The date was February 8, 1949. Three new chapters had been installed the year prior, but 24 charters were pending approval from their respective universities. The concerns of Alpha Kappa Psi leadership grew each day that passed without a resolution from the universities where the futures of hundreds of potential principled business leaders were held in limbo. A decision needed to be made, and according to then Grand President R.A. Hills, it needed to be made quickly.
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The Fraternity Board of Directors received a Grand Council Mail Ballot from then Executive Director J.D. Sparks requesting a vote on whether to hold Grand Chapter (now called Chapter Congress) ahead of the Grand Chapter meeting already scheduled for 1950 to consider the race and creed clause.
Between the years of 1921 and 1950, the restrictive race and creed clause was part of the Alpha Kappa Psi Constitution. The clause read: “Members of Alpha Kappa Psi Fraternity must be men of the Caucasian race professing the Christian faith and shall be accepted and initiated into membership only by and through a college chapter.”
After weeks of deliberation by mail, the board of directors rejected the special Grand Chapter meeting proposal, claiming that moving hastily in a time of uncertainty was unwise. However, other Greek organizations also had a restrictive race and creed clause in their constitutions around this time and had made changes to the language in their governing documents as well. One Greek organization referenced in the minutes admitted only individuals who were “men socially and professionally acceptable,” per their edited constitution.
As a result of the board’s deliberation, the decision was made to include the vote in the 1950 National Convention Grand Chapter Meeting in Minneapolis, MN.
The morning was warm on September 8, 1950, in Minneapolis. One by one, the delegates approached the threshold of the meeting room, only allowed to take a seat after announcing themselves. At the time, each chapter of the Fraternity was allowed one delegate at the Grand Chapter Meeting. During Grand Chapter, delegates voted on legislation to amend the Constitution of Alpha Kappa Psi.
The Committee on Membership Requirements voted 11 to 2 to recommend that the restrictive race and creed clause be deleted from the Alpha Kappa Psi Constitution. The majority report was written by members of the committee who supported removing the clause completely from the Constitution while the minority report was written by those who also supported removing the clause from the Constitution, but subsequently, suggested it be added to the ritual manual.
Brother James P. Lucas of the Omicron chapter at Montana presented the majority report. With eight points of support, the recommendation was later accepted by the Grand Chapter to be voted on.
In the years leading up to 1950, 20 existing collegiate chapters were in jeopardy of losing privileges awarded to student organizations or becoming inactive on their respective college campuses due to the presence of the restrictive race and creed clause in the Constitution. In addition, 24 colonies in pursuit of an official Alpha Kappa Psi charter were put on hold or rejected completely because of the “announced undesirability of the restrictive clause,” as Brother Lucas noted in his recitation of the majority report.
Integrity, a core value of Alpha Kappa Psi since its founding in 1904, emerged as the overarching theme to the vote. Of the two options provided for removing the restrictive clause from the constitution, one would prove to be deceptive while the other would require the organization as a whole to stand with integrity in support of all men, even those cast out by many people within the United States.
During discussion of the majority and minority reports, a brother from Miami University stated that the restrictive clause showed a lack of confidence in a chapter’s ability to admit new members. Because members must vote on each pledge that requests admittance into the chapter, the restrictive clause proved redundant.
Proponents also argued that having the clause “hidden” would be dishonest and sneaky, ultimately putting into question the integrity of a person, a chapter, and the Fraternity.
Opponents suggested that removing the clause would prohibit the high standards of Alpha Kappa Psi and would extend membership to those who would not be accepted by all people of the country.
Of the 81 delegates present, 61 votes were required to pass the motion for removal of the clause. The motion passed 66 to 14. One delegate was not in the room during the vote.
After the vote, various members expressed their opinions, with one brother stating, “…I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll fight all my life for your right to say it…the majority have spoken and believe in our hearts that probably is the way it was intended. If we don’t feel that way about it, we are probably not the best citizens of the United States, because we as a nation feel that way.”
2019 marks the 69th year of the vote allowing people of color and people of any or no religious background to shape the Fraternity’s membership.
Diversity is more than a buzzword in Alpha Kappa Psi. Diversity is a value we choose to foster every day. Expanding our knowledge on a subject we are unfamiliar with allows us to enrich the membership experience. Our organization is the sum of its parts – each area, region, section, chapter, and member molds us into who we are. Is there a history of diversity in your chapter you could learn more about? How is your chapter celebrating diversity and choosing to participate in the conversation? Join the discussion.