An aerial shot of the Patterson Court eating houses an fraternities
Drone photo of Patterson Court circle. Photo by Hannah Dugan ‘21 

Georgia Hall ’25 (She/Her), Staff Writer

The Patterson Court Collections Initiative is one of the latest recipients of a Stories (Yet) To Be Told grant, a program that aims to “transform spaces into sites for engagement,” according to a recent perspectives piece by Maurice Norman ‘20, Marquia Humphries ‘22, and Michaela Gibbons ‘22. 

According to their website, the purpose of the S(Y)TBT initiative is to “listen for stories told, untold and yet told (historical, societal, personal) of Davidson College.” Initial meetings were held in Summer 2021 and the project is now officially launched. The members of Patterson Court Council (PCC) who have chosen to take part have begun their archival research to learn more about their histories and immortalize the findings in the archives. 

Gibbons came up with the idea for the initiative. She essentially designed it to “equip Greek organizations on campus with the archival support necessary to collect their own stories and preserve them.” The organizations who have chosen to take part are collecting posters, emails, t-shirts, oral histories, weekly announcements, Instagram posts and whatever else they believe will reflect their organizations’ history and identity for future generations in the archives. 

Patterson Court Council Cooperation

Not all organizations have chosen to take part in this research. The only Eating Houses involved are Turner House and Rusk House. Connor House and Warner Hall House opted out of the project. The Theta chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity (SAE), the Delta Kappa chapter of Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity (Fiji), and the Tau Omicron chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. are taking part, as well as the Sigma Psi chapter Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (the AKAs). The North Carolina Gamma chapter Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, the Sigma chapter of the Kappa Alpha Order (KA, now disbanded), and the Phi Mu chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. (the Nupes) have opted out. Although KA has disbanded, Gibbons believed it was important to have their history in the archives having been a pervasive influence on campus life since 1865. The Upsilon Mu chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (the Deltas), the Alpha Gamma chapter of Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, Inc., and the Davidson College Associate Chapter of Lambda Theta Phi Fraternity, Inc. expressed an interest, but their limited resources proved a challenge to find the people to dedicate the time to this research. The Epsilon chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity (SPE) began the research but pulled out of the project. President of the Delta chapter of Kappa Sigma Fraternity (KSig), Will Hopkins ‘23, stated the fraternity could not commit at this point but hopes the fraternity will undergo the research in the future. 

The idea for this project was sparked through Gibbons’s work with the S(Y)TBT in the archive. “I realized that Davidson College is doing its own reflection on their history because they are a predominantly white institution [and] looking at the impact that we have on white supremacy is integral,” said Gibbons. The project aims to create a timeline for all the different PCC organizations on campus and Gibbons is “hoping to close the gap” of our history in the process. As the Davidson campus community is reevaluating the relevance and importance of PCC organizations, the motivations for this archival project reflects the current widespread change in mindset of the student body. 

Gibbons is a member of Turner House, and she expressed that some members “really struggle to see where [they] fit into Patterson Court because [they] are on the outside, across the street.” Gibbons sees Turner as “a bit different to other eating houses on campus” and she was “really interested in doing a deep dive into what our history was and how Turner chose to become an eating house in 1997.”

Four weeks of research, and already the findings are revealing. Ian Macel ‘24, historian for FIJI, has already uncovered a poster for a post-9/11 party where the theme was to dress as your “favorite radical faction.” Ellie Stewart ‘24, historian for Turner, discovered that the house partnered with former campus organization Davidson Cure Autism Now for a 5K run. What is most important for Stewart and Turner going forward is to figure out “how do we address that now?” 

Macel volunteered as historian for FIJI as he “wanted to learn more about the history of the chapter on campus.” Macel is disappointed that other organizations chose not to take part just because they “are not interested in sharing that information with the college.” 

“I think it is important to know what your organization has done on campus…there are secrets in every fraternity, that’s the nature I guess…but there is also a lot of interesting campus involvement and I’m grateful for what I have been able to find in the archives,” said Macel.However, despite this need among organizations to hold themselves accountable and come to terms with their past, it appears we may not even have universal access to this 

problematic information across the campus community and beyond. According to Macel,“The archives give you the option to restrict certain things […] that only a brother can see and there are certain things everyone can see.” 

However, Macel did state he was “not trying to gatekeep anything.” When the organizations submit their findings to the archives, they will be able to enact their own restrictions. The organizations can ensure some of the findings remain private to past and present members of their group. 

Archivist Debbie Lee Landi noted how this is common practice to keep parts of an organization’s history private. “It’s pretty typical in archives…there are any number of reasons things are restricted,” said Landi. Gibbons confirmed that organizations have the option to keep information that may “compromise the integrity of the organizations” private, such as “initiations, rituals, and traditions that are not meant to be known/ seen by nonmembers.” 

Future Impacts 

Dean Walter Snipes is an official advisor on the Patterson Court Collections Initiative. Snipes chose to take part in the initiative as he believes it will be a unique “time capsule.” 

“I think that it is a great thing to do…The approach is really sharing the stories and creating a space for [organizations] to share their impact on history,” said Snipes. 

Snipes acknowledged the vulnerability required to participate in the project. These organizations will be solidifying their identity in the archives. According to Snipes, “for some it represents camaraderie, for some it represents sisterhood or brotherhood, some it represents power and privilege and dynamics… You are trying to capture a story for others to read [be it] good or bad,” he said. 

Snipes initially held back from being the official advisor until he was sure Gibbons would tackle the project in the manner she initially intended. “PCC organizations are a presence here and their stories, they don’t need to be told per se in the sense that they do not have a platform, but I think being able to understand these stories reflects where we are as a community. They don’t make up a whole part but I think…it speaks to where we are [today].” 

How this project will impact the Davidson College community will only reveal itself once it has been completed. Snipes sees the impact as being incredibly varied. “If people come in with an open mind and are like ‘I wanna learn,’ then they are gonna learn stuff they do not already know. If people are gonna go ‘I want to look to see what you are doing wrong,’ then that’s the lens of which they are gonna look, and they are gonna get justification for that,” said Snipes. 

Kamryn Walker ‘24, historian for the AKAs, believes that making the initiative interactive and accessible is integral to raising awareness about the project so that students actually do engage with the research. “Getting the professors to talk about it…sending it to the department heads” are some of the few ways she suggested to increase engagement among the student body with this archival research. 

According to Stewart, there are gaps in our campus history because “there hasn’t been a consistent effort to hand things over to the archives.” Lee Landi emphasised the struggle of having to have a lot of student participation: “[campus organizations] have to organize the records and have to get the records to us.” Archival collating is not a quick process. “We have to keep pestering students” for information, said Lee Landi, who is glad that Gibbons is obtaining this information “in an organized fashion.” Landi wants to make sure “all the student groups are included” across campus; however, it is reliant on these organizations to take it upon themselves to do this research and immortalize their history in the archives. 

Telling Davidson’s History 

This student-driven initiative is integral to our community. Gibbons noted that NPHC organizations “don’t have most of their records preserved at all” and “lack the institutional visibility especially in the archives.” Walker’s comments echoed this, citing how sometimes “we [AKAs] feel like we don’t exist” and just “float around on campus…white orgs always have a voice on campus.” 

“[The] student body is evolving; there are different stories to be told and the AKAs is one of them…We are an old organization, over 100 years old, that started to facilitate the academic growth of African American women…These women were here at Davidson at some point and look at the impact they left,” 

said Walker. She “appreciates the project” as she “feels like [the AKAs] are overshadowed,” citing even last week when the AKAs put on events “to give back to the community” where few attended. 

Grace Hall ‘22 Patterson Court Council President and a member of Connor eating house, which is choosing not to take part, “think[s] it’s an awesome project.” 

“I think it is really important we engage with our history…it’s doing great work…understanding history and context is the best way to create positive change from within…I don’t know if this is going to change how we view PCC as much as it is going to change how we act in the future,” Hall commented. 

Maurice Norman, digital projects fellow at Davidson College and a consultant on the initiative, noted as a Davidson Alum and Alpha Phi Alpha, understood the value of what it means to have space on campus and have the opportunity to tell an untold history of Davidson’s minority groups. Norman truly believes this is going to change how we view the PCC organization. “It is already affecting some of the members…a lot of people are uninformed about the material aspects of what a performance of whiteness looks like.” 

Gibbons acknowledged that already these organizations are “finding parts of their history that they are not proud of” and emphasized “that’s the point of doing this.” She believes this initiative should “build a Patterson Court Community [with] those who are willing to hold themselves accountable.” 

“I think it says something about the organizations who chose to do this and it speaks to them wanting to make a difference moving forward…Those who don’t take this seriously and are not interested in doing this work…I wonder how it is that they can argue that they still should have a place on Patterson Court in the future if they are unwilling to do their own historical reflection,” Gibbons said. 

The Patterson Court Collections Initiative is here to reframe the importance of preserving and registering our history. This project is important not necessarily to place blame, but to enable people who are members of these organizations to acknowledge the events that led to where they are today. This project has only just begun and will continue over the course of the academic year.

This article was updated on November 8th, 2021 to correct a switch between the Alpha Gamma Chapter of Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, Inc. and the Davidson College Associate Chapter of Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Inc. The article was also updated to include full names, including chapter names, for all Greek Life organizations.