Campus Life

Divine Nine Discuss Bench Controversy

The UWF Students Facebook page has recently turned into a battlefield over the sorority and fraternity benches on campus. Sorority and fraternity members believe that non-members should not be allowed to sit on the benches owned by sorority and fraternity members. Some people in the UWF community disagree, and others had no idea that this issue existed.

There are several councils for the several fraternities and sororities on campus, so they all have different rules, beliefs and traditions. National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) believes that the designated benches should be used only by the sorority or fraternity members. That council includes the Divine Nine, which are the nine African American fraternities and sororities.

“This mural and bench show how much love and pride we have,” Divine Nine’s Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity graduate member Kevonte Campbell said. “It shows the sentimental value and the history behind us. We’re not saying don’t sit on any benches. We’re saying don’t sit on ours.”

NPHC was created back in 1930 because African American students were not allowed to join the white sororities or fraternities.

“There is currently no university policy regarding the use of these benches,” Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Dr. Brandon Frye said. “However, I personally choose to not sit on any of the organization benches out of support and respect to those groups.”

The Associate Director for University Commons and Student Involvement Ben Stubbs said that the fraternity and sorority benches are old, so it is hard to determine who originally bought the benches.

“We believe that some benches were originally purchased by organizations and some by the University,” Stubbs said. “However, as the wood on the benches has deteriorated, the fraternities and sororities have refurbished them using their own funds – not University funds.”

“This bench is ours,” Campbell said. “We paid for the wood, the paint and the upkeep, not the university. If you sit on that, you are sitting on the letters I wear proudly on my chest.”

Kevonte Campbell describes what all of the different elements on the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity bench mean. “Others start trends we start legends” is the motto the fraternity’s 11 charter members had in 1976.

Another issue that came about on the page was that whenever people post about the benches, those posts get reported by so many students on the page that the post is then removed.

“I will report something if it were to get out of hand,” Divine Nine’s Delta Sigma Theta Sorority member Keyovanni Purcell said. “For instance, on some of the posts, they were trying to compare us to Rosa Parks or MLK, so I feel like they were race batting me. They try to make it seem like we’re not letting them on the bench because they aren’t black. That’s not true.”

One student on the page said when she sat on a bench unaware of the tradition, she was approached aggressively by fraternity and/or sorority members (that post has since been deleted.) Campbell said that although his fraternity doesn’t tell its members how to approach this situation, they do correct members who behave disrespectfully when asking someone to get off the bench.

During the interview, Campbell saw a couple sitting on the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity bench. He politely asked for them to sit somewhere else and briefly explained the history and meaning behind the bench.

“We won’t come up in an aggressive way,” Campbell said. “I don’t want people to feel threatened or feel like I’m being disrespectful. I just want you to know that the bench has historical value, and it’s members don’t want you to sit on it.”

“This isn’t a commitment of four years,” Phi Beta Sigma graduate member Travis Mitchell said. “It’s for life. This is a continuous thing. It doesn’t stop once we’re off campus.”

The NPHC throws events like Unwritten Rules to help educate non-sorority and non-fraternity members on the history behind some of their traditions like the benches.

Individuals with concerns can contact the Fraternity and Sorority Life staff within the Student Involvement department at 850-474-3155.

Gina Castro is a senior at the University of West Florida where she is double majoring in English Literature and Journalism. When she's not researching new stories to write articles about, she is watching knitting tutorials or obsessing over Toni Morrison.

5 comments on “Divine Nine Discuss Bench Controversy

  1. Anonymous

    Well written and very informative!

  2. Anonymous

    This is why I cant stand fraternity and sorority culture. Its a bench, its purpose is to be sat on, get over yourselves.

  3. This makes me irrationally upset.

  4. Anonymous

    “The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it.”-The Honorable JFK. The last president to give even a slight care about the well being of American people, was against secret societies. Fraternities and Sororities are secret societies that appear innocent to us-since we only see our young peers joining. But these secret societies have more connections to other secret societies, such as the freemasons, the infamous Ku Klux Klan, and the notorious Skull and Bones. These secret societies have worked against each other(and sometimes with each other) to gain control within the US government and impose their will on the people. Fraternities and Sororities are the first step towards more powerful secret societies and do not belong in publicly funded schools. That being said, the bench is a permanent structure placed on public property. If you don’t want it being sat on by non-members, don’t place it on land that tax-payers fund. Unfortunately, the school can decide whether or not non-members can sit on the benches, as the organization of this university is set up like a dictatorship, and they only have to answer to the State of Florida-which would likely not care about this minor issue as they are pre-occupied with the big mess that’s going on at UCF. Thus, the frats and sororities can definitely pull some strings of the higher-ups of this university to get rules passed in their favor.

  5. Anonymous

    From an artist perspective, these benches are a form of public art. Public art is meant for the enjoyment of the community it represents. If there isn’t a, “do not sit on,” sign, there is no way for the public to know the benches shouldn’t be sat on.

    That being said, the frats and sororities that created these benches should think of a different way to spread the word about such public art. Attacking via social media will only cause an assumption filled, opinion based attack upon themselves. They bring on such animosity because they give the impression of holding themselves at a higher power than thou.

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