Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sound Mind, Sound Body, Missing Principles

One of our Regional Directors sent this message to his chapters today. It was the latest of several HQ based communications on the same topic sent out this year.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: IM Rankings and Varsity Athletes--Action Required
Date: Fri, 21 Nov 2008 14:40:07 -0500

You may have noticed in the last few issues of the SigEp Journal that we have been
highlighting our chapters who are leading their campuses on and off the field,
academically and athletically.
Nothing shows the value of Sound Mind and Sound Body more than a list of 
intramural champions next to a list of our top academic chapters; a list of our
Residential Learning Community accomplishments next to an expo on a varsity athlete.
[...]
Fraternally,

**************(signed)
*/Sigma Phi Epsilon
/Regional Director
310 South Boulevard
Richmond, VA 23220

/This Fraternity will be different.../

On the surface, there is nothing wrong with touting Athletes and Academics as a reason to join a fraternity. But what about the "This Fraternity will be different" mantra that gets played in counterpoint to every celebration of SigEp being just like the others but better? Have the spiritual dictums of the Ritual been discarded because it is easier to get metrics on manpower, GPA, and intramural trophies?

We have seen several comments on the focus and direction of this email. Mostly they are wondering when we lost our way and forgot our principles. The last time I looked the Cardinal Principles were "Virtue, Diligence, and Brotherly Love" - not varsity athletes and academic overachievers.

One of our alumni put it this way:

When I read this kind of stuff it makes me wonder where this fraternity lost direction. I read the ritual and we talk about Virtue, Diligence and Brotherly Love but that is no longer important.  There are so many dimensions to this fraternity and we care only about two things.  What happened to being men of high character, men who did what is right, men helping others?

There are many outstanding chapters out there who are doing great things on their host campuses and we just ignore those chapters.  Our HQ staff is so focused on a marketing mantra of sound mind and sound body that we have lost focus on the heart and spirit of our fraternity.

Recruit lots of men, get a chapter GPA above 3.0, and win intramurals and you have a great chapter is the message from Richmond.

It just makes me sad.  What would our founders think of what we find important today?

What, indeed? I believe the men in our undergraduate chapters want the best FOR the fraternity and FROM the Fraternity. The chapter alumni and other volunteers work many thankless hours to help them get there. Our leaders and staff seem to be more concerned with hitting metrics than with developing character.