Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Educational Leadership

Committee Member

Dr. Tony Cawthon, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Cynthia Deaton

Committee Member

Dr. James Satterfield

Committee Member

Dr. Kendra Stewart-Tillman


Recent national examples demonstrate the incongruence between the traditionally White fraternity system and race. A 2014 racially and sexually suggestive email led to the suspension of a Kappa Sigma fraternity member at the University of Maryland (Associated Press, 2015, March 14). In December 2014, the Clemson University chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon hosted a gang-themed and racially offensive party, titled “Cripmas”, near the holiday season (WYFF, 2014, December 9). Members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Oklahoma chanted racist songs on a bus in 2015 (Associated Press, 2015, April 3).

The purpose of this study is to understand how racial attitudes are socialized within members of traditionally White fraternities through a critical examination of participants’ narratives on race and the concept of fit within fraternity membership. This study was constructed as a qualitative phenomenological multiple case study of students’ experiences with race specifically bounded within two separate traditionally and predominantly White fraternity’s new member education processes. This study used institutional theory as a theoretical framework through a critical constructivist lens to add to the body of knowledge on how White men use normative, regulative, and cultural-cognitive structures to perpetuate Whiteness.

Narratives from all eight participants were presented in this study. From those narratives, ten subcategories were identified and divided into four major themes for analysis. The four major themes from this study were as follows: (a) Student Self-Governance, (b) the Minimization of Race and Racism, (c) Normalizing Whiteness, and (d) the Role of Racially Segregated Environments in Perpetuating White Supremacy.

The findings from this study provide student affairs practitioners insight into how men in traditionally, predominantly White fraternities experience race. Fraternity members’ explanations of how they determine fit for fraternity membership can help illuminate the access issues inherent in homogenous, privileged environments. The critical constructivist approach used for this study can deconstruct the ways in which Whiteness is perpetuated in hegemonic White spaces.



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