Phi Alpha Tau: an example for us all

An Emerson College-based fraternity is going above and beyond most other college frats, showing the world what brotherhood is all about.

Phi Alpha Tau – which boasts itself as the oldest communicative arts fraternity in the country – is in the process of raising money to help a transgender brother complete his transformation surgery. With a goal of $2,000 and a total surgery cost of $8,100, the fraternity has already raised approximately $14,000 as of Tuesday night with 40 days still left on the Indiegogo campaign.

Donnie Collins – whom the fundraiser is intended for – was born a woman, but began identifying as transgender at the age of 17, according to BostInno, and he began hormone treatments just fourteen months ago. Donnie tried to cover his Top Surgery (breast reductions and chest reconstruction) under his insurance plan, but the company declared it was not covered.

In light of the insurance company’s rejection of the procedure, the men of Phi Alpha Tau leapt at the chance to help out in any way they could. Donnie was in the midst of pledging to join the ranks of the fraternity when the devastating news came in.

“I felt really horrible finding out it was denied,” Donnie Collins said to BostInno. “People were so supportive and considerate of what I was feeling, though, and they raised money to fund my surgery.” Bravo, gentlemen!

Such brotherhood is – unfortunately – a rarity and I cannot commend the men of Phi Alpha Tau enough. One of the fraternity’s leaders in setting up the fundraising campaign, Chuck Bergen-Aragon, called the effort a “prime example of supporting brothers, and that’s what frats are about.”

While a perfect example of how fraternities are supposed to represent community and support, the mainstream view has unfortunately been tainted by less-savory frats. Take, for example, the Boston University fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi, which found itself up against the law for hazing charges. The charges stemmed from an incident in which police discovered five prospective members taped together and covered in condiments in the fraternity’s frat house basement.

The incident, which occurred early last year, came on the heels of another incident involving another of Boston University’s fraternities: Sigma Delta Tau. The incident involved three new fraternity pledges being “taken to the hospital because they were so intoxicated,” according to FOX News.

The cases involving Alpha Epsilon Pi and Sigma Delta Tau are unfortunately the stereotype of how most Americans expect college fraternities to behave. Luckily, Phi Alpha Tau is here to show us all is not lost. While I suspect fun and games will continue to trump serious community building efforts at most universities, I hope this story serves to inspire further action from our peers – not just for our neighbors at Emerson, but here at Suffolk, and at the thousands of colleges across the country.

Hold your heads high, Phi Alpha Tau; you’re changing a brother’s life and filling so many with hope. This is just what our generation needs: people to take charge and lead the world towards compassion, understanding, and equality for all.