Today, we ask all Pikes to “Reimagine Fraternity”

On Sunday evening, March 1, 1868, at 47 West Range at the University of Virginia, the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity was founded with a vision of friendship, love, and truth. And for 153 years, PIKE has strived to stay faithful to our values as we help one another on the path to adulthood. But what that meant for daily life 153 years ago is not what it means for an international fraternity in today’s complex and interconnected world, or for the fast-changing decades to come.

Knowing this, a few years ago we set off on a mission to better understand how PIKE can use our strong network, reach, and influence not only to benefit ourselves, but also for a greater good. We have been openly listening to undergraduate and alumni members, high school students and their parents, higher education and PIKE leadership, Greek and non-Greek college students, and many others. We have been challenged and humbled by much of what we heard.

Even before COVID-19 disrupted so much of college life, we grappled with an interconnected crisis of isolation, deepening inequity, poor mental health, and aggressive and callous behavior. What we’ve learned is that PIKE — and all fraternities — have often lagged in taking a leadership position around some of the most pressing societal issues of our time.

At Pi Kappa Alpha, we are reexamining our core purpose as a historic — yet relevant and contemporary — fraternity and the value we offer to our brothers and the broader community. We do this not only to react to the cultural trends of our day, but to take the long view, working to provide a meaningful, lifelong fraternity experience and ensure that PIKE represents its founding values and the best that each of us aspires to be.

Today, on our Founders Day, we announce Reimagine Fraternity, our long-term commitment to setting a new standard of ambition, accountability, and inclusion for ourselves and for all fraternities. We think of this as no less than a re-founding of Pi Kappa Alpha.

The beginning of this journey is focused on three key areas:

Diversity & Inclusion

College campuses are more diverse than ever and inclusion is critical to creating a culture where every student can thrive. To better understand and engage in difficult conversations around diversity, PIKE staff participated in multiple educational sessions entitled “Be Color Brave, Not Color Blind” developed by the Washington, D.C.-based organization The Harbor Institute. Led by Harbor’s founder — an Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. member and Greek Life expert — Rasheed Ali Cromwell, Esq., the program helped advance our leadership’s awareness, knowledge, and skills relating to social justice, advocacy, and action. Then, we took the program to nearly 2,000 students during our 2020-2021 Leadership Summits, and hope to bring it to many more in the coming months. We recognize that racism, like any other diversity and inclusion issue, cannot be solved with a single training. This work is a launchpad into an ongoing journey of learning.

Mental Health

During this critical time when many are feeling isolated and anxious, our ongoing partnership with The Jed Foundation (JED) provides an infrastructure for support. Every PIKE has access to PIKELifeline, a free and confidential resource accessible via text or phone for a wide range of issues including depression, anxiety, substance use, and thoughts of suicide. We’ve seen an incredible response to PIKELifeline, with more than a 350% increase in use in the past year  — proving the need for a mental health safety net. Through JED’s “You Can Help a Brother” training, Pikes learn to identify warning signs in others and how to appropriately help each other or reach out to professionals when needed. The good news is that research shows fraternity- and sorority-affiliated students report higher levels of positive mental health along with lower rates of depression and anxiety, likely due to the support and camaraderie an organization like PIKE provides. But we have much more to do to ensure that all brothers and the campus community feel included, supported, and safe.

Healthy Masculinity

Outdated concepts have taken a toll on our young men who have learned to hide their emotions or insecurities, often at a great cost to themselves, each other, and those around them. That’s why our third area of focus is exploring healthy masculinity and what it means to be a man in our culture. To that end, we are the first fraternity ever to partner with MARC, Men Advocating Real Change. MARC is an initiative created by Catalyst, a global nonprofit that works with some of the world’s most powerful CEOs and leading companies on issues of inclusion and equality. The MARC program inspires men to leverage our unique opportunity and responsibility to be advocates for equity; recognizing our position and embracing a call to action as partners in creating greater inclusion. We are excited to embark on this learning, starting with our own executive leadership.

These are just some of the ways we are beginning to reorient ourselves to the critical work of our time: to ensure everyone in the PIKE community knows they are welcome and valued; to help each other better prepare for a diverse and modern world, both during college and beyond; to battle against inequity and injustice; and model inclusivity, accountability, and healthy ambition for all fraternities.

This is just the beginning of a vital — and, perhaps, long-overdue — journey, and today we take our first step. We know this will take hard work, sustained focus, and some time. And we may stumble along the way. Still, we are deeply committed to listening, to learning, and to partnering with you in this leadership endeavor.

Today, on the anniversary of our founding, we commit to Reimagine Fraternity — to set a new standard of what fraternity, true brotherhood, means now and for the next 153 years. We are a work in progress and will be eagerly and urgently tending to that work. We invite you to join us.

How You Can Help Reimagine Fraternity

Please email us at reimaginefraternity@pikes.org and share your thoughts, hopes, challenges, or inspiration. Please revisit this page often for updates on the effort and more ways you can participate.