Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Happy New Year

It has been almost six years now since I left the humid South and moved to the arid West. It seemed quite strange after 20+ years of continuous alumni service to several chapters in the immediate vicinity of where I was living. During that time I had served as District Governor, on numerous alumni boards, neighborhood relations committees, university Greek Affairs committees, and national task forces and committees. I had served on “faculty” at numerous CLA’s as well as Conclaves and some of the first “New Member Camps” (now called Edge). In some respects, my move was liberating. I would not have to deal with housing, chapter behavior issues, chapter-university-neighborhood relations, and all those other things that had consumed much of my time. My new location did not have a Sig Ep chapter nearby. I did, however, serve on the local University’s Greek Advisory Committee for three years before there was a changing of the guard and that committee was eliminated by the University. I had hoped to still stay in the Sig Ep mainstream by helping out with Edge camps in the area or CLA’s or even Conclaves, but it seems when the HQ is not forced to deal with you when you are serving a chapter on an alumni board, you are out of sight and out of mind. Actually the only thing I get from the Fraternity these days is a request to contribute to the Foundation and a copy of the Journal. It was strange at first not getting the obligatory introductory phone call from the new RD each Summer and quite a saving to the pocket book not having the RD’s bounce in to go to lunch or dinner. Over the years I’ve seen some things change – mostly the turnover at HQ. Seems I’ve been through 5 or 6 Executive Directors over the years. I seen some things get repackaged but stay the same. I’ve seen many good things started for the sake of instant gratification but soon dropped – often because there was not sufficient planning to understand what sustaining a project would take in terms of money and resources. I’ve seen Grand Presidents go and come. I’ve seen chapters started, chartered, closed, and rechartered. In the hopes of us actually moving forward as an organization, I feel we have in some ways lost our direction and much like the compass of Captain Jack Sparrow ours has wavered based on what we want most at the time rather that what is best for sustainable success.

Let me give you a few examples.
  • (1) Our chapter and regional leaders appointed by HQ tend to now always be the 20 somethings and our past staffers.
    If you are over 35 you can forget being asked to do anything – that is unless you are past staff. Why don’t we use more of the expertise we have among our ranks?
  • (2) After the one-ups-manship display at Conclave I am embarrassed to make a contribution to the Foundation less than a million dollars.
    I guess my sustained and regular contributions are not needed and really don’t say much. That was clearly demonstrated when a small group of my closest Alumni Brothers sponsored a hole at the Conclave Golf tournament and they didn’t even put our name on the sign. Guess we were lucky the actually put up the sign.
  • (3) Politics as usual.
    Our double-secret way of selecting NBD members hasn’t changed in the 42 years I have been associated with this Fraternity.
  • (4) We still don’t raise undergrads to be good and loyal alumni.
And I am sure you can think of many more depending on your specific relationship with the Fraternity.

Regardless, the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity experience is what you put into it. If you don’t put something into it, you will reap no benefit. I think that is why some of the “marginal” people we have given bids to over the years have become our most loyal alumni. Sig Ep gave these individuals an environment which supported the development of their potential. Likewise, some of the “perfect” “balanced” people who have joined our ranks really fall by the wayside after graduation. The only benefit they get from 4 years of membership is a line on a resume. I think that even in the less than perfect chapters, those members who Fraternity is supposed to reach grab hold of our Cardinal Principles (e.g., Core Values) and become better men for it. For many of our Brothers the experience of Ritual can profound, life changing.

So the message I give to you as we are about to begin another year is for you to take inventory of your fraternity experience. Was it worthwhile? Did you embrace our Cardinal Principles into your life? Did you take away from Fraternity a set of life skills you might not otherwise have gained? Did you make lasting friendships? Did it take you personally to a higher plane of consciousness? If you feel you are not becoming a better person through your Sig Ep experience, then make a New Year’s resolution to roll up your sleeves and put a little more effort into it. Make it a priority, not just what you do when you are bored. Only then will you reap the dividends. There is no free lunch.