by Brendan McCurdy, H’80 email@example.com
(reprinted from the Spring 2022 Flame)
The Chairman's report is a regular agenda item for the Society's Standing and Advisory committee meetings. At the S&A meeting held in New York City on March 5th this year,
I started my report by lifting a page from Charles Dickens. For Sigma Phi, I opined, “it is the best of times and the worst of times.” My borrowed Dickens theme secured attention from all the delegates in the room.
I believe it’s the best of times because the Society has gone through a period of intense introspection: a painful - and in many ways - unwanted analysis of who and what we are and what it is that makes Sigma Phi. Sigma Phi. An honest appraisal of one's own character is never an easy effort. I dare say it’s an effort most of us would rather not take on. But take it on we did.
The beginning of this self-guided journey can be traced back to the 2017 General Convention at the Alpha of Virginia. It was there that the open and candid debate on membership commenced. It continued and came to a boil at the 2019 Convention at the Alpha of Vermont. The COVID-19 pandemic put the lid on the boil through 2020 but the introspection did not stop. It culminated at Cornell, when the Epsilon hosted our 2021 General Convention. Through formal final Convention action the question of membership - who we are - has been settled.
I would like to make clear that “the National", as may be envisioned in the minds of many alumni Sigs takes its marching orders from the General Convention. And the General Convention designed to give undergraduate brothers a greater say than graduate Sigs has in 2017, 2019, and 2021, voted by a strong majority that Sigma Phi is and should continue to be an all-male Society. This point deserves underscoring as there appears to
be a perception that a small coterie of aged-out Sigs - the S&A or the Executive Committee - has dictated our single sex policy. This is just not true. As Chairman of this Society I try my best to sail the ship knowing that the rudder has been set by the General Convention.
And the worst of times?
Discovering the falsehoods and deceptions played out over years by those brothers sworn to the ideals of friendship, love and truth. Some alumni and undergraduates are
adamant in their opposition to this set membership course, unwilling to reconcile themselves to the will of the General Convention. You know, for example, that the undergraduates at the University of North Carolina disassociated from Sig when their
alumni board voted to abide to the dictates of the 2019 Convention. The Alpha of California has wrestled mightily with their errant active members - just this spring getting
its house in order. And the Alpha of Michigan has had its active charter provisionally suspended by the National as the Ann Arbor chapter has for years refused to comply
with the General Convention’s will regarding Sigma Phi membership eligibility.
Tested by trial, the Society emerges stronger for the ordeal. The chapter reports given by the actives at Cornell last October were filled to the brim with energy and excitement: 17 new brothers swung in Virginia, bringing the Alpha’s active membership to over 40 students; the Epsilon board considering adding a wing to the house to accommodate
the growing membership; Union brothers already lining up support for our 200th birthday celebration in Schenectady. These reports provided an at-large expression of the good that Sigma Phi bestows on these young men and the value they recognize in belonging to our Thrice Illustrious band.
You, too, brother, are part of that bestowal. And, as a certain Society luminary reminds us:
“Among so few, the influence of every one is very keenly felt.” Please make plans to attend the General Convention this fall at the University of Virginia, Oct. 13-16. Discover again why Sigma Phi continues to matter: 1) to you; 2) to the undergraduate men of this
Society; and 3) to those ancient and wise benefactors who set a course of posterity and promise for the Thrice Illustrious Sigma Phi all the way back in the year 1827.