In an effort to highlight the professionals who are in charge of Fraternity and Sorority Life at colleges and universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Howard University’s Coordinator of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, Ernest Evans, to get his perspective on greek life in 2019 and his thoughts of what the future of fraternities and sororities will look like over the next decade nationally.
Evans is a Spring 2009 initiate of the Sigma Phi Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and has worked in the field of advising Fraternity and Sorority Life for 4 years.
We interviewed him about his campus, his position and his thoughts on future of fraternities and sororities on college campuses nationally over the next 50 years.
Read the full interview below.
What does your job as a Fraternity and Sorority Life Professional entail?
As the Coordinator of Fraternity and Sorority Life at Howard University I work with all of our competitive/selective organizations which includes our National Pan-Hellenic Council, Musical Greek Lettered Organizations, Honor Societies, Professional Societies, and Local Based Groups. I am responsible for the leadership development and chapter advisement of all of the competitive selective organizations.
Why did you decide to go into a job as an advisor of fraternity sorority life?
As an undergraduate student I was highly involved in many different organizations including The Sigma Phi Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. where I was initiated in the Spring 2009 semester. My initiation and activity in other campus organizations (Black Student Union, Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB), Orientation Team (OTeam), and Student Support Services) led me away from my path of wanting to become a professor of Sociology to my passion of working with students. Most of all my fraternal involvement changed my life. It showed me how to be a leader and provided me with a network that has continued to increase as the years have passed. This involvement led me to seek a graduate degree in student affairs. My first assistantship in graduate school in the Indiana University Higher Education and Student Affairs Masters program was with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) where I grew my passion for Greek leadership development. As a member of a Black Greek Lettered Organization I naturally developed a strong passion for the leadership development and education of students in Black Greek Lettered Organizations (BGLOs). I developed this passion into a career and have loved it. I believe in the overall principles of fraternity and sorority life, brotherhood/sisterhood, scholarship, and service.
Why do you think NPHC and Multicultural fraternities and sororities are important on your campus?
Being at a Historically Black College/University provides a very unique experience to the college campus. Here at Howard University NPHC is ingrained in the culture of the institution. They are a pivotal part of the Black college experience and contribute collectively over 100 years of service to the campus and community.
With the prevalence of stories about sexual, assault, hazing and substance abuse, why do you think NPHC and MGC greek life should continue to be supported by colleges and universities?
As stated above, Black Greek Life is a large part of the Black college experience. They provide tactics for college access and retention that the institution cannot offer. They enhance the overall experience of the campus while providing service to the community. However, the issues of sexual assault, hazing, and substance abuse must be stopped. In order to keep them on the college campus we, as university administrators, in collaboration with the national headquarters of the organizations have to do a better job of educating our students on these issues and the role that they play in the issues. We have to do more than just one meeting that discusses these issues. There must be continuous education around the issues and the role of the organizations in eradicating the behaviors that lead to these issues.
Looking at the future from a campus administrative perspective, where do you see greek life 10 years from now?
The future of Greek Life, I hope, is optimistic. However, with the increase of national media coverage of hazing incidents we could potentially be looking at a decrease in the number of students that are seeking to join Greek organizations. As a campus administrator, my hope is that 10 years from now we will have began to eradicate hazing on the college campus and educating student on authentic brotherhood and sisterhood.
What is something undergrads need to do to ensure that undergraduate greek life on college campuses will survive and be around 50 years from now?
I think that undergraduate students have to take a stand against hazing. We are literally and figuratively killing our organizations by placing value in the traditions associated with hazing. We have seen the suspension of fraternity and sorority life on many college campuses. My fear is that one day that suspension will become an expulsion and our organizations will never be invited back to campus. In order to survive for 50 more years or even 100 more years we have to walk away from hazing and remember why our organizations were founded and the importance of the legacy of our founders.
How do you see individuals who join NPHC/MGC orgs benefit personally from going greek?
Over the years I have watched students grow into magnificent leaders from joining NPHC/MGC organizations. They have grown from workers behind the shadows to competent leaders that can effectively make their voice heard. They have learned to work collaboratively other organizations to serve the campus and community. I have also seen student benefit from the tremendous network that these organizations provide at an international level.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think undergraduate chapters across all orgs need to do to represent themselves online in 2019?
I believe an old saying that was said to me when I was initiated 10 years ago. “You are always wearing your letters.” It is important that you represent your organization everywhere you go and in everything that you do. This is especially true on social media. Be mindful of what you post. If you don’t want the actions associated with the organization, do not post them on your social media were everyone associates you with your organization. Also, remember that what is posted to the internet is there forever and can be used against you in the job search process. It has become common practice that employers check the social media accounts of those interviewing for their job. You do not want to loose your job due to one post on your account.
I also believe that many of our undergraduate chapters should display the service, brotherhood/sisterhood, and work of the organization on their social media accounts. There should never be more stroll video than advertisement for a service project or impactful programs and initiatives on the accounts. By posting more of the glitz and glamour of the organizations we are attracting potential members that only value the surface level aspects of our organizations. We have to show them that it takes work to be a member as well.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important?
I think that Watch the Yard is important because it provides a positive image for Black Greek Life at a time were we are hearing so many negative things. The time you all take to display the great things that chapters and organizations are doing is excellent. I truly enjoy the chapter president highlights that showcases these Black student leaders to the world.
What are some initiatives you see the greeks on your campus doing that make you proud?
The students here at Howard do MANY great things that make be proud, but just to name a few, I was extremely proud of the men of the Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity as they celebrated 25 years of their Brother2Brother Conference for the youth in the Washington, DC area. This initiative is completely student run and led and they have provided this service to the community for 25 years! I am equally as proud of the men of the Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. have a partnership with a non-profit organization 3GC, Inc. where they have created an initiative titled Kwame’s Kids & Collective Library Literary Project that
What is your favorite thing about your job?
Howard University has a track record of producing students that go on to do great things in the Black community and even for this country. I take pride in being able to work with students that are coming in to their place as the next change agents and world leaders. I love the fact that every student I interact with could be the next Toni Morrison, Zora Neal Hurston, Taraji P. Henson, Chadwick Boseman, Kamala Harris etc. It is a privilege to watch these students grow and become the men and women that will be once they graduate.
Also, I’m at the Mecca! I am at The Howard University where Black Greek Life was cultivated and developed into the long lasting organizations we have today. There is something special about walking the campus where the founders of so many of the Black Greek organizations walked and being in the building where they met as they developed our organizations. As someone who is a student of Black Greek Life that is constantly learning new things everyday and has a passion for Black Greek Life it is a dream come true to work at Howard University with the students and chapters here at the institution.
What is it about the NPHC and MGC greek community at your college/university that makes it unique/special?
Being on a campus that is where 5 of the Divine 9 began is very unique. It gets competitive, but there is a mutual respect for each organization that exist on the campus. The NPHC of Howard University is a great group of students that I love the working with. They are such innovative students that work hard to host events and programs of substance for the Howard community.
We at Watch The Yard would like to thank Ernest Evans for taking time to speak on these important issues.