“I pledge allegiance – to the flag – of the United States of America,” is not something Americans say to recognize an inanimate object as our ruler; it’s what the flag represents that we pledge allegiance to.
What does that flag represent and have we been protecting it?
The Constitution of the United States of America limits federal power. The Bill of Rights/Amendments, which follow the Constitution, then serve to ensure that certain unlimited rights are protected (though they are more a safety net – the Constitution is pretty damn limiting in saying that the federal organization isn’t to stray from the instructions).
Still, politicians since former President Franklin D. Roosevelt have cited the preamble to the Constitution, which suggests the federal government protect the welfare of its people, as a means to develop a slew of policies and activities not otherwise delegated to that specific organization.
Fraternities and sororities, for how much they talk about the founding members of their organizations, are more or less in the same boat. None of our founders created or endorsed mandatory service hours, spending millions collectively on leadership programs or re-parenting adult college students. It happened mostly due to the small phrases we’ve chosen to cherish over the years. The taglines, the values, the random quotes and, yes, the creeds.
-Rexford Tugwell, principal advisor to FDR
I attended a program on a college campus attended by leaders of the fraternity and sorority chapters at that institution. At one point after continuously directing students to act based on our prescribed values, we allowed students to stand and recite the creed of their fraternity or sorority. This was meant as much to build respect among one another’s organization’s “purposes” as well as to encourage students to listen to what they pledged to uphold.
No one wants a Sig Ep or a Delta Sig to stand up and speak. We don’t have simple creeds, so we Delta Sigs often recite the Preamble to our Constitution, which is several paragraphs long and sought to explain the expectations of a Delta Sig man.
Broken down, I sum up each line/paragraph as follows:
- The belief in the common ancestry of all humans is fundamental to our welfare
- Protect your school systems and our limited government (1st Amendment) which allow us to be educated and to freely associate respectively
- Cherish family and treat it with respect – family/relationships help us succeed
- A common set of basic standards across our fraternity allow us to work better together
- Volunteer or work for the Fraternity if it is ever in need
It’s pretty simple. There are five points, followed by our own Constitution, the By-Laws, and then a Fraternity Manual – each providing progressively more detail on the operations of the Fraternity and it’s chapters.
Recently, our voting body decided to explore the adoption of a creed. I could not think of something more inconsequential given the challenges that fraternities/sororities face. One can imagine that something so inconsequential, and yet so public and cherished, is bound to create unnecessary internal disagreements and controversy.
No creed has saved a fraternity or sorority from peril. If anything, they tend to dilute one’s focus and understanding of their organization. They sound cool and empowering, but are ultimately few lines of poetic fluff. Creeds come after organizations have already been made – they are not the defining characteristic of an organization – it’s members are.
When creeds are confused with “purpose,” as they are during many inter-fraternity leadership programs, they create generic, expansive understandings of how fraternities and sororities should operate – almost none of which prioritize the development of long-lasting friendships over the publicity maneuvers which drive donations and reputations.
So what will we include in Delta Sig’s creed?
Will it be so universal and bland that it could literally apply to any organization of people? Then why adopt something so common for something so personal?
Will it be so specific and conservative/progressive that it alienates an entire segment of our membership? Then why create controversy when there are already concerns within our fraternity?
If we can’t understand and take seriously the words we’ve sworn an oath to as they are written, then why is it any order of business to further reduce our understanding of what a fraternity is? Why keep who we are a secret? Why not encourage people to understand how we work? What will a creed do for us – make us feel cool and a part of the gang when other fraternities recite their own diluted mottos?
Look at how desperately we protect the motto “Better Men. Better Lives.” It’s almost exactly the same as other fraternity mottos such as, “To better the man,” or “Building better men.” As recently as the early 2000’s our motto was “Make It Your Own,” and we were a fraternity of “Engineered Leadership” before that.
We’ve decided that being “better men” requires 20 hours of mandated service like a kid caught shoplifting from Costco (at least until one graduates, at which point what works to make students better apparently no longer applies)
I personally love spending a full 2 minutes reciting our Preamble in place of a creed. I’m not sure how a creed makes us more productive, more relevant or more of a fraternity. We were never meant to fit in – We are Delta Sigs G-Dangit!
Please, voting delegates of 2019, when asked to vote on a creed, remember that not adopting a creed at all is still an option.
Disclosure: I’m not against creeds. Many of your fraternities have had them for a while. If you like them – keep them. If Delta Sigs vote for one, great. Ultimately, I think this decision, for our fraternity, makes no sense at this time. Don’t @ me.