New members of Delta Sigma Phi memorize the Preamble to the Constitution prior to their initiation. Many forget it shortly thereafter, and few are required to or ever take time to analyze its meaning, which is strange; It explains the expectations of membership quite clearly.
I have written before that I may differ with some in my fraternity who wish to adopt a “creed.” I don’t really care if we adopt a creed; I just wonder if it is a relevant endeavor beyond fitting in with other fraternities. We suggest in our ritual ceremonies that Delta Sig offers more than a creed – it’s a way of life.
Questions about the Preamble came up in several meetings with potential founding fathers as I and other staff would establish new chapters of Delta Sig. We had the Preamble printed on the inside cover of our folders, and the opening lines generated so many questions that we removed and replaced it with other information in subsequent prints of the folders. I was always a little miffed by this, and my concern was that we chose to hide a part of who we are, maybe because we weren’t well prepared to explain who we are.
So, I hope that this post is useful to new member educators and advisors of my fraternity and inspiring to educators of other fraternities. It is by no means a definitive interpretation of the Preamble, as this is not the definitive fraternity blog, but if you don’t have time or the interest to work it out then you may like what I offer below.
Our Preamble can be broken down into 5 key expectations of membership. They are as follows.
That the belief in God is essential to our welfare
This is the sticking point. “Do I need to believe in God to join this Fraternity?”
In terms of our written standards and expectations – no, but in another, less specific way, yes.
We were established as a fraternity admitting Jewish and Christian students at a time when fraternities admitted only one or the other. Our founders believed in a wider-reaching brotherhood, believing that the common ancestry of all men was of great importance, and that collaboration between men beyond the invisible boundaries of the surrounding society (#CultureHarmonyFriendship) would result in a better world.
So you do not need to believe in God as it is interpreted in any one religious text, but you must understand and value the common ancestry of [hu]man[s], and the equality that such a belief demands of us. Equality is a recurring theme in the teachings of our fraternity.
The liberal arts system of education was established as an expression of the first amendment to the Constitution of these United States. That same amendment protects the rights of any individual to associate with any group with whom they share beliefs, so long as they don’t violate the rights of other individuals.
We owe our existence to our constitutional government and to the school systems established to educate and prepare young men to benefit the world. Therefore, it is expected of a Delta Sig that he protect our constitutional government and our rights (which protect our existence) and support our education systems (which nurture our memberships) so that Delta Sigma Phi (and other fraternities) may continue to proliferate.
I am convinced that there is no line of work that can quite compare to that of working at a fraternity headquarters. I spent five-plus years with one.
Add those five-plus years to my time as an undergraduate member (and office-holder) and my fraternity experience is closing in on a decade!
In my time on Delta Sigma Phi’s staff I worked as a recruiter to establish new chapters, I consulted for several chapters, and managed our growth and chapter services operations.
In that same amount of time I learned to make bow ties, started two fraternity-related blogs (Hey! That’s where you are now!), moved to Charleston, SC and back, and read a bunch of Ron Paul stuff. . . what a whirlwind!
My opinions or advice may not be worth your dollar, but here are some things I’ve learned working for my fraternity’s HQ.
Leadership Is A Skill Set Requiring Practice
There are habits and practices utilized to help people become great leaders, and it pays to make those a more regular part of your own actions. That is what the majority of leadership programming teaches.
Real world practice is required to make any use of your skills. The saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” is true. Many of us think that attending dozens of programs has turned us into experts of leadership, but expertise requires practical application.
If that were not true, Hermione would be a better witch than Harry a wizard. . . For those of you who aren’t Harry Potter nerds: Would you rather a learned and practiced surgeon perform your facelift or one who has read all the books on facelifts with minimal practice?
We have many “experts” with little to no practical application in our field. Recall – the average age of a person working with fraternities/sororities is 28. Many leadership programs focus on individualizing which practices or values best suit a person, but don’t set basic standards for what it takes to be considered a great, ethical leader. To “model the way,” as they say, we set an expectation of what is required of a great leader and the common ethical standards a great leader should exemplify.
The Fraternity/Sorority World Lacks Real Competition
The coordinated efforts of fraternities and sororities to improve their position in society, to improve the fact that they are some of the most expensive things to insure next to nuclear power plants, and to improve their ability to “benefit their communities” have either failed or flatlined.
After years of experiencing “The Fraternal Values Movement,” as a student and several more years as a professional fraternity staff member, I can say that very little of what we teach, spend money on or require seems to make additional headway in addressing our greatest challenges. The people who choose what’s acceptable have agreed that service, philanthropy, leadership and values education are the way to make the Rolling Stone not hate us anymore. . . We we are still waiting for that to be the case.
People I’ve known through work put an intense focus on communities at the expense of individual organizations. College campuses establish “common values” that all fraternities and sororities share, effectively smudging the individuality of their community members. National organizations band together and speak in unison and talk up those same, self-depreciating publicity ploys to negate bad news.
Real competition would mean that fraternities compare themselves to others based on the output and quality of their memberships. To compete, we’d have to better support our network of members in their professional lives and students would need to stop recruiting fools. . . problems largely solved. Continued
What a guy right?
Simon Sinek may have led one of the most insightful and impactful TED Talks with regard to Greek Life. I am unsure of how big a deal Simon Sinek is outside of my own circles, but his name seems to have gotten around.
Let me start by saying that I’d be a fool to disagree with Simon’s understanding of leadership and messaging. I think his concept of starting with “why,” then moving to “how,” and finally “what” is a recipe for marketing and planning success that our fraternities and sororities have yet to experience, and I think it was wise to use popular examples such as Apple and Martin Luther King Jr.
Here’s my issue with Simon Sinek, this TED Talk, and his associated book “Start With Why?”:
Everyone is starting and stopping at why and nothing is getting done (or done well anyway).
I can’t effectively estimate how many times I’ve heard a man or woman explain the “golden circle” in a rushed interpretation of Simon’s TED Talk and completely ignore the whole “how” and “what” parts, but it happens a lot . . . like almost every time.
It doesn’t seem to matter if the person is a student, recent graduate, “doctor,” or CEO; they all teach it incompletely, most of the time, and it’s because we try to downplay the “how” and “what” to instead focus on the often-overlooked “why” (overlooked pre-Simon Sinek anyway). Here’s a breakdown:
- Phase 1 is determining a “why,” yes, but there are two more circles to get through. . .
- If you don’t figure out the “how,” Phase 2, and put an equal if not heightened amount of time into determining the “how,” then your product is less likely to align with your “why.”
- If you don’t spend time using the “how” to get to the “what,” your “why” and “how” are ultimately worthless.
Apple, one of Sinek’s examples in the video above, does not just say, “We do everything to be different,” and then magically obtain a killer product out of thin air. They don’t just make their products “user friendly;” anyone can do that.
Being a “different” consumer electronics company is their “why,” sure, but that took all of maybe 1 minute for Apple’s founders to determine as a good enough “why.”
How was Apple going to be a different consumer electronics company? It’s simple: Apple’s competitors focus on pushing consumer electronics to their technical limits. More processing power, more programs, better graphics and dozens of options to upgrade your device.
Apple focused on pushing consumer electronics to the limits of practicality. They focus on the effect of tech design on a person’s ability to pick up and use advanced technology with ease.
Steve Jobs, the brainchild behind Apple’s marketing and uniqueness, was obsessed with the curves of his Mercedes Benz. He felt they gave his vehicle a smooth, effortless look that made his ride more enjoyable than any other luxury vehicle.
He hired engineers to give the same curvature and simplicity to his computer products and the operating system within each of those computer products as one would expect the interior of a Mercedes Benz to compliment the design of its exterior.
Apple paid careful, obsessive attention to “how” they did things differently (the why) to achieve approachable computers (the what).
Rather than pay equal attention to the “why,” “how,” and “what,” we obsess over the why, and teach to our students that they need to “start with why.” Then, after we have focus-grouped and turned our “why” into some bland version of “let’s not suck,” we churn out “what’s” and call them “progress,” regardless of whether or not they’ve been effective in helping us progress.
Want to know why there is so much turnover in our field? Care to ask why a school can’t seem to keep policies or programs in place for longer than a few years without major overhauls? It’s because the professionals in charge know their “why” (typically something lofty and ridiculous like changing the world through frat bros) and piece together a “what” out of thin air (a policy banning single-sex groups or fifteen community values which cover the spectrum of positive publicity).
The fix is simple: spend more time in the painstaking, difficult exploration of the “how.”
Knowing why you do something is critical, but it’s not that hard to figure out.
Spend more time in contemplation, or tinkering, or whatever floats your boat, to determine how you do something so that it is uniquely yours and serves as an extension of why you want to do it.
Programs should not be created and launched overnight. Policies too should not be created or changed overnight.
With every sexual assault, or shooting, or hazing incident, or discrimination incident, our audience demands immediate action and we cave, often doing nothing but suppress the problem.
As people who claim to train America’s future leaders, we should find value in restraint and patience. We should teach our students that it is okay not to cave to the pressure of an audience. We should teach our students to be thoughtful not only in why they do something, but how they go about doing it.
Until we stop ignoring “how” at the expense of the more exciting, more marketable, “why” and “what,” we will continue to tread water when it comes to making ourselves relevant to modern college students and overcoming our greatest challenges.
DREAMS LEAD TO PLANS
What Mr. Sinek couldn’t capture with his clever, share-worthy quote designed to summarize his presentation (not for lack of knowledge, but to the detriment of his following), is that the “I Have a Dream” speech was all a part of a plan. A plan that took far more time and effort than determining the dream itself.
We are all told that joining a fraternity or sorority will open opportunities. Many of us got our jobs via connections we have made through our organizations, but many more are limited by the stigma of having the word “fraternity” anywhere on their résumé.
Here are some quick tips to turn your organizations from a potential liability to a great talking point.
1. Start With The Job
When listing leadership or work positions, choose to organize your information in the following manner:
Title – Time Period – Organization.
The important part of being President was in doing things that presidents do, not in the fact that it was for a fraternity or sorority chapter.
I often tell chapters that when raising money they should remove “Delta Sigma Phi” from things they use to market or sell because it makes them more approachable. There are many people who are immediately turned off when they see Greek letters, delay that sting by leading with your position.
2. Bold What You Want Heard
Okay so an employer will now see that you were a “President” in 2015, but let’s draw even more attention away from your scary fraternity or sorority name: bold to highlight your attributes.
Your résumé should be no longer than one page if you are a recent graduate. Reviewers spend 1-2 seconds scanning your résumé to determine if they want to read it, so there needs to be a way to draw attention to where it’s needed.
Don’t embolden any old word, willy-nilly. Use it as an organizational tool in the same way you’d use bullet points or indentations. We want this to guide a reviewer to relevant information, not to be used as a cheap gimmick like glitter to make you seem special.
President – 2015 – Delta Sigma Phi
President – 2015 – Delta Sigma Phi
By using bold to bring our your titles, someone can have an idea of your relevant experience. Now you just need to appropriately sell that experience. . .
3. Use Data, Not Job Descriptions
In an ideal world you contribute greatly to your organization. It is a typical practice to list 2-3 bullet points under each leadership position or job title, don’t let that space go to waste.
Rather than list a bunch of things that all chapter treasurers do (made an annual budget, managed $10,000), talk about what you did differently.
For example, while I was President, my Treasurer and I worked with a $400 budget to close a $18,000 budget shortfall and we didn’t cut a single activity during the term. The statistic is a part of a greater story. Simply saying that we managed a balanced budget doesn’t leave much room for elaboration. Stories make for more enjoyable conversations and are easier to recall than basic job descriptions.
Talk about the new program you built, how much more money you raised than before, how you cut expenses or how more of your members became involved. Use numbers and percentages.
4. Speak Human
No one knows what “Sergeant at Arms” means. It’s okay to replace it with a word that fits an American’s vocabulary.
Pretend your fraternity or sorority is a credit card company; use only the terms a credit card company man or woman would use. Call your brothers members, call your chapter your organization, call a philanthropy event a charity fundraiser and don’t mention ritual; there is no need for that to be on your résumé.
To put it simply do as much as you can to translate your fraternity or sorority experience into a language understood by most humans and organize your content in a way that highlights your talents and accomplishments rather than on whose behalf you were working.
I will not be running for my fraternity’s governing board in 2019 as I had done in 2017 (read more here).
It was fun, but the fun part was more or less trying to introduce some sense of campaigning into my fraternity’s process, compared to the current situation of most members having little more than a written statement and the decision of a slating committee to guide their vote.
There will be no Nik4GC 2019 website with a full platform as there was two years ago, but here are some things I would like to see happen within the governing organization of Delta Sigma Phi – things which I hope other existing/potential candidates will adopt.
If you have similar thoughts specific to your fraternity or sorority – something focused on greater self-government, member empowerment, and/or greater transparency – then feel free to shoot me an email or comment below.
If you are a Delta Sig, then please shoot me an email for a PDF version of these proposals along with some additional details to share with officers, advisers, or your voting delegates.
Address The Age Requirement Injustice
Any undergraduate student of Delta Sig, no matter their age, may be elected to our governing board, but the case is trickier for alumni members.
It does not matter if you turn 30 the day before a Convention, or if you, as a 30+ year old man, were initiated moments before submitting your application and position statement to serve on the Grand Council, any alumnus above the age of 30 – no ceiling, by the way – will be considered eligible.
This does not make sense for a number of reasons:
- There are 2 undergraduate positions with full rights/responsibilities on the governing board (typically 19-22 year old students)
- A slating committee vets and recommends a board to be voted on by the Convention, and challenges typically come from those who have campaigned well enough to win
I was not ready to serve on the board in 2017, but I do not believe that a magical moment of clarity grants worldly wisdom to all at the stroke of midnight on their 30th birthday.
Cut off Vision 2025 at 2020 and launch a new 3-5 year plan.
Since our Fraternity embarked on a ridiculous 20-year strategic plan in 2005 the country has entered a recession, iPhones were invented, smartwatches were invented, and we have fallen behind on every statistic we cannot fluff.
It is time to recognize the changes to our environment – recognizing, for example, that we will never be the largest contributor of Blood, Sweat & Cash to the American Red Cross – a multi-billion dollar charity.
Cut Vision 2025 off at 2020, and spend the next year developing a new strategic plan with a realistic timeline. Three to five years is the sweet spot for planning, and its focus should be limited to 3-5 initiatives. Vision 2025 is too dated, too bloated, and too irrelevant.
Give up on campus recognition
We should never again close a high-performing chapter because a university’s combative, uncooperative staffers or administrators will not allow it to rent rooms on campus.
RIP Delta Sigma Phi San Luis Obispo Chapter.
Reform program & convention fees
Our organization wants online education to be a central element of its future training initiatives. We have sunk six figure sums into The LAMP (Delta Sig’s online learning platform), and that’s fine – if it works – and so we should address that our education is now per member and that our Program fee should be the same.
Small chapters, those which close due to debt, are overwhelmed by the Program Fee, and when combined with the Convention Fee they amount to nearly $2,000 in charges per year.
A group of 10 men have more important things to focus on then sending 4 members to Convention – it is why we retooled our accreditation process in 2015 to a hierarchy of needs model – and so we should not only rethink the need for a Program Fee, but also make changes to our Convention Fee. (Details in the aforementioned PDF).
Just as citizens expect a level of transparency with their elected government representatives (and their respective bureaucratic institutions) so too should fraternity members expect an equal or greater level of transparency from their elected representation.
Dues-paying members and/or Fraternity officers should expect annual insight’s into the fraternity’s income and revenue as well as meeting minutes or detailed summaries of Grand Council meetings.
Additionally, whereas student dues ultimately fund the North American Inter-Fraternity Council, Delta Sig should model the way and grant members insight into how much the Fraternity pays in dues to the NIC, into upcoming proposals being voted upon at NIC member meetings, and into the Fraternity’s delegates’ intended votes on any given proposal.
While President of my chapter at Stetson University I was called in to a meeting to help determine the winners of the annual awards doled out by our Student Affairs professionals. Stetson staff from a variety of offices, perhaps even a professor or two, gathered to read through single-page submissions for each award and then debate the winner(s) of the award.
A fraternity or sorority (I cannot recall which, forgive my feeble brain) had submitted an application to be considered for one of the service awards we discussed early into our meeting. We read each of the submissions, and the consensus in the room was that the Greek-letter organization easily outperformed the other applicants. Neat! But. . .
“There are already Greek Awards, we should give other student organizations a chance to be recognized.”-Confidential (i.e. I don’t remember her name)
That opinion, spoken by one of the Student Affairs professionals who worked with a variety of non-Greek-Letter organizations, was immediately adopted as the consensus of the room. I, being one of two students and the only fraternity student, could not make a strong enough case that fraternities and sororities are campus organizations, that we all very recently agreed that the Greek-letter applicant deserved the award, and that “Everyone Gets A Trophy” was not the Baby Boomer’s greatest contribution to American youth.
Fraternity and sorority submissions were not to be considered for the remainder of the meeting and I received an early understanding of the political bullcorn of awards.
More than one fraternity|sorority professional has more than once suggested that all of our organizations are essentially the same, that we are a community with community values and that college fraternity students should not be so competitive.
That is, of course, hypocritical hogwash when one takes into account that most fraternity|sorority campus professionals organize the greatest peeing contests in all of Greek Life: accreditation/standards packets and the awards which accompany them.
How About Nobody Gets A Trophy?
What if we stopped comparing fraternities and ranking them with star ratings or “Fraternity of the Year” awards? I have already made several cases against bloated standards of excellence checklists and their ties to “recognition,” but this is different. Awards are the “carrot” to completing these packets opposite of the “stick” of closure or sanctions.
Here are a few opinions to consider as you prepare for this or next year’s “Greek Awards”
1. They Further Separate Greek Life From Campus Communities
As I mentioned in the tale of my Stetson experience, Greek Award distance fraternities from other student organizations, which therefore encourages and enables university professionals to treat fraternities differently.
This is troubling when we consider how much of an emphasis we place on “campus recognition.” We already deal with a separate class of requirements and penalties when compared to other student organizations. If we are the best, then we should outright compete with the rest. To preach that frat men engage with their campus, and to then silo off recognition of their achievements from the rest of campus is nonsensical.
2. Awards Often Lead To Plateaus
Fraternity and sorority leadership, like all student organizations, turns over from year to year, and the members themselves completely recycle after 4 or 5 years. There is not much institutional knowledge when it comes to remembering how an award was won. My chapter was a perfect example.
I was recruited in a class of 30, astronomical at the time for Stetson’s standards, just after our fraternity won the top award from our campus and the National. Most of our new member class joined an award-winning chapter, and the chapter members were too busy showing off their trophies to explain what we would have to do as members to repeat that success. We lost the major awards within a year.
This happens often. A chapter does well on one year’s award packet and then spirals to hell from there. Beta Theta Pi will not return to Penn State without permission from the Piazza family because a chapter which appeared fine on paper, maybe even great, was developing a culture of carelessness.
3. Awards Are Political & Easily Manipulated
I again point to the story I used to introduce this post. There are always political elements when choosing award winners, particularly when they are based off of packet submissions or when those making selections oversee and guide the direction of a broader community.
There is no relevant reason for an IFC to grant a “Brotherhood Award,” for example, by reading letters submitted by chapters. These awards are just designed to encourage chapters to follow our bloated accreditation/standards checklist or to highlight the values and interests of campus professionals, not student leaders.
4. Greek Awards, More Often Then Not, Celebrate Irrelevant Aspects of Greek Life
Not all fraternities are the same and there is no reason to rank or compare them based on non-essential functions – which is, unfortunately, upon which are built most standards of excellence checklists.
Service is nice, but it’s not essential, and an award for service hours doesn’t capture the true value of service. The same can be said for intramural sports, philanthropic giving, lecture attendance, and many other aspects of Greek Life for which we give awards or consider when choosing the “King of Frat” (Fraternity of the Year)-type designations.
Let chapters find their niche and let their fulfillment come from accomplishing goals. We should not continue to place so much of our students’ attention into collecting trophies – they need their own goals and ambitions.
What is essential to the fraternity experience? Put simply: Creating a place for people to belong in college, finding friends who help you through your hardships, ask you to be better when you fail, and who share ceremonial rites of passage with you throughout one of the most formative times of your life.
Greek Awards can’t capture that, and no award ever will. My chapter won a Fraternity of the Year award in April of 2009; it was forgotten by most students when we returned to class in August 2009. It’s time we start saving awards for something special, rather than trying to maintain the farce that they, and our current checklists of excellence, benefit or broaden the fraternity experience.
Penn State announced that it would soon be housing The Center for Fraternity and Sorority Research – currently located at Indiana University at Bloomington since 1979.
The news may capture our attention for its link to Timothy J Piazza, for whom the center is to be named, but the news – that which affects our future – is the multi-million dollar investment into research of fraternities and sororities by institutions of higher education.
That is great news for the Center, composed of many caring contributors to the fraternity|sorority professional world, but it makes me wonder about other fraternity research.
Fraternity organizations are always conducting research and investing in associated consulting support. In the rare chance that such information is made public, or shared with elected leaders or members of the organization, it is typically done so through a press release with little raw data to back up the claims or decisions being made.
Greek-letter organizations are vocally intent on utilizing data to make decisions, but one must wonder how any organization can be held to that claim without being able to analyze the data themselves? Sharing research data and consulting outcomes publicly opens an organization up for scrutiny, but it also creates opportunities for those who care to offer alternative, possibly better solutions.
An example of what I mean is the press release linked above – which was shared by most fraternity accounts – after some people put out some research suggesting that fraternities hurt students academic success.
There is nothing wrong with rebutting information with better information, but it establishes greater trust for that data to be available for others to look through and confirm – which was not the case for those interested in where that dollar figure came from.
Fraternities and sororities, which already do so much to study the dynamics of friend clubbing, must determine a way to better compile and share that data now that investment into fraternity research has so lopsidedly favored one source.
Real academic debate is hard to accomplish when fraternities partially fund research projects and repeat one another’s mistakes. That sounds like a drag because it kind of is, but as much as the NIC staff and fraternity administrators will benefit from the data of one another, so too will the thousands of voting delegates, committees, and councils of fraternity organizations.
Better research is an objective of the restructure and increased investment into the NIC, so we can hope that a broader sampling of information is provided to members or the masses. We benefit when we can compare data between studies and studies between institutions.
I recall a session from a fraternity leadership program (or several), where students worked through a case study which told the story of Johnson & Johnson’s recall of Tylenol – a move which saved the Tylenol brand and established public trust in its parent company, J&J. How do fraternity leaders and volunteers measure up to that expectation of our students?
The Center for Fraternity & Sorority Research shares a wide range of research with insights into the fraternity world, and its growth is good for the fraternity|sorority world. Fraternities, too, are investing in research to make data-driven decisions, but those decisions make more sense when more raw data is accessible.
Verify that decisions are driven by data by expecting the data behind the decisions.
I remember at one point hearing an alumnus stand and say to a crowded room, “We need to sing more.” I cannot remember if it was a member of my fraternity or if it happened while I attended a program or convention of another organization, but I must say that I agree.
Fraternity songs are mostly choral in nature and those modern fraternity songs I have heard, often rapped by undergraduates over canned beats, are terrible (No offense, but at the same time full offense). I have heard one great “modern” Delta Sig song written by a student at Transylvania to a country tune but it is not a part of our national album (yet).
Still, songs are an important part of the culture of many fraternities, and so I would like to pay greater attention to them.
“Songs of The Lute” – Delta Sigma Phi Track by Track “Review”
“The Lute” is my fraternity’s official songbook. I’m not sure there is a single copy of said book except for a decrepit copy on a piano at the central office. We do distribute CD’s to just about every visitor of said office, but in 2016 or so I uploaded the songs to SoundCloud while managing the national Twitter account and finding it a fun way to share the songs with more students/alumni.
A few new songs have been written and possibly re-recorded, but I am sticking with the CD tracks from the early 2000’s, recorded by members from the Millikin University chapter in Illinois and posted to the Fraternity’s SoundCloud. Without further adieu, the first Fraternity Man Album Review!
1. Dream Girl of Delta Sigma Phi
The best part about Dream Girl is it’s instructional introduction. “Gather around you Delta Sigs, it’s time for a serenade. . .” not only kicks off the song, but alerts nearby brothers that it is time to serenade a lucky loved one. There is only a piano in the background, but the ensemble does a good job with their harmonies and spice it up around 1:05 and with the closing note of the song. A slow jam for the ages.
Rating: Charming and timeless. Keep singing.
2. Emblem of Delta Sigma Phi
The most subtle middle finger imaginable to every other fraternity. Even the “boom boom” part is sung as if it were background chanting at an Orthodox church. Hearing this will be a surprise to many members who prefer to chant it as quickly as possible and at the top of their lungs, but singing it is a nice way to end a classier affair.
3. March of the Delta Sigs
A little sluggish at times, and the piano accompaniment gives me a visual image of an old nun trying to keep up with a rowdy choir of rugby players. The lyrics are fun, and this is definitely a great song to sing prior to an intramural game, but it’d be better without the piano.
Rating: A cappella version pls.
This is what I came here for. Old-timey lyrics which would never fit with hashtag culture, a chipper melody, and a soloist who is determined to become a star is everything I want in a fraternity song (even if he stumbles over the word “start” at one point). I beg of every chapter to learn this song and sing it on the way to your next service project. Leave the windows open too. The world deserves to hear this song.
Rating: The ultimate theme song for expansion teams and traveling consultants
5. Hail Delta Sigma Phi
I’m not here for this one. It is sung beautifully, but it seems a little cultish. The lyrics are riskay if only for the fact that they skirt the line of revealing secrets without even remotely revealing secrets. . . which is kind of punk rock.
Rating: A surefire way to turn off a potential member
Delta Sigma Phi Anthem
Could they no longer afford the piano? This is probably the most vocally interesting song of the bunch, and definitely one for a chapter with talent and time to practice, but I couldn’t understand some of the lyrics and it just seems dated. It would make for great background music or something to sing during an intermission of sorts, but I don’t see much use for it in modern fraternity life. What about this song made us call it an “anthem”? [pretend there’s a shrug emoji here]
Rating: The a cappella treatment that March of the Delta Sigs deserved
7. Delta Sig Rag
This is the kind of song you sing around a table with members each holding a stein of beer (or their legal drink of choice). It’s simple and has enough quirk to stand out from the rest of the bunch. The stops are fun and, HEY, the piano’s back!
Rating: Your last night as a senior before you graduate – this is what you sing
8. Here’s To Delta Sigma Phi
I don’t like this one. It is as if it’s trying to be Travelers but without the right momentum and no mention of having husky offspring to make it seem even remotely cheeky enough to be a fraternity jam. I can imagine that seasoned alumni members might like it, but I do not get why it exists.
MIA The Secret Seal (MIA)
Missing in action along with the newly written songs not yet on the publicly available Songs of the Lute is a tune famous among Delta Sigs: The Secret Seal. Unfortunately, many (mostly fraternity professionals) began to suggest that the song’s theme – some brothers advising another brother how to go about stealing a kiss from his true love – show a disregard for consent, and we did not include it in the SoundCloud upload.
A newer version was introduced at the 2017 Convention, but I don’t think it appeased the doubters In any case, The Secret Seal did serve as a unique tune for the album – offering a slower, almost somber melody with a joyous, chuckle-inducing ending, so perhaps we will find a more suitable replacement in due time.
Rating: “Guess you had to be there”
That’s it! Which fraternity should be next for an album review? Let me know in the comments below or via Twitter (@FraternityNik).
Like all things fraternity, the concept of national consultants visiting chapters every year would have been a foreign concept to our respective founding members. The earliest fraternity “staff” were often national secretaries whose primary responsibility was to maintain records and work with volunteers to determine if chapters were meeting the national standards set by governing boards.
You can see the remnants of these archaic systems in your fraternity or sorority governing documents. In many cases, the Executive Director/CEO is the only professional hired full time by the governing board, and many organizations allow for stipends to be paid to volunteers – from the time in between full volunteer support and full-time traveling consultants.
The question I would like to pose is which would be the best system for the technological reality of 2018. Are traveling consultants an effective use of member dues? Could we re-invest the money spent annually to train and send traveling our consultants on, for example, digital investments, volunteer training, or interactive resources?
I have a habit of wondering aloud things that some would consider preposterous, such as decentralizing fraternity insurance, so I’ll go ahead and do it here as well.
Technology Diminishes The Need For Consultant Staff
Let’s get this out of the way – Consultants were absolutely essential at a time when text and video could not be sent instantaneously and when calling a student meant a phone ringing in a booth and not in his or her pocket. It was an effective way to check up on chapters because the only other options were landlines or snail mail. We live in an entirely different era of technology, but consulting has remained largely the same.
Sure it is fun to grant a consultant access to the inter/national Instagram account for a day, but is that an effective use of modern technology or student dues? Modern students establish many of their relationships exclusively through the internet – there is no reason for fraternities (the supposed experts of social relationships) should be so far behind on the curve.
Resources and workshops which can be facilitated in-person by alumni or self-facilitated by students can be widely distributed with the tap of a screen. Much of what we teach can be provided through video, social media, and blog content (I still think every fraternity should have a Wiki).
A medium sized fraternity will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a consultant program, and yet students get 1-5 days of face time per year with their consultant (and not even all of the students), chapters still hide plenty from those staff, and the role’s duties (while certainly fulfilling) are not often in line with what many students are studying in school. Any serious issue with a chapter is typically elevated to staff above the consultant level.
What Could We Do Instead?
There are some things which cannot be accomplished via technology. Fraternity expansion, for example, is difficult to conduct without staff visiting a college campus – assuming most fraternity leaders still daydream about the rapid growth of the early 2000’s in the face of declining enrollment.
Still, rather than hiring a team of 3-12 consultants, a Fraternity could hire a few traveling educators to provide relevant workshops across the country. It could better invest in technology and communication efforts or focus those funds toward training and providing stipends to alumni volunteers. The amount of information a consultant is expected to relay to chapter leaders is as ridiculous as modern standards of excellence checklists, and that is often due to an under-investment in communication teams.
Back to those defunct regional alumni positions – let us reinvest into those positions and our volunteers. Most fraternity consultants will stick around for 1-3 years, and most chapter officers will be in a position for 1-2 years, so it makes the most practical sense to invest in training alumni and volunteers.
If we want a personal connection to the fraternity, why not make it with someone local to the region with life experience and an actual position within the governing body of the fraternity (rather than an entry-level staff member disconnected from the governing processes)
Providing volunteers with high quality resources to assist in their efforts to work with chapters and local advisers is a crucial investment that many organizations have identified as necessary, but few have been able to offer the appropriate attention. These are people who live among students and who can more effectively earn their trust than a 22-year old from a “good chapter” 500 miles away.
What’s Holding Us Back?
Simply put – tradition. Just as fraternity professionals will complain that students haze, binge drink, and sexual harass one another due to outdated traditions, so too do we fail to make any meaningful reform at the inter/national level for that reason.
I was at one point asked to draw up a new staff model. Radical as it was I did away with consultant model in favor of 1-2 full-time member-support staff (who’d be based at HQ and manning the phone lines, social media interactions, & dues collection). You can tweet your questions/issues to Verizon or Whole Foods and have a dedicated staff member work with you – why not fraternities?
Our educational team would be fitted with 2-3 traveling educators, who would basically be highly specialized consultants who traveled on a need-basis and also contributed to the development of educational resources and workshops, which would have doubled or tripled our proprietary content and created a pipeline in the case that our Director ever chose to leave the team.
It was considered “good,” but “too different from anything we do now.” I am not complaining; I fully understand the difficulties of moving change through an inter/national, democratic organization, but it is important to note that we may by hypocritical in asking our students to change everything about how their chapter operates without being so willing to do so at the top.
No model is perfect, but the existing traveling consultant model is an ineffective use of student dues. I also believe that our entry-level staff can be better prepared for the modern workforce by hiring them into positions which translate well into said workforce. As much as I loved my time doing consultant work; I think that our volunteers would better fit the role and that our students would be better served and represented.
Today is my Fraternity’s “Founders’ Day,” and so I and many others have enjoyed watching friends and unknown brothers from across the world share what Delta Sigma Phi means to them. Like all fraternities, our national organization is also hard at work to raise funds for the Foundation and, by extension, our organization’s educational offerings.
This is not unique to Delta Sig, and many organizations place a Day of Giving on or around their Founder’s Day to capitalize on nostalgic appeal and drive donations (and, in a way, a renewed vow) from members and friends of the fraternity experience.
Like all history, fraternity histories are influenced by those who tell them. American history, for example, is from a predominantly New Englander point of view (They effectively started public education and have been on the winning side of the most impactful movements/wars in American history). I wrote about this in another post and suggested that our telling of our collective fraternity history contains too many redactions.
There is a religious, almost supernatural zeal in our tales of our founding members and in the development of our national brands. This is only offset by the media’s opposing stories which trash fraternities to “shed light” on things we all know took place.
Most founding members of fraternities and sororities were just kids looking for a support system, but I make an effort in my History/Ritual workshops to explain our founders’ visions in the context of the time period, the location, how each of those things impacted the development of our ritual, and the setbacks we faced in the 119 years after that glorious moment on December 10, 1899.
It is from the often overlooked elements of my fraternity’s history that I have come to better understand how progress works and why it can be so frustrating to reform anything in the modern fraternity system – even if one seemingly has the support of a plurality or majority of the members. Here are a few of those moments and lessons.
1. Progress Often Occurs At A Glacial Pace
My fraternity was established by a group of men who sought a fraternity which would allow both Christians and Jews to join. Finding none at C.C.N.Y. in 1899 they chose to create their own.
As the fraternity grew; however, some chapters found it hard to maintain appeal among students at other universities. The presiding practice of the day was to not intermingle and that extended beyond interracial intermingling.
The intention of the men at C.C.N.Y. did not match well with the local fraternities they had absorbed at other schools in other states, and in 1914 the national body determined that it would no longer initiate Jewish men. Several predominantly Jewish chapters broke away and Delta Sigma Phi remained Christian and white until the Civil Rights Era of the 1960’s.
You may experience similar periods of regression, even within your own chapter, particularly after periods of explosive growth. That is why it is important to practice “Good Growth.”
2. Those At The Top Are Often The Last To Acknowledge The Need For Change
That change didn’t come about because the Fraternity elected a National President who decided it was time for change; it happened because students began to demand the change. In fact, the larger and more centralized a governing organization is, the more difficult it is for its progressive components to “model the way.”
Our chapters in California and our chapter at Wittenberg University were among the first to initiate black men, and the decision to remove discriminatory restrictions from our governing documents was ultimately driven by more than a decade of regular debate and ultimatums from state and federal governments.
The system is not any different today. Our greatest accomplishments in addressing our most challenging problems will come about through student activism once they recognize their rightful position as the leaders of our organizations.
3. Changing Rules Does Not Initiate Progress
In the early 20th Century my fraternity banned Hell Week. In the early 2000’s it banned alcohol. Although students voted to enact these efforts, those votes are often coordinated by national committees and boards. Sig Ep, for example, passed a similar alcohol-free housing policy and marketed it as the “New Normal” in 2017.
The fact is that prohibitive policies do not change behavior and may actually make dangerous behavior more deadly. Change happens when trusted leaders invest time into and learn from student and alumni members.
My fraternity may no longer restrict its membership to Christian white men, but I cannot suggest that the policy change resulted in a flood of black, latino, or Asian-American members. Policy only goes so far, and while I would never suggest that a chapter is unsuccessful or “bad” due to a lack of diversity, I have written about some deeper, institutional, racial divisions at the higher levels of fraternity+sorority politics. (again, progress is held up at the highest levels)
Takeaway: Embrace All Of Who You Are
Each of those lessons, some of which I came to better understand through my own failures as a leader, professional and all-around human, helped me figure out how to pursue progress. Not everything that trends on Twitter has lasting power, and those men who have stuck around and contributed at the local level are often the ones who help inspire nationwide reform.
I am writing this to encourage fraternity and sorority members to embrace the less glorious elements of their respective organization’s past. Those moments can offer enlightening insight into how we’ve gotten into our current problem-solving cycle of condemnation, prohibitive sanctions, and lecture tours.
They also offer the greatest insight into how change occurs in governing bodies as a whole (#America). The more effort we put into helping students understand those moments of progress, the better chance we have of them putting what they’ve learned at all of our leadership programs to use for the greater benefit of the fraternity/sorority experience.
Economists and politicians alike often suggest that small businesses are “the engine of the American economy.” They are not wrong.
Small businesses and entrepreneurship drive economic growth. Businesses with fewer than 500 employees make up more than 99% of all businesses in America and employ 46.8% of the private sector workforce .
The American fraternity system was once overwhelmingly comprised of local fraternity and sorority organizations, which eventually chose or were forced into joining inter/national organizations to meet the needs of state regulators and campus administrations.
Having worked to grow fraternities for more than 6 years, I spent much of my career researching campus fraternity communities, policies, and partaking in the competitive dog-and-pony-show of modern fraternity expansion. The vast majority of institutions I studied or worked with actively opposed the establishment of local fraternities without an inter/national organization behind them.
Many institutions with existing local organizations, such as Young Harris College or Lake Superior State University, were encouraging those organizations to petition for membership in inter/national organizations or were considering policies which would only allow for future fraternities to be affiliated with inter/national groups.
I remember reading about the Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter at the University of Chicago when they decided to disaffiliate from the national organization. On a board of Student Affairs professionals the comments wreaked of disdain and ridicule – suggesting that the chapter was doomed without a national backing.
We should not hold such animosity toward local fraternities (or sororities). They, like small businesses, offer unlimited potential to challenge the status quo of the fraternity system and to allow Generation Z students to make use of their entrepreneurial spirit and talents to offer fraternity experiences which better align with the values and mission of the host institution.
As someone who regularly suggests that fraternities should ditch their obsession with campus recognition, I hope that my friends who work on college campuses take note of that last statement.
Here are some reasons to transform from an enemy of local fraternities to one of their greatest advocates:
Local Organizations Occur Organically To Uniquely Address Needs of Fraternity+Sorority Communities
The manner in which fraternities and sororities grow their organizations is about as hit-or-miss as if we just let a group of 10 students decide to start their own fraternity or sorority. We have all been entranced by the insane numbers put up by modern recruitment methods, but almost every new chapter becomes engulfed in the “campus culture” within 2-5 years of its establishment.
Real change must come from students recognizing the need for change and operating outside of the traditional fraternity council system. To do that, we must be willing to accept new kinds of fraternities and sororities which operate outside of the traditional councils established and enforced by stagnant national umbrella groups.
Many Umbrella Groups Advocate For Their Existing Member Organizations At The Expense Of Entrepreneurial Students
The statistics show that the oldest national umbrella groups do more to stifle competition than they do to promote the fraternity or sorority experience. The National Panhellenic Council (NPC) in particular has not added a new member since the 50’s, and no NPC member organization was established after World War.
Supporting local organizations means supporting modern students creating fraternities and sororities based on modern values. Why force students to join organizations whose baggage, policies, and values are representative of 19th Century society?
Local Fraternities Established With Contemporary Values Are Proven Game-Changers
Despite the stagnant memberships of the NIC, NPC, and NPHC, younger umbrella associations such as the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations (NALFO – which recently turned 20!) are the successful result of student initiatives to grow the fraternity experience and address unmet needs.
When fraternity/sorority alumni or professionals speak of the founders of their organization, they point out that they were a group of students who wanted to do something different. It is hypocritical to then deny other students that opportunity because our affiliations might dwindle in size or relevance as a result.
Local Fraternities+Sororities Offer Opportunities For Colleges & Universities To Influence The Fraternity Experience
Local organizations should be nurtured by campus administrations as they speak more directly to the values, mission, and alumni of any particular university.
It would still be my position that the students be allowed to associate freely and as they wish, but there is a greater need and opportunity for a mutually-beneficial relationship between schools and their chapters when those chapters are local.
Just as local businesses are often compelled to embed themselves into their local communities, so too are local chapters compelled to embed themselves deeply within the college’s or university’s unique population and culture.
Championing Local Organizations Will Pressure Inter/National Organizations To Adapt – Students Win
Something I consistently advocate for is greater self-government in the fraternity system. From chapters purchasing their own insurance to eliminating blanked “Standards of Excellence” checklists – I believe that allowing students to focus on their interests and the needs of themselves and their local communities is the key to fraternities addressing our greatest challenges.
Remember, every major advancement in the fraternity experience has come at the desire and effort of students. They own our organizations, and our obsession with restricting their voice is part of why the fraternity experience is in such a stagnant, backward place.
Greater support for local fraternities means greater pressure for national organizations to meet the needs of their student members. Greater support for the right to associate places greater pressure on campus administrations to meet the needs of their student members. Those are both good things.
When students win, fraternity wins.
Every fraternity man or woman has their entrepreneurial founders to thank. By encouraging students to take their future into their own hands, rather than over-regulating the fraternity experience, we can promote modernization across the board.
Local fraternities are they key to diversifying the fraternity experience, challenging the rigid status quo of our oldest institutions, and better aligning the fraternity experience with higher education.
All in favor of a “Support Your Local Fraternities” bumper sticker comment below.