At this past Conclave, the Grand Chapter voted to eliminate substances from our chapter facilities, a move that I believe will elevate the quality of our fraternity experience and the viability of the fraternity system. As you go back to your chapter, I bet you’re going to get a lot of questions about what this vote means. As my chapter’s president and Conclave delegate I’ve fielded a lot of questions in the last few weeks. I’d like to share some of my thoughts on those questions with you as you navigate conversations with your chapter brothers.
What happens at Conclave?
Between Conclaves, the Fraternity is governed by our elected National Board of Directors, but the vast majority of changes to Fraternity policy are voted on at our biannual Grand Chapter Conclaves. Delegates debate and vote on legislation that has been submitted for consideration. (Even our National Directors are elected by undergraduates at Conclave.) Per this voting structure, undergraduate chapters constitute 85 percent of the voting body, or Grand Chapter — one delegate per undergraduate chapter. Unlike many Greek organizations, which make decisions top-down and don’t consult with chapters, SigEp is truly an undergraduate-driven organization.
How did the resolution get passed and what does it do?
After lengthy discussion in committee and on the main floor, the Grand Chapter voted on the proposed resolution which had been submitted by myself and 15 other undergraduate leaders. The measure was passed by a large majority and is now officially SigEp policy. Fundamentally, it mandates that all chapters eliminate alcohol and illegal substances from common spaces by August 1, 2018, roughly one calendar year from the conclusion of Conclave. This will provide a two-year transition period during which alcohol may be consumed by members of legal age in their private rooms, prior to transitioning to completely substance-free facilities by August 1, 2020.
How will this affect our chapter?
Lots of the questions I’ve gotten are around how this measure will impact our chapter experience. The honest answer is that it shouldn’t change much. The purpose of a SigEp chapter is to find men who share our Fraternity’s principles and to develop them into balanced men who will be the next generation of values-based leaders. Drinking in the chapter facility really plays no role in that mission, and frankly, data from higher education researchers (GreekLifeEdu™ and AlcoholEdu for College® to name a few) shows that it actively works against a chapter’s ability to do so. Many SigEp chapters have already implemented substance-free facility policies and are thriving on campuses across the country.
Fundamentally, it mandates that all chapters eliminate alcohol and illegal substances from common spaces by August of 2018…prior to transitioning to completely substance-free facilities by August 1, 2020.
So, how do I explain this to my chapter brothers?
Different people process information in different ways. Some guys I spoke with needed to hear the statistics about the benefits of substance-free chapter facilities, and plenty of that is available for you — see the table at the bottom of this article for an overview. Others just needed to be reminded that much of our day-to-day lives would stay exactly the same. We’ll still be active on campus, play intramural sports, develop leaders, and have social events. We just won’t have alcohol at the chapter house.
Where do we start?
Across the nation, chapter leaders should begin taking steps to implement this policy now. Big changes take time, and many chapters have already begun working with their AVCs and regional directors to set timelines with measurable milestones for their chapters’ implementation. While specific milestones for implementation may vary by chapter, any chapter that begins work now will be much better able to implement the policy well in advance of the deadlines.
Where can I go to find help?
The resolution we passed called on the Headquarters staff to help chapters implement this policy in several ways, including: direct on-site education and training from regional directors; new educational programming on implementing substance-free facility policies at all national events including the Carlson Leadership Academy; developing a regional peer-mentorship network between chapters that already have substance-free facility policies and those that don’t; and advocating that other national organizations adopt substance-free facility policies.
In addition to the help that Headquarters will provide, it would be my hope that our brothers across the nation ask for help when they need it, from their alumni, their volunteers, their university partners, their Headquarters staff , and their fellow SigEps. There are over seventy chapters nationwide which implement substance-free facilities policies, mine included. We are standing strong, reinforced by years of knowledge and experience, and would like nothing more than to support you in this transition. It is time for us to work together toward a better future for SigEp for our brothers.