Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., a historically black fraternity at the University of Richmond, is down to its last member.
Senior Reuben Davis serves in all leadership roles, including president.
There are many reasons the fraternity has only one member left, Davis said. At the start of the 2019-2020 academic year there were two members, Davis and Gershom Ejoni. Ejoni graduated from UR last semester. The fraternity had six members last year and 10 members when Davis joined in his sophomore year in spring 2018.
Davis joined Alpha Phi Alpha because coming to a predominantly white institution [PWI] his freshman year was a big culture shock, and he didn’t feel like he had his own community on campus, he said.
As president and the only member, Davis’s role in the fraternity is just one part of his busy schedule. He is also the Head Resident for South Court and Keller Hall and a Bonner Scholar, and was enrolled in 6.5 units last semester.
Because Alpha Phi Alpha is a National Pan-Hellenic Council fraternity, its recruitment process is different from a Panhellenic or Interfraternity Council “rush,” which can make it more challenging to recruit members, Davis said. Either an Alpha can express his interest in a potential new member or a potential new member can approach an Alpha to join, but it’s more through word-of-mouth, he said.
“If you look at it from a historical perspective, they [Interfraternity Council organization] don’t really have a problem getting members, because we’re at a PWI and you know, white men might be more comfortable joining a white fraternity,” Davis said. “Most of them, first of all, probably don’t even know that we [Alpha Phi Alpha] exist, and two, don’t feel like they can join because they’re not black, which is not true.”
As a council, the NPHC hosts Meet the Greeks every year for prospective members. Alpha Phi Alpha also participates in the kick-off Meet the Fraternities event alongside the IFC organizations every fall to have all fraternity options presented to interested males, Meg Pevarski, associate director of Greek life, wrote in an email statement.
In addition to having a different recruitment process, the fraternity has spatial limitations that also make promoting the organization difficult, Davis said.
Where the IFC fraternities have lodges to host events, the only space that Alpha Phi Alpha has on campus is a room in the North Court basement, where members would meet for chapter meetings, Ejoni said. The lack of an official single-use space like a lodge is expected, though, Davis said, because NPHC fraternities are different historically.
Alpha Phi Alpha hosts on-campus events such as Stepping 101 and the Black Excellence Gala, but Davis said the fraternity was sometimes overlooked because people didn’t associate these events with the fraternity’s name or realize that it was hosting the event.
UR promotes the fraternity, Davis said, but mostly in the context of what could be viewed as African-American community events. “You know, like Martin Luther King Day, we had a performance [on campus], we do different things,” he said.
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According to the Princeton Review, UR ranks fourth on a list of college campuses with little race/class interaction.
“I’d rather it be like some natural way of just making our presence more known, but I’m not opposed to getting a little more aggressive and being on the front of a UR magazine,” Davis joked.
He feels as if he is constantly having to educate people on his organization, and he’d like to not have to do that, Davis said.
“When I tell people I’m the president of my fraternity, they’re like, ‘Oh, what are you in?,’ expecting me to say Theta Chi or something,” Davis said, laughing.
Davis has mainly focused on recruitment this semester, he said. He wants to ensure that future new members will have a foundation to rely on and that they will have resources and connections to make their time in the fraternity easier. He has a vision for the fraternity to be a chapter with double-digit members of different backgrounds.
Ejoni is confident that Davis will be able to save the fraternity, Ejoni said. He described his fraternity brother as a brilliant and influential man who is a great speaker.
When asked about the future of the fraternity, Davis seemed to respond with an attitude of perseverance.
“We will survive! I promise!” Davis said.
Contact contributor Sofia Badalamenti at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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