Many of you have probably noticed that we started posting a Sigma Nu trivia question-of-the-day last week. So far it’s been a fun way to engage our Facebook fans and Twitter followers about the early days of our storied organization.
A select few of the comments, however, have been disappointing in a subtle way. Apparently for some, Sigma Nu history is merely a collection of arbitrary information for quizzing candidates. “…well thats [sic] good trivia to stump candidates with,” read one comment. Several others echoed a similar sentiment.
I know what you’re thinking: “What’s the big deal? We expect our candidates to memorize history as a requirement for initiation. Every chapter teaches history. Don’t you think history is important??”
Of course history is important. It explains why we were founded and it helps us understand why Sigma Nu’s mission is still relevant over 140 years later. But seemingly harmless comments like these only perpetuate the pervasive myth that membership is earned only once during “pledging,” inevitably creating a culture of apathy and entitlement.
It seems harmless at first–a written test here, a verbal quiz there–but this paradigm of pledging is insidious. Before long, verbal quiz sessions become line ups where deadbeat brothers attempt to gain unearned respect under the guise of “teaching history.”
Oddly, our history is often misused in this way as an arbitrary means to badger new members–the very behavior Sigma Nu was founded against.
Memorizing history is well and good but understanding history is even better. Instead of barking “WHERE WERE THE FOUNDERS BORN?” why not discuss “Why was Sigma Nu founded and how is this still relevant today?” Or, “to what extent does our chapter actually practice what the Founders intended?”
Slowly but surely sensible chapters are adopting this not-so-new paradigm for candidate education: Earn your badge every day by living the mission and values of our organization. They’re not changing because it earns brownie points from the Greek Advisor or because “Nationals” told them to; they’re changing because it works. Members are realizing that a brotherhood based on fear, harassment and personal servitude isn’t really a brotherhood at all.