These are part and parcel to everything we do in Sigma Pi. We talk about them all the time. It makes sense, we may be a social organization, but we are at our core a values-based organization. This is made obvious in our many mantras: our creed, our ideals, our motto… But what do they mean?
I know it’s the summer, but I encourage you to text five of your brothers and ask the following questions:
- What does it mean to value fellowship?
- What does it mean to value brotherhood?
- What does it mean to value truth and justice?
- What does it mean to value promoting scholarship?
- What does it mean to value encouraging chivalry?
- What does it mean to value diffusing culture?
- What does it mean to value developing character?
- What does it mean to value serving God and man?
- What does it mean to value the fraternity’s ideals?
9 questions, 5 brothers… I bet you get 45 unique answers.
When I visit chapters, I like to ask the question: “What is the purpose of new member education?” Just as with the above, I get a lot of unique answers. But some of the themes revolve around the following ideas:
For the new member (pledge) to prove he is worthy of joining Sigma Pi.
For the brothers to make sure that the new members (pledges) are worthy of joining Sigma Pi
Many brothers see the new member education process as a chance to take a lump of coal and turn it into a diamond. I’ll forgo getting too technical, but here is a summation of the basic tenets of self-authorship (a concept really pushed by Marcia Baxter-Magolda):
- Everyone has a set of values; however, most students who enter college have developed their values as a result of their socialization agents (i.e. family, religion, schooling, friends, etc…).
- As people experience cognitive dissonance (where you start to find information counter to your way of knowing), you begin to grow and develop values based upon your own way of knowing (whereas your values may not change, at least you have an internal understanding of why you believe in your values separate from your socialization agents).
- The process for this to happen is called self-authorship and it takes years – many people do not self-author until well into their 20s, if at all.
- Just as you can’t turn a lump of coal into a diamond in 8 weeks, there is no process of new member education that could exist that will result in someone going from not being self-authored to being self-authored. People don’t change who they are in a semester.
So here’s the fact of the matter, then: we talk a lot about values, but few first-year students (and still even, few fifth-year students) know much about their values. Values are anomalous. They mean different things to different people. The great thing about values-based recruitment is that it breaks values down into standards and expectations (i.e. if you value scholarship, the standard might be that you take no one who got an ACT score below a 25).
My good friend Josh Schutts out at the University of West Florida has really focused in on this. The fact is, what we know of people is that values are hard to really grasp onto, yet standards and expectations are easy to understand. That doesn’t mean we need to abandon our discussion of values, but we should frame those discussions around the ideas of standards and expectations. Don’t ask yourself, “Is this person reflecting our values?” but “Is this person meeting our standards and expectations?” And if they are doing something you think is wrong, but they are meeting your standards and expectations – change those!
It’s often said that different fraternities and sororities may have different rituals, but at our core we are very similar because we have similar values. And this is true – so, how do you set yourself apart? If you say your value is to “encourage chivalry,” you can’t say that you value that more than one person or another who makes a similar claim – that isn’t fair. But, you can talk about the expectations of chivalry and say you’ll hold yourselves and your brothers to a higher standard.
This is not to say “abandon all hope, ye who enter here” when it comes to values. Just, remember that merely talking about values is one piece of the puzzle.