By Stephanie Geiser, Beta Upsilon Chapter ’11, Senior Region Consultant
In the spring of 2012, a motion was made by National Council to begin an investigation on the Alpha Xi Chapter (Radford University) following a report sent to the National Office. In the weeks following their interviews, the Brothers of Alpha Xi worked together to make positive changes to their Initiation Program, bringing it into compliance with Phi Sigma Pi’s national standards. Below is an interview with Brother Lauren Macher (AΞ ’13), who was serving as the Chapter’s Initiate Adviser at the time of the investigation and currently serves as the Chapter President.
Q: What were the major changes you made to Alpha Xi’s Initiation Program?
LM: “[The changes to our Initiation Program] included removing dress days for the Initiates, re-doing our Initiate calendar, changing the times and dates of Initiate events to earlier hours and held on campus, and completely revamping the main week of our Initiation process known as I-Week. We were also encouraged to add a few new aspects to our program including a risk management presentation given to the Initiates, multiple new and improved bylaw changes, and the strict implementation of a no hazing policy.”
Q: What was/were the most difficult aspect(s) of making the changes?
LM: “Tradition is something that our Chapter loves and respects. It is something that the Brothers and Alumni before us created and expected the Active Members to carry out. Many Brothers were hesitant to make the changes … because it was not the “normal” process that we had all gone through. This caused a lot of debate and tension within the Brotherhood and really showed how strong our bond was as an organization.”
Q: How did you get the Brotherhood involved in making changes and starting new traditions?
LM: “When it came to revamping and recreating the Initiate process the Executive Board knew that this was not something that could be done without the help of all Brothers. Due to this, a separate committee was created by the President, titled the Initiation Program Development Committee, [which any Brother could volunteer for]. The purpose of this committee was to evaluate and update every aspect of the Initiation process. They removed the questionable parts of I-week and made sure every event held related back to the tripod. Once new ideas were created and the new process was finished it was taken to the Brotherhood for discussion and [implementation].”
Q: What are you doing to ensure the Alpha Xi Chapter does not revert back to old practices and Brothers continue to make good risk management choices in the future?
LM: “We will continue to have the Initiation Program Development Committee meet each semester. We can keep ideas new and fresh while still maintaining the overall goal of the original committee. In addition, we are working on creating our own risk management policy that will list out many of the things we learned through the investigation process. The final, and most important thing, that the Alpha Xi Chapter is doing is working to educating Initiates. We want the Initiates to be aware of what happened and all the positive changes that were implemented in order to fix the situation …[so] they can continue to improve the process after the older Brothers are gone.”
Q: What would you suggest to other Chapters who may be reviewing and altering their Initiation or risk management programs?
LM: “Talk to the Brothers in your Chapter. Make sure you are taking everyone’s input because this is a change that will ultimately affect all Brothers’ current and future… If you create a program that Brothers don’t support or believe in it will more than likely falter over the years… Learn from [other Chapters who have made similar changes] and don’t be afraid to ask for help from Brothers, other Chapters or Nationals if you need it!”
Q: Closing thoughts: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
LM: “While the investigation and the revamping process was challenging and stressful on our Chapter, I am proud of the work that the entire Alpha Xi Chapter was able to complete. I think that every member put forth effort and I am ecstatic that we were able to overcome the obstacle presented to our Chapter.”
Challenging tradition, particularly in modifying a beloved Initiate Program, can be difficult. However, with the input and subsequent support from the Brotherhood, it is a manageable project. If you are considering enhancing your Chapter’s Initiate Program and implementing positive change, check out the Toolbox on the national website for resources. You should also discuss your plans with your Region Consultant for feedback and additional support.