Category Archives: BGLOs

NPHC, Inc.: Are They Stealing the Money or Simply Mismanaging It?

On December 7th, I read Gabriel Arana’s piece, “Why the Country’s Largest Minority-Journalism Group May Close,” on Huffington Post. In short, the article highlighted not only the National Association of Black Journalist’s (“NABJ”) financial meltdown. It also underscored NABJ’s secretiveness, poor leadership, and seeming lack of ethics in dealing with its financial crisis. And it all got me to thinking about how many black organizations—e.g., churches, HBCUs, professional societies, fraternities/sororities—are managed or mismanaged.


Given my research on National Pan-Hellenic Council (“NPHC”) organizations (for NPHC leadership visit HERE; for Council of Presidents visit HERE), I decided to do some half-hearted research while I watched the Golden State Warriors one night. What I discovered was alarming. First, I went to see what the financial records of the NPHC, Incorporated, sort of the black “Greek” United Nations, looked like. Having spent the past year working on an empirical study of about 3,000 NPHC organizations’ 501(c)(3) charities and (c)(7) entities, I was curious as to what NPHC’s 990 Forms looked like. What I found was only a record of NPHC having filed 990 forms for 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, and 2010. Second, I went to the IRS website to see what NPHC’s status was. NPHC also had its 501(c)(7), tax-exempt status revoked on May 15, 2015 (see HERE using EIN 52-1730952). While these facts in isolation wouldn’t leave me alarmed, in the aggregate, they are startling. What is even more problematic is that they fit into a larger picture that either spells gross mismanagement of finances or embezzlement.


NPHC and NPHC Organization Leaders: Funny with the Money


Four years ago, I attended my first Association of Fraternity and Sorority Advisors’ (“AFA”) Annual Meeting. At the NPHC Question and Answer Session, what was odd was that NPHC leadership could scarcely answer one question posed by student affairs professionals. One question was striking: “What do you do with the dues you assess collegiate councils?” Various leaders took turns at answering, but none of the answers were straightforward. Being a lawyer, I tried a more direct follow-up. Again, the responses were quintessential circumlocution and obfuscation. All that the leadership could muster was an insistence that student affairs professionals tell their collegiate counsels to send in their checks. I don’t believe that question was posed the following year, though I did pose some questions that were not answered. Then, last year, NPHC leadership did something novel: they refused to take questions from anyone who wasn’t a student affairs professional. It was a bizarre rule, because except for me (I’m a law professor), there would hardly be any non-student affairs professionals in the room who would have questions. I later learned that the rule was crafted to keep me from posing questions. Then this year, anyone could pose questions, but the questions were pre-screened, using index cards. Nonetheless, a couple of student affairs professionals stood-up and posed their questions. Both referred to what NPHC was doing with the dues it was collecting—again, circumlocution and obfuscation was the response pattern.


This series of events had me thinking about a project I’ve been working on with Dr. Matthew Hughey—Phi Beta Sigma member and Sociology professor at UCONN—a book on NPHC organizations and racial uplift. Largely it’s a positive book about NPHC organizations and their civic activism, community service, public policy, and philanthropic work. This later area is peculiar. So, part of the book comes from an empirical study I’m working on looking at IRS data on NPHC organizations’ giving. There are roughly 3,000 entities to potentially investigate, but when my coauthors and I received the IRS data-set, maybe about 10% of that 3,000 actually reported anything to the IRS via 990 Forms. My main coauthor, an economist who studies non-profits, said that it shouldn’t seem that unusual, given that many of these entities may raise so little money that they don’t need to submit a 990 Form. But only 10% are raising enough money to report? I did a quick check of a few cities around the U.S. on the IRS website to see the status of various NPHC organization chapters’ non-profits. Quite a few, a surprising number to me, had lost their non-profit status. What does that mean? I don’t know, but in the grand scheme of things, it seems deeply problematic.


All of this seems to fit within a broader narrative about NPHC organizations, leadership and their management of their organizations’ finances. Over the past several years, almost half of NPHC organizations have had major financial scandals with regard to their national leadership, usually the national head. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority was embroiled in numerous litigation—McKinzie v. Alpha Kappa Alpha (Ill. Cir. Mar. 13, 2006), Redden v. Alpha Kappa Alpha (N.D. Ohio filed Mar. 28, 2009), Shackelford v. Alpha Kappa Alpha (Ill. Cir. Ct. Sept. 3, 2009), Daley et al. v. Alpha Kappa Alpha  (D.C. 2011), Purnell et al. v. Alpha Kappa Alpha (Ill. Cir. June 4, 2010), Alpha Kappa Alpha v. McKinzie (Ill. Cir. Ct. 21 June 2013)—around the apparent embezzlement on the part of its national head. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority had to deal with Stark v. Zeta Phi Beta (D.D.C. 2008). Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity grappled with Mason v. Alpha Phi Alpha (Ga. Super. Ct. July 25, 2012), and Phi Beta Sigma had to watch as its former National Treasurer was sent to federal prison (see United States v. Davis).


With the exception of the Davis case, at the heart of the cases was a similar pattern of behavior. First, you had people in positions of power—i.e., national heads—embezzling organizational funds (and/or engaged in financial conflicts of interest and/or riding roughshod over organizational budgets for their personal aggrandizement). Second, other powerful people—i.e., organizational leaders—largely remained silent. Third, there was intra-organizational secrecy—that is the financial crimes were hidden from most members. Fourth, those rank-and-file members who dared speak-up and tried to force the organizations to divulge critical information to its members were (and some are still) demonized, ostracized, and/or sanctioned. The latter is the most fascinating part to me. In these instances, leaders would try to corral members, admonishing them that suing, taking to the media or social media, was not the proper way to handle such matters. Rather, in fraternity or sorority business meetings is where such issues needed to be addressed. However, in such meetings, leaders would use procedural mechanisms—i.e., Robert’s Rules—to circumscribe pertinent discussion or outright get individuals who were seeking answers off the microphone.


Broader Organizational Context: Money Matters


To put this issue in context, let me pose two hypotheticals:


Hypothetical I: Assume that black sorority has had two national heads at Time 1 (national head A) and Time 2 (national head B). During both administrations, national head A and national head B both had  the same senior aid, sister J. During her term in office, national head A embezzles $500,000 from black sorority. Her crimes are never discovered, and then her term expires. Sister B is elected national head B of black sorority and embezzles $250,000 from black sorority. Her crimes are discovered, and she is removed from office. National head A comes to her defense at the board meeting where national head B’s ouster takes place, arguing that major sorority initiatives will be harmed if the national head B feels forced to spill the beans on past national heads of black sorority. Sister J goes on to become a staunch defender of national president B even after her ouster. At Time X, Sister C runs for national head of black sorority, and sister J becomes the campaign manager for Sister’s C’s campaign. Sister C is the leading favorite to win the office of national head. National head A endorses Sister C’s candidacy. Do you think this spells trouble sorority? Do you think national head A was the first national head of black sorority to steal from the sorority? Would you be excited to see national head C sitting on the Council of Presidents…with sister J as her senior advisor?


Hypothetical II: National head of black sorority embezzles $300,000 from black sorority. She’s caught and had her membership suspended. Sister D, a member of black sorority, is a board member on black sorority’s education foundation. Sister D embezzles $100,000 from the education foundation. She’s caught and had her membership suspended as well. The expectation was that the now former national head and sister D would pay-back what they stole. No effort is made by black sorority to recoup the money. Many black sorority members demanded a forensic audit to get a full accounting of what was stolen. The new national head refused to do so out of fear that various leaders within the sorority would be criminally prosecuted. Is this full accountability, a model for undergraduates? Is this full transparency?


Broader Organizational Context: The Avoidance of Effectively Tackling Hard Problems


Financial mismanagement and embezzlement like hazing and membership retention and engagement and any other issue you see within NPHC organizations is simply a symptom of deeper issues within these organizations. In essence, NPHC organizations, on average, have failed—certainly in modern times—to be high reliability organizations (“HROs”). An HRO is an organization that has succeeded in avoiding catastrophes in an environment where accidents can be expected due to risk factors and complexity. The characteristics of an HRO are (1) preoccupation with failure (even small failure are seen as indicia of bigger problems); (2) reluctance to simplify interpretations (embracing complexity and building diverse teams to tackle problems); (3) sensitivity to deviations from what is expected (focusing not only on the big picture but also on operations0; (4) commitment to resilience (embracing the reality of mistakes and failure); and (5) ensuring expertise is utilized at every level.


Furthermore, within NPHC organizations, they spend a lot of time maintaining the status quo. They find it perplexing that undergraduate members defend “tradition” in the context of hazing, but in NPHC organizations daily operations, many leaders do just the same. Even where NPHC organizations perceive themselves as tackling big issues, their scale is off. What I mean is that an organization may perceive that it has addressed 90% of an issue on a scale from 1-10. The problem is, however, that the nature and complexity—and, ergo, the range of solutions—may be on a scale from 1-100. As such, instead of tackling 90% of a problem, an organization may have tackled just 9%. In such scenarios, an organization may have only tinkered at the margins of a problem with the false confidence that they have been truly transformational.


Think about the following hypotheticals as examples of broader contexts in which NPHC organizations problem-solving could take place:


Hypothetical III: There is a prostitution ring that travels from region to region for black fraternity’s conventions. The prostitution ring involves sex-trafficking and underage girls. Most members at conventions don’t solicit the prostitutes, but it’s deeply problematic to some members. A couple of members highlight the problem to the national head, hoping for an intervention. National head is unresponsive to the concerns raised.


Hypothetical IV: Black fraternity has a homophobia problem. For one, it has a written policy that is arguably discriminatory toward gay members. Also, in a heated race for national head of black fraternity, one candidate’s surrogate engages in a whisper campaign against the other candidates, alleging that they are closeted-gay. He does this knowing that such a rumor will jettison the campaigns of those candidates. Concerned members of black fraternity see that written policy as, among many things, potential evidence against black fraternity in future antidiscrimination litigation. They also see the whisper campaign as unfraternal and damaging. They raise these concerns to the sitting national head. In response, he admonishes the members for raising such issues and has them sanctioned.




The above hypotheticals highlight something simple. First, NPHC cannot be extracted from the broader context of the organizations that comprise it. And many of those organizations have had considerable issues around financial accountability, ethics and transparency. Second, these financial management issues are not the root of NPHC organizations’ issues but rather a symptom of broader issues the organizations face with regard to the nature of leadership, problem-solving, and the desire to be truly transformational institutions.


The responses to this blog will be predictable. Many NPHC organization leaders and members will take this post as an attack. I can already hear the familiar response: “Why is he airing our dirty laundry?” “Why is he trying to be a destructive force within the NPHC community?” The problem with such responses is that they fail acknowledge that when an organization incorporates in a state and gains certain exemptions benefits from the IRS, much of their operations does, or should, become public. Even more, it’s perplexing that a person could see one who highlights a problem as the source of the problem rather than those who created it in the first place. Just as United States Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis noted: “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” Jeremy Bentham, noted legal philosopher, underscored these sentiments:


Without publicity, all other checks are insufficient: in comparison of publicity, all other checks are of small account. Recordation, appeal, whatever other institutions might present themselves in the character of checks, would be found to operate rather as cloaks than checks; as cloaks in reality, as checks only in appearance.


Indeed, contemporary jurists, such as the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s Judge Damon Keith (and Alpha Phi Alpha member), have emphatically articulated these concerns—“Democracies die behind closed doors.”


The real question here is one of leadership, but: “Who are the accountable leaders?” NPHC’s national Constitution and Bylaws are instructive. Several groups of people manage NPHC generally and with regard to their financial affairs. First, there is the Council of Presidents: “There shall be a Council of Presidents, which shall have supreme authority on all matters related to the National Pan-Hellenic Council.” Constitution, Art. III, sec. 1. Second, there is NPHC’s national President: “The President [of NPHC] shall serve as Chairperson of the Executive Committee…present and approve all vouchers for expenditure of the budgeted funds…present all negotiated contracts for approval to the Council of Presidents…” Bylaws Art. II, sec.  2(a). Third, there is NPHC’s national Treasurer and Executive Director:


“The Treasurer shall keep correct and complete records of accounts, showing accurately the financial condition of the NPHC. The Treasurer will develop a budget and submit that to the Executive Committee. The final budget must have the approval of the Council of Presidents. The Treasurer will receive all revenues from the office of the National Executive Director and deposit all funds in the NPHC’s bank account or other depositories designated by the National Executive Director. Submit all financial records for audit at the conclusion of a fiscal year. The Treasurer shall furnish a statement of the financial condition of the NPHC at meetings of the Executive Committee or whenever requested by the Council of Presidents or the NPHC President and perform such other duties applicable to the office as prescribed by the parliamentary authority adopted by NPHC.” Id. at sec. 2(d).


The truly regrettable thing about all of this is that the responses from NPHC and the Council of Presidents will likely be predictable and ineffective. The most likely response is what you saw with NABJ—radio silence and lack of transparency. The next likely response will be communication with councils, vaguely informing them that the issue is being handled. The next likely response will be some basic articulation of prophylactic measures to address the issue. What won’t likely happen is NPHC councils and members being so outraged that they demand complete transparency and accountability. Nobody will be fired. Nobody will step down from their elected office. No audit will be produced. And no fundamental change will occur in how NPHC is structured or does business. For it to change, the nine organizations that constitute it would fundamentally have to change. I know enough—from being a member of these organizations and one of the few people to research the good and the bad associated with them—to believe that the leadership will become truly visionary and transformational. It’s not in the leaders’ best interest to do so; it’s monumentally hard work. And I am convinced that the members don’t want that kind of leadership, for the most part.


As I close, I think back on something NPHC organization expert and President of Dillard University, Dr. Walter Kimbrough, said to me. Despite our philosophical disagreements on a number of topics related to NPHC organizations, I once encouraged Dr. Kimbrough to run for national head, General President, of our fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. In response, he said, “What Alpha, like all NPHC organizations, needs is transformational leadership. They would crucify anyone who tried to be that.” I’ve often thought about Dr. Kimbrough’s remark, and my only quibble with it is that, for most part, even when given the option, I’m not convinced that most members of these organizations would even be willing to elect transformational leaders. It is because of this that I cannot help but to revisit an argument I made just a few years ago: maybe it’s time to disband NPHC.

“Where There Is No Vision, The People Perish”: Why and How We Should Demand More from BGLO Leaders

After my last blog post, I received a lot of feedback—some in the comments section of the blog, some directly to me via email or Facebook. The one thing that struck me was that some people don’t realize how crucial it is that BGLOs have effective and visionary leadership if they are to survive, thrive, and remain relevant.

Three correspondences, in response to my last blog, stand out to me. One was from a professor, a researcher, and national expert on HBCUs. I had asked this person in an exchange, for the HBCUs that have died out, whether anyone had done research on the main contributing factors. This expert said that the research had been done and that two factors emerged: (1) poor leadership and (2) financial management.  This highlighted, for me, that black institutions must get the right people in positions of leadership if they are to have any hope at longevity.

Another person had this to say:

As of right now, my university does not have a major Black fraternity and has a rapidly dwindling Black sorority population. Alpha Phi Alpha and my fraternity … used to have a very strong relationship, but unfortunately I have not heard about them since their last three members graduated. Zeta Phi Beta, our only Black sorority to my knowledge besides a fledgling chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, is down to its last few members as well.

I suppose my inquiry/specific interest in this topic has to do with this recent decline in BGLO’s. Is there a general/national reason for this decline, or is it tied to lower rates of Black enrollment (and therefore a lower “critical mass” that BGLO’s need to form) in higher education in general? I don’t have specific numbers, but I know that [at my university] the Black population has recently been plummeting, and even those who come to the school are generally not joining any fraternities – Black, Multicultural or IFC.

Their perspective underscored, for me, the reality—even if anecdotal—that BGLOs are dying organizations, certainly at the collegiate level. Even more, nobody seems to know what to do to save them.

A third person, a research collaborator of mine who is a member of another BGLO and a member of their organization’s  leadership, had the following concerns: This person spoke of the lack of visionary and transformative leadership in their organization and, in talking with other BGLO members, the lack of such leadership across the board and for a protracted period of time. This person echoed my concern that BGLOs rely on a deeply problematic leadership model.

First, you must move lockstep up a chain of command from chapter president, to head of an area within a state, to head of a state, to head of an area comprising multiple states/or some similar national position (which usually puts you on the organization’s supreme governing body), maybe vice president, and then onto the national presidency.

Second, often in working one’s way up the chain of command, one is never given leadership training. Even where one is, the training is focused on low-level management, protocol, policies, practices, procedures, and the like. As such, one becomes steeped in a leadership style that is woefully lacking in vision, a deep appreciation for the challenges the organization(s) face(s), practical and novel solutions to those problems, the opportunities upon which the organization(s) could capitalize, and an ability to be truly transformative. Dare I say that such qualities are actually looked down upon within BGLOs.

Third, ultimately you end up with a crop of leaders who may look good, speak well, know the practices, policies, and procedures of their organization, and are capable of executing their own signature program(s). However, they cannot move the needle. They’re completely inept when it comes to tackling the fundamental issues that BGLOs face.

I cut BGLO leaders no slack. Their members elect them with the hope that they will guide their, respective, organizations in the right direction—that they will solve (to the extent that they can be solved) the issues of hazing, reclamation, retention, leadership cultivation, college chapter success, community engagement, and the like. But too often, once in “power,” the leaders throw up their hands and say: “This is all I can do. I don’t know how to address hazing. I don’t know how to address reclamation. I can’t figure out how to get members more engaged in the community….” But those are all EXCUSES. Ultimately, the leaders fall back on a concept of power that I call “negro celebrity.” What I mean by this is that the leaders have their entourage of members. Members stand when they walk into a room. They receive lots of deference from members. And they are well-known, and usually beloved by a few thousand, mostly, black men or women. But they rarely have the power to truly change their organization for the better—to move the needle—and almost never have any real power and influence outside of their organization—chiefly in improving the lives of black folks. And, sadly, I think most of them are content with that.

Even more, the members do a horrible job of either demanding more of their leaders or selecting them. Elections within BGLOs are more akin to popularity contests than they are serious competitions for who should lead the organizations in tackling major issues. In fact, I suspect that candidates for high office rarely get asked hard questions on the campaign trail, and when they do, they evade, obfuscate, speechify, and the like. From my vantage-point, as a researcher on BGLOs and one who is deeply interested in their longevity and impact, I believe the following are the kind of questions every candidate for high office should have to answer in detail to even be seriously considered as a candidate:

Leadership Philosophy/Vision

  1. What is your strategic plan?
  2. Would your administration simply seek to tinker at the margins of issues or be transformative? If you say “transformative,” what in your platform indicates that? What about your leadership style or history of leadership in or outside the fraternity/sorority suggests that?
  3. Do you believe that it would be your job to keep the proverbial ship afloat if elected or to ensure the fraternity/sorority’s longevity and impact well-beyond your years in office? If the latter, what is your concrete plan for doing so?
  4. What are your most visionary ideas? What is the substance—foundation for why they are issues to be tackled and how, systematically, you will address them—behind them?
  5. What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in a national leadership position in the fraternity/sorority, and what did you learn from it?
  6. Do you believe members should support you because they are from your chapter, area, district, or region/province…or because you are the best candidate? “Best” connotes a comparison. How would you distinguish yourself from the other candidates?
  7. How would you define the different components of the fraternity/sorority aims, motto, ideals, etc…
  8. As a lawyer, I think it is legal malpractice for a lawyer to represent a client and not have read the law relevant to the client’s situation? Similarly, I believe that it is leadership malpractice in BGLOs to be wholly unfamiliar with the research/scholarship on BGLOs. Much of this work frames the history, culture, contemporary issues, and solutions to the challenges that face BGLOs. Similarly, there is a cognitive bias called the Dunning–Kruger effect, wherein unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to an inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude. Are you current on this scholarship, or have you delegated to members of your team the responsibility of digesting much of this work, or are you wholly unfamiliar with it and comfortable with that unfamiliarity?
  9. Would your administration be guided by best practices and research, to the extent that it’s available on any given BGLO-related issues, or would your decision-making be guided by experience, hunches, and seeing what sticks when you throw a set of solutions at the wall?
  10. I am a firm believer that the solutions to all of BGLOs’ challenges exist already. Maybe some member has it, but they’ve never been asked or if they have offered it in the past, it has been ignored. On the other hand, maybe some member of another BGLO has already studied the issue. How would you fully maximize the fraternity/sorority’s own organizational, intellectual capital to address its issues and those of our communities? How would you go about, if at all, drawing on ideas even from outside any BGLO to problem-solve?
  11. Would your campaign be willing to post to your website or email to members fleshed-out details of your platform—i.e., a detailed approach to how you will get each platform point accomplished if elected?
  12. How do you conceptualize the word “transparency?” Will your administration have annual, independent audits? How accessible will the results be to members, generally?
  13. How will you grow the organization’s assets?

Thoughts on Instruments, Offices, and Structure

  1. Do you think the fraternity/sorority’s organizational structure is fitting for the 21st Century? If so, why? If not, why and how would you change it?
  2. What is your vision for the fraternity/sorority’s publications, media, and social media outlets?
  3. Would you be willing to strengthen the Education Foundation and have most of the fraternity/sorority’s programs, partnerships, and training run through it even thought that might mean that the national president loses some of the power that (s)he has typically wielded within the fraternity/sorority?
  4. Do you believe the General Counsel should be hand-picked by the national president? If so, why? If not, why and what other method of picking a GC do you think is better?
  5. Do you think having a sole lawyer handle the fraternity/sorority’s legal issues is the best model or do think it should have multiple lawyers with varying specialties to meet the fraternity/sorority’s various legal needs, reporting to the GC? If so, why? If not, why?
  6. What is your vision for each committee during your administration?


  1. Do you believe that the National Pan-Hellenic Council is a valuable entity? If so, why?
  2. Would you consider having the fraternity/sorority leave the NPHC? If so, why? If not, why?
  3. In what ways does it needs to be modernized and/or strengthened? What would you do in your position as national president to make it more effective?
  4. Do you believe the fraternity/sorority can address its challenges in isolation from the other NPHC organizations? To the extent that you don’t, do you believe that collegiate BGLO members should challenge each other to be their best and call-out unethical and unlawful conduct that plagues the organizations collectively? To the extent that you do, think about this: in the past five year or so, Alpha, AKA, Zeta, and Sigma have all had embezzlement issues with regard to their national leadership. In total, across those four groups, there were a total of eight court cases. If a co-Council of President member was accused of embezzling money (and in the face of mounting evidence) from their organization, would you do what many expect our adolescent members to do when they see wrong—call your co-leader(s) on the carpet?
  5. In what ways will you have the fraternity/sorority engage with the North-American Interfraternity Conference or national PanHellenic Conference to better utilize their resources and network?


  1. How do you define “brotherhood/sisterhood”?
  2. What would your administration do to build a stronger brotherhood/sisterhood?
  3. Research suggests that one significant fissure within black fraternities (less so sororities) is around sexual orientation. Some heterosexual brothers are bothered by the fact that some gay brothers use the fraternity as a place to seek out partners—either among aspirants or other brothers. The concern is that the conduct is either predatory or, at the very least, quasi-incestuous. Some gay brothers rightly believe that they are disrespected and ostracized because of the general climate of homophobia among some heterosexual brothers. Would you tackle this issue during your administration? If so, how? ​​
  4. What gender identity language will organizations use to define membership eligibility (ex. must be cis-gendered, trans* ineligible, etc.)?
  5. Chapters at public colleges and universities adhere to non-discriminatory policies. What measures are the organizations taking to minimize the chances of identity-based (ex. sexual orientation, religion) discriminatory practices in the membership selection process?

College Members and Chapters

  1. What are your thoughts on having paid field staff to help strengthen college chapters?
  2. What are your thoughts on having formal alumni associations as a support mechanism for college chapters?
  3. What are your thoughts on raising membership dues and having a portion of those dues, at least those of alumni members initiated into alumni chapters, set aside in accounts for their respective chapters—the money to be used to pay collegiate chapter dues, insurance fees, convention registration, etc…
  4. What will your administration do to work more closely with college campuses to better aid collegiate chapters?
  5. How will your administration aid college chapters in improving their GPAs?
  6. How would you utilize, if at all, brothers who work in student affairs to aid in the development of college brothers and college chapters?
  7. ​What ethical considerations are given to collegiate initiation costs within the context of rising student loan debt and rising costs for higher education? Do you struggle with charging collegiate applicants $1000+ for initiation fees because of (1) rising academic costs, (2) rising  student loan debt, (3) Low SES/class access to fraternal orgs due to cost barriers?


  1. What do you think is wrong with MIP ? How would you fix it (please provide details)?
  2. Do you believe getting rid of college chapters would be an effective strategy for reducing the fraternity/sorority’s liability? If so, why? If not, why?
  3. In your estimation, what are the root causes of hazing within the fraternity/sorority? How would your administration address them?
  4. In my estimation and what research suggests is that BGLO leadership and alumni may (1) undermine their moral authority in confronting college members about hazing and (2) aid in creating an organizational culture where law/rule violation is accepted, people in power don’t seek to stop the behavior, and whistle-blowers are demonized/sanctioned. You saw this in each of the BGLO embezzlement cases, especially where the embezzler was the national president. Additionally, within the past couple of years, a gentleman was sent to federal prison after being tried in federal court (and later appealing the matter to a federal appellate court) for running a prostitution ring (where sex trafficking was implicated, and I believe an underage girl was involved) at one fraternity’s conventions. Do you believe that it is hypocritical to try and get college members to be ethical, law-abiding members when leadership has, in the past, been slow to do the same with alumni members around a range of issues? Would your administration tackle these issues? If so, how?
  5. One of the challenges in litigating hazing cases is that insurance carriers largely dictate to organizations what lawyer they will have or panel of lawyers they may choose from. Unfortunately, these lawyers may often know little about BGLOs and the most effective strategies for litigating case son their behalf. Would your administration develop a litigation strategy that is effective for the fraternity? If so, how would you create it and what would it look like?
  6. One way that hazing has been attempted to be addressed is by sanctions of various forms. Do you believe these sanctions are effective? If so, what supports your contention? If not, what new approaches would you use?
  7. For member re-education is in place for members who transition from suspension to active membership? If no measure is in place to re-educate/re-orient the members, explain why none exists.


  1. I am not a believer in recruiting members in the traditional sense of the word. However, what will you do to attract the best and brightest individuals to the fraternity/sorority on college campuses and from the broader community?
  2. As you know, the fraternity/sorority hemorrhages members at a rate that is unsustainable in the long-term. What is your strategy for retaining active members and reclaiming inactive members?
  3. Research suggests that one reason why people renounce their membership in BGLOs is because they come to believe that said membership conflicts with their Christian faith. How will you tackle this issue?
  4. White Greek-letter organizations are looking at the demographics of college students over the next fifty years in thinking about how to grow their organizations. Do you think it is important for the fraternity/sorority to be mindful of these demographics and to seek to attract a diverse (race, religion, etc…) membership, while remaining largely black? If not, why not? If so, how would you do this?
  5. What measures are in place or proposed to increase retention from collegiate to alumnae/alumni membership transition? What efforts do organizations take to maintain members who do not graduate? Would a member who did not graduate from college know how s/he could still be engaged as an active member?

Community Uplift

  1. If elected, would your administration speak out on issues of discrimination beyond African Americans—e.g., human rights, women’s rights, gay rights?
  2. What are the major public policy and racial justice issues you think need to be addressed? How would your administration tackle them? Would you maintain our partnerships with the NAACP, NAACP-LDF, Lawyer’s Committee…and would you develop other strategic alliances with other Civil Rights organizations?
  3. What would your administration do to get a substantial number of members more engaged in mentoring?
  4. One study looked at the racial attitudes of BGLO members and found that about 30% had subconscious anti-black biases, 40% for undergraduates. The authors speculated that such attitudes may undermine any real commitments of these members to being engaged in uplifting their communities. If this is true, what would your administration do to change this dynamic?

Maybe it’s just me, but I think that if you want to run some of the most powerful (or at least have the potential for power) organizations in America, and certainly black America, having clear and detailed answers to the questions above isn’t too much to ask.

Who to Blame for the Continued BGLO Hazing – The Leaders

This week, just a few days ago, it came out in the media that Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity has just been hit with another hazing lawsuit. The reported facts seem peculiar and involve a police officer, a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, hazing another grown man—leaving bruises on the alleged victim and requiring him to rub the member down with lotion. This latest case should add to the chorus of people who rightfully ask: why can’t BGLOs stop the hazing? Routinely the finger is pointed at a bunch of adolescents, BGLO members between the ages of 19-23 and some alumni who help perpetuate the culture of hazing. While I don’t subscribe to the notion that kids will be kids, I do think that solely, or even largely, focusing on this age-group as the main culprits loses sight of what these organizations stand for.

At the heart of BGLOs’ identity is this notion of “leadership,” so it seems apropos to ask: where are the leaders on this issue and why can’t or haven’t they solved it? In my fraternity, whether electing chapter presidents, regional vice and assistant vice presidents, national presidents and the like, I cast my ballot for an odd reason. Beyond the rhetoric, all I’m interested in is who has a vision for boldly advancing the aims of the fraternity and a plan for execution. When it comes to the issue of hazing, I doubt most leaders have, do, or will have a sound plan of attack for the issue. That leaves me with the feeling that, in all honesty, across organizations, the chief executive leaders—either nationally, regionally, provincially, or at the district level—aren’t truly interested in tackling the problem. Maybe they believe hazing isn’t an issue and only speak to it, because a significant organizational constituency does. Maybe they believe hazing is a problem, but they are too lazy, lack any real vision, or lack the chops to work through the organization’s political dynamics to solve the problem.

Think about this: In these organizations, the leaders expect adolescents to do two things. Within the organizations, they expect, largely, college members not only to not haze but also to report hazing—to stop it when they see it or hear about it. Also, and maybe to a lesser extent, they expect college members across organizations to report hazing to prevent harm to victims and the organizations themselves. However, the leaders—the grown-ups—have often failed to do this in other contexts where there have been breaches not only in ethics but also law.

As an aside, a few years ago, Dr. Jelani Cobb—an Alpha Phi Alpha member and Professor at the University of Connecticut—wrote an article in Essence magazine about black men’s sex trips to Rio. He caught a lot of flak from black men for the article, because he let the proverbial cat out of the bag. I suspect I’ll similarly catch a lot of flak from BGLO members for what I’m about to say. It should be no surprise that wherever you have large congregations of men, prostitutes are likely to be. This point was underscored by the federal court cases US v. Murphy (2013) and Murphy v. US (2014), where a traveling prostitution ring made its way around to one BGLO fraternity’s conventions. While one fraternity was implicated, it would be naïve to think that this kind of activity doesn’t take place at all BGLO fraternity conventions. Additionally, you have cases like Alpha Kappa Alpha v. McKinzie (2013); Daley et al. v. Alpha Kappa Alpha (2010); Mason v. Alpha Phi Alpha et al. (2012); McKinzie v. Alpha Kappa Alpha (2006); Purnell et al. v. Alpha Kappa Alpha (2010); Redden v. Alpha Kappa Alpha (2006); Shackelford v. Alpha Kappa Alpha (2011); and Stark v. Zeta Phi Beta (2008). Each of these cases revolves around substantial allegations that the national presidents of these organizations embezzled organizational funds. Across each case, there were similar facts: (1) people in positions of power engaged in unethical conduct and arguably broke the law; (2) other people in positions of power were aware of the conduct and turned a blind eye; (3) those in power engaged in a practice of intra-organizational secrecy; and (4) whistleblowers were demonized, attacked, and in some instances removed from the organization. And while it’s specific leaders who were caught, it’s foolish to think that this hasn’t been a pattern of practice among some national heads of these groups, but that those other leaders entrusted with the future of the organizations refused to speak up and speak out. Similarly, to my knowledge—and I could be wrong—in each of the instances where the national presidents were found to have, arguably, embezzled organizational funds, I doubt that their co-heads (the national presidents of the other NPHC organizations, those who sit on the Council of Presidents) called them on the carpet.

BUT, the leaders, the adults, expect adolescents to do the very thing that they themselves have long been unwilling to do—to reign in, punish, and/or speak out against unlawful conduct on the part of alumni, especially those in power, that threatens to destroy our organizations.

In addition, ponder this: These organizations aren’t solely comprised of college members. If anything, alumni members predominate. And when I say alumni members, I mean smart and well-educated alumni, many of whom are deeply committed to these organizations. They serve, or could serve, as an intellectual reservoir—a primary source of intellectual capital—to solve the problems of not only the black community but also of BGLOs themselves. The leadership, however, squander this resource. The leaders claim that they want to solve the scourge of BGLO hazing and suggest that they are at their wits-end about how to do it. Either they lack and have long-lacked vision on this issue or they are and have been disingenuous.

I’m a firm believer that there are few problems that exist that don’t have a workable solution out there in the world. The key is to finding it. There is a researcher, professor, thesis, dissertation, article, book, study, practitioner, best practice…out there waiting to be discovered. The question is whether the person or people who purport to want a solution to a problem will go out and find it. The leaders of BGLOs, for the most part, haven’t wanted to find it, end of story. How do I know? I know because having studied and written about BGLOs for 10 years and having served as an expert witness and trial consultant in BGLO hazing cases (for plaintiffs and defendants), I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the people I know who are the most knowledgeable about hazing, or who have expertise in fields of study that could bear on real solutions to the issue, are NEVER consulted by BGLO leadership. Their work is never reviewed. Their best practices are never examined. And I’m not talking about some random white person hidden in a lab in Siberia. I’m talking about financially active BGLO members, who attend chapter meetings, do community service, participate at conventions, and the like.

The moratoria, the revised Membership Intake Processes, media blitzes, campaign speeches, presidential addresses, and, yes, even Phi Beta Sigma’s Anti-hazing Campaign, are shams. The efforts, if one could call them that, have limited, if any, basis in facts, data, and actual support for the speeches, admonishments, and initiatives. BGLO leaders are more concerned with whether you’re a member of their specific organization, financial, of a certain stature within their organization, black, and whether you can say the right things to make them look good and keep them happy. They cannot move beyond their own comfort zones to do the most essential aspect of their jobs—ensure the viability, vitality, and impact of their fraternity or sorority well-beyond their years. Rather, they seek to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic, to tinker at the margins, and establish their fleeting legacies.

BGLO undergrads may engage in the lion’s share of hazing within these groups; it’s true. But the bulk of the fault for the deaths, injuries, lawsuits, rising insurance costs, and eventually end of one or more of these organizations was, is, and always will be the men and women we put in high office. It is that class of members, our leaders, who should and must be responsible for guiding us out of the darkness and into the light. But too many (not all) of them can’t see beyond their own narrow agendas, political posturing, or lack of insight and vision. And this isn’t to demonize BGLO leaders; some, maybe many, have good hearts and love their respective organization. But maybe what some have had to offer is too little, especially in the area of solving our most crucial issues, hazing being chief among them.

You Asked for BGLO Hazing Solutions: Here Are Some on the Fly

One of the lingering critiques of my research on BGLOs is that I don’t provide solutions to the problems they face. This usually comes from those who don’t read my research but rather my blog posts, tweets, and Facebook commentary. Even still, assume I’m a physician, and a patient came to me for a check-up. I tell them that they are likely to die prematurely, because they’re morbidly obese from lack of exercise and excessive daily caloric intake. Some such patients would ask: “What should I do to stop being morbidly obese?” My answer: “Diet and exercise”; the answer is built into the diagnosis I give. But some patients want more. They ask: “What kind of diet should I use?” “What’s the best work-out regimen?” “What if I lack will-power?” Maybe I should answer these questions, or maybe the patient also needs a nutritionist, personal trainer, and psycho-therapist. With that said, let me give some concrete advice on how BGLOs could and should address hazing, in no particular order save the first one:

Each BGLO needs to come to grips with what it’s or wants to be—its organizational identity. Each needs to do some soul-searching. Dr. Stefan Bradley and I edited an entire book on this topic with regard to Alpha Phi Alpha, which has implications for the other members of the NPHC. Everything these BGLOs do should revolve around their organizational identity. This includes, and is especially the case for, how they identify, recruit (tacitly or explicitly), train, initiate, and retrain members. Honestly, membership is the most important issue within BGLOs; without them the work of the organization cannot get done.

The critical question within BGLOs is really about leadership. And I don’t mean the kind that can investigate hazing allegations, host a good conference/convention, give a good speech, whoop like a Baptist preacher, recite “If” and “Invictus”, provide great hospitality suites at gatherings…but who can transform these organizations. Leadership, especially at the national level have to provide a clear roadmap and vision to addressing hazing by all reasonable means; and membership have to elect that leadership into position. To date, BGLOs have not had that. The proof is in the pudding. That’s not to say that the current and past leaders are incompetent; they just haven’t solved the problem, and I doubt they gave their best efforts. This is a chicken and egg problem: when will such individuals offer themselves’ up for service, and can members recognize them for the value they bring and elect them? I don’t know; I’m not confident on these points.

From my observation, BGLOs are organizations of “no.” They are conservative, and when new ideas and modes of thinking come to the fore, membership and leadership resist them. With regard to hazing within BGLOs, the old approaches clearly have not worked. Therefore, a new type of leadership has to be receptive to and able to find ways to cut through organizational politics, and the like, in order to implement new and novel ideas around solving the BGLO hazing problem.

The best place to start with bringing in members who exemplify any of these organizations’ ideals is mentoring; I mean from K-12. Being big brothers or big sisters is likely to create the best possible pipeline to membership, because then boys and girls get exposure to these organizations and their ideals early. Once these kids hit college, much of the training about what it takes to be a BGLO member could and should already be done.

Litigation-wise, BGLOs are at a disadvantage. Litigation is largely run by insurance carriers who give the insured a panel of lawyers in the state where litigation is pending. The inured-BGLO then picks from among these lawyers, most of whom probably know little about BGLOs. These organizations, under such circumstances, should request that local counsel associate with some other, outside of panel, attorney who is a BGLO member or firm with a BGLO member on the litigation team. That isn’t to say that BGLO members will have the ideal body of knowledge to litigate the case effectively, but some knowledge is better than none. These organizations should always use expert witnesses if they can. The narrative about BGLO hazing is easily articulated in a language that would make a jury sympathetic to a plaintiff. The only real balance that can come is if there is an expert to better contextualize the issue. Depending on the law in the jurisdiction, the facts of the case, and depending on whether a BGLO litigating a case hires a competent expert, they should consider not settling in order to build more favorable case law to their assertions. Also, BGLOs lack any real perspective on the legal strategies used against them, the law across jurisdictions, the strength and weakness in claims, etc… This is because they don’t analyze prior litigation in any systematic way. As such, they should confer—the 9 of them—about what cases they have had over the past several decades. They should gather all case names from their insurers and all case files from the relevant courts and then create an analysis of these cases in the aggregate. Yes, this will cost some money but less money than hazing settlements and deductibles.

Also, in the context of litigation, when BGLOs are sued, they have to pay their insurer a deductible—e.g., a $25,000. How do these organizations recoup that money? They don’t, but they should sue the members who caused the litigation in order to recoup the deductible. Also, if a BGLO settles a case or loses it and has to pay damages, they should sue the members whose conduct resulted in the verdict and damages. That could help send a clear message to violators.

Leadership within BGLOs need a better understanding of hazing issues and law. They should regularly attend the handful of conferences on the topic. Also, there is a growing and robust body of literature available on the topic; folks need to start reading.

Leadership have to be held to a high standard in BGLOs. Their behavior should be a model for rank-and-file members. In recent years, at least half of BGLOs have had embezzlement issues involving their national leadership. It’s unreasonable to expect a 19-22 year-old to obey the law when a 40, 50, 60 year-old man or woman won’t. Leadership have to be held accountable. If they steal; they have to be removed from office and the organization, and possibly prosecuted; this is especially so if the same would be done to undergrads. It gives leadership a higher moral ground when going after college chapter hazing; it’s also an attack on an organizational culture that flouts organizational rule sand the law of the land.

Two important data points: One is that a good predictor of whether or not BGLO members will haze is the extent to which they are actually aware of the consequences of hazing. These organizations believe that they are making the case, but they’re not. Think about this: if I tell you once a year, “smoking causes cancer and can kill you,” would you stop smoking, especially if you’re addicted to nicotine? If, on a weekly basis, I say the same thing to you but show you images of people who died from lung cancer and what nicotine did to their lungs, and I constantly bombard you with data about the harms of smoking, would you stop or at least try to stop? Better question: which approach is likely to cause smoking cessation, the former or the latter? The problem is that BGLOs lack a command of the facts and therefore a command of the narrative. They don’t chronicle the major hazing incidents that result in personal harm and litigation. As such, they have little to talk about other than abstracts about what hazing is doing. What’s problematic is that this information is not hard to come by. These organizations can get much of it via the means mentioned above. They can also search legal and news databases. This could be expensive; if only these organizations had members on college campuses who could gather such information for free from university library databases (yes, I’m being snarky). Once they have compiled the information, they could disseminate the information to aspirants, incorporate it into risk management training, etc… The other point is that hazing is most violent in black fraternities. Part of this likely has to do with how manhood and masculinity are defined among black men, including black fraternity members. Part of this also shades into the third rail of black fraternity life—homosexual membership. These organizations’ ability to grapple with and discuss this issue is a must; but it will take leadership at every level to tackle it.

The ironic thing about BGLOs is that given the nature of alumni membership, these organizations have considerable intellectual capital to solve their own problems. I personally know experts in a variety of disciplines who are active BGLO members who have pieces to the puzzle for solving the problem of hazing. These members go to chapter meeting, sell tickets to their chapters’ annual balls, do service projects, but they don’t offer up solutions to major issues their respective organizations face, because their organizations are not interested. And I don’t mean that leadership should say, basically, come help if you want. Leaders have to urge, nudge, beg if needed, these people to lend their insights. Heck, if need be, pay them. For instance, most of the experts I know are professors, but they probably cannot put ample time toward drafting a white paper on hazing, especially if they are pre-tenured, but they might be able to do so if they had a research assistant or two or three. These organizations should invest in such.

Black Greek-letter organizations need alternative revenue streams. This is largely so that they can halt Intake when needed to make adjustments and not worry about the financial hit they will take. This is so because most of these organizations live and die on Intake fees. The problem is that as 501(c)(7) organizations, they must rely substantially on membership dues/fees. And with the high attrition of members once they graduate from college—ie., the lack of financially active members—these organizations are in a bind. They should consult with an organizational behavior (“OB”) expert about what it takes to get organizational members to be committed to their, respective, organization.

These organizations need an alternative process that members can buy into and that helps gather and prepare the kind of members they need. To reduce liability, they could have a protracted on-line course, at the beginning of the process. Part of what should be taught is the history and culture of BGLOs, generally, and the history of the specific BGLO they’re joining. Aspiring members should also be taught about the contemporary issues BGLOs face, especially a robust education on hazing. They should have to earn some minimal score to advance to the next stage or to various iterations of the tests. Some, maybe many, aspirants will not be motivated to read and do the best they can. As such, incentivize the learning. Give them a certain rebate for not simply getting the minimum score but for getting much better scores. So, if a 90 out of a score of 100 is needed to pass, a 91-95 gets them a rebate of $50. A score of better than 95 gets them a rebate of $100. Once they finish the series of exam, they are basically knowledgeable about BGLOs. Then the bonding activities and additional activities can take place over the next several weeks and even after Intake.

These are my quick thoughts, the ones I could get down in 45 minutes before I leave the office. There is more to come in forthcoming scholarly journal articles and books.


For many years now, at least as long as I have been a brother of Alpha Phi Alpha—17 years—I have heard that “we are one lawsuit away from being out of business.” I am sure other BGLO members have heard the same thing. I always took it as hyperbole; and over the years, maybe it was such or at least a scare tactic. Having been a researcher on BGLOs for the past 14 years and a law professor who has studied BGLOs for the past 3 years, I would bank on the fact that within 25 years the Divine Nine will be the Great Eight, Stellar Seven or Six…maybe the Fabulous Five or Four. Honestly, at the rate that BGLOs are going, I can only foresee two having any longevity. Given their sizes, financial resources, and frequency of hazing litigation, my prediction is that the organizations will fall by the wayside in the following order: Omega Psi Phi, Kappa Alpha Psi/Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta, Sigma Gamma Rho, Iota Phi Theta, Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha/Delta Sigma Theta.


The typical narrative about how BGLOs will meet their demise is typically one that consists of errant undergrads hazing and getting their organization sued out of existence. That is, from where I sit, part of the narrative, but not the whole or even the bulk of the story. Here are the factors that I think will do-in BGLOs:


First: To call someone “paper” or a “skater” is taboo, but the reality is that the current generation of college students is more entitled and less inclined to sacrifice for achievement than prior generations, on average. And that fact will only become amplified with time. I think a person who loses his or her sight, has to get skin grafts on their posterior, or has their kidney ruptured may have strong grounds to sue for hazing-related injuries. Such victims in the past would have been less-likely to sue, because they would have accepted such injuries as part of the hazards that went along with pledging a BGLO. Even more, this new generation may be more inclined to sue for even milder harms or real/perceived slights. Indeed, we live in an increasingly litigious society.


Second: In a study my colleagues and I conducted on over 1,300 BGLO members, we found that BGLO hazing has become more violent at least since the 1950s. More violence likely means more injuries, and more injuries likely mean more lawsuits against BGLOs. In another study, my colleagues and I found that BGLOs have more violent hazing than white fraternities and sororities. Black fraternities are the most violent. Part of this likely has to do with constrained notions of masculinity among black men, including black fraternity members. And given that black fraternities likely will not have any meaningful dialogue about masculinity and black fraternalism, they will not likely sort these issues out, especially as they relate to hazing. As such, hazing will remain particularly violent within these groups.


Third: The only thing that truly stands between BGLOs and plaintiffs in hazing lawsuits is the insurance industry. Unfortunately, there are few insurers of college fraternities and sororities. With the steady flow of hazing litigation involving BGLOs, it is not inconceivable that at some point it becomes unprofitable for any insurer to cover any particular BGLO. For example, let’s say BGLO A pays a $500,000 premium each year to Insurer A, but over the course of three years, Insurer A pays out $1,000,000 a year in hazing settlements involving BGLO A. It would likely make sense for that insurer to drop BGLO from coverage. BGLO A must then move on to Insurer B. With a limited number of such insurers out there, once Insurer B begins to lose money, BGLO A will then have to move on to Insurer C and so on until there is no insurer to cover BGLO A. A possible option is for an insurer to raise the premium, which would trickle down to each chapter in BGLO A. Higher insurance fees, especially for smaller chapters, would kill many BGLO A chapters, especially collegiate chapters. It is doubtful that any campus would let a fraternity or sorority chapter operate on its campus without insurance. As for the national organization of BGLO A, with no insurer, its only option would be to insure itself. And given the financial resources of each BGLO (consider the net assets or fund balances from 2011 and 2010 for each NPHC organization: Alpha Phi Alpha ($6,809,028/$7,258,956); Alpha Kappa Alpha ($24,384,894/$23,654,672); Kappa Alpha Psi ($5,817,499/$5,148,046); Omega Psi Phi ($2,624,479/$2,575,365); Delta Sigma Theta ($19,188,109/$19,555,631); Phi Beta Sigma ($1,835,670/$1,766,064); Zeta Phi Beta ($1,008,703/$1,091,217); Sigma Gamma Rho ($2,559,860/$1,817,088); and Iota Phi Theta ($300,857/$308,047)), it would take few law suits to reduce most BGLOs to bankruptcy. As an additional point, as a recent case between Admiralty Insurance and Kappa Alpha Psi shows, insurers will not insure, or seek to not insure, the hazing activities of BGLO members. Such an outcome would further expose BGLOs’ direct resources to judgment.


Another critical point: whenever a BGLO is sued, let us say in North Carolina just as an example, the BGLO’s General Counsel does not swoop into North Carolina to litigate the case. Rather, the insurance company gives the BGLO a panel of lawyers in the area to choose from—one who will represent the BGLO. I suspect that most of these lawyers are competent, but few are likely to be black, BGLO members, or experienced in litigating hazing cases dealing with BGLOs. Even more, most of them are not likely to affiliate with such a lawyer or hire an expert witness or trial consultant to aid them in navigating the unique terrain of BGLO hazing issues. As such, the parents of a young man or woman allegedly killed by hazing, or one with a severe injury, is a sympathetic plaintiff to a potential jury, and because of that the BGLO-defendant and their local attorney are somewhat outgunned.


Fourth: BGLOs have too many blind spots when it comes to hazing. Most of the organizations do not pay attention to the legal trends. Most of them do not pay attention to broader bodies of knowledge that could aid them in addressing the issue proactively or once litigation arises. They do not mine the data they already have on past litigations and likely do not share such information across organizations. As such, they fail to capture the big picture either in strategies that plaintiffs’ counsels have used against BGLOs, the ebb and flow of the law in the area, types of evidence that has been or not been useful in litigation, best practices, arguments that expert witnesses and trial consultants have made.


Fifth: Similar to number four, BGLOs are information/data adverse. This includes bodies of knowledge that are available outside of the respective organization files. I have attended the Fraternal Law Conference two years in a row. Most BGLOs are not represented there. Arguably, there has been more research on BGLO hazing conducted in the past five years than on any other type of organization. However, I would bet that most BGLO members and leaders have never looked at this research to see how it may aid them in addressing this issue within their own ranks. Part of this has to do with organizational politics. For example, given the petty intra-organizational rivalries between the groups, do you think Kappa Alpha Psi leadership would consult with a Phi Beta Sigma researcher on BGLO hazing? I doubt it, because they won’t consult with a Kappa, like Dr. Ricky Jones, who has researched the issue. What about vice-versa? Nope! Phi Beta Sigma has never even consulted with the only Sigma, Dr. Matthew Hughey, who currently studies the issue—ironic given that they have a national, anti-hazing initiative. These organizations do not solicit feedback, certainly not on a regular basis, from non-BGLO hazing experts or even BGLO members who are hazing experts, even within their own ranks. The ironic thing about BGLOs is that, for the most part, they have tremendous intellectual capital, given the nature of alumni membership within these groups, but the vast majority of this intellectual capital goes untapped. So, BGLOs remain in an information vacuum due to their own actions or inactions.


Sixth: In one study my colleagues and I conducted, we found that a determinant of hazing was the extent to which BGLO members were truly aware of sanctions associated with hazing. Arguably, most do not know how bad the problem is or how high the stakes truly are. Leadership within BGLOs seem to believe that their current efforts are the best possible, and they are not. Telling BGLO members that hazing will destroy BGLOs is very different from laying out the case systematically and regularly. But that all turns on having sufficient information—e.g., aggregating the major hazing incidents across BGLOs, resultant injuries, lawsuits, settlement/judgment figures, criminal convictions—to make such a case. But, as I have said, BGLOs do not keep such records, and to date they have not invested in gathering and consolidating such information. I suspect that given their indifference to information consolidated and analyzed by outside sources, even those efforts would be snubbed. With all that said, BGLO members are woefully under-informed about hazing, its nature, and the challenges it raises. And these very members are expected to either create and reform the Membership Intake Process within their own organizations or vote on its form and application.


Seventh: Black Greek-letter organizations have also lost their luster. We now live in an age in which many college students do not feel the need to join any fraternity or sorority. Some choose to join something other than a BGLO. It is problematic that BGLOs have built no real pipeline to membership by seeing mentoring K-12 African Americans as not simply good for the community but also necessary for the future viability of these organizations. At this rate, a decade or two from now, the pickings will be remarkably slim for college students who are interested in BGLO membership and possessed of the requisite qualities and characteristics that will sustain BGLOs. Even more, BGLOs have not thought through an optimal MIP that will commit members to their respective BGLO in real and tangible—financially and physically active—ways. As such, while BGLOs are likely to see fewer and fewer aspiring members or ones with poorer credentials than decades before, they are also likely to witness a greater hemorrhaging of active members. And for organizations with an economic model that depends largely on initiation fees and membership dues, their best hope will be to lower the bar to membership. This will fundamentally alter the nature of these organizations, not guarantee long-term membership commitment, and continue to leave them vulnerable to limited coffers and increasing hazing allegations, among other things.


In the end, I am hopeful about the longevity of BGLOs but not optimistic. Their demise will be blamed on 19-23 year-olds, but how responsible can you expect “kids” to be, even those who espouse high ideals? The end of BGLOs will ultimately have resulted from the failure of the adults, especially those in leadership, from doing, not simply something(s) about hazing, but all that needed to be done. Within BGLOs, there is not the will to be transformative. These are inherently conservative organizations where new modes of thinking are strenuously resisted, organizational politics prevails, and provincialism rules the day. Only time will tell; but time is not on their side.

Rethinking BGLO Reclamation, Retention, and “Recruitment”

It was more than 15 years ago when I reached out to an attorney—Mr. Tarver—who worked for Federal Bureau of Prisons’ main office in Washington, D.C. I had met him while I worked there as an intern in the BOP’s Office of Research. This time around, I had a request; I needed another sponsor for my membership application to Alpha Phi Alpha. I had chosen two personal ones already—my brother-in-law and my eldest sister’s best friend from college, who was like a big brother to me. Mr. Tarver would serve, I hoped, as a professional reference. When I asked, he agreed, but he required that I always remain financially and physically active in Alpha in order to receive the reference. In his words, Alpha needed bodies; it needed men to do the work of the Fraternity. I told Mr., now Brother, Tarver that I would do just that. In the many years that have passed since that time, I have kept that promise, becoming a Life Member, consistently remaining active in alumni chapters as I have moved from this to that state. I now serve as a national committee chair and regional committee co-chair for the Fraternity.


While I have remained active in Alpha, many brothers have not; and this is a persistent issue across black Greek-letter organizations (“BGLOs”). Not only does membership inactivity impact BGLOs’ with regard to hands to complete the labor, but it also effects BGLOs’ bottom-line. Many, if not all, of these organizations are 501(C)(7)—tax-exempt—organizations under the Internal Revenue Code, and as such, the vast majority of their operating funds must come from membership. This results from membership dues and/or initiation fees. Consequently, the fewer financially-active members these organizations have, the more individuals they must initiate, and this could create some quality-control issues for BGLOs. In thinking about dollars and cents, consider the net assets or fund balances from 2011 and 2010 for each of the 9, major BGLOs [all publicly accessible]: Alpha Phi Alpha ($6,809,028/$7,258,956); Alpha Kappa Alpha ($24,384,894/$23,654,672); Kappa Alpha Psi ($5,817,499/$5,148,046); Omega Psi Phi ($2,624,479/$2,575,365); Delta Sigma Theta ($19,188,109/$19,555,631); Phi Beta Sigma ($1,835,670/$1,766,064); Zeta Phi Beta ($1,008,703/$1,091,217); Sigma Gamma Rho ($2,559,860/$1,817,088); and Iota Phi Theta ($300,857/$308,047). For most of these organizations, these end-of-the-year balances are relatively small.


One of the great challenges with regard to reclamation—i.e., getting members to reactivate, financially—within BGLOs is that leadership view the issue from their beliefs, unhinged from data, and in isolation from broader issues within the organizations. For example, there is a considerable body of scholarly literature on why members commit or fail to commit to organizations. Organizational behavior (“OB”) scholars tend to do this type of research. A couple of months ago, when I surveyed about 20-30 BGLO members who are OB professors and asked them if their organization leadership had ever solicited their expert advice, to a person the answer was “no.” Not only do BGLOs fail to capitalize on the extant research on organizational commitment, they also fail to utilize their own intellectual capital—the expertise and ideas of organization members—that could address a problem like reclamation.


Moreover, BGLOs’ approach to reclamation is too-often one of insisting that inactive members reactivate with little regard for why they are inactive in the first place. Part of the reason why surveying inactive members is often ignored as a first step is because BGLOs don’t want the critiques. They don’t want to hear about what’s wrong with the organizations, because they don’t want to address deeply-imbedded issues within BGLOs. For example, say individuals are inactive because of the poor academic performance of undergrad chapters, which undermines the ideal of scholarship on which BGLOs stand. BGLOs would then have to raise academic standards or institute some program and allocate resources to aggressively assist undergrads to academically achieve. Say individuals are inactive because of issues surrounding non-heterosexual (especially within fraternities) members. BGLOs would then have to discuss, analyze, and try to resolve matters which they don’t want to entertain at this point. Say individuals are inactive because they view BGLOs as anti-Christian. BGLOs would then have to discuss and maybe come to terms with the actual role that faith and religion should play within their respective organizations. Say individuals are inactive because they view their fraternity or sorority as not meaningfully committed to community service, philanthropy, civic activism, and shaping public policy. As such, they spend their time engaged with organizations like 100 Black Men, The Links, The Junior League, and the NAACP. BGLOs would then have to become more meaningfully engaged in these areas. And say individuals are inactive because of the rash of court cases involving embezzlement of organization funds on the part of BGLO national leaders. BGLOs would have to become more transparent and better stewards of members’ hard-earned dues. These examples don’t even begin to scratch the surface of the long and ineffective chapter meetings, petty-politics, conventions of limited value, and the like. It is easier to say that a member has not lived up to his or her oath than it is to figure out why members are inactive and seek to fix those things.


Moreover, reclamation ignores a crucial issues; that is retention. I suspect that about 70% of BGLO members, within 5 years of initiation, are no longer, financially active. Spending time getting 5, 10, 15% of inactive members to reactivate fails to address why the other 30% may not remain active and why those who reactivate may not stay for long. People have finite resources with regard to time, money, energy, and the like. While BGLOs may think that members should invest no matter what in their organization of initiation, giving those members a reason to stay engaged is a better bet.


Even more, a  central issue is who and how members are brought into BGLOs. I am not a fan of aggressively recruiting members, at least to my Fraternity. But I will say that the ultimate recruitment tool, I think, is mentoring African American youth, inculcating them with the values we say we extol as BGLO members, getting them into college, and helping them fund their educations. Moreover, we must be engaged in addressing the structural inequalities that hold them back as well as the laws and policies that do the same. For example, this past year two cases went before the US Supreme Court that impact the black community in monumental ways—one on the Voting Rights Act and one on affirmative action. There is no excuse why no BGLO wrote an amicus brief in these cases. That aside, once these young men and women make it to college with the skills to succeed, what are the chances that they will want to join our organizations and continue the legacy of lifting as they climb?


Finally, BGLOs seem to largely ignore the fact that the juncture at which they could most likely ensure organizational commitment is during MIP. The selection and initiation process should be designed to enhance the likelihood of (1) getting high-quality members who (2) will remain financially and physically active in their respective organization for life. Unfortunately, I think we are light years from such an approach.

My Agenda and BGLOs

This past weekend I attended my Fraternity’s—Alpha Phi Alpha—Southern Regional Convention. I attended in part because I am a Life Member, financially active in a chapter in the Southern Region (i.e., North Carolina). I also attended because I am the National Chair of the Fraternity’s Commission on Racial Justice. Saturday afternoon, a brother asked me an important question—one that I think many people wonder: what is my agenda with regard to BGLOs. The brother indicated that he did not mean anything by the question; he was not assuming what my motives are, but he was curious and suggested that others seem to be curious as well. So, let me remove the mystery.


There is an assumption that my writings these past eight years have been profit-driven. To be clear, the royalties I earned from all of my BGLO books last year was just shy of $850.00. Yes, you read that correctly—eight hundred and fifty dollars. I never set out to be a researcher and writer to get wealthy off of my writings. If I did, I would not publish with academic/scholarly/university presses. I would be publishing with Simon & Shuster or some other large, trade press. The truth is that publishing scholarly works is not a money-making enterprise for a whole range of reasons. Even more, while step-shows and T-shirts may be a good investment for someone who wants to profit off of BGLOs, producing scholarship is not.


The other assumption is that I am gunning for some office in my Fraternity. I have never run for an office in Alpha. The highest office I’ve held has been as an alumni chapter Vice President. And I have always been recruited to the offices I have held. I am not chomping at the bit to be any officer in Alpha. I do not need a position to bolster my resume/CV. I think my professional accomplishments to date speak for themselves. This does not mean that running for some local, state (district), regional, or national office is out of the cards in the future. But I am focused on my career and enjoying my life, now.


The reason I write about BGLOs is because I find the topic interesting, and I get paid as a law professor to write about things that interest me. In a sense, it is that simple. But even more, I see great value in BGLOs, and I hope to play a role in helping them, generally, and Alpha, specifically, reach their potential. I believe the way to do that is to have a well-reasoned approach to analyzing their history, culture, and contemporary issues. Even more, it is to develop solutions to their problems that are either empirically based, theoretically grounded, or consistent with best-practices.


As an academic, it is my job to analyze and critique. I am not a BGLO cheerleader. I am objective and fact-driven. As a critical race theorist, I believe in the scholar activist model. I do the research on BGLOs, but I am also engaged in practical ways with my own Fraternity. As a believer that BGLOs should be the best they can possibly be, I am impatient and intolerant of leaders at any level who are incompetent, crooked, and lacking in transparency. I am particularly intolerant of leaders who bully rank-and-file members. I believe that if BGLO members want their organizations to be what the founders’ envisioned, those members must fight for those types of organizations either against leaders who do not want the same (e.g., leaders who see the organization as their piggy bank or stepping stone to something, personally greater) or on the side of leaders pursuing that quest.


I am not seeking to be the next Belford Lawson, or Charles Wesley, or Walter Kimbrough, or anyone else. I tip my hat to other great Alpha men and other BGLO members. But I am neither in a competition nor exhibiting an effort to replicate what has already been done. I simply want to be the best me—the best lawyer and social scientist—who contributed something tangible to making BGLOs better. In doing so, I am more than willing to take the path less-traveled or blaze my own trail, to challenge authority or upend it.

Making BGLOs Better

In early December (2012), I attended the Association of Fraternity Advisors Annual Meeting. While there, I attended a session hosted by the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC). Ultimately, I wrote a blog post about that session, in which I was quite critical and suggested the end of NPHC. In response, I received a considerable number of supportive emails.

However, some were not so supportive. In one email, the author, after asking to be removed from my email list, noted:

If I may be candid with you … I think you need to learn when to pull back. It seems that your only goal is to hyper-complain and overly-critique the ills of Black-Greekdom and provide no substantive solutions. I see nothing wrong with you building your publication vita, but at the expense of denigrating Black Greeks? How does that help anyone but you? If I am wrong, I will stand corrected.

Additionally, I recently had a Greek Life Student Affairs Professional who attended the AFA conference and sat in on a panel that you were on. He … asked me if I knew you. I said I knew of your work … He then went on to report his “being turned off by your behavior on that panel.” His words were, “this guy doesn’t know when to quit.” I only nodded my head and suggested that you are quite passionate about Black Greeks. (internally I couldn’t help but agree with the brother, which is why I don’t want to receive any more emails from you)

My pushback to the email was simple. In my AFA session, much of my talk was about the grand ideals of BGLOs. In discussing the challenges facing BGLOs, my co-presenter and I recommended a range of solutions to those issues. In my work, more generally, I will admit that my collaborators and I are not writing how-to manuals for fixing BGLOs. We are producing scholarship, but that doesn’t mean that there are not solutions to be found in the work we do.

For some BGLO members, any critique of BGLOs is too much of a critique. And for BGLO members who aren’t reading the growing scholarship on BGLOs, and as such are not privy to the solutions that flow from that work, it seems like I (and my collaborators) are not presenting any solutions. Ironically, my frequent collaborator, Dr. Matthew Hughey, and I have been talking about writing a book loosely entitled Making BGLOs Better, where we would lay-out solutions to a range of issues confronting BGLOs. My fraternity brother, Dameon Proctor, once asked me who would read the book. I told him I thought few people would. His suggestion was to blog, tweet, or Facebook post the solutions. People have short attention spans, I suppose. So, what follows are some ideas:

In order to make clear to Greek Affairs Advisors the history, structure, and guidelines of NPHC, NPHC should mail information packets directly to Greek Affairs Advisors on campuses with NPHC organizations. To identify those campuses, individuals, and mailing addresses, NPHC can get the directory of such individuals and mailing labels for them from the National Interfraternity Conference. The cost will be less than $150.00.

To help Greek Affairs Advisors better grapple with the issues confronting them on their respective campuses vis-à-vis BGLOs, NPHC should develop a web-based chat-room. The chat-room should be moderated by BGLO members with graduate (and relevant professional) education in areas relevant to advising college student organizations, especially BGLOs. These moderators role should be to guide and aid Greek Affairs Advisors in better advising BGLO college chapter.

BGLOs should establish committees, probably comprised of members who work in education, to monitor college chapters that are in trouble academically (and maybe in other ways, e.g., low numbers). Those chapters that fall below a certain standard should be audited to determine what best-practices can be employed to bring those chapters up to standard.

To better ascertain the academic standing of BGLO college chapters, BGLOs need to be better about collecting data. While college chapters may be negligent in turning such information in to their national headquarters, BGLOs can quite easily get this information off of the websites of university Greek Affairs offices. If not available on the websites, I suspect that many universities keep such data which can be obtained by requesting such information.

As a general principle, BGLOs need to end their anxieties over or indifference to scholarship on BGLOs. The truth of the matter is that, contrary to popular thinking, folks producing scholarship on BGLOs are not in it for the money. If that weren’t the case, they/we would be publishing with Simon Shuster and not in academic journals or with scholarly book publishers. Even if such scholarship was simply for profit, a better question is whether the scholarship has some value to the organizations. I suggest that a better educated member about the history, culture, and contemporary issues facing BGLOs may be better informed and thus better poised to help the BGLOs best actualize their ideals.

Research suggests that while BGLO members may exhibit explicit race-consciousness, it also suggests that they—especially younger members—have automatic, subconscious pro-white/anti-black biases. These biases may impact BGLO members’ academic achievement, development and sustaining of fictive-kinship ties, and commitment to BGLOs, racial uplift activities. One way to alter such biases is via a reasonable education on issues of race. Accordingly, BGLOs might think to incorporate more black history into the Membership Intake Processes.

To get the best ideas on the table for moving BGLOs forward, BGLO leaders (including NPHC leaders) need to stop conferring only with individuals who they like or know well or are friends with. They should begin to seek the advice and counsel of those who are possessed of expertise in areas that are relevant to BGLOs’ growth. For example, the two primary leaders of NPHC are members of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. They should reach out to Dr. Matthew Hughey—sociologist, leading scholar on BGLOs, and Phi beta Sigma member—to see what insights he has on how to move BGLOs forward. Other organizations might simply reach out to members with backgrounds in a range of disciplines—e.g., organizational behavior—to see what guidance they might provide.

Finally, with regard to the issue of hazing, one way to change behavior is to change people’s beliefs about the issue in question. One way to change BGLO members’ beliefs about the utility of hazing is to help them better understand the problematic history and trajectory of the phenomena. And that won’t happen with passing references to this or that hazing incident. And it won’t happen by telling college members that hazing has zero benefits, because a host of social scientific theories and new empirical research shatter that myth. However, BGLOs need to develop a detailed accounting of hazing incidents—dating back at least a few decades—and recount those incidents in detail during MIP, MIP training, and during sessions at regional and national conventions. The occasional, pass-through shaming and finger-wagging hasn’t and won’t cut it. Something much more robust is needed. But this will necessitate a thorough review of court opinion and other documents as well as news accounts.

It’s Time to Disband NPHC!

During the week of November 26, 2012, I had the privilege to attend and present at the Association of Fraternity Advisors’ Annual Meeting. It was a valuable experience, and I really learned a lot. On Friday, December 1st, I sat-in on the presentation entitled “Taking the Mystery Out of Advising NPHC Councils” by Jennifer Jones (President, NPHC) and Jimmy Hammock (President, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.; Chair, Council of Presidents, NPHC).

Throughout the hour and fifteen minute presentation my mind continued to wander to two points. First, given all the questions that the student affairs professionals are asking and not getting answered, clearly the mystery remains. Second, in a similar vein as Dr. Walter Kimbrough’s analysis in an article in 2005, “Should Black Fraternities and Sororities Abolish Undergraduate Chapters?” and a similarly consistent argument made by Dr. Ricky Jones—both experts on NPHC organizations—maybe it’s time to disband NPHC. Scratch that. It is time!

Let me state upfront that I had never met Jimmy Hammock prior to the AFA Meeting. He attended my session, and in our passing I found him to be warm, engaging, and fraternal. Also, as a lawyer and someone who writes about how NPHC groups intersect with the law, my research has suggested to me that Mr. Hammock has a tremendous moral compass. As such, I think he is probably a more-than-able leader for Phi Beta Sigma and NPHC. As to Ms. Jones, I don’t believe I’ve ever met her. I state these things to make clear that the critiques that follow are not attacks on Mr. Hammock and Ms. Jones, personally. I just think that NPHC has some glaring weaknesses that don’t seem to be getting remedied.

Back to the AFA presentation! What struck me is that while Mr. Hammock and Ms. Jones were supposed to be taking the myth out of NPHC council advising, I don’t think that any myths were adequately addressed. People wanted to know how to handle an array of issues, but no broad solutions were put forth. It was as if, in this organization that has been around as an umbrella organization for, once 8 and, now 9 black Greek-letter organizations since 1930, nobody in NPHC leadership seems to have critically thought about the myriad issues confronting the organizations and devised solutions to those problems. The best that could be offered in this session was to offer to put out fires on the campuses specific to those student affairs advisors asking the questions. Even then, the offered problem-solving was only for the organizations of the presenters. It was shocking that no broad-based solutions were offered.

At one point, an audience member asked what the councils’ $150.00 dues go toward—what return on their investment the  councils receive. The answer was simple: they get what they get—to be members of NPHC. But they don’t get that; they’re required to have it. It’s foisted upon them. It’s like union membership, but union members at least get benefits from membership. We quickly moved on from this topic in the session, but something dawned on me. The question hadn’t really been answered. So I posed it again and noted that the NPC (umbrella group for “white” sororities) and NIC (umbrella group for “white” fraternities—though most NPHC fraternities also belong) offer numerous benefits to their member organizations and constituent councils. In fact, you can go to those organizations’ websites and find detailed information. What about NPHC? The response I received was that NPHC councils receive the same benefits and services as NPC and NIC councils … but not the same because NPHC doesn’t have the same financial resources as those other umbrella organizations. In short, NPHC councils receive the same but not the same. Make sense? And why this difference, sort of? NPHC doesn’t have the same financial resources. All I was thinking was “excuses … bridges and monuments.” Fine, NPHC doesn’t have the same ample financial resources, so it can’t provide ample resources to its councils. But what does it provide? I never got an answer to my question. I think it’s because there was no answer to be had.

Here are the facts. NPHC organizations have challenges that they need to face. College chapters and members are struggling. Hazing is killing young people. There are questions about our relevance. But instead of going about solving these problems, NPHC is, sorry to say it, stuck on stupid. There is no meaningful programming that occurs at NPHC conventions—from what I’ve  experienced and what I’ve been told. There is little to be learned by attendees to take back and make their respective organizations better. As such, there is no reason for members of NPHC organizations to attend NPHC’s national convention.

NPHC leadership, from what I understand, has either been hostile or indifferent toward thoughtful commentary, analysis, and research on it and its constituent organizations. They are provincial in their problem-solving. As one expert on NPHC organizations told me when I first started doing research on these groups, for them to acknowledge valuable insights about NPHC, you have to have a personal relationship with those in its hierarchy. This suggests that if there are NPHC organization members who have insights about how to effectively address small and failing councils, meaningfully reduce hazing, and advance the broader mission of the organizations, NPHC isn’t interested in the solutions.

At the close of my AFA Meeting session, I believe it was one of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.’s Provincial Polemarchs pulled me to the side. He noted that we have so much work to do in ending hazing among NPHC organizations. My response? NPHC isn’t serious about solving the problem. If they were, they would have an all hands all ideas on deck approach. They don’t. And you see this across the board on issues. They are busy worried about who’s researching, writing, and speaking on college campuses about NPHC instead of harnessing the vast talents of these organizations to solve their own problems and the problems of our communities.

And they want a $150.00 council assessment. Child, please!

Reducing Hazing within BGLOs: A Few Simple Solutions

Be the Democratic Institutions We Say We Are– BGLOs purport to be democratic institutions, that being that each member has some say in the major issues facing the organizations.  Much of this is done via representative voting—electing delegates that will represent them at conventions/conferences that range from local to national/international.  But given that members feel so passionately about who actually gets to become their brother or sister, and the mechanism by which this happens (not to mention the stakes that the organizations face in this realm), BGLOs should let as many members who want to weigh in on the issue have a say as to what they would want in a process. At least, that way, members will feel that their voices have been heard.

Communicate to Members What Can and Cannot Be Done (AND WHY!)– It is not enough to give BGLO members a voice.  Give them understanding.  BGLOs should categorize the suggestions that they get from their members’ vis-à-vis what should be included in a process, and where certain suggestions are rejected, BGLOs must explain why.  For example, if some members recommend “light” paddling of prospective members on a daily basis, an ineffective response is “We just can’t do that.”  A better response is “Forty-four states have hazing statutes and these statutes outlaws ‘hazing.’ In all 44 of those states, hazing has been construed as physical abuse.  Many of these statutes give paddling as an example of physical abuse.  And state trial courts in several states have clearly stated that paddling is defined as hazing.  Those found to have engaged in such hazing have been faced with criminal and civil sanctions.  In some instances, their fraternity/sorority and/or host university has been subject to civil liability.”  Such an answer is likely to suggest that members’ suggestions were at least taken into consideration.

Provide Field Staff Where Possible– White fraternities and sororities often have field staff that travel the country, advising their chapters.  This is a great idea for organizations that can afford it.  I can only assume that there are 2 BGLOs that could do this.  For the other BGLO, I’d suggest drawing upon a team of members who are student affairs personnel to serve as remote/virtual advisors. Let’s use my fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, as an example.  I know of around 20-30 Alphas who work in student affairs.  Say 15 of them served as virtual advisors. Each could pick a group of specific issues that would be their specialty.  If a Greek Affairs advisor had an issue with a chapter of Alpha and needed help resolving it, they could email the Alpha virtual advisors.  The request could then be assigned to the brother who has a specialty in that area, and within 24 hours, he would respond with his recommendations.  Proactively, Alpha could periodically—say once a month—run a report on problem chapters (e.g., those who have failed to submit required paperwork to the organization, those with poor chapter g.p.a.s, those where brothers are not graduating in a timely fashion).  The remote advisors would then seek to ascertain what the purported issues are and work with the chapters to resolve the issue or issues. Chapters with a past of hazing sanctions could also remain on constant monitoring by these advisors.

Raise G.P.A. Requirement for Membership (and Make Chapters Maintain This G.P.A. to Stay in Good Standing– Each BGLO contends that “scholarship” constitutes part of their organizational identity, but most if not all of them have a g.p.a. requirement of somewhere between 2.5 and 2.7 for membership.  These requirements are low.  I know that many BGLO members will balk at this, contending that BGLOs are not honor societies, but the reality is that part of our roots are literary societies—the hotbeds of debate, public speaking, broad reading, and intellectualism on college campuses for nearly 150 years. Moreover, we might presume that individuals with better g.p.a.s have something more at stake during their college experience than those with poor g.p.a.s.  And while juvenile behavior is fairly normal, those adolescents with more at stake are less inclined to engage in anti-social behavior than those who have less at stake (see HERE).

Require Documented Community Service Hours for Membership (and Make Chapters Maintain a Requisite Number of Community Service Hours to Remain Active)– It stands to reason that for individuals who frequently engage in prosocial behavior because it is an integral part of their identity, those individuals will be less inclined to engage in antisocial behavior like hazing.  This oversimplifies why hazing takes place, as there are profound sociological and social psychological dynamics at play with respect to hazing.  But I have to believe that there is something qualitative different between the person who does community service in passing only because their organization requires it versus the person who does it in abundance because he or she believes it is the right thing to do or because the gain some joy from it.  As such, should identify members who have a concrete, prosocial disposition or who are at least inclined to demonstrate their willingness to be prosocial in order to become members.  Moreover, BGLOs should keep their members moving toward prosocial behavior as a way to both do good and to undermine antisocial conduct.

Give Prospective Members a Robust Education on BGLOs– One important thing that BGLOs should want from their members, especially college members and prospective college members, is for them to be better decision-makers–especially in regard to issues around hazing.  Research shows that increased knowledge and experience lead to critical thinking and better decision-making (see HERE). Since prospective members are not likely to gain more experience with respect to BGLOs because they are not yet members, the most that BGLOs can expect from this population is increased knowledge.  This increased knowledge has to be on BGLOs—what they are, what they do, and the challenges they face.  My personal experience tells me that few people do a robust amount of research on BGLOs before they seek membership, and once they are already members there is little to no incentive to increase their knowledge on these groups. For most members proficiency comes largely, if not solely, from just being a BGLO member. What I suggest is that BGLOs not simply recommend readings to prospective members, but actually teach them.  For a number of reasons, which I will blog about at a later date, I think that if universities offer a course on BGLOs, it would be the best approach.  That, however, does not seem like a likely possibility in the short run. As such, I think NPHC should develop a web-based course on BGLOs.  Prospective members, particularly prospective college members, would need to take the class and pass with at least a “B” to be eligible to apply for membership to any BGLO.  The course would focus on BGLO history, culture, general contemporary issues, and issues around hazing/pledging/MIP.  There would be required reading, online discussions, and weekly quizzes. The course would be during the summer when prospective members are less likely to be harassed by current BGLO members.  At the end of the summer, BGLOs would be given the list of individuals eligible for membership—prospective members who are knowledgeable about BGLOs, potential problem-solvers once they become members, and better decision-makers as members and as aspirants.

I make these recommendations in toto, not as an offering of mere choices. And I make them not to the exclusion of other remedies. As a final not, I know that one major response to proposals to end hazing is that “we will never end hazing.”  That is true, but the point is not that we cannot but to what degree can we do a better job than we are now.