Chris Graham on Memorizing the Long Creed

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Division Commander Chris Graham (Lamar/Stephen F. Austin) recites the Creed on stage at College of Chapters 2014.

 

Division Commander Chris Graham (Lamar/Stephen F. Austin) recited the “long Creed” of Sigma Nu at both College of Chapters and Grand Chapter in 2014. The staff of The Delta spoke with Brother Graham and asked him about the story of how he came to memorize the Creed and what it means to him.

After I was initiated, one of the first things I did – using the old merchandise form – I bought a copy of the long Creed, the short Creed, and a copy of A Serpent, A Rose and A Star. I framed the long Creed and hung it on my wall not long after I was initiated. The Creed was always something I was impressed with – the elegance and beauty of it.

Graham first saw the Creed recited in long-form at College of Chapters by then Division Commander Joe Cannon (North Texas). The experience was an inspiration to Graham who began to memorize the Creed while an undergraduate.

Fast forward a year or so before I graduated, I was living in the fraternity house between my sophomore and junior years. In the house we had the long Creed hanging on the wall in our room of honor. One evening I was there cleaning the room and I sat down and read the Creed. I realized that I had about a third of it memorized, without ever really trying to memorize it. Then I said, “I want to do this for me.” I never intended it for anyone other than myself.

Before I graduated college, I had the whole Love section memorized and I pretty much had the Honor section memorized. I would stumble with it but with those two sections I was close to having half of it.

After graduating, Graham set aside the Creed. During this time, Graham began his career and got married. Tragically, Graham’s young wife was stricken with cancer and she passed away not long after their marriage.

After she passed I sank into a depression or whatever you want to call it. You try to find a reason to get up every day. It wasn’t long after that I became Chapter Advisor at Lamar. I watched these young men reach out to me and engage me to be involved. I realized Sigma Nu was very important to me at that time because it was giving me something to live for. I don’t want to sound so morbid but it gave me a purpose beyond just getting up and going to work. It was just another extension and a reason to keep moving forward. And it truly reminded me of what was in our Creed, the concept of brotherly love, truly being there for others.

So I started reading the Creed again and really decided I wanted to finish memorizing it because it gave me such peace and solace. So within a few years I pretty much had it. I only recited it to myself as it was a personal thing, and I never saw myself being in a position to recite it for someone else until there was a death of one of our chapter’s charter members.

Graham was approached by the family of the deceased brother and they asked for some token of appreciation that could be provided during the service. Graham offered to recite the Creed at the wake which the family accepted. Additionally, the Funeral Ritual was performed just for the family prior to the burial service.

It was the first time I ever recited the Creed for anybody other than myself. As I was saying it, it was emotional because I knew who I was doing it for: the family, in honor of their father and husband who was such a great Sigma Nu and inspiration to me. I realized that I really did know it but I knew it because of what it meant to me.

After reciting the Creed at the funeral, Graham was approached by Zeta Psi (Lamar) to recite it at their formal. This started a series of recitations that included the charterings of chapters at Oklahoma, Stephen F. Austin, and Houston. Finally, Graham was approached by then Regent Charlie Eitel to recite the Creed at College of Chapters and Grand Chapter. At both conventions Graham recited the Creed before hundreds of Sigma Nu brothers.

People have asked me “Why?” and I always say that it was an inspiration to me and it still is today. There have been days where I have had the most rotten day and I’ll turn off my radio and just recite the Creed on the way home from work. It relaxes me; it reminds me of why I’m a Sigma Nu and the great things our fraternity stands for. I’m pleased that I have had the opportunity to share it with others and at College of Chapters and Grand Chapter.

To have so many students come up to me and tell me that I have inspired them reminds me of why I am a volunteer. I want to give back, I want to inspire those young men, just like I was inspired as a young man to be something more, to be better than just average. It was just one of those things that came into my life at the right time that I’ve been able to share. And it’s been an honor to be able to share, on whatever stage whether it be at a small chapter gathering or Grand Chapter. It was just something that I am honored that I have the ability to do and to share.

 

 

On Knighthood

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By Drew Logsdon (Western Kentucky)

There is one particular facet of our great Fraternity’s Ritual that I have always loved. Unfortunately, it is not something I often see discussed. This might be because the term itself, “Knight,” harkens back to a much different era than the world we live in today. Our members, Knights of the Legion of Honor, do not go riding around on horses brandishing swords or serving noble lieges.

Today our world has no need for the knights of a bygone era. However, it is in desperate need of the modern embodiment of knighthood. As Knights of the Legion of Honor, we are not nobles. We are not automatically granted honor, titles, or knighthood as a birthright. Instead, we are products of a society that provides individuals the opportunity to make themselves what they want.

The QuestAs Knights of the Legion of Honor, we have earned our title through the virtuous choices we made. The Legion of Honor ensures that those who have been granted the title of Knight have lived (and take an oath to forever live) the values of Love, Honor, and Truth. The Legion of Honor also jealously protects its reputation. Our Fraternity dictates that those who sully the values they swore to uphold have their knighthood removed. As was discussed at the recent College of Chapters, honor that is guaranteed is not honor at all. We, as Knights, hold ourselves to our oath and strive daily to exemplify our values; for this great privilege is not guaranteed.

As previously stated, we do not serve a liege in the traditional sense. However, we do serve each other. I carry my knighthood for my brothers today, those before me, and those yet to come. We are required by oath to serve our Legion of Honor and to never besmirch its honor or glory. This goes far beyond the typical example of “My brother, right or wrong.” It means that I am committed to conduct myself as my fellow knights would expect me.

But what does all of this have to do with the need for knights today? Look around us. Intolerance of minds, shallowness of soul, a gaping abscess of buffoonery, and a lack of care for the world we live in continue to plague our society. Our Legion of Honor is not the only solution. To believe it is would be to ignore the size of our problems. But our Legion of Honor is most assuredly a part of the solution.

We are Knights of the Legion of Honor and we will honor our commitment every day.

My fellow Knights will become doctors, aid workers, teachers, professors, nurses, soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, policemen, volunteers, pastors, priests, entrepreneurs, husbands, and fathers. They will be clad in the heavy commitment of our common oath and guarded against the ills around them by the strength of our values. They will carry the sword of action and compassion to not stand idly by as those around them suffer against injustice or warrantless transgressions.

We do not ride around on horses. We don’t wear armor into work. Nor do we rest comfortably in a falsely guaranteed notion of honor.

We are Knights of the Legion of Honor and we will honor our commitment every day.

And upon our final days we will let them say that we ever bore without abuse, the grand old name of gentleman with the assurance that those ahead of us will honor our mighty Legion of Honor.

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Rescuing Our Ritual

Dedication marker in spring snow

By Travis Galloway (Washington)

Something really set me me off the other day. While researching for this article, I made the mistake of entering “fraternity ritual” in the Google search bar. I was expecting to find a convenient Wikipedia page with a general history of fraternity rituals, their inspiration and evolution; how naïve that turned out to be. While a few of the top results pointed to brief histories of specific fraternities’ rituals, those are not what caught my eye. Rather, I was bombarded by headlines like “College Hazing Stories,” “Horrible College Hazing Rituals,” and “Deadly Frat Rituals are Banned Thanks to Technology.” And that’s just on the first page of results.

Is this what we have done to ourselves, our fraternities? Is this the price of maintaining a secret ritual? Are we known only for what we have done to bastardize our rituals? These are just a couple of the questions that surged into my mind. I hope you are as upset as I am.

As fraternity men and sorority women, we have a tendency to think of our rituals as archaic books of secrets. Inspired by men and women who have long since passed, we bring them out of hiding only a few times each semester. And usually, we don’t do it because we want to; we do it because we feel compelled. To many of us have a tendency to dust off The Ritual for the Candidate and Initiation Ceremonies, and perhaps for chapter meetings and the occasional Affirmation of Knighthood Ceremony. But the ceremony ends, The Ritual goes right back into hiding, and we don’t think about it again until the next ceremony. Robes, candles, ribbons, badges, perhaps blindfolds, and a lot of talking by a few officers: this is what most of us remember.

DSC_1044If we expect to be taken seriously as an organization that seeks “to develop ethical leaders,” then we need to do a better job of acting like it. If we are going to keep complaining that Greek-letter organizations get too much bad press, we need to stop simply talking about how we encourage great development opportunities, ethical leadership training, and adherence to a core set of values; we need to start doing it. If you are as frustrated as I am by the headlines I mentioned earlier, then you need to help me reclaim our Ritual.

Toward the end of the Initiation Ceremony, our Ritual challenges each Knight to “strive to live and die in Honor…that in life and death men may truly say of him: ‘He ever bore, without abuse, the grand old name of gentleman.’” That last part is inspired by a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, written while Tennyson was mourning the loss of a very close friend, Arthur Henry Hallam. To paraphrase, Hallam was an excellent man, above the “churls” and “charlatans” who claimed the “name of gentleman” but did not deserve the distinction of such a title. So, what are you doing to live up to your commitment to live and die in honor? Do you deserve to bear the “grand old name of gentleman”?

I’m not going to try to define “gentleman.” Plenty have tried, but I believe that the word has a certain “it” factor, as in “you know it when you see it.” Here is one way to help you “see it”: over the next few weeks, pay attention to your behavior and the behavior of those around you. Each time that you notice yourself or one of your brothers or candidates do something gentlemanly, take note of it. Each time you hold the door open for somebody; each time you help someone pick up something they’ve dropped; each time you help an elderly lady across the street, add a note in your phone or on a piece of paper. Make a conscious effort to be a better man, and you’ll feel good about it. Challenge your brothers to be more considerate of others, to try to make someone’s day, every day. Keep track of gentlemanly behavior, and recognize brothers who excel at your chapter meetings. During National Ritual Celebration Week, use the hashtag #NRCW to acknowledge excellent brothers who live according to our Ritual.

We are all too accustomed to calling each other out for our shortcomings, but we need to do a better job of encouraging excellent behavior rather than chastising our flaws. By making a conscious effort to acknowledge our brothers who “excel with honor,” we will encourage the development of transformational habits. These habits, in some small way, will help us rise above the tide of mediocrity, selfishness, and conceit that have diminished the credibility of our Ritual, and by proxy, our organization. Brothers, join me in rescuing the reputation of fraternity and sorority rituals everywhere by living up to the aspirations of ours so “that in life and death men may truly say of [us]:

[We] ever bore without abuse the grand old name of gentleman.’”

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UC Davis Sigma Nu Co-Founds Latin American Film Series

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Juan-Paulo Varela (UC Davis), co-founder of the Crisol Latin American Film Initiative.

Founded to increase the appreciation of Latin American arts and culture, the Crisol Latin American Film Initiative will offer Spanish language cinema and a variety of artistic mediums that highlight the similarities between Latinos and their non-Latino peers. The Film Initiative, co-founded by Brother Juan-Paulo Varela (UC Davis), will host its inaugural run over four weekends beginning Saturday, March 14 through Friday, April 3, 2015. All screenings will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Varela serves as the program director, while co-founder Karem Orrego, a fourth year film student at the University of Utah, serves as executive director.

When asked why he co-founded the Film Initiative, Varela said he wanted to create a platform through which Latin American arts and culture could be both appreciated and critically examined in the context of shifting demographics in the United States.

“Crisol is an olive branch similar to the fraternal love that we as Sigma Nus experience–we want to extinguish tired stereotypes and elucidate a modern Latin America in juxtaposition with the United States,” he said.

The Crisol Film Initiative is expected to attract an audience of more than 1,200 people over its first four weekends and an additional 600 during its second screenings in late April. Such prominent attendees for the opening reception will include University of Utah administrators, including the dean and several department chairs of the College of Fine Arts.

Likewise, Utah State Senator Luz Escamilla and Utah State Representative Angela Romero will attend the closing reception along with leading members of Salt Lake’s arts and culture community at the Urban Arts Gallery in downtown Salt Lake.

Founded to increase the appreciation of Latin American arts and culture, Crisol will offer Spanish language cinema and a variety of artistic mediums that highlight the similarities between Latinos and their non-Latino peers.

Founded to increase the appreciation of Latin American arts and culture, Crisol will offer Spanish language cinema and a variety of artistic mediums that highlight the similarities between Latinos and their non-Latino peers.

To accomplish Crisol’s mission, Varela has actively engaged both leading individuals and organizations within Salt Lake’s political, artistic, and cultural spheres over the past six months.

The Sundance Film Festival, held in Salt Lake City, helps create a receptive attitude towards artistic endeavors but also creates a competitive market for funding and recognition. As such, Varela and the team at Crisol have worked diligently to gain the necessary support to make Crisol a reality.

Following a successful inaugural run, Varela hopes to continue the Crisol Film Initiative as an annual event.

Alternatively, the team at Crisol is weighing offers from two of the leading arts festivals in Utah to merge Crisol with their events. In either case, Varela is excited with his opportunity to promote the arts and enhance the quality of life in Utah through the production of the Crisol Latin American Film Initiative.

Recently used Sundance Film Festival venues will play host to film screenings as well interactive art performances in partnership with the University of Utah’s prestigious Ballet School.

Second screenings will take place in the weeks after the Initiative’s closing reception at the Sorenson Unity Center.

The first film will be screened on Saturday, March 14th at 7:00 p.m. at the Post Theater on the University of Utah’s campus.

For more information, visit the Initiative’s website and Facebook page.

Delta Alpha Brother’s Band Releases Video

Brother Al Rodriguez’s (Case Western) band The Midnight Slander has released its debut music video. The Midnight Slander, which formed just over two years ago, features Rodriguez on bass, Mike Gray on the drums and keyboard and Dave Conner on guitar and lead vocals. One of the band’s signature elements is Gray who plays both drums and keyboard during live shows.

“When we first got together, we really liked the ideas and songwriting and music coming from a three-piece set-up,’’ told Mike Gray to Cleveland.com. “So before the first show, we asked ourselves, ‘Do we need a fourth person?’ and I half-jokingly said, ‘I’ll just cover it.’”

According to Al, the band “plays a mix of southern rock, piano pop, and funk that ensures for a fun and memorable experience.”

Speaking about his chapter brothers, Rodriguez said, “I don’t think I’ve played a show in the past year and half that hasn’t been attended or promoted by brothers who want to see me do well.  It is truly a humbling feeling to have such a backing.”

Rodriguez informed us that the band was signed to Spectra Records in 2013. The new video for “The Long Way Home” is a collection of live footage and shots of the band while on tour.

Reflections on the 2015 College of Chapters

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By Chris Graham (Lamar/Stephen F. Austin)

Brothers, I write this as I remember College of Chapters 2015 which is one of the most impactful weekend experiences of my fraternal life. The experience of attending and being a faculty member for the College of Chapters is something I will never forget.

However, after returning home, I was also inspired to write this in regards to several conversations that I had with some of our Commanders from various chapters across the country. What I think drove the conversations was the real and powerful messages that were delivered during the keynote addresses we were blessed to hear during the conclave.

On the first day, we were entertained with the talent of Adam Ritz and his message concerning social media that he described as social broadcasting. It was amazing how quiet the room was when he shared the very personal situation that he has endured because of a mistake he made. His ability to relate his story to the very real world challenges that our chapters face on a daily basis hit very close to home. It definitely made me think of the stories that start “it was dark and we were drinking….”, and as Adam relayed, this is not a time to let your guards down.

On Sunday, we got to hear from an Honor Panel that challenged us to always choose the “harder right over the easier wrong.” The personal stories shared by our former collegiate Commanders Matt Tudor (Eastern Kentucky) and Wells Ellenberg (Georgia) provided real examples of the integrity required to make those tough decisions and to lead by example and conviction. Lastly, past Regent Robert Durham (Georgia) provided an example from a professional situation where a poor decision by one of his employees forced him to make the hard decision to terminate that employee.

All Sigma Nus should strive to live by the objects laid down by the founders

On Monday, even as the collegians and faculty were beginning to show the signs of tiredness and the need for more coffee, we were re-engaged with the very personal story shared by Brother Don Hooton (Louisiana Lafayette) and the effects that substance abuse had on his life after the loss of his son Taylor because of steroid use. But the real story was how Don has turned that tragedy into finding the purpose of his life and the desire to educate others on the topic of steroids and other performance enhancing substances and the impact on the lives of those that abuse them.

Sigma Nu's College of Chapers Meeting

Brother Bill Courtney (Mississippi) gives his keynote address during the 2015 College of Chapters.

Lastly, we were challenged with the message provided by Brother Bill Courtney (Mississippi) that our character, commitment to integrity, hard work, honor and keeping our word is vital to our ability to lead others. As he said, “all of that comes straight out of the Sigma Nu Creed. The guy who wrote that meant it. The whole idea is to think about those words and make them a part of who you are.”

So, getting back to my inspiration for writing this. The discussions I had with those Commanders involved the practice of hazing, and our chapter Commanders looking for answers as to what could constitute hazing. I think the honor theme of the College of Chapters is what inspired these Commanders to want to understand how to identify possible hazing issues and militate against them. While I recommend that any chapter Commander with these concerns engage their Alumni Advisory Board and Headquarters staff for help, I was thinking about how to help identify if a chapter might have a hazing issue.

I think back to our founders and the objects they laid out for us to live by for both our fraternal and personal lives:

  • To govern each act by a high sense of honor.
  • To bind together all members by ties of true and lasting friendship.
  • To protect, assist, advance and encourage each other by every honorable means.
  • To have plans for guidance and unity in action.
  • To propose, discuss and agree upon these plans at meetings.

All Sigma Nus should strive to live by the objects laid down by the founders, especially when it comes to candidate education. With this said, keep the following questions that were posed in this article in mind:

  1. Does this activity/requirement/expectation serve a genuine purpose?
  2. Does this activity/requirement/expectation align with the Vision, Mission, Values, and founding principles of my fraternity?
  3. Does this activity/requirement/expectation extend beyond the time as a new member and hold true for initiated members or even increase for initiated members?
  4. Does this activity/requirement/expectation align with the policies set forth by the NIC, my National Organization, IFC, and Institution?

Also, be willing to put all the details, without leaving out anything, in your documented candidate program and submit it to your Leadership Consultant for review.

Remember, your plans and actions must support the honorable pursuit of our mission to develop ethical leaders based on the principles of Love, Honor and Truth.

In summary, it is not enough for us to just say that Sigma Nu was the only college fraternity founded against the useless practice of hazing unless we are willing to prove it on a daily basis.

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Hazing Was

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By Drew Logsdon (Western Kentucky)

This past year, several parents had to do an incredibly hard and unnecessary task. They did so with understandable pain, frustration, anger, and sadness. Life, the most beautiful gift bestowed upon us as a species, was taken from their children. Condolences were offered, prayers, and thoughts were sent, promises were made for action, results, solutions, and progress. Their children can’t be given back; the depthless void in their hearts cannot be filled.

So what can we do–we the concerned citizens who want to work against and eliminate hazing in the many areas of our society where it festers? The critics have a solution: abolish the groups they perceive as facilitating this toxic culture. Their solution is not to treat the patient but to eliminate the patient. While not the path of least resistance, it’s a course of action that wouldn’t be costly in terms of dollars for programming, staff, etc. Well-meaning critics say these organizational cultures are too far gone, too archaic, and too corrupted to be redeemed. In their view, there is no absolution available to the conditions where hazing occurs and even the thought of trying to fix the problems (problems that no one disagrees exist) is assumed to be an effort of foolishness to repair.

But I would respond that the argument holds no water.

Go to Wikipedia and in the search bar type in “Smallpox.”

Now read the first two words of that article.

Smallpox was.”

That’s right. A disease that took 300-500 million lives in the 20th century alone no longer exists. It was eradicated and the last known natural diagnosis of the disease was in 1977. The disease spanned continents and like most great, global tragedies it was ignorant of every demographic identifier. But the effort to eradicate smallpox was not brewed up in a single lab or funded by a single entity. It was a collaborative effort that, much like the disease, spanned continents and was ignorant of demographic identifiers. In fact the worldwide effort saw partnership between the two major Cold War powers.

Human civilization has solved complex social problems in the past, and it can do so again.

So is fixing the societal problem of hazing that insurmountable? The answer is no, it is not. It certainly is not an easy task but it is not impossible. The failure lies in an almost endemic lack of hope that the institutions that have stood for hundreds of years, and have adapted through several very large and serious social changes in our nation’s history, can continue to exist.

But where does one even begin? Much like the effort to eradicate smallpox, it begins with collaboration.

Unfortunately, there have been several communities – including higher education in some cases — that have taken unfair and unproductive steps by shutting out their own members during important discussions.

With regards specifically to our own community, we have witnessed fraternities and their host institution rise to the challenge when given the opportunity to collaborate together. A great example of this is Vanderbilt IFC’s recent Inclusivity Agreement and the formation of an in-house Greek Allies program.

No one is arguing that issues exist. The question being asked is whether these issues can be solved and who should be involved in doing so.

The Wikipedia article on hazing includes an unfortunate opening.

Hazing is.”

I’m ready to make the proposed edit: “Hazing was.”

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