This spring, Hobart and William Smith will establish the Upsilon Pi chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity on campus with the formation of the charter group of members. Alpha Phi Alpha, whose motto is “First of All, Servants of All, We Shall Transcend All,” fosters the principles of leadership, academic excellence, service, and advocacy. The organization presents leadership opportunities for a diverse membership and hosts a range of social service initiatives.
“I sought to form Alpha Phi Alpha Inc. as a means to foster an environment in which men of color would have a bastion for leadership and civic responsibility that is unique to their background,” explains Michael Ortiz ’16, who was instrumental in getting permission for the Colleges to form the chapter and will serve as its first president. “However, Greek life is a tremendous facet of campus culture and because of that it is important for this particular aspect to be as diverse as possible. Alpha Phi Alpha is an all-inclusive fraternity that is dedicated to service and work ethic, regardless of race and culture.”
As a first-year student, Ortiz, who graduated from the Brooklyn School for Global Studies in New York City, approached Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Montrose Streeter about the possibility of forming a chapter. Streeter joined Alpha Phi Alpha as a student at Wake Forest University and remains active with the Rochester alumni chapter. He assisted Ortiz and other interested students in hosting information sessions, open houses with the Alpha Phi Alpha leadership, and submitted the necessary paperwork.
“I am pleased to know that there are Hobart students interested in pursuing Alpha Phi Alpha; the students have driven this process of establishing a chapter here,” says Streeter. “The Colleges have provided support of the fraternity’s programs since I have been here, HWS students have participated in the Rochester chapter’s scholarship gala for several years, and HWS was the only predominantly White institution featured in the dedication journal of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.”
Ortiz anticipates that the new chapter will provide fresh perspective to Greek life at Hobart and, in combination with the existing Greek organizations on campus, develop a more robust Greek system.
“Any student, regardless of race or background, will have the opportunity to learn about a rich history of leadership and civic responsibility, what that means for the individual and what it means for society,” he explains.
The Upsilon Pi chapter intends to establish a relationship with the Geneva community. Among the initiatives Ortiz says they are considering is revamping the Learning to Lead Initiative on campus to include peer-mentorship for middle and high school students in the Geneva community. The HWS chapter will also likely participate in and host local initiatives of some of the organization’s national efforts, such as the voter registration and education program, “A Voteless People Is A Hopeless People,” and “Go-To-High School, Go-To-College,” which concentrates on the importance of completing secondary and collegiate education as a road to advancement, among others.
Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African-Americans, was founded at Cornell University by seven men “who recognized the need for a strong bond of Brotherhood among African descendants in this country.”
The fraternity initially served as a study and support group for minority students who faced racial prejudice, both educationally and socially, at Cornell. Significant members include W.E.B. DuBois, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Edward Brooke, Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Andrew Young, William Gray and Paul Robeson. Alpha Phi Alpha has been interracial since 1945.
Hobart students may request an application for membership beginning Dec. 1, 2014. No house will be designated for the chapter during the first semester.
“The Alpha Phi Alpha experience is a lifelong commitment. It is very exciting to see this opportunity being afforded to our campus,” says Streeter.