June 15, 2020
Brothers, friends and supporters of Sigma Chi,
These last few weeks have been a difficult time for our society. There has been widespread expression of significant pain and anguish that has manifested itself in different ways. The world has watched as civil unrest has set in across North America. During that time, I, along with other leaders of Sigma Chi, have been called on to address the issues of diversity and inclusion within Sigma Chi in the context of this current period of unrest and with respect to our own history. I write today to announce how Sigma Chi plans on doing that.
First, we must begin to address this issue by acknowledging our past. Sigma Chi turns 165 years old in just a few weeks. Our organization’s founding precedes the Civil War and occurred at a time when slavery was still legal in parts of the United States. Any organization that has as much history as Sigma Chi inherently has grappled with the issues of racial inequality and prejudice in its own way; Sigma Chi is no different. In 1866, on the heels of the Civil War, delegates to that year’s Grand Chapter modified our constitution and, even under protest of some of the delegates, entered a clause that required that any prospective member be a “white male.” This clause in our constitution remained contentious for nearly 100 years until it was finally legislated out. The effects of that clause, even after it was removed from our constitution, would linger for decades afterward. While the leaders of Sigma Chi today had nothing to do with this part of our history, we nonetheless must acknowledge it and sincerely apologize for it. Embracing the shortcomings that we have inherited is part of leadership, and so I submit to people of color everywhere, on behalf of Sigma Chi, our sincerest apologies.
Sigma Chi is a membership organization. By design, the ideas and philosophies that shape it have broad appeal while enabling us to simultaneously narrow our focus to be applicable for some slice of society. What we are and what we do does not appeal to everyone, and nor would we ever expect it to. The membership of the organization gets to choose what ideas and philosophies will be unique to us. Sigma Chi is an organization that exists to help good men become better men. Our timeless principles of Friendship, Justice and Learning, side by side with our universal values, serve to inform a framework for our men to use as a guidepost by which to live their lives. These principles, values and teachings welcome and embrace men from all walks of life on the sole condition that they voluntarily commit to live their life in accordance with those stated ideals. Racism, intolerance, violence and hate have no place in our order. We recognize that racism and intolerance did once – but they do not any longer.
Over the years, Sigma Chi has acknowledged our discriminatory past and our efforts regarding diversity and inclusion in multiple ways. This page on our website (see below) has been updated to include items the Fraternity has published previously on these subjects, and I encourage you to review them so that you, too, are familiar with our challenges as well as our successes. Now is not the time to hide from our past. Rather, now is the time to understand our past so that we can learn from it and grow accordingly.
In 1995, Sigma Chi adopted its Statement of Policy on Human Decency and Dignity. While this statement, when viewed through the lens of posterity, seems like it should have existed since our beginnings, we must remember that this was a big step forward for Sigma Chi at the time. Today, I am grateful to the forerunners and former leaders who took the courage to design and publish it. The sentiments of that policy are strongly reinforced now. I encourage everyone to read it and become familiar with it, because it will play a central role in what we will do going forward.
I believe that the most important thing we must do as a society during this historically difficult time is to re-learn how to listen to each other so that we can grow together. If there is to be anywhere where listening can happen from a place of empathy, understanding and compassion, then it can be Sigma Chi. We can show the world how to do this. We can acknowledge that we have differing opinions while demonstrating respect for each other and for those differing opinions. Importantly, we must do all of this from a place of genuine care and concern for our fellow man. We must acknowledge that there are those who have been marginalized and disrespected. When we acknowledge that, we can listen to how these experiences have impacted and shaped their lives. When we listen to the story of their lives, we can learn how we can be more human and, together, establish a thought process where equality dominates our thoughts and actions.
This past weekend, Sigma Chi’s Executive Committee approved the formation of a Diversity and Inclusion Commission. I have tapped Taayo Simmonds, DALHOUSIE-ST. MARY’S 2009, to chair this initiative. Simmonds is a practicing attorney in Ottawa, Ontario. He is the Grand Praetor of the Saint Lawrence province, is a facilitator in our Horizons Huntsman Leadership Summit and is a graduate of that same program. The full membership of this commission will be announced in the days and weeks ahead.
The commission is charged, foremost, with listening. They will listen to anyone who wants to speak. All opinions, thoughts, perspectives and recommendations are encouraged and needed. They will be responsible for organizing the thoughts of the collective and distilling those thoughts into a series of recommendations to be brought forward to the Executive Committee. Recognizing the urgency of this work and the importance of tackling the subject of diversity and inclusion in our Fraternity, I have asked the commission to complete their work by Oct. 1, 2020. We will communicate more information on how your voice can be heard as soon as the commission has formulated a tactical plan.
I am sincerely grateful to the many voices who have spoken out on this subject and, most importantly, to the members of this commission whose work will no doubt be difficult but is so critically important. Sigma Chi can always be better, and you have my commitment that we will significantly enhance our focus so that we can improve in this area going forward.
71st Grand Consul
Simmonds is the managing lawyer of Simmonds Law, a law firm with offices in Ottawa and Toronto, Ontario. He hosts a legal podcast called, “Rebuttable Presumptions,” which highlights legal professionals with unique backgrounds and perspectives. He also is the founder and president of the Gwen Simmonds Foundation, a registered charity dedicated to helping single mothers complete their post-secondary studies.
He is the Grand Praetor (regional governor) of the Saint Lawrence province, a facilitator in the Horizons Huntsman Leadership Summit and is a graduate of that same program. Simmonds was appointed as chair of the Fraternity’s Diversity and Inclusion Commission on June 23, 2020.
Ahuja is a fourth-year student at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, and is majoring in public health with a minor in public policy and administration. He was initiated into the Fraternity’s Brock chapter on Nov. 9, 2019. During his time at Brock, he has spent time developing, reviewing and creating public health campaigns, working on a quality improvement project and most recently, serving as a student senator and chairman of the board of directors for the Brock Students’ Union. These experiences have fostered within him a great interest in advocacy, community building and health policy.
Andrews was initiated into the Fraternity’s South Alabama chapter on Oct. 6, 2018. He is majoring in mathematics and statistics, and is pursuing a minor in finance. He has served his Fraternity chapter as assistant Magister and as Tribune, and also has worked to implement new systems for his chapter related to diversity and inclusion. He describes himself as goal-oriented and is excited to learning from new experiences
Avila has over 10 years of experience working with diverse populations around the world. His prior work includes addressing child trauma in the non-incorporated colonias on the US-Mexico borderland, empowering the refugee population of New Mexico to be self-sufficient, and has served as a community health specialist in Dominican Republic on behalf of the United States Peace Corps (PCDR). Furthermore, he helped found the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for PCDR and served as its coordinator for a time. Currently, Adrian serves on the board of directors for the Dual Language Education of New Mexico non-profit organization, and has been working as a Title I public school educator since 2018.
He is the recipient of the Fraternity’s 2014 International Balfour Award, which is given annually to the Fraternity’s most outstanding senior. He was selected as a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Commission on June 23, 2020, and is concurrently serving on the Mission 365 recruitment training program committee. Previously, he has served on the International Fraternity’s Executive Committee and in the Scobey Spirit Initiative.
Dudzinski is a native of Port Murray, New Jersey, who is studying international politics at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service in Washington, D.C. He also is pursuing minors in German and Russian languages.
Dudzinski is the founding Consul of the Fraternity chapter at Georgetown. He credits the colonization process and his experience studying foreign languages with helping him develop an appreciation for the quality of active listening. “Without listening, we may misunderstand each other, and things quite literally get lost in translation,” he says. Dudzinksi also is an undergraduate representative to the International Fraternity’s Alumni Education Continuum.
Geggie grew up in an interracial family in Alhambra, California, on the border with East Los Angeles. He was initiated into the Fraternity chapter at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, in 2005 and graduated from the college in 2008. Upon graduation, he joined Teach for America and taught freshman and sophomore English at Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis.
He pursued a Ph.D. at Brown University and, after becoming frustrated with academia, left to become an organizer in the marriage equality movement, working on campaigns in Rhode Island, New Jersey and Indiana. When he became the statewide campaign manager for Why Marriage Matters Ohio in the lead up to the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, he also became the first queer Mexican American to lead any statewide campaign for the freedom to marry. After the ruling, he worked with the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio as campaign manager.
In his current role, Geggie supports Leadership for Educational Equity’s elected leadership development work by developing virtual and blended learning opportunities to better prepare equity-minded leaders for success on the campaign trail and in office, particularly women and people of color.
Through Sigma Chi, he has served on Workshop’s Risk Management faculty since 2007 and has been its chair since 2013. He also served on chapter advisory boards for the Fraternity chapters at Wabash College and Brown University and was the assistant Grand Praetor for Connecticut/Rhode Island province.
In his free time, he works on criminal justice and police reform in Denver and lives with his boyfriend, Mike, and their yellow lab, Miss Phoebe Buffay.
Greenawalt has more than 30 years of professional experience as a certified management consultant. He is a founding member and former chairman of the advisory board for the Art of Leadership Foundation, which aims to help teenage student participants discover their passion and create an environment for them that fosters teamwork and leadership development.
Greenawalt has mentored Sigma Chi undergraduates since the 1960s, at various times serving as a member of the organization’s leadership training workshop faculty teams, as Grand Praetor (regional governor) for the East Michigan province and other roles. He is currently a member of the Fraternity’s alumni services committee.
Joiner was initiated into the Fraternity’s Kappa Xi chapter at Tarleton State University in fall 2010 and holds a bachelor’s degree in general studies with an emphasis in history and political science from the university. He also holds a master’s degree in college student counseling and personnel services from Arkansas Tech University. He currently is the fraternity and sorority life coordinator at Texas State University in San Marcos, where he advises and oversees the school’s Interfraternity Council (IFC) and National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC).
Joiner has served as a member of the Krach Transformational Leaders Workshop faculty and as a member of the Fraternity’s member support and development committee, among other roles.
Dr. McClendon is an adjunct faculty member and student affairs practitioner at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and has served as a college faculty member and administrator since 2006. In his work, he focuses on holistic student development, restorative justice practices and leadership and civic engagement.
Dr. McClendon completed his dissertation in 2019, “Professionals’ Perspectives on a Restorative Justice Approach to Fraternity and Sorority Misconduct in Higher Education,” which explored the perceptions of fraternity and sorority professionals regarding the effectiveness of their conduct process. The study also examined whether restorative justice practices positively impacted harm repair and contributed to student development. Through his research and experience, Dr. McClendon has been instrumental in the implementation of restorative justice practices in student conduct procedures at George Mason University and Shenandoah University.
As a Sigma Chi volunteer, he has served as chapter advisor at Western Carolina University, as an alumni ambassador, as president of the Western North Carolina Alumni Association, and as a member of the Chapter and Membership Accountability Committee. Currently, Dr. McClendon serves as a member of the Magister’s faculty for the Krach Transformational Leaders Workshop, as a member of the Membership Development Continuum and as chapter advisor at George Mason University.
Pickering is a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), researching supersonic flows. At Caltech, he has been an active member of graduate student life, serving four years as a member of the board of directors of the Graduate Student Council.
From 2016-2018, he served on Sigma Chi’s Executive Committee as the 2016 International Balfour Award recipient. In his undergraduate career, he was both Consul and IFC president. In the latter role, he had the privilege of chairing a comprehensive Greek-letter sexual misconduct prevention plan, which sought to create an environment where students can thrive free from threats of sexual violence.
Simpkins is a New York City native and rising sophomore at Harvard University who is majoring in philosophy. He was initiated into the Fraternity chapter Harvard on Dec. 6, 2019, and his chapter’s risk management chairman. He credits his diverse upbringing in New York City with inspiring his passion for race and diversity issues. He is exciting by the opportunity to work with Sigma Chi’s chapters and brothers to make real change occur.
Valentine is an associate professor of theater, drama and contemporary dance, acting and directing at Indiana University in Bloomington. He is a is an award-winning professional director and choreographer for the theatre and musical theatre, and an educator with experience teaching professionally at the collegiate level and in both public and private performing arts high schools.
He holds a master’s degree in directing from Indiana University and a bachelor’s in theater from Wabash College. His many awards include a 2014 Telly Award for his film Unchanging Principles, which tells the story of Sigma Chi’s founding; a Kennedy Center Gold Medallion for his efforts to promote college and university theatre across the country; as well as numerous Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Certificates of Merit for direction, choreography and costume design.
Valentine been a longtime faculty member of the recruitment division for the Fraternity’s annual leadership training workshop and received the William H. Carlisle Jr. Outstanding Workshop Faculty Award in 2008. He has been an active participant with the Mission 365 recruitment training program since its inception in 2003, and has facilitated Mission 365 retreats at chapters across the United States. He is a founding member of the Akron Alumni Chapter and was inducted to the Order of Constantine in 2013 for his outstanding service to the Fraternity as an alumnus.
Kuspa is the accountability coordinator at Sigma Chi International Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois. She attended Eastern Illinois University for her undergraduate degree and graduated in 2019 from Western Illinois University with her master’s degree in college student personnel. During her time at Western Illinois, she worked in the university’s office of student activities and advised its Interfraternity Council and United Greek-letter Council.
In relation to the Diversity and Inclusion Commission, Kuspa is the staff support for the commission and is excited to work with this group of outstanding members.