UPDATE (1-21-16): According to a source at Penn, Kenny Jones was fired today for the misrepresentations he made about his background uncovered after his five presentations at Penn State. According to a source at Penn State, the Greek Councils do not plan to pay Jones for his apperance at Penn State.
UPDATE/RETRACTION (1-14-16): Onward State has learned that Kenny Jones misrepresented portions of his background and story during his presentation to the Greek Council membership yesterday. Because the misrepresentations are so vast as to render the entire presentation questionable, and because Jones accused the fraternity of hazing, we are retracting the article in full.
Soon after we published this story, Jones reached out requesting the story be removed from our website due to “inaccuracies” and issues with his employer at Penn. When asked to describe the inaccuracies, Jones asked us to remove all references to his PhD from Morgan State University and to his Phi Beta Sigma fraternity affiliation. He also asked us to remove all references to his name with “Dr.” preceding it to “go better with his press kit.”
Onward State has a policy of not changing stories unless factual inaccuracies in our reporting are found. While considering Jones’ request, Onward State received correspondence from someone with intimate knowledge of Jones’ academic background, who asked to remain anonymous. This person claims that Jones never received his PhD from Morgan State University. Jones stated numerous times during the speech that he received his PhD from Morgan State, and the degree is listed on his LinkedIn, public resume, and biography on Penn’s website. Jones also wrote a blog post about the experience of obtaining a PhD.
Onward State also received an email from the administrator of member records for the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. The email claims that there is no record of Jones ever being a candidate for membership of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. A fraternity record keeper in our comment section also verified this claim.
When presented with these inconsistencies, Jones admitted that he never received his PhD. He still claimed to be a member of the fraternity – “just not through that chapter” – and claimed he joined the fraternity after receiving his bachelor’s degree from Jackson State. This contradicts Jones’ speech yesterday, which centered around his fraternity experience as an undergraduate at Jackson State.
When contacted, IFC President Will Quaranta said the council was not aware of the discrepancies in Jones’ background. “Obviously, misrepresentations to that level should not be tolerated,” Quaranta said. Quaranta also said that Jones spoke to more than 1,500 Greek members in five presentations over a period of three days.
Brought in by the Penn State IFC and Panhellenic, the impressive and inspiring Dr. Kenny Jones spoke to almost 700 Panhellenic women in 100 Thomas on Wednesday night. The Associate Director of Sorority and Fraternity life at the University of Pennsylvania opened his lively presentation with buoyancy, energy, and a relatable tone that caught the attention of every woman in the room.
Dr. Jones opened with honesty and a viewer discretion advisory; he explained he was “about to get real in here” and said the audience is “gonna feel weird in some places” because this was about to be an adult lesson, with adult language. Jones is an openly gay, African American male involved in Greek Life and his goal for his speech was to diminish complacency and promote outward support of one’s brothers and sisters.
Less than 15 years ago, Dr. Jones never imagined having his doctorate before his turned 30 years old. The Newark native grew up in a single parent home, with sub-par grades, and a shabby track record. His sexual orientation lead to being kicked out of his house, getting in fights, and transferring to an alternative high school.
Over time, things began to look up for Dr. Jones as his high school counselor guided him on the path to college, specifically Jackson State University. Jones began his freshman year of college in 1999 with nothing more than a duffel bag of clothes and the desire to succeed. Shortly upon arrival, from his empty, unembellished dorm room Jones saw a crowd of students in the quad; this crowd was the NPHC, the historically African-American fraternities and sororities.
Like many students, Jones was intrigued by the idea of brotherhood and Greek Life. He rushed Phi Beta Sigma in the fall of his freshman year. Like his line/pledge brothers, Jones was hazed; however, he was hazed beyond the standards of the other brothers due to his “flamboyancy.”
Jones knew he was a target. He knew his “brothers” wanted him to quit, however he followed through with pledging and became a brother. Though it wasn’t until his friend and member of another fraternity, Dr. Mark Henderson, said to Jones, “Your comfort zone is where you will find complacency,” that Jones realized that the best thing he could do was have the willpower to stand up for himself and for others.
He graduated from Jackson State with a bachelors in Speech and proceeded on to graduate school at Drexel University in 2004. In 2011, Jones attended Morgan State University where he wrote a 225 page dissertation on five gay and bisexual African American fraternity men. The idea for his dissertation emerged upon discovering that the most homophobic college student was the fraternity man.
Dr. Jones spent hours of time and research spreading the idea that complacency is never enough and that acceptance and support are so important in a brotherhood, a sisterhood, a family, or a friendship in his dissertation and essentially, gave 100 Thomas the short-hand version.
Jones’ experiences and will power turned his physical slaps toward high school bullies to scholarly slaps toward the complacent members of Greek Life and society as a whole. Today, Jones is successful, proud, one of Ebony Magazine’s 30 under 30, and an inspiration to people, of any race or sexual orientation, everywhere. Dr. Jones proved to almost 700 women that even in Greek Life, love can win — we just have to let it.