A 20-year-old Maryland college student is accusing one of the most prominent traditionally black fraternities in the United States of discrimination.
Brian Stewart, a student at Morgan State University, says Kappa Alpha Psi rejected him as a potential fraternity brother because he is gay. The university in a statement Wednesday told HLN that it is reviewing Stewart’s claim.
A former intern in the White House, Stewart says he should have been a prime candidate for such a renowned Greek organization.
"I saw some brothers on campus, who have graduated by now," Stewart told HLN. "I saw how they carried themselves, and that pushed me to really do my research on the fraternity."
Unlike many Greek organizations, Kappa Alpha Psi doesn't rush members. Their acceptance process more closely resembles that of a job application. Stewart said he made it known to current members on campus that he was interested.
Stewart says he attended functions the fraternity held, and did everything he could to present himself as a good candidate. However, doubt started to creep in. "One of the members of the chapter called me, and he had known that I wanted to be in the chapter, and he was saying the chapter had had a meeting...the current members had decided not to admit any more gay members," Stewart said. "His words were exactly, 'It's going to be impossible for you to join this chapter.'"
Still, Stewart persisted. He says he tried to talk to the Polemarch, or leader of the chapter. He adds that he called current members and tried to explain what he had heard, and to get more information about his standing. "I just got the runaround," he said. "I called them until their voice messages were full. People even told me they were avoiding me."
At the beginning of October, Stewart received his final answer: A rejection letter. His name was misspelled in the text of the letter. It wasn't even signed.
"I was shocked, and I was hurt," Stewart said. "Because in the back of my mind, I knew the reason, but I didn't really think it to be true."
Reeling from the events, Stewart says he received a screenshot of a profanity and slur-laden text message conversation that he says involved members of the fraternity. That was what finally pushed him to take action and voice his outrage to the university.
"My intent is not to express anger or outrage due to being denied membership into your fraternity, but to make you, the administration of Morgan State University, the national and regional leadership of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., and the public at large, aware of what I experienced in attempting to become a member of your fraternity," Stewart wrote in a letter to the university. "I truly believe my experience is not what the fraternity represents nor encourages its members to indulge in when working with an applicant."
The university says it is looking into Stewart’s allegations that the fraternity failed to comply with the university’s equal opportunity policy when it rejected him.
"Morgan State University prides itself on sustaining an environment that is inclusive and respectful of all members of our community at large," Dr. Kevin Banks, Morgan State's Vice President for Student Affairs, wrote in a statement. "Recently, it has come to my attention that one of our student organizations allegedly engaged in discriminatory behavior during their membership intake process. The university takes this allegation very seriously and we are reviewing the matter.”
The Interim Executive Director of Kappa Alpha Psi also released a statement, recognizing the procedure for "noncompliance."
"The Fraternity will cooperate fully with the University to assure and confirm chapter compliance with all policies and principles. Confidentiality is a guiding principle established by the University as part of its membership intake guidelines.
For now, Stewart says he doesn't know exactly where his course of action will lead him, though he is no longer in joining the fraternity.
"I was content with being denied, all types of people get denied," he said. "I'm not looking for reasons."
"My hope is that other people will speak up. If they don't, that's fine. But I made up my mind that I was going to speak up," he said. "Not for myself, but for everyone who has gone through this, and I know there have been others."