With spring in the air, new member presentations have sprung up across campus, giving Binghamton University’s multicultural Greek life organizations an opportunity to showcase their newest members.
New member presentations, colloquially known as probates, originated among fraternities and sororities in the National Pan-Hellenic Council — a council of historically African American Greek-letter organizations founded primarily in the early 20th century.
“It’s a way to celebrate new members and for individuals to come together and have a celebration for the new members,” said Joshua Gonzalez, president of BU’s chapter of the Gamma Sigma Zeta fraternity and a junior majoring in geography. “It’s a beautiful thing because you get to show off a little bit, but you also get to show off what the organization’s about.”
With an emergence of new Greek life organizations over the past century, the practices and rituals of probate ceremonies have since been adopted by organizations outside of the National Pan-Hellenic Council.
Gamma Sigma Zeta, a member of the 2004-founded National American Greek Council, presented its new members on Friday night. The presentation was complete with choreographed routines, chants, call-and-responses to members of affiliated organizations in the crowd and even renditions of DMX and Drake hits, rewritten to praise their brothers. Throughout the duration of the presentation, which lasted around an hour, new members were masked, dressed in uniform and placed shoulder to shoulder.
The climax of the event came at the end, when the members were instructed to remove their masks one by one and were officially welcomed into the organization. A short monologue accompanied the unmasking, with each of the new members detailing their own road to brotherhood to the crowd.
Tanyah Barnes, the assistant director of BU’s Multicultural Resource Center, got an up-close view of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity’s reveal of its spring 2017 pledge class. A National Pan-Hellenic Council fraternity founded in 1911 and active at BU since 1985, Kappa Alpha Psi held a rousing probate for its Mu Kappa chapter on Saturday, before a large crowd on the stairs of Science III. Following the main performances, per tradition, each new member was presented with a decorated cane, called a “kane,” before being congratulated by their new brothers, many of whom were chapter graduates of years past.
“Essentially the reveal of the person [is] to say, ‘I was this, but I am now this,’” Barnes said. “It gives an opportunity to give back and show homage to members who joined the organization before you and become a part of that larger connectivity.”
For Gonzalez, new member presentations don’t only hold significance for those participating. To him, probates can also be a way to showcase an organization’s image to the campus community or students interested in rushing.
“You get to see the other side of Greek life and another experience of Greek life,” Gonzalez said. “It’s important for the multicultural communities to have a space to perform and these places where they can feel comfortable and actually have a brotherhood to call their own.”
Barnes, a sister of National Pan-Hellenic Council-member sorority Delta Sigma Theta, agreed with Gonzalez’s sentiment of camaraderie. She said that upon moving to upstate New York from Florida in 2009, she formed relationships through her sisterhood in Delta Sigma Theta were instrumental to helping her acclimate to the region and create a new home in the Binghamton area.
“You’ll be joining your organization, but it is the [National Pan-Hellenic Council] organizations, during new member presentations, that give the opportunity for other organizations to welcome in those individuals into this larger community that’s willing to work together to try to make the campus better, the person better and the students better,” Barnes said.