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.
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:
- Does this activity/requirement/expectation serve a genuine purpose?
- Does this activity/requirement/expectation align with the Vision, Mission, Values, and founding principles of my fraternity?
- 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?
- 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.