Coronavirus Update (March 18)

Brothers, 

In the guidance memorandum that was distributed on March 11, the international fraternity expressed its desire that, to the extent reasonable care and precautionary measures could be taken, fraternity events proceed whenever possible. We also promised to follow-up every two weeks or earlier if there was a reason to do so. As the situation around COVID-19 continues to be fluid, we are sending updated guidance to keep the wheels of communication moving. As an example of how fast the landscape is moving, on Sunday the Center for Disease Control issued guidance that events consisting of 50 or more people be cancelled. On Monday, President Trump issued guidance that limited these gatherings to 10 or fewer.

Since we last communicated with you, several states within the United States have taken progressively more restrictive measures. Canada remains in a province by province decision-making mode with some provinces in a more heightened state than others. 

This week’s guidance supersedes the guidance issued last week from the international fraternity and, therefore, should be the prevailing information to be relied on for the various topics at hand. As each subsequent set of guidance is issued in the coming weeks, that new guidance should be your frame of reference. We will endeavor to communicate with you as often as reasonable or when there are material changes or updates. Please stay tuned as more information becomes available. 

Take care of yourself and your families, stay healthy, and keep living Sigma Chi principles in your daily lives. Strong arms to all brothers, everywhere. 

IHSV, 

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 Michael Church, ILLINOIS 2005
Executive Director

I. GUIDANCE FOR ACTIVE CHAPTERS

  1. CAMPUS SITUATION – Sigma Chi Headquarters continues to track the campus-by-campus situation. Almost every campus that has a Sigma Chi chapter has extended spring break, moved to virtual learning for some period of time, or cancelled classes entirely for the balance of the academic year. Sigma Chi’s guidance on this matter is to continue to defer to your host institution’s specific guidance as it relates to lodging and meetings.
  2. CHAPTER MEETINGS/E-BOARD MEETINGS – We continue to strongly encourage that all meetings be moved to a virtual format wherever possible. Grand Praetors and Regional Chapter Support Coordinators are available to assist chapters with scheduling virtual meetings via Microsoft Teams if chapters should be in need of assistance in doing so.
  3. PLEDGING – At present there are approximately 900 pledges across Sigma Chi chapters who have not yet been initiated. Given the recent guidance from the CDC and the President, Sigma Chi International Fraternity STRONGLY ENCOURAGES chapters to move all in-person components of the pledge process to a virtual setting. We will be asking the Preparation for Brotherhood Committee – Chaired by Michael Williams – to issue formal guidance on how this might be done in a reasonably effective manner. Stay tuned for formal recommendations. Informal recommendations include the use of virtual conferencing solutions and one-on-one phone calls/Facetime with big brothers and/or Magisters. All pledges should continue with the online learning components as usual. The pledge process should be conducted up to but not including the Ritual Bridge. The expectation from the international fraternity is that each pledge will be fully prepared to commence the Ritual Bridge and the initiation experience as soon as the environment and campus situation should allow. We do not want any man who has made a decision to accept our offer to join Sigma Chi to not have that opportunity because of this unprecedented situation. Therefore, it is incumbent on us to prepare them to the maximum extent possible during these challenging times.
  4. INITIATION – The Sigma Chi International Fraternity STRONGLY DISCOURAGES initiations from taking place at this time. However, given that each campus and chapter are dealing with different situations related to the pandemic of COVID-19, this decision remains in the jurisdiction of each province. Our Governing Laws already require the explicit approval of the Grand Praetor in order for an initiation to take place (E3.14-1). We are asking each Grand Praetor to exercise his best judgment in light of the situation that exists on each campus as to whether proceeding with initiation makes sense or not. Should a Grand Praetor disallow an initiation from taking place out of concern for the health and safety of the individuals involved, chapters are required to comply with that directive. Grand Praetors will also communicate their decisions with the Regional Chapter Support Coordinator so the fraternity has updated information.
  5. SOCIAL/PHILANTHROPIC/LEADERSHIP PROGRAMS – The international fraternity STRONGLY DISCOURAGES chapters from engaging in these efforts as they each present heightened risk of spreading COVID-19 among the participants. In the United States, the federal government has issued a national emergency due to the outbreak of COVID-19. In many cases, this declaration should (note: this is not to be construed as legal advice and each chapter should consult an attorney to review their own specific contract language) trigger the Force Majeure clause included in most event contracts, enabling contracts to be cancelled without penalty. As Canada has continued with a province-by-province approach, each chapter is encouraged to seek out specific legal guidance so as to avoid cancellation fees of any contracted events. Each chapter should review each individual contract and consult an attorney as necessary so as to avoid any cancellation fees.
  6. OFFICER ELECTIONS – The international fraternity recognizes that many chapters have officer terms that begin with elections at the end of the spring term. First, the international fraternity refers each chapter to review their bylaws for any specific guidance. However, as many elections are imminent, the international fraternity STRONGLY RECOMMENDS that chapters prepare for these elections in a virtual setting. A recommended set of mechanics on this can be reviewed below. We know that the ritualistic ceremony of swearing-in is impractical if not impossible in the present climate and, therefore, the international fraternity is allowing officers to assume the duties of office once elected, on the conditions that the chapter reports the election when it happens through the chapter system and conducts the swearing in ceremony for the new officers as the first order of business upon its resumption of normal operations.

Suggested mechanics:

  1. 3 weeks in advance of elections – Solicit nominations for offices from the membership. Have the Annotator record the nominations as they are submitted. Each nominated candidate for office sends a pre-recorded election speech to the Annotator along with their acceptance of the nomination.
  2. 2 weeks in advance of elections – The Annotator makes the pre-recorded election speeches available to the chapter for viewing.
  3. 1 week in advance of elections – The Annotator makes available an online ballot to allow chapter members to cast votes for the various offices
  4. Election Day – A virtual chapter meeting is conducted to announce the results of elections. New officers assume duties of office per the terms in the chapter’s bylaws.
  1. ANNUAL REPORT/PETERSON – The international fraternity is currently reviewing if it is possible to award the Peterson Award for significant chapter performance this year and what that might look like. A decision has not yet been made at this time but it is under review. In any case, chapters will still be required to submit the Annual Report so the fraternity can continue to collect benchmarking data on chapter performance and on the performance of the organization as a whole. Please visit sigmachi.org/Peterson to file your annual report. Future updates will include further guidance on this issue.

II. HOUSE CORPORATIONS

  1. RMF GUIDANCE – The Risk Management Foundation issued guidance last week to house corporations on this subject and no guidance has changed at this time. We are grateful to the RMF for their leadership. [Click here for last week’s RMF message]
  2. FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE – Should any house corporation be in need of financial assistance to ensure continuity of operations, they are encouraged to contact Joe Fiore, Managing Director of Business Development & Finance (RMF/CHI), or visit the Constantine Housing Initiative website for more information or to inquire about loan opportunities.

III. GUIDANCE FOR ALUMNI CHAPTERS

  1. EVENTS – The international fraternity STRONGLY ENCOURAGES alumni chapters to cancel all events for the foreseeable future. The most at-risk population demographics for contracting COVID-19 are those over 65 years of age with pre-existing health complications. We would not want any Sigma Chi to unsuspectingly contract or spread the virus to another Sigma Chi. For further guidance on contracts, cancellations, etc, please see the above (section I.5) and we strongly suggest you consult an attorney to provide you specific guidance.

IV. INTERNATIONAL FRATERNITY EVENTS

  1. TIMING OF DECISIONS – The international fraternity will provide status updates to various programs and events on a rolling basis. The status of events and/or meetings will be decided upon no later than 30 days in advance of the start of the event; the only exceptions to this will be the status of Krach Transformational Leaders Workshop (90 days in advance) and Grand Council (60 days in advance) as each includes more logistical considerations. The leadership of the international fraternity will closely monitor the developing situation around COVID-19 and continue to keep the membership apprised.
  2. COMMITTEE/BOARD MEETINGS – These decisions will be made 30 days prior to the start of the meeting and will be communicated to the committee/board members as they are determined. It is encouraged that committees and boards plan to conduct business in a virtual setting as much as possible.
  3. HORIZONS HUNTSMAN LEADERSHIP SUMMIT – Decisions on each Horizons session will be made no later than 30 days in advance of the start of the event to enable proper planning and adjustments.
  4. GRAND COUNCIL – A decision on whether the meeting of the Grand Council will be hosted in a virtual setting or delayed to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19 to the individuals who will need to travel to the Headquarters will be made 60 days in advance (April 27).
  5. KRACH TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERS WORKSHOP – A decision on whether the 2020 workshop will take place will be made no later than 90 days in advance (April 30). Please be on the lookout for updated information.