Factors That Influence the Decision of Black Males to Seek Membership in a Historically White Fraternity
Newsome, Kimberly (author)
Beckham, Joseph (professor directing dissertation)
McGregory, Jerrilyn (outside committee member)
Dalton, Jon (committee member)
Irvin, Judith (committee member)
Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (degree granting department)
Florida State University (degree granting institution)
Since the Civil Rights Movement, American higher education institutions have experienced a demographic shift toward greater racial diversity in their campus enrollment (Jones, 1987; Rendon & Hope, 1996; Sedlecek, 1987). Today's college students include students who are of nontraditional age, from different countries and possess diverse sexual orientations and racial, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds (Boshini & Thompson, 1998; Carter & Wilson, 1997; Chang & DeAngelo, 2002; Kuh, 1991). As Black college student enrollment continues to increase, shifts in the membership composition of college social fraternities and sororities may occur (Chang & DeAngelo, 2002). Sutton and Kimbrough (2001) concluded that Black student involvement within traditional campus organizations has increased within the last thirty years. As discriminatory clauses were removed from fraternity policies in the 1960s, invitations for membership were extended to Black students on various campuses (Robson, 1968; Tillar, 1974). Black students found it difficult to accept membership in White fraternities due to being faced with ostracism and criticism from other Black students on campus (Tillar, 1974 & Tucker, 1983). However, Chang's 1996 study on fraternity racial integration concluded that the acceptance of students of color in White fraternities and their decision to become members are predicated on the students' view of society and their shared interests with White Greek members. The purpose of this study was to identify and examine factors that influence the decision of Black males to seek membership in historically White fraternities. This study explored the Black male experience in White fraternities. Black college students' racial identity attitudes were found to contribute to their participation in cultural and non-cultural campus organizations (Cross, 1971, 1978). This study was guided by three theories related to identity development: Cross's Black Identity Development Model (1971, 1978), Chickering's Establishing Identity Vector (1972), and Phinney's Model of Ethnic Identity Development (1990). In order to gain an understanding of the diverse perspectives of Black males in White fraternities, a phenomenological study using an exploratory design was utilized. Participants consisted of undergraduate Black males who are members of historically White fraternities. Purposive sampling was utilized to identify the participants for this study and open-ended, semi-structured individual interviews were conducted with participants. A systematic content analysis that involved coding was conducted on the data to identify categories and common themes that emerged. Research findings provided insight on eleven participants who revealed factors that led to their decision to seek membership in a historically White fraternity. Many core themes and patterns emerged including most participants being raised in predominantly White neighborhoods and attending predominantly White schools prior to college. Many participants were pre-recruited by friends, roommates or other individuals with whom they came in contact. A common factor that led participants to join a White fraternity included a desire for brotherhood. Participants indicated that some of the benefits of their fraternity membership included networking and leadership opportunities. Some of the challenges participants experienced involved various forms of racial insensitivity by their fraternity brothers. Participants stated that their perceptions of their ethnic identity did play a role in their decision to seek membership in a historically White fraternity. All participants indicated that they had an overall rewarding experience as members of their respective fraternities.
Black Males, Historically White Fraternities, Factors Influence Decisions
April 30, 2009.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Education.
Includes bibliographical references.
Joseph Beckham, Professor Directing Dissertation; Jerrilyn McGregory, Outside Committee Member; Jon Dalton, Committee Member; Judith Irvin, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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