On February 17th, we voted to disaffiliate from our National Organization of the Kappa Alpha Order. We have since been suspended by the National Organization after notifying them of our intention to disaffiliate. As members of the former Sigma Chapter of the Kappa Alpha Order (known as KA on campus) currently attending Davidson, we want to build on the dialogue that Sherwood Callaway ‘16 initiated in his February 10th Davidsonian Perspectives piece and encourage you all to read it if you have not. We agree with Callaway’s opinion that the KA “promotes racism through its deeply unsettling values and traditions,” and that the Kappa Alpha Order should not be represented on any college campus. We waited to voice this truth publicly until after we officially declared our disaffiliation in fear of backlash by the National Organization, which suspended the Xi Chapter at Southwestern University this past summer in response to an open letter denouncing KA. We also waited because of the college’s procedures surrounding disaffiliation. Davidson has no clear path that would allow us to remain a social organization on campus without giving up our membership in Patterson Court Council (PCC), the ability to participate in the rush process, and the many other advantages that come from being a member of PCC. Ultimately, we decided these losses would be trivial in comparison to what the campus could gain without the presence of the Kappa Alpha Order.
While we are leaving KA behind, it must be said that the brotherhood that we had at Sigma Chapter was unlike most Kappa Alpha Order chapters. We abandoned all ceremonies, songs, traditions, procedures, and symbols that reflect the national reputation of KA in recent years. Whenever we interacted with the National Organization, it was always clear just how stark a divide there was between their values and our own. Despite our attempts to distance ourselves from the National Organization, we continuously found it impossible to escape the racist shadow of KA. As such, any attempt by our chapter’s members to engage in creating a positive change would be negligible, because unless our situation changed, we would continue to pay dues yearly to an organization that protected chapters at other schools, which engaged in practices that quite frankly disgusted the members of our chapter.
This past spring and summer, after we left campus due to COVID-19, we discussed potential disaffiliation and the creation of a new organization more seriously than ever before, meeting weekly to weigh our options. We examined the possibility with alumni, including Sherwood Calloway, who offered support in the form of insurance, funding, and legal assistance. Despite this help, when we met with Davidson’s administration in the fall, they were largely preoccupied in preparing a safe campus for COVID-19 and were unwilling to help us find a way to remain a Davidson social organization while disaffiliating. Administrators also made it clear that the process of starting a new social organization to house our brotherhood would be an uphill battle, possibly spanning a year and a half. If we were to start this today, the process would not be complete until our youngest members were in their senior year, likely ending our brotherhood altogether.
Outside of discussing disaffiliation, we signed a joint letter with over 20 chapters calling for the National Organization to denounce KA’s “Spiritual Founder” Robert E. Lee and take several other steps to overhaul the National Organization. Nationals were largely unreceptive, and they told us we needed to go through a number of unrealistic logistical procedures put in place to keep traditions stemming from the Old South from changing. We found ourselves stuck between a National Organization that did not represent our values and a school unwilling and unable to help us find a solution.
While it’s easy to blame just the KA National Organization, we must also acknowledge the racism perpetrated by our former chapter. Since Sigma Chapter’s founding in 1880, countless shameful acts have occurred that no member is proud of. The Instagram account @pocatdavidson published stories of microaggressions and racist incidents that have occurred at Davidson, with some involving our very own chapter. These posts were a chilling reminder that our own chapter had bigoted personalities in the not so distant past. As a result, our drive to start a completely new organization to replace KA only grew.
In all honesty, we are still discussing the form that we want our new organization to take, and we plan on sharing our plans with the Davidson community when they are ready. We also hope that this effort is collaborative, to ensure that our new organization will advance the shared goals of the Davidson College community. We apologize for not making this necessary step earlier, and we would also like to call on all Kappa Alpha Order chapters to begin to challenge and resist the National Organization.
Lastly, we would also like to see the administration take steps to allow for all fraternities on campus to disaffiliate if they choose to do so. We believe that National Organizations are where many of the problems that plague Greek Life arise from. National Organizations generally have lawyers, savvy PR teams, and crisis management staff, which have fostered a lack of accountability and transparency in Greek Life on countless campuses. While not all of Greek Life’s problems would be solved without National Organizations representing the fraternities on campus, we feel that at least opening a path towards disaffiliation is an important step Davidson needs to take.
The (Former) Brothers of the Kappa Alpha Order Sigma Chapter