As you may already know, SigEp’s National Board of Directors recently made the difficult decision to close our chapter at the University of Mississippi. This decision followed revelations that the chapter had committed serious acts of hazing, had perpetuated a culture of alcohol abuse, and was deliberately attempting to hide their behavior from our Fraternity’s staff and their local volunteers.
This painful moment in our history can be a learning opportunity for us and help us ensure that nothing like this occurs again.
Three years ago, a string of hazing incidents and extremely low academic performance led to a membership review at the University of Mississippi. This review revealed more instances of hazing, alcohol abuse and extremely poor member development practices that demanded serious attention.
We chose at that time not to shut the chapter down, but to make it a learning opportunity for the young men of Mississippi Alpha and an opportunity to develop plans for a different fraternity experience that achieves the goals of brotherhood and continuous development without the risky behaviors of the past. And, we committed to giving Mississippi Alpha whatever resources it needed.
Since then, members of our staff have made extra trips to Oxford to provide targeted training and program support. The chapter attended exclusive retreats in Birmingham, Ala. each January, where Past Grand President Steve Shanklin spent 24 hours with them reviewing goals and crafting a vision. And chapter members attended EDGE and Carlson Leadership Academies and received tailored check-in meetings with staff and volunteers.
Until recently, we believed those efforts were having a positive effect and that the chapter was improving.
In February, we reevaluated the state of the chapter’s operations and membership after learning that three freshmen members had been involved in the desecration of the James Meredith Statue on the Ole Miss campus. When we did, we learned that the chapter had continued to commit serious acts of hazing since the first membership review three years prior. Even more distressingly, the chapter had made a deliberate and concentrated effort to hide this behavior from their local volunteers, staff members and the university.
As SigEp’s National Board of Directors pored over the information uncovered, we were confronted by the fact that Mississippi Alpha members had demonstrated an uncompromising commitment to operate an experience that placed young men in dangerous and unhealthy situations. In light of these facts, we were forced to close the chapter.
Moving forward – how you can help
While it is always painful to see a chapter close, I am reminded today of the brothers and volunteers across the country who want a better fraternity experience than the one pursued by some members at Ole Miss.
As we recover from this blow to our national body, I’d ask you to take a moment to reflect on the status of your own chapter. What type of membership experience do you facilitate for your brothers? Where do you want to be five years down the road? What legacy will you leave for those who will follow you?
If your chapter has serious issues – including hazing – talk to your regional director and chapter volunteers now to get the help you need.
Closure occurs when a chapter has deliberately and consistently worked against their volunteers, staff and university to maintain a culture that is destructive and poisonous to our brothers. Being honest with volunteers and regional directors allows a chapter to grow and avoid the serious consequences of concealed behavior.
If you have additional questions about the situation at Ole Miss and the decision to close the chapter, please join us for an online broadcast on Thursday, May 1 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, where CEO Brian Warren will answer questions live. To view the broadcast, simply open SigEp’s official YouTube page.
To submit questions in advance, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also email questions during the broadcast, but bear in mind that time may be limited if other questions have already been submitted. If you would like your question to be anonymous, please indicate so in your email.
Phillip A. Cox