As Grand President Tom Jelke, Florida International ’90, reminded SigEp brothers and friends in early June, brotherly love calls on SigEps “with true hearts … [to] be shields of defense to those less able to bear their burdens.”
Undergraduate brothers in SigEp across the country have risen to their obligation and confidently expressed that Black lives matter through volunteering, fundraising to contribute donations to community organizations, using their voices to speak out against injustice and examining how to create positive changes within their chapters.
The stories below illustrate a handful of the ways SigEp chapters are deepening relationships in their communities and bringing people together to advocate for equality.
Minnesota Alpha, Minnesota
At the University of Minnesota the Minnesota Alpha chapter sought ways to support and get involved in the midst of the protests happening in their backyard. The chapter quickly organized a drive to collect funds, raising more than $1,200 to help replenish local food banks experiencing shortages during the protests. Members coordinated food and supply drop-offs and challenged the rest of the Greek community to get involved. The chapter is also looking at its leadership structure and recruitment processes to examine how it can be more inclusive.
Chapter President Ben Schroeder, Minnesota ’22, explained that the chapter is interested in advocating for social justice on a broad scale, but also believes that change begins at home. “It starts internally. It is time for us to focus on what we can do as a chapter to educate ourselves and get out into the community.”
Alabama Beta, Alabama
The SigEp chapter at the University of Alabama also responded to nationwide calls for social change. The chapter created a fundraising campaign for the Brown House, a community organization that provides tutoring, shelter and a support system to children and families in need. While the chapter raised $2,000 in just a week’s time, its main focus is on taking on a more active role as volunteers at the Brown House. The chapter hopes to continue to build upon that relationship and help create a more inclusive community where all children feel like they belong.
Reid Petersen, Alabama ’22, attended protests while back home in Nashville, Tennessee, for the summer. The first protest he attended included over 10,000 people marching in the streets of Nashville, and SigEp was a big part of why Petersen was one of them. He shared, “As a member of SigEp, I felt that it was important for me to participate in this protest because its principles can be broken down to the idea that people should treat one another with brotherly love, regardless of race. To sit idly by would be neglecting one’s duty to live by the founding principles of SigEp. I felt that I needed to actively support Black Lives Matter, not just with my words, but with my actions as well.”
California Sigma, Cal-State Northridge
Brothers in the California Sigma chapter at California State-Northridge banded together to not only attend various protests, but also to provide food and water to protestors. Chapter leadership mobilized to communicate pertinent information to the chapter about ways to get involved and educate themselves on the issues. Leaders have already reached out to the campus Office of Equity and Diversity to collect resources and plan Balanced Man Program and SigEp Learning Community programming for the fall.
California Sigma also raised $1,500 in a day for several organizations that advocate on behalf of and serve Black communities impacted by racism and inequality. “As SigEps, we are taught to be different from those around us and to use our voices on important matters like this one,” Chapter President Adrian Galera, Cal State-Northridge ’21, stated. “Staying silent will only contribute to the problem. We simply wanted to be the organization that took action.”
Nebraska Delta, Creighton
At Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, the Nebraska Delta chapter has doubled down on its relationship with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands. Big Brothers Big Sisters, SigEp’s national philanthropic partner, prides itself on “Defining the Potential” of youth in our communities. SigEp brothers at Creighton have already raised over $3,000 for their local BBBS with a goal of reaching over $4,000 by the end of July in honor of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Over 30 members of the chapter already volunteer as “Bigs” and have spent hours investing in strong relationships with their “Littles,” who come from diverse backgrounds and communities in the Omaha area.
Brothers are also seeking to build on this philosophy and ensure that the chapter environment they’re creating is welcoming to people from diverse communities. The chapter has created a diversity and inclusion chair who will sit on the executive board, recruitment committee and Balanced Man Scholarship committee.
National Fraternity supports diversity and inclusion
These are just a few of the many ways SigEp chapters are doing more than making a statement — they are taking action and building processes to improve their chapters for years to come.
As our chapters continue to identify the best ways to combat racial injustice and enhance diversity, equity and inclusion, so too does the national Fraternity. The Diversity and Inclusion Task Force was created at the direction of the Grand Chapter at the 2019 Conclave in Houston to provide recommendations on improving our resources and structures in these areas. Its work has already resulted in a commitment from our National Board of Directors to create a permanent committee on diversity, equity and inclusion. The committee and national Fraternity welcome your perspective on how we can continue to address these issues and work with our local chapters to be leading voices in their respective Greek communities. Please share your own experiences or provide feedback and ideas in this survey.
To foster ongoing discussion about these issues, we also presented “Our Lives Matter: Black in SigEp,” a virtual dialog in which several of our brothers spoke about what it means to be Black in the United States and a SigEp. We encourage all our brothers to watch the video, learn from their stories and become a part of the solution.