Category Archives: Grand Chapter

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.

 

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The First Grand Chapter

By Zac Morrison (Eastern Kentucky)

July 9th, 1884, is a significant date in the history of Sigma Nu: it marks the first convention of Sigma Nu.  This convention, which would come to be known as the Grand Chapter, was held at the Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville Tennessee. The Grand Chapter has significance for Sigma Nu as it serves as the governing body of the Fraternity. Prominent in its planning and execution was Isaac P. Robinson, the first member of Lambda Chapter (Washington and Lee). Upon hearing the successes of several chapters across the country, Robinson (now known in Sigma Nu history as the Father of the First Convention) felt it was necessary to take a collection of loosely connected chapters, some of which were struggling to survive, and form them into the Sigma Nu organization as we now know it. Through his work with John Alexander Howard (founder of The Delta) the convention allowed the Fraternity to prosper and move forward to future successes.

The first convention had several important agenda items that needed to be accomplished. Following  a reading of the Regent’s address (Regent W. H. Wade was unable to attend) the  delegates voted on and discussed  changes to The Ritual, adoption of a revised Constitution, the creation of Divisions, a location and time of the next convention, and  elections of the Grand Officers. Joe T. Barron of Alpha Chapter (VMI) presided over the proceedings and Alpha, Lambda, Kappa (North Georgia), Theta (Alabama), Zeta (Central) and Mu (Georgia) Chapters were represented by voting delegates.

The old Maxwell House Hotel. Photo courtesy of Tennessee.gov.

The old Maxwell House Hotel. Photo courtesy of Tennessee.gov.

Changes to The Ritual included updates to the original draft created by Founder Hopkins through the adoption of a “grip” which the Lambda Chapter introduced, and signs of recognition that John Alexander Howard conceived.

The Constitution was reviewed and adopted with little opposition. There was some debate over the question of requiring members to purchase a badge within one year of initiation. Jacob T. Barron moved that the resolution be amended to include “if able” but a compromise was settled to include “unless excused from doing so by his Chapter.” Furthermore, the new Constitution was updated to conform to the enlarged activities of the Fraternity.

The Divisions were made and separated into three parts. Division I included Virginia and West Virginia, Division II included Alabama, Kentucky, and Kansas, and Division III included Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Division Chiefs were elected for each respective Division.

Following a motion from George Forman of Zeta Chapter, Lexington, Kentucky was chosen to be the meeting spot of the second convention in 1886.

The convention elected several Grand Officer positions. The positions filled were Regent, Vice Regent, Grand Recorder, Treasurer, and Editor of The Delta. Jacob T. Barron, who served as the convention chair, was nominated for Regent, but declined and instead nominated his fellow chapter brother, Edward R. Arthur of Alpha.  Arthur was elected unanimously. John Alexander Howard was unanimously elected as Vice Regent and retained his position of Editor of The Delta. Isaac Robinson was elected General Secretary and Daniel W. Langston of Theta Chapter was elected Grand Treasurer. These four officers combined with the Division Chiefs were entitled the “Grand Chapter,” a title later conferred on the entire convention. This group of Grand Officers would later come be known as the High Council.

The 13th Grand Chapter as illustrated (humorously) in the February Delta in 1908.

The 13th Grand Chapter as illustrated  in the February Delta in 1908.

The events of 129 years ago still have an impact on the Fraternity today. The first Grand Chapter was crucial in providing infrastructure to the still young Sigma Nu and in establishing communication lines between alumni and chapters. Since 1884 there have been 64 more Grand Chapters. The Fraternity has expanded across the country and has a huge alumni base. Importantly, these chapters and alumni are reunited every two years at Grand Chapter, a time of fellowship and renewal.

At a point when Sigma Nu faced a struggle to survive as a national organization, great men came together and laid the foundation for an organized body of collegians and alumni that  would allow Sigma Nu to expand more than ever thought possible. We all owe the current state of our fraternity to what took place in 1884.

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