Women in the Fraternity (Part 4 – Conclusion)

by Dave Justin, First Printed in the Fall of 2002 edition of the Podium, KKΨ |

For Part 1 of this Story, Click Here
For Part 2 of this Story, Click Here
For Part 3 of this Story, Click Here

Author’s Note:  This article highlights the thoughts and experiences of three women in Kappa Kappa Psi at various stages in their membership.  It concludes with statistical information on female membership in the fraternity.

A Membership Candidate

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #0099FF;”]I[/dropcap]n the fall of 2002, Laura DePooter, a freshman computer science major, began something that no woman had done before her.  She entered the membership education program for the Lambda chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi, at the University of Arkansas.

DePooter, a percussionist, was first attracted to Kappa Kappa Psi because of the work they did.

“They moved equipment,” she recalled.  “It may not sound like a very good reason, but truly, the first thing that interested me was the fact that Kappa Kappa Psi was the equipment crew.  I’ve been moving equipment as long as I’ve been in band, and I wanted to continue.”

Once she began working with the members of the chapter, she liked the camaraderie they shared.

“I went to the smoker [rush function] and got a bid that night,” DePooter said.

Daniel Beatty, the Lambda chapter president, said that DePooter wasn’t the first female band member to be given a bid, but she was the first to accept it.

“The issue of a female joining Lambda has come up in the past, but we don’t actively pursue them,” Beatty said.  “We usually try and encourage them to also consider looking at Tau Beta Sigma, because our sister chapter, Psi, is such a strong chapter… When I met Laura, I saw in her the passion and determination for service to the band program that I’ve seen in all the members of Lambda I’ve ever met.  Honestly, it was stronger in her than in some.”

With a strong Tau Beta Sigma chapter that has always been strictly female, the prospect of breaking with past traditions was a hard one for Lambda.

“There’s a lot of alumni of our chapter who would disagree with our decision to give Laura a bid,” he continued, “but they have to understand that this chapter, in fact, the whole fraternity is in a constant state of change.”

DePooter began her membership education in the Delta Kappa class with 14 male band members, but she did not receive any special or different treatment than any of the other candidates.

“If I think that I can physically do the work [service projects], the chapter lets me do it,” she said.  “I take the same tests, do the same service.”

Some of the membership of Psi questioned DePooter’s motives for accepting the Lambda bid.

“Whenever it got brought up, I explained to them that I wasn’t doing it to be the first girl, or to get to know the cute guys,” she recalled.  “I’m not like that.  I decided to join Kappa Kappa Psi because that’s where I could help the band best… Yes, I’m a woman, but I’m where I belong.”

Laura DePooter was initiated into the Lambda chapter on November 15, 2002.  Out of the original 15 members of her class, 10 were initiated.

The Lambda chapter was established on June 5, 1924.  In their 78-year history, they have won numerous national and district awards as a chapter and as individuals.

An Active

When Arwyn Childs, a music education junior, began her freshman year in the fall of 1999 at the University of Texas at Arlington, she knew that she wanted to join Kappa Kappa Psi.

“I had been exposed to Kappa Kappa Psi all during high school,” the trumpet player said.  “My directors and my private lesson teacher were all in the Fraternity and very proud of it.”

Her first experiences with the Delta Sigma chapter were very positive as well.

“I met Joe Hoselton [then UTA Drum Major and past Delta Sigma President] at the grocery store the night before summer band started,” Childs recalled.  “He was so nice to me and talked to me all the time after that.  The other people that I met, like the twins [Chris Rust & Randy Browder], were really cool and fun to talk to.”

Childs made the decision to wait to rush the chapter so that she could concentrate on getting her grades established, but when she witnessed the Spring 2000 Initiate Class going through membership education, she decided to join as soon as possible.

When she entered the membership education program in the fall of 2000, she encountered something she didn’t expect.  Some of the older members and alumni of Delta Sigma snubbed her.

Arwyn Childs, and her initiate brother Jennifer Hunter, were only the 2nd and 3rd female members to join the Delta Sigma chapter since the chapter’s installation in 1964.  The first was Megan Vance in the fall of 1996, but she left school shortly after her initiation.

“More than half the alumni that I met treated me poorly, including my old high school band director,” she said.  “That kind of hurt since one of my old directors was from UTA and I was in his family line.”

A few of the older members of the Gamma Nu chapter of Tau Beta Sigma snubbed her as well.

“Some of the Gamma Nu members thought that Kappa Kappa Psi would take away from their membership if Delta Sigma continued to recruit women,” she explained.  “But they’re doing fine.  They even initiated their first male member [William Acongio].”

Although somewhat discouraged by the negative treatment and attitude, Childs served her initiate class as class captain and continued with the program.  The majority of the Delta Sigma chapter and the younger members of Gamma Nu welcomed and appreciated Childs’ determination to complete her membership education.

Arwyn Childs was initiated into the Delta Sigma chapter in November 2000 and currently serves as chapter treasurer.

When asked about her feelings toward chapters that are still single sex, she said it depends on their attitude.

“If they’re open to the idea of a girl joining, then cool,” she explained.  “It may just be that they have been coed before and there just aren’t any girls that are currently interested in joining.  Stuff like that happens from time to time.  But if they’re like, ‘no way are we going to let a girl in!’ then they need to wake up to reality.  Women have their place in Kappa Kappa Psi, just like men.”

On June 1, 2003, Childs will be joining the Air Force 531st Reserve Band of the Gulf Coast while she continues to pursue her music education degree.

An Alumnus

Malinda Matney was initiated into the Alpha Mu chapter of Tau Beta Sigma at Wichita State University in November 1984.

She served as the District V President when the National Chapters voted at the National Convention in 1987 to re-align the districts across the country.  Four districts merged to form the present-day Midwest District and Matney continued on as the first Midwest District President for Tau Beta Sigma.  Due to her dedication at helping to make the district merger easier and for helping to create the Kappa Kappa Psi Midwest District Constitution, the Midwest District Council inducted her as an honorary member of the Fraternity in March 1988 at the first Midwest District Convention.

In 1991, Matney ran unsuccessfully for Tau Beta Sigma National Treasurer (now known as National Vice President for Special Projects) at the National Convention held at the University of Maryland.

The next year, Kappa Kappa Psi National President Stanley Finck asked Matney to serve as the Kappa Kappa Psi Midwest District Governor.  She accepted and became the first woman to serve as a district governor in Kappa Kappa Psi.

“Stan, as well as his council, was very supportive and made it very clear that I wasn’t appointed to hold the position until ‘a qualified man came along’, as many people speculated at the time,” she recalled.  “They saw that many of the skills I had learned would be useful to Kappa Kappa Psi.”

Matney decided again to run for national office in 1995, but this time, she ran for a position on the Kappa Kappa Psi national council.  At the National Convention at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, she became the first female national officer in Kappa Kappa Psi when she was elected Vice President of Programs.  She did not run unopposed.

Although Matney held a huge amount of support, she lost a bid for National Vice President for Colonization and Membership at the 1997 National Convention at the Camelback Inn in Scottsdale, Arizona, against Dr. Michael Golemo.

National President Scott Stowell asked Matney to serve Kappa Kappa Psi again as a district governor, this time in the North Central District.  She accepted and continues in that position still today.

While, Matney has experienced much success in Kappa Kappa Psi, she has also been the target of members who would prefer to see her fail strictly because of her gender.

“Some men were not kind, and continue to not be kind, with the worst sending emails to or about me, accusing me of ‘wanting to be a man’ or of ‘not knowing my place’,” she said.  “[They] worried that having women in the Brotherhood would somehow make it less valuable.  This is why discrimination policies still matter in this day and age.”

However, most male members of the fraternity were and continue to be very supportive of Matney and females members, in general.

“Men appointed me to this position [of governor], and have continued to do so,” she said.  “I believe that most students simply want to have a positive and worthwhile experience, and truly want to be a part of a band fraternity, not a men’s fraternity with a philanthropy in bands.”

Matney also had mixed responses from Tau Beta Sigma.

“Not all Tau Beta Sigma members resent my involvement in Kappa Kappa Psi,” she said.  “Some have, and what is probably most disappointing is the tone of the resentment.  Most of these people would say that I should ‘know my place,’ which buys in the notion that men are leaders and women are not.  It seems counter to Tau Beta Sigma’s current mission to promote women in the band world.  However, it has been interesting that more women than men have voiced opposition to my continued appointments.

“However, I think most sisters, like most brothers, appreciate quality and attention.  The Sisterhood has appointed Kappa Kappa Psi members as Tau Beta Sigma counselors before, including Marc Martin-ez, John Fitzgibbon, and Ed Elsea.  Clearly, sisters can appreciate and use talent developed outside the organization as well as within.”

When asked about chapters that still recruit new members based strictly on gender, Matney said two chapters on the same campus can recruit across the gender lines and still be successful.

“I see [chapters recruit regardless of gender] at most of the chapters in the North Central District, and across the nation, with great success,” she said.  “At most schools, the fact is that the number of members go up, as people who would not have considered one organization join the other.  I’ve known both men and women who were attracted to the organizations as a result of coed membership and who would not have joined their respected organizations otherwise.”

Matney also shared her opinion on chapters that refuse to recruit across gender lines out of a self-perceived respect for the other organization.

“I think chapters who say they won’t recruit ‘out of respect’ actually lack respect for their fellow organization,” she said.  “The message is ‘you couldn’t gain members if we were a choice.’  That’s not being respectful, that’s being condescending.”

The Numbers

The following are membership percentages for academic years 1999 and 2002.  The information is based on the number of Chapter Summary Reports turned in.  The percentages of Coed Chapters have a correlation of + 9%.  The percentage of female members is based on the membership numbers provided by the Chapter Summary Reports.

Conclusion

“There is nothing permanent except change.”

                                                            -Heraclitus

Greek philosopher, 540-480 B.C.

Prior to World War II, the National Constitution of Kappa Kappa Psi stated that all members of the fraternity be white males.  This changed.  Today, the membership of the fraternity is composed of male and female descendents of Africans, Asians, Europeans, Indians, Latin Americans, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and others.

When Title IX passed, the fraternity chose to lobby against the new law.  This changed.  Today, the fraternity openly enforces the mandates of Title IX.

In 1979, women were booed at the National Convention when they were seated as delegates representing their home chapters.  This changed.  Today, prominent female members are given standing ovations at both district and national conventions.

Despite the progress that the fraternity has made, there are still individuals and chapters that continue to discriminate against women based on the notion that women will diminish the bond of brotherhood or that there is no reason to recruit women as long as Tau Beta Sigma is a viable option.  This is wrong.

Neither women, nor men, should be limited in their quest for leadership and education opportunities.  Kappa Kappa Psi should recruit those band members that they feel are the most worthy, based on the individual’s abilities and personality.  Recruitment of these individuals should never again be decision based on gender.

As the fraternity has grown, change has been, and will continue to be, its constant companion.  More chapters learn this lesson every day and begin the steps necessary to bring them in line with the national ideas, beliefs and mandates.  One day, all chapters of Kappa Kappa Psi will have an open recruiting policy.  Until then, the stigma of discrimination will be continue to be a dark cloud overshadowing all of the achievements and honors of the fraternity.

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