Student seeks to add new chapter

Rani Gupta and Rani Gupta

Education sophomore Kenneth Hutchinson is working to introduce the historically black fraternity Iota Phi Theta to campus, and in the process expand the university’s growing National Pan-Hellenic Council.

Hutchinson pledged Iota Phi Theta this summer and said he plans to establish an NU chapter to add diversity to the current system.

“I think every black fraternity and sorority has different qualities and characteristics they bring to campus and the black community,” Hutchinson said. “I want to bring (the fraternity’s) special qualities and characteristics to the Northwestern campus.”

Iota Phi Theta was founded at Morgan State University in 1963, in part a reaction to the turbulent events of the year, which included the assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Hutchinson said the fraternity has a reputation for promoting activism and working for social justice, ideals reflected in its motto, “Building a Tradition, Not Resting Upon One.”

The 38-year-old fraternity is new compared to NU’s existing black houses: Alpha Phi Alpha, which was founded in 1906, and Kappa Alpha Psi, founded in 1911. Iota Phi Theta became the newest nationally recognized member of NPHC in 1997.

Nationally, NPHC recognizes five historically black fraternities and four sororities. NU recognizes two of those fraternities, and the sororities Delta Sigma Theta, Alpha Kappa Alpha and Sigma Gamma Rho.

Hutchinson joined the fraternity’s Chicago chapter, which includes students from the University of Illinois-Chicago, DePaul University and East-West University. If NU students show consistent interest, they can apply to be a separate colony and eventually a chapter.

“The Chicago-wide chapter itself does things differently from other chapters,” Hutchinson said. “A chapter of Iota Phi Theta will bring a new spin to the way we do service and social events. We’ll just do things differently.”

NPHC President Brittany Westbrook said a new fraternity would add variety to NU’s Greek scene.

“It’s really important to provide as many options to the black community as possible,” said Westbrook, a Medill senior. “Having Iota Phi Theta is one more way to diversify the community and present a collective Greek body to this campus.”

Greek officials and NPHC board members alike welcome the idea of an additional fraternity.

“We are all for it,” said Sean Thomas, assistant director for Greek affairs. “We would like to have all nine of the NPHC fraternities and sororities represented here, so the more, the better.”

Westbrook said NU’s NPHC also would like to include all of the national chapters, including the fraternities Omega Psi Phi and Phi Beta Sigma, which left campus years ago. The two existing NPHC fraternities at NU have five members each.

NPHC board members support Hutchinson’s efforts, and are helping him in his efforts to establish a chapter and gain voting power in NPHC, Westbrook said.

NPHC will include Iota Phi Theta with its other chapters in an informational session next quarter. And Westbrook said a new fraternity could bring attention to NU’s existing NPHC chapters.

“Sometimes you need something new to shake things up a little bit,” she said. “Maybe generating interest in Iota Phi Theta will generate more interest in the black community as a whole.”

Existing members of the black Greek community supported the idea of adding a fraternity to NU.

Education junior Ebo Dawson-Andoh, a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, said an Iota Phi Theta chapter could draw attention to a community that goes unnoticed by many NU students.

“Even though there really aren’t many black males on campus, it still provides variety,” Dawson-Andoh said. “It would be really good campuswide because a lot of students outside the black community are not really aware of the culture of black fraternities and sororities. Having more of us represented on campus would bring more exposure to black Greek life.”