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