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.
The family unit is important, as is a family. It is the intermediary between the individual and the community, and ensures that we benefit from love, acceptance, discipline and education on a personalized level.
We should be committed to the value of the family unit (and that is not political commentary). Love for one another, protecting one another’s interests (which includes holding each other accountable), and working to enrich our lives.
Now this could grow wildly – we could suggest, for example, that this line implies that brothers should not work to the destruction of another’s personal relationships, whether social, romantic or hereditary, and with the understanding that those relationships are in the best interest of that brother.
We can also suggest that this advises our brothers to treat one another as a family unit while they are at school, and to act in the good faith with one another so that their parents/guardians/spouses/etc. may feel confident that they are well cared for.
Times change, and people and technology change with the times. Still, our hope is that we continue to advance the timeless values of Culture, Harmony and Friendship – along with several other, less publicized values – as they apply to any modern society.
This means that the priorities, policies and specific expectations of membership may evolve with the times, but that they remain rooted in a common expectation among all members.
In other words, “listen to what you are being told at initiation, and expect it of anyone who wears the badge.”
To make sure that we are living up to the expectations of the previous four points, we have established an infrastructure and more specific expectations of membership – meant to be maintained and cared for by the members of our fraternity so that they may align with the wider-reaching expectations written into our ritual and listed above.
Our founders worked against the grain of their time and faced quite a bit of animosity from rival groups and many college administrators for doing so.
As or more important than the Fraternity, its structure, or its policies is each member’s commitment to maintaining a sense of discipline in his conduct and the conduct of the greater institution of the Fraternity.
Feel free to steal this or reach out via email or on Twitter/Facebook (@fraternitynik & Fraternityman respectively) with any thoughts or questions.