”. Not a Federal Law changing the rules of the land, but rather another “incident” that will rattle the very core of the organization for years to come…

iota nu

The incident in question, identified as a “New Member Presentation Show” is the sole activity identified by the fraternity as the vehicle by which the act of hazing was invoked. The result was expulsion of all active members and the chapter alumni not being allowed to form any Local Alumni Association of KKPsi that supports the band program at Alabama A& M University. In addition to those things, a 20 year moratorium on any future colonization was placed on the chapter. All of this was unprofessionally, and embarrassingly, announced on facebook. This very public, and what many deem excessive, reprimand by the fraternity was met with immediate backlash and condemnation from all HBCU chapters and many from other chapters of the organization. The excessive reprimand, unlike any other in the past, lead many to wonder if this HBCU chapter was being discriminated against…

Though this video makes many valid points, I was, initially, reluctant to say KKPsi discriminates against HBCU chapters. As a KKPsi member myself, I never felt discriminated against throughout the 22 years of my membership. However, the data cited in the video is alarming and very disappointing. I do however think KKPsi has an issue understanding the culture of its HBCU chapters.

The Fraternity Writes:

  • This situation is the result of hazing related to their New Member Presentation Show, which violated both University and Kappa Kappa Psi policies. 

Its a probate show with emphasis on the word SHOW. I don’t know if its their fault for not understanding the history of black greeks and “the probate” or ours for expecting them to. Furthermore, the university stated it was not aware of why the chapter was suspended. They obviously had no issue with the many probate shows taking place on their campus.

  • Each brother, each chapter should stop and take a moment to reflect on your chapter activities. Is that activity or tradition worth your membership in Kappa Kappa Psi? Your chapters’ charter?

The activity in question is a probate show. A “coming out” ceremony which, due to the lack of diversity on the national council, was mistaken for hazing related activity. And now it seems the national council is forcing all HBCU chapters to consider whether this “activity or tradition is worth your membership in Kappa Kappa Psi” as they said.

Like the students of the Alphi Phi chapter at Rutgers, the Iota Nu Chapter at Alabama A&M University, and more broadly the HBCU chapters of KKPsi, are presented with a choice. A choice that will change the organization forever… Either suck it up, accept the punishment, and wait for the national council to eventually understand the “activities and traditions” of your chapters or like Alpha Phi… respectfully decline.

 

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