Harris Rogers ‘21
The lawn adjacent to Vail Commons’s patio now hosts individual plots belonging to each of Davidson’s four NPHC organizations. Photographs by Olivia Forrester ‘22.
Any Commons-going Davidson student is likely to have noticed the construction taking place near the patio behind the dining hall this semester. Since the beginning of the semester, four individual plots have begun to take shape. Each is adorned with a small monument and sports the letters and colors of Davidson’s four National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations: The Tau Omicron chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.; the Sigma Psi chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; the Pi Mu chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.; and the Upsilon Mu chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Each of the plots is meant to serve as a respected, exclusive space for the members of these organizations, and are only accessible their respective members of the NPHC organizations at Davidson.
The process of bringing these plots to campus was a long one, only made possible by the concerted efforts of student leaders within the NPHC community. Jalen Madden ’19, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, served a key role. In the spring of 2018, Madden took the leading role in establishing an NPHC plot committee in order to “help with the design, location, size, and implementation” of the individual plots. This plot committee also included other members of the NPHC organizations, including Ky Roland ‘19, Tatiana Pless ‘19, Alex Dawes ‘19, and Jared Lindo ‘21. While this official committee has only been in existence since the spring of 2018, the idea has been discussed and attempted in past years. It was only with an organized effort by members of each NPHC organization that the idea was able to become a reality.
The plots serve not only as physical manifestations of Davidson’s four NPHC organizations but “visual representations of one of the cultural traditions that manifest within each organization,” according to Madden. The plots are not unique to Davidson, but are present on other campuses and universities, including Appalachian State and Wake Forest within North Carolina. Some universities, such as the University of North Carolina, have commemorative gardens for NPHC organizations on campus, in lieu of plots.
The plots have “a deep-seeded history at HBCUs”, according to Roland, the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority representative on the plot committee.
According to Patterson Court Council Advisor Erica Urban, “Davidson is one of the few schools with a predominantly white campus to have NPHC plots.”
These plots serve both a symbolic and a practical purpose. Symbolically, the plots represent the division of land that occurred in the South during the aftermath of the Civil War, which involved dividing land that had previously been owned by Confederates into plots to be farmed by recently freed slaves, a policy that was known as “40 acres and a mule.” This system was ultimately abandoned, and Southern African-Americans suffered severe economic hardship as a result, according to Henry Louis Gates Jr. in his article, “The Truth Behind 40 Acres and a Mule”.
The plots are also meant to draw attention to the lack of physical structures currently allotted to Davidson’s NPHC organizations, while IFC organizations can enjoy a space in which to gather and socialize. While these plots do provide a means of representation for the physical presence of these organizations on campus, Madden and other NPHC members want to make it clear that these plots are not adequate to correct this inequity within Davidson Greek Life.
The NPHC organizations, which are lauded on the local, state, and national level as exceptional branches, still lack a physical space in which to convene and engage with other members on campus. For Madden and the NPHC community, the ultimate goal is to acquire these physical spaces. Madden explained, “I hope that the presence of the plots can be a catalyst to creating more physical representations of our different organizations. I hope to come back for my Davidson reunion and see the NPHC community having their own houses.”
Currently, members have no official space in which to hold meetings, plan events, conduct fraternity or sorority business, or de-stress from life at Davidson. According to Daric McKinney ‘19, the NPHC ambassador for Patterson Court Council, lacking a physical space also harms the representation of NPHC students and organizations at Davidson. “It is disheartening to constantly have to prove we exist when a lot of the leadership at Davidson comes from the NPHC community,” he explained. McKinney continued, saying that “as none of the NPHC organizations have houses, oftentimes, our existence at Davidson is erased.” According to Roland, the lack of a house also poses a logistical problem. “We have to store all of the items we own in a 40 cubic food locker, when other house organizations have thousands of square feet for storage and housing items,” she explained.