Twitter tries, fails to hold fraternity-themed party

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons license by Scott Beale/Laughing Squid (scottbeale.org/laughingsquid.com.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons license by Scott Beale/Laughing Squid (scottbeale.org/laughingsquid.com)

Twitter is taking criticism this week after employees at the San Francisco office hosted a fraternity house-themed party reportedly organized by the company’s revenue team.

Some critics condemned the event as tone-deaf in light of Silicon Valley’s male-dominated culture that fails to adequately promote women to leadership positions. This lack of diversity has been well-documented in recent months, underscored by high-profile lawsuits from former employees alleging gender discrimination.

In hosting this event Twitter employees revealed another area of ignorance: they have little idea of what a fraternity party actually looks like. Far from the unregulated, anything-goes caricature many have about fraternity parties, these social functions are beholden to pages of detailed but necessary requirements to ensure the safety of all guests and members.

If Twitter wants to host a true fraternity-themed party, here is what it would actually look like.

BYOB. No alcoholic beverages are purchased through the chapter treasury nor is the purchase of same for members or guests undertaken or coordinated by any member or candidate in the name of or on behalf of the chapter.

No tap system or bulk alcohol purchases. No tap system and/or a keg is present in the chapter house, on chapter property, or at a chapter function (unless the tap system and/or keg is part of a cash bar operated by a licensed and insured third party vendor).

Sober monitors. Chapters are required to have designated sober monitors to ensure the safety of members and guests.

Attendees must be of legal drinking age to consume alcohol. Valid identification of those claiming to be entitled legally to consume alcohol at chapter functions (where legal consumption is permitted) is checked for the correct age.

No drinking games. No chapter member permits, tolerates, encourages or participates in drinking games in the chapter house, on chapter property, or at any chapter function. Drinking games like Twitter’s beer pong table encourage the type of reckless over-consumption of alcohol that leads to accidents and the ensuing negative media coverage.

Scholarship comes first. A chapter that falls beneath its school’s All-Men’s undergraduate, All-IFC or a 3.0 GPA (on a 4.0 scale), whichever is lowest, shall be placed on academic warning for the next academic term in order to allow for the chapter to raise its GPA to be at or above the applicable GPA. (If Twitter’s staff had been a fraternity chapter they would have been barred from hosting social functions due to under-performing stock values.)

It might be tempting to dismiss all this as burdensome red tape implemented by a top-down bureaucracy. However, those familiar with the typical national fraternity governance model will know this is far from the truth.

Each biennium representatives from every collegiate chapter gather for a legislative conclave known to us as Grand Chapter. During this legislative conference, members propose, discuss, and vote upon changes to our national bylaws, including the Risk Reduction Policy and Guidelines.

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Collegiate delegates review materials before voting on a proposed change to national bylaws at the 66th Grand Chapter in Nashville.

The votes for these decisions are overwhelmingly controlled by undergraduates, which means no regulation governing social events is passed without the support of the collegiate members. These regulations governing all fraternity social functions ensure chapters provide a safe environment for all attendees. The Grand Chapter also delegates to the General Fraternity the authority to exercise appropriate discipline for any chapter that fails to uphold these basic expectations.

We’re flattered Twitter staffers tried to imitate their perception of a stereotypical fraternity party. In doing so, however, their employees illustrated a common misunderstanding about the way fraternity events are governed and regulated.

And while we have your attention we hope you’ll check out Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit devoted to closing the gender gap in technology and engineering.

 

Virtue is its Own Reward

Sword By Ben Nye (Arkansas)

It’s elegant language: “Let it be ‘Laus Virtutis Actio,’ which we interpret literally ‘the deed is valor’s praise’ and symbolically “virtue is its own reward.’”

I was undoubtedly struck by these words on first hearing them read from our beloved ritual. As is often the case in our ritual, the language is poetic, stirring, and enigmatic.

Along with references to the Christian Bible, poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Freemasonry, our ritual includes phraseology in Latin, Greek, and was written by countless brothers. Its language is taken from two millennia of ideas and includes the loftiest sentiments of Judeo-Christian and Greek stoic traditions. Sigma Nu’s ritual is challenging to understand and even harder to live up to.

Yet, as Sigma Nus, this is exactly what we are charged with: living virtuous lives worthy of Honor.

This is what brings us to the mysterious phrase about virtue.

So what exactly does “virtue is its own reward” mean?

Originally, I thought this phrase meant doing things that weren’t very fun and not expecting to get any reward for it. I equated virtue – doing the right thing – with always eating your vegetables. The thing is, we all really want dessert and the only reason we eat vegetables is to get dessert. In this equation, being virtuous was like eating vegetables without getting a dessert afterwards.

That’s what I used to think. Then I listened a little closer. Our ritual tells us that “virtue is its own reward.” Rather than comparing virtue to eating vegetables, a more appropriate analogy compares virtue to enjoying an exquisite steak. It takes most of us a while to cultivate a taste for steak; after all, most children don’t eat steak. They prefer macaroni and cheese, French fries, and candy; their flavor palates haven’t fully formed.

Reaping the rewards of virtue only come after cultivating our appetites for things we aren’t initially attracted to.

The child’s natural preference for junk food doesn’t mean, however, that he should perpetually eat food on the kid’s menu. How strange would it be to see a 40-year-old man order from the kid’s menu or get a Happy Meal?

Instead, the adult, as he matures, develops a refined sense of taste. Generic macaroni and cheese no longer sates his desire and he gains an appetite for finer food and drink. Like a perfectly cooked, tender steak. The Quest

The virtuous life is the same way. Reaping the rewards of virtue only come after cultivating our appetites for things we aren’t initially attracted to. Virtue is hard and requires a willingness to push through the natural desire to give up when the going is tough. Moreover, this can only come after one has realized that there is more to life than living for Friday and Saturday nights.

The rewards of virtue are found after getting your hands dirty at a Habitat for Humanity building site, planning and executing a successful philanthropy, acing a test that you spent many hours studying for, and choosing to do what is right rather than what is easy.

Striving for the rewards of virtue also leads to a subtle change in desires. Much like learning to appreciate fine foods, virtuous living gives a reward that is inaccessible to those who don’t attempt it. How can the man who has never dined in a fine steakhouse understand his friend who raves about it? Likewise, the one who never attempts the virtuous life can’t comprehend its higher rewards.

Teaching young men the virtuous life is exactly what Sigma Nu does. It teaches the fundamentals of virtue and encourages young men to continue until gaining its reward. Every LEAD session, properly run chapter meeting, or successful philanthropy event is an opportunity to grow in the pursuit of virtue and gain some of the rewards it promises.

All Sigma Nu brothers should join in the pursuit of virtue, trusting that its rewards outweigh the cost of pursuit. Like a child trying steak for the first time, believe that the taste is worth it.

Teaching young men the virtuous life is exactly what Sigma Nu does.

Why Sigma Nu’s Mission Matters

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By Drew Logsdon (Western Kentucky)

The news in recent weeks has been filled with stories of corruption, deception, and all manner of unethical behavior.

Last month facts came to light that required officials at some of the world’s top financial institutions to admit to conspiring to manipulate currencies.

More recently we learned of the widespread corruption scandal within the governing body of soccer in which top officials were arrested on charges of accepting bribes in the hundreds of millions. One official now stands accused of diverting funds that were intended for earthquake relief in Haiti. These accusations underscore the far more troubling stories about the deplorable conditions of migrant workers building the stadiums and infrastructure that will service the Qatar World Cup – the legitimacy of which is now seriously in question.

These two scandals are only the most recent examples that point towards a troubling void in ethical leadership within some our most prized and important institutions.

The habits that facilitate this sort of corrupt behavior are sowed early in our development as leaders. Those who have never been trained to identify unethical behavior – or those who lack the courage to confront it – will crumble when thrust into these situations in the real world. As we’ve seen, the world is in desperate need of leaders trained to identify these scenarios and prepared to act courageously when necessary. Our world and society needs ethical leaders. We need men who firmly understand and embrace this concept.

This is precisely what we’re doing at Sigma Nu.

Our world and society needs ethical leaders. We need men who firmly understand and embrace this concept.

Sigma Nu’s mission statement reads: “To develop ethical leaders inspired by the principles of Love, Honor and Truth. To foster the personal growth of each man’s mind, heart and character. To perpetuate lifelong friendships and commitment to the Fraternity.”

That is our Fraternity’s purpose.

These recent scandals are examples of why the mission of Sigma Nu is still relevant today and will be for quite some time. We will always need ethical leaders and until that becomes a cornerstone of higher education institutions, we will need organizations expressly devoted to developing those ethical leaders. Especially so when even the Global Economic Forum issued a report in 2014 that listed a lack of values in leadership as one of the top 10 trends facing the world.

Sigma Nu’s commitment to its mission is not simply through one sentence in a mission statement. It is in our LEAD Program that provides members the tools and knowledge to become ethical leaders. It’s in our College of Chapters program for Commanders that provides keynote speakers on real world experiences of ethical leadership in action. And our commitment to this ideal shines through in the Sigma Nu Educational Foundation that works to ensure our mission can be executed for generations to come. To a large degree, the mission of Sigma Nu frames what we do every day to address the deficit of ethical leaders in our world today.

A statement from the Global Economic Forum report perhaps best summarizes why Sigma Nu’s Mission matters today, “We cannot expect all leaders to be saints, or to have no interests of their own, or know everything about everybody – that is clearly impossible. But, in terms of developing a positive global vision, the sharing of information is key. We must work hard to present people with a different range of ideas, interests and visions, and introduce different types of people, information and values in an attempt to bring about understanding. There’s always room for learning. If leaders stop learning, then it’s the end.”

This is why fraternity is just as relevant now as it has ever been in the past.

14 Sorority Women the U.S. Treasury Should Consider for the New $10 Bill

Photo by flickr user armydre2008.

Photo by flickr user armydre2008.

The Treasury Department announced this week plans to include a woman on the $10 bill as part of a planned redesign that will enter circulation after 2020. The announcement coincides with the Women on 20s campaign that’s been lobbying to put a woman’s face on U.S. paper currency. The Women on 20s campaign has gained momentum in recent months, though the Treasury Department says the timing of their announcement is merely coincidence.

Officials have yet to name which historical figure will replace or appear alongside Alexander Hamilton on the $10 note. Since the Treasury Department invited citizens to submit names for consideration, we decided to assemble the following list of remarkable sorority women whose courage and resolve blazed trails for others and left our country better than they found it. We invite all readers to suggest names of qualified candidates we may have missed. Here they are, in alphabetical order by last name.

Sadie T. M. Alexander, Ph.D (Delta Sigma Theta) was the nation’s first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in economics and later become a founder of the National Bar Association. In 1945 she was appointed to Commission on Civil Rights by President Truman. Alexander was also the first national president of Delta Sigma Theta.

Brigadier General Margaret A. Brewer (Zeta Tau Alpha) was the first woman general of the United States Marine Corps and served a distinguished career in executive positions at Camp Pendleton, Camp Lejune, and Quantico Marine Base, among others.

Brigadier General Hazel Johnson Brown, Ph.D. (Delta Sigma Theta) was the first African-American woman general in the United States Army.

Carrie Chapman Catt (Pi Beta Phi) was influential in passing the 19th Amendment and founded the National League of Women Voters.

Georgia Neese Clark (Alpha Phi) was the first woman Treasurer of the United States. Her signature appeared on all U.S. currency during her tenure. Clark also served as national president for Alpha Phi.

Marjorie Mehne Culmer (Kappa Delta) was elected national president of the Girl Scouts of the USA in 1957. As the former president of an organization that values civics, democracy, and leadership, Culmer undoubtedly meets the criteria for the currency note candidates.

Anna Elizabeth Dickinson (Kappa Alpha Theta) was an advocate for the abolition of slavery and staunch supporter of women’s suffrage. She played a prominent role in coordinating political campaigns in Union states in the months leading up to the Civil War. Dickinson was also the first woman to speak before the United States Congress.

Lou Henry Hoover (Kappa Kappa Gamma) advocated for volunteerism in her weekly radio broadcasts as First Lady. She served as national president of the Girls Scouts of America before and after her term as First Lady.

Jane Yelvington McCallum (Alpha Delta Pi) was a former Texas Secretary of State and served as publicity chairperson during the suffrage movement. She later served as chairperson of the Texas state ratification committee for the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and authored the Texas chapter of the National History of Women’s Suffrage. 

Francine Irving Neff (Alpha Delta Pi) served as the 35th U.S. Treasurer under President Nixon and later under President Ford. Following her service with the federal government Neff became the first woman appointed to Hershey’s Food Corp. Board of Directors.

Rosa Parks (Alpha Kappa Alpha) is widely regarded as “the mother of the freedom movement” for her role in the Civil Rights Movement. Parks received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and she was the first woman to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Building. As one of our nation’s most iconic and influential figures, Parks is an obvious candidate for this recognition.

Ivy Baker Priest (Delta Zeta) served as United States Treasurer with the Eisenhower administration from 1953-1961. During this time her signature appeared on all U.S. currency, making her a natural candidate to appear on the new $10 bill. She was once said to have quipped, “We women don’t care too much about getting our pictures on money as long as we can get our hands on it.”

Eleanor Roosevelt (Alpha Kappa Alpha) was a champion for women’s rights throughout her life and later become known as a steadfast advocate for human rights in general, which earned her the name “First Lady of the World.” As the U.S. delegate to the United Nations, she lobbied to pass the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For her unwavering support of these important causes, Roosevelt was voted one of the finalists in the Women on 20s campaign that seeks to replace Andrew Jackson with a woman’s face on the $20 bill.

Frances E. Willard (Alpha Phi) was a women’s suffragist whose influence was instrumental in the passing the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Willard also served as Alpha Phi’s national president.

Who did we miss? Leave a comment below or email news@sigmanu.org so we can make sure our list includes all qualified candidates.

 

Austin Finley’s Trip to Washington

Austin Finley at the White House to discuss Higher Education policy with other student leaders across the country.

Austin Finley at the White House to discuss Higher Education policy with other student leaders across the country.

By Ben Nye (Arkansas)

Sigma Nu has no shortage of student leaders. One such student leader and brother recently went all the way to the White House where he was able to participate in conversations that will influence higher education policy in the coming months.

Along with over 150 other student government presidents, Brother Austin Finley (Alabama in Huntsville) spent May 30-June 1 in Washington, D.C., for the National Presidential Leadership Summit hosted by the National Campus Leadership Council (NCLC). As part of Finley’s trip, he got to discuss prominent issues in higher education with fellow student government presidents and education officials within the federal government.

The summit featured discussion on many issues that Finley and other campus presidents face including Title IX policy implementation, campus sexual assault prevention, college career readiness, mental health, and college affordability.

Along with discussions about issues facing higher education, Finley and his fellow presidents were educated on how to be effective student leaders and implement necessary policies. “What can we do to make our programs more efficient and what are other schools doing that we aren’t doing?” relayed Finley, expressing some of the key focuses of the summit.

Among the benefits of the summit was the attendance of many outgoing student government presidents who helped the incoming presidents understand their roles. “We really heard what their struggles were and where we could something different,” said Finley.

SGA Presidents Summit_Austin Finley_Mu Beta_Summer 2015

Finley’s involvement with these high-level discussions, combined with his involvement in local prevention efforts, is emblematic of a much broader commitment by fraternities assuming a leadership role in the growing sexual assault prevention movement. Only a few weeks prior to Finley’s White House invite, Sigma Nu’s General Fraternity joined a consortium of other national fraternities and sororities to launch a new sexual assault prevention program of their own.

On the second day of the summit, the student government presidents met with many leaders within the federal government including the director of the It’s On Us campaign and several officials within the Department of Education. “They really asked for our input on several things. We were actually active in shaping what the current administration is actually doing in Washington.”

Finley’s experience has proved invaluable in shaping his perspective on governance and politics. “Going to something like this opened my eyes to see how much easier it is to push your ideas. It’s a lot easier when you come together as a group of student leaders.”

Brother Finley is eager to get back and shape more higher education policy in Alabama, but he doesn’t want to do it by himself. Finley wants to take his Sigma Nu brothers along for the ride.

“Through student government Sigma Nu brothers have the opportunity to lobby or get involved in state or local politics. I would encourage brothers to do that. Don’t just be content, take action. That’s one of the things I’ve learned since getting involved with SGA. Apathy is not an excuse.”

Fraternities Build Campus Communities that Wouldn’t Exist Otherwise

Brothers of Gamma Beta participating in Northwestern's Dance Marathon in 2013.

Brothers of Gamma Beta participating in Northwestern’s Dance Marathon in 2013.

By Mark Nelson (Northwestern)

For many undergraduates, my university tends to feel quite lonely. Students are overly competitive, focused on getting the best internship, job, or graduate school acceptance. Throughout the year, one can find numerous students in the library on weekend nights, working through problem sets or preparing for their next interview. We also have what students call the Sheridan Road Effect, where students walk down the main street on campus with their heads down, and if they notice somebody they have met before, they do their best to pretend like they have not seen them. I am not sure exactly what it is but the campus often feels as if it lacks a true sense of community.

I was reminded of this recently when I reached out to professors for letters of recommendation for medical school and received no reply in return.

I then reached out to successful alumni of my fraternity, most of whom did not even attend my school. In contrast, the most popular response I received was, “I’d be honored. When should I get it to you?”

These touching replies further strengthened my belief that my fraternity experience has been the most meaningful part of my college career. Not just for the growth I experienced, but also for the constant support of others.

In middle school I was not the most popular kid by a long shot. It was not that I didn’t have friends at school, I did, but that was the extent of my friendships: School. I would go home every day, do my homework, watch television, go to bed, and repeat. I remember two girls in my class who had parties every Friday night to which most of my friends would be invited. The most painful part was not the Friday afternoon bus rides home listening to everyone talk about the party. That was nothing a pair of headphones couldn’t fix. The most painful part was sitting at home alone on a Friday night. I worked on model airplanes most times, occasionally read a book, and if I was lucky my mom would rent a movie for me. The most eventful nights were when I was the target of prank calls coming from those weekend parties, with the easily identifiable voices of my “school friends” on the line. I didn’t like it, but I learned to not cry about it. I grew comfortable with it

These touching replies further strengthened my belief that my fraternity experience has been the most meaningful part of my college career. Not just for the growth I experienced, but also for the constant support of others.

My life today stands in stark contrast to what it was in middle school, or even high school for that matter, and I owe most of this change to my fraternity. The training and education I received from Sigma Nu staff, alumni, and fellow members, coupled with the endless support of my family back home, has put me in a new and better place. Today, despite the anxiety I came to college with, I sit on important committees with university administrators, have a say in school policy changes, help chapter members through difficult experiences, and speak to other presidents about their leadership and personal values. While the true nerd inside me will always have a passion for academics, this work has truly made my time in college fulfilling.

In addition to personal growth, my fraternity experience has always brought me a sense of comfort. When someone is in a chapter that operates properly they are never alone, regardless of the campus atmosphere. Sure, it is not uncommon for me to take a weekend night to study for the quarter system’s ceaseless barrage of exams, but I can never go one night without at least ten friends asking about going into the city or offering to study for an exam as a group. Both suggestions are always appreciated, especially the test preparation.

Brother Nelson serves as one of the undergraduate members on the Sigma Nu Education Foundation's Board of Directors

Brother Nelson serves as one of the collegiate board members for Sigma Nu Education Foundation’s Board of Directors

Critics of the Greek system point to myriad flaws such as charges of hazing, sexual assault, binge drinking, and drug use. Undeniably, these are serious problems, as they are on NCAA athletic teams, theater groups, club sports, student publication teams, and many, many more places on college campuses. These are issues that need to be addressed and they need to be addressed now. I know this because I hear of occurrences both on my campus and on others.  Not only do these problems have no place in Greek organizations but on college campuses in general.

If these issues are to be addressed, it comes down to national organizations holding their chapters to the same standards their founders set years ago, and many organizations do that quite well. However, it is also the responsibility of universities to not only hold Greek organizations to high standards of human decency, but to show consistency by holding other student groups and athletic teams to that same high standard. Currently, the Greek system is in a spotlight in a dark room, but if the problem is ever to be truly fixed, the whole room needs to be lit.

While there are an unfortunate amount of examples of chapters gone wrong, I know that fraternities still have a place on college campuses because I have seen even more examples of fraternity done right. As the president of the Interfraternity Council, I often talk to administrators about the community service and philanthropy that Greek organizations do. I point to members of my chapter working in hospitals and the Chicago Food Depository, or I point to members canning to raise money for ALS research and forming teams for Dance Marathon. I point to these things because they are easy to understand from the outside. What I cannot fully explain is the real world training and education that fraternities provide through genuine national support and heartfelt relationships with alumni and advisors. Nor, in my case, can I fully describe how meaningful it is when alumni and brothers alike go out of their way to help me, whether that is providing letters of recommendation, reviewing my resume, or simply repeating over and over again that I will become that small town doctor I want to be.

When I left for college my freshman year my dad told me that this time was for education, building lifelong friendships, and discovering yourself. That, at its core, is exactly what the fraternity experience is meant to be and what it was for me.

Editor’s Note: We invite brothers of all ages to submit essays about their own Sigma Nu experience. Submissions should be emailed to news@sigmanu.org

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Beta Chi Brothers Launch Board Game Kickstarter

The Campaign board game created by three Beta Chi Brothers.

The Campaign board game created by three Beta Chi Brothers.

By Drew Logsdon (Western Kentucky)

Three brothers of the Beta Chi Chapter at Stanford might be on the verge of creating the next big board game. It’s not based on how much wood you have to buy, how many hotels to put on a property, or what word will give you double points. Instead it’s a game that’s focused on something we are all very familiar with: a US Presidential election.

Soon-to-be graduates Eric Iwashita, Max Kohrman, and Eric Hallett – all candidate brothers from the same class – developed the idea as part of the capstone project for their product design class. Their inspiration? Playing board games with fellow members of the chapter at the chapter house. And so began a 27 week project that now finds itself coming to fruition.

The game is titled The Campaign: A Seriously Absurd Political Board Game. In the game 4-6 players first divide as evenly as possible into two teams, Republicans and Democrats. Throughout the game the players draw and play cards as well as spend money in their attempt to garner the electoral votes needed to win the election. The cards include mini-games like the “Speech” card where a player has to give a 30-second speech on key topics like why the U.S. should annex Canada or why cheese should be banned from public schools. There’s also the “Filibuster” card that skips a player’s turn. The game is novel in that each player is not just trying to win the presidential election themselves but also ensure that their team wins the election.

He attributes much of the game’s current look and feel to those test games played by chapter members with many providing input, feedback, and different perspectives to the game designers that helped them round out the game to appeal to a wider audience.

The title alone is a good indicator that this isn’t a game where you take yourself or the political process too seriously and is filled with plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor. Iwashita says political cartoons were an influence in designing the game’s humor, as was the popular game Cards Against Humanity where political correctness is almost forbidden.

Throughout the design process Iwashita, Kohrman, and Hallett relied heavily on their fellow chapter members as test subjects for the game.  Iwashita says they went through 11-12 versions of the game until they settled on the final product. He attributes much of the game’s current look and feel to those test games played by chapter members with many providing input, feedback, and different perspectives to the game designers that helped them round out the game to appeal to a wider audience.

The three men now find themselves close to not only graduation but also the final presentation of their project on June 2, which is fitting since they will also be launching their game on Kickstarter the same day. The group is looking to raise about $25,000 to cover costs for initial manufacturing as well as filling rewards orders through Kickstarter. A $35 donation will earn a copy of the game for the first 50 donors, with additional perks for lower tier donation levels.

The 2016 presidential election might be 500+ days away but, it’s never too early to get your “House of Cards” fix in the form of a good-natured board game.

The Campaign Facebook Page

The Campaign Kickstarter Page

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