Self-governance in Action at Boise State

Every two years Sigma Nus from across the country convene at Grand Chapter–the supreme governing body of the Fraternity–where collegiate and alumni delegates vote on changes to The Law and elect new national leadership, among other matters.

As every Sigma Nu should know, the votes at Grand Chapter are overwhelmingly controlled by the collegians. This means that no bylaw is passed and no leader is elected without the collective approval of the undergraduate members.

It was established from the beginning that the General Fraternity would regard undergraduate chapters as self-governing entities; this is the essence of the Honor system.

Even the best chapters make mistakes on occasion. With sound chapter operations, these groups are prepared to handle their own problems, whether it be through a local honor court or a more formal Trial Court. Excellent chapters are willing to discipline their own members.

The High Council (Sigma Nu’s elected board of directors) and the General Fraternity are obligated to take action only when a chapter is so operationally dysfunctional that it’s incapable of holding its own members accountable.

Boise State’s response to the recent NCAA allegations serves as a positive example in self-governance. After multiple NCAA violations surfaced at Boise State this spring, school officials were quick to take action and self-impose sanctions:

Boise State has self-imposed sanctions on its football program as it faces NCAA allegations charging the school’s athletic program with a lack of institutional control.

We pride ourselves on doing things the right way at Boise State. As soon as we became aware that these inadvertent infractions were not in accordance with NCAA rules, we acted swiftly and without hesitation,” football coach Chris Petersen said Monday in a statement released by the school.

“The university, our staff and the involved student-athletes worked together with the NCAA to resolve the situation, including reimbursement of the benefits received, and that money was donated to a local charity,” Petersen said.

After being notified by the NCAA of the potential violations, Boise State officials launched their own inquiry in 2009 and ultimately self-reported some previously unknown infractions. But before a resolution could be reached with the NCAA, Boise State officials discovered more serious problems in the women’s tennis program last fall.

If your chapter slips up, how will your leadership react? Exercise self-governance and acknowledge the mistake, take appropriate action and move on?

Or deny all wrongdoing, orchestrate a cover-up and let the problem worsen?

There are too many stories of now dormant chapters that chose the latter.

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