When Chapters Call The Shots – Sig Ep at Tufts

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The final executive board of Sigma Phi Epsilon (from left: Yotam Bentov A17, Adrian Chu E16, Jacob Lebovic A18, Andre Chuong A18, Herluf Gyde Lund III E16, Shawn Patterson A17, Benjamin Kaplan A17, Matthew Masi-Phelps E17, Arman Smigielski A18 and Samuel Berzok A16) pose in front of their house at 92 Professors Row on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, days before announcing their intention to disaffiliate from their national organization. (Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily)
photo from The Tufts Daily

 

You may or may not have heard of Sigma Phi Epsilon at Tufts disaffiliating from their national organization. If not, here’s the story. Why is this important?

A little over a year ago I wrote post that referred to the old tale of the pied piper. In that post, the suggestion was made that we who work in Fraternity & Sorority Life should be mindful of who pays our bills, for there will come a point where members may consider their dues (both IFC and national dues) to be better used elsewhere.

I don’t think that what happened at Tufts will result in a mass exodus from Sig Ep or any fraternity (going local is increasingly harder to do, particularly when you need insurance for your local chapter), but I do think it may signal to more chapters that they have a voice in the direction of their campus community and national headquarters.

My personal opinion is that these men, or men in similar situations, may be missing an opportunity. As Sig Eps, they could use their affiliation to call out publicly what they believe is lacking in their network of chapters. They could stand on the floor of a national meeting and call out the behavior or actions of other groups.

As affiliates of a national fraternity, they could graduate as alumni, volunteer for or give to their fraternity, and continue to be the change they wish to see.

As a local chapter, they’ll have autonomy, but most schools would force them underground in that case or require the chapter find a way to be insured; which is a ridiculous cost burden for a local group. It’s unlikely that this chapter would survive long-term unless Tufts were to put their weight behind serving as a “national” of sorts.

In any case, what has just happened at Tufts should serve as a warning, but not a precedent. The costs of going local are too high to be realistic for most chapters at most schools, but it’s clear that students on all sides of all isles are going to demand more (or less) of the communities they find themselves in.

Other Posts On This Topic:

He Who Pays The Piper Calls The Tune

Our Misguided Understanding of Fraternity Membership

Safe Campus Is Necessary & Unnecessary 

4 Responses

  1. You actually have this a bit backwards. The Tufts chapter left because the other undergraduate chapters of Sig Ep called for full implementation of the Balanced Man Program this summer, and they declined to change. The deadline for chapters to become BMP chapters is the end of this semester. The heroes in this case are the other chapters, lead by a former chapter president from their South Carolina chapter, these guys just refused to go along with the rest of the fraternity. I can’t say these guys won’t be successful, but their reason for leaving is not that notable. I do agree that we will eventually see a revolution against high dues and restrictive policies, but this isn’t the case study you are looking for.

    • Thanks for the clarification Dean. I hope the ultimate point to come across in this post is not necessarily the specific reason behind their disaffiliation as much as it is the reality that such is possible. I don’t necessarily pick heroes and villains in this case, as I don’t endorse or oppose the Balanced Man Program over another form of member orientation, but I appreciate the insight.

  2. Actually, we should be insured and still be saving money within the next few months.

    • It’s not necessarily difficult or not possible; there are many insured and local groups. The point is that there are many chapters less determined than the chapter mentioned in this post that may be (and have been) turned off to going local due to the additional work/expectations placed on their student or alumni membership.