Out of all the student organizations on campus, Greek Life has the largest presence. Membership numbers for the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) and Panhellenic Council (PHC) are averaged at 26 and 56, respectively. The National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), however, has only 18 members in all.
“It’s much easier for a group with 50 plus members to be visible than it is for a group that has two or three members,” Jenny Bell, director of Student Life and the campus Pan-Hellenic advisor says.
The popularity of NPHC organizations varies based on the size and location of the university. Out of the 18 Greek organizations at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, eight are NPHCs. Similar to Montevallo, nine of the 22 Greek organizations at Troy University are NPHCs.
On the UM campus, five of the 14 Greek organizations are NPHC’s.
“We go to a PWI (predominately white institution), which means most likely the dominant Greek system will be IFC/NPC sororities and fraternities,” said Briana Brown, president and sole member of Montevallo’s chapter of Zeta Phi Beta. “Had this been an HBCU (historically black college), then the dominant Greek system would be NPHC.”
For a student to be able to join an NPHC organization, they need a minimum of 12 credit hours and a cumulative GPA of 2.5. Whereas the membership fees for IFC and PHC organizations are broken up into smaller payments, NPHC organizations pay it all at one time.
Instead of recruitment, NPHC organizations have a membership intake process where, in addition to the usual task of filling out applications and attending interest meetings, the student also goes through a pledge education process. Some organizations may require that they take a test and score a certain percentage before they can join.
“There is a lack of knowledge about NPHC organizations and it is reflected in the membership,” said Jacob Guyton, president of the NPHC organizations on campus and one of the two members of Montevallo’s chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. “If students aren’t familiar with the organizations in the Divine Nine, they won’t know how to approach them.”
Nationally, the NPHC is made up of nine historically black Greek-letter organizations (BGLO), dubbed “The Divine Nine”: Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Delta Sigma Theta, Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta, Sigma Gamma Rho and Iota Phi Theta.
Out of “The Divine Nine” BGLOs, Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Delta Sigma Theta and Zeta Phi Beta all have a chapter on Montevallo’s campus.
“Another major factor in the presence issue is the misconception that [the] NPHC is a ‘Black people thing,’” Brown says. “We are a council of historically black sororities and fraternities, not exclusively black sororities and fraternities.”
The IFC, PHC and NPHC were all founded based upon scholarship, service, brotherhood and sisterhood. However, the NPHC was also founded based on the fact that African Americans were originally not allowed membership into the IFC or PHC, both of which are historically white.
“We say ‘historically’ now because there has been crossover. We see that more so on our campus, specifically with the IFC and Panhellenic groups,” Cedric Norman, assistant director of Student Life and UM’s NPHC coordinator, explained. “I’m not sure why it hasn’t happened yet or what will cause it to happen, but I definitely think we need diversity.”
Because of their small size, the NPHC chapters plan to put on at least one event a month. In September, they organized two: Days of KAOZ, a week where they hosted a different event every day, and an Alpha Auction to raise money for March of Dimes.
“When you have the average chapter size being one…it’s kind of hard for [the] NPHC to take on too many responsibilities without one organization bearing the brunt of the work.” Norman says.
Another factor keeping the NPHC from attracting new members, is the fact that NPHC organizations aren’t taught to recruit. In the early days of the organization, students interested in joining a BGLO would seek the groups out themselves. Fast forward to present day, with the crossover of more African American students joining IFC/PHC organizations than vice versa, the main group of students that would typically join the organization seems to be showing less interest. According to Norman, they aren’t seeing anything necessarily worth while to want to join.
Lucian Ward, southern regional director of the graduate chapter of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, gave his insight on how the NPHC organizations on UM’s campus can renew that interest not just for black students, but students of all ethnicities.
He suggests that simple things like the organization wearing their groups’ paraphernalia around campus can attract attention and that the elitist notion of having the students come find them needs to be done away with.
Recalling that NPHC members were known for being leaders, he proposes that in the semester before an organization does their membership intake process, they target students who are leaders on campus socially and academically.
“Any young person on campus that you can call a brother or a sister, begin to sell the organizations [to them],” he says. “Talk to them. Get to know them.”
Ward also cites that one of the greatest blessings to a college campus is when organizations can understand their differences enough to understand each other and work together. This being said, his last proposal is that all three organizations (IFC, PHC and NPHC) work together.
“The brain trust of your campus leadership comes from your Greeks.” he states.
During his undergraduate years at Alabama State University (ASU), Ward was the president of the school’s chapter of Phi Beta Sigma. A goal for the chapter was to start a new chapter of the fraternity on the Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM) campus, which they did with the assistance of Sigma Chi, an IFC organization at AUM. The two groups managed to form the partnership necessary to get the new Phi Beta Sigma chapter started as well as forming a tight bond.
“We were from two different campuses, but we were both Sigmas.” he said, after fondly recalling how the two fraternities would regularly get together to play flag football on Sundays.
Currently all of the UM Greek organizations are all on the planning committee for Greek Week, which is set to take place in the spring. The NPHC groups, with the exception of Delta Sigma Theta and Kappa Alpha Psi, will begin their membership intake process during the same time. According to the Student Life office, a new Greek Standards program has been introduced this year, which encourages interaction not only in social events but also in educational and philanthropic events between the different councils.
“It’s a hidden little campus, but the Greeks could build a strong Montevallo,” says Ward.