Brothers & Friends,
“I believe that the ideal chapter is made up of men … who prepare themselves diligently to shoulder their full responsibilities as citizens.” —Pi Kappa Phi Student Creed
These are words we know so well. They are important words, but they ring hollow if we fail to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of our fraternal experience. What we recognize and learn from our history will greatly influence our actions going forward.
Since our founding in 1904, Pi Kappa Phi has strived to be a leader on our campuses and in our communities. Whether esoteric or exoteric, our call to lead runs boldly in every statement, symbol or ceremony our brothers have experienced, and it has been fervently embraced throughout our history. Answering that call is as important now as it has ever been.
Last summer, in the face of rapidly changing campus environments and social unrest throughout our country, Pi Kappa Phi formed a Standing Committee for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. In that moment, we recognized a need to explore more fully where we stood as an organization, the successes and shortcomings from our past, and where we need to change to remain a leading force in the world around us.
At its inception, the committee embarked on a four-phase journey.
1. History Review
2. Acknowledge our Past
3. Review and Re-imagine
4. Strategic Planning
We are pleased to announce that the committee has completed the first phase. This communication completes the second phase.
We know that sharing any shortcomings, most of which are already well known, will generate different responses. Some will view it as unnecessary; others will view it as not enough. We also risk overshadowing the many examples throughout our history where we have made steps forward toward becoming a more inclusive and respectful organization. But celebrating those accomplishments without acknowledging the shortcomings of our past can undermine our credibility as we continue to answer our call to lead. The acknowledgement that follows is intended purely in that context. We strive to provide transparency with pivotal moments in our past as well as the historical events that influenced our history. This set of facts is not a barrier towards our continued efforts to lead.
What We Learned
We have navigated world wars, regional conflicts, the Great Depression, the fight for civil rights, and many other pivotal moments in history. These events have influenced who we are as a brotherhood, and how we responded in those moments is a part of our history.
There are plenty of examples where we responded to world events and social trends to become a more welcoming and inclusive organization. The Ability Experience (initially P.U.S.H.) led fraternities and sororities in creating awareness of the abilities of all people. Pi Kappa Phi created award-winning awareness and prevention initiatives around sexual assault and alcohol abuse. We were also among the first fraternal organizations to adopt position statements against hazing, substance abuse and sexual misconduct.
But exploring our history also reveals times where we were slow to respond to calls for change, resisted change, and where our actions fell short of even our own stated expectations.
Our initial membership structure was segregated and excluded men based on race and religion. At the time of our founding in Charleston, this historic colonial city was still struggling with the aftermath of its central role in slavery and the American Civil War. Given this context, it is not surprising that at our founding we followed the “old standard” policy: membership was restricted to white, Christian males.
Calls and efforts for policy changes after World War II were rejected. The 24th Supreme Chapter voted to move specific requirements from policy documents to the Ritual in 1952. Alumni membership committees formed to ensure the membership selection process remained segregated. A living Founder further emboldened resistance to change by actively discouraging changes to the membership selection practice. Ultimately, the 31st Supreme Chapter voted to remove the historical limitations on membership in 1966. Yet, in practice, these discriminatory ways remained for years.
Additionally, we saw other forms of intolerance, many of which directly disregarded the Fraternity’s position statements in their time. These included racial stereotyping, hazing, disrespectful and harmful behavior toward women, and exclusion based on sexual orientation and identity. Due to a lack of sustained commitment, these position statements, associated education and training, and disciplinary had minimal effect eliminating these behaviors from our fraternal experience.
While we have led in some areas, we have fallen short in others. We can and must do better.
The Next Phases
Our DEI Standing Committee’s focus has now moved to phase three: Review & Re-Imagine.
In this phase, we are reviewing programs, policies and practices and re-imagining how we can become a more welcoming, supporting, and inclusive brotherhood. The committee has identified five areas where we believe we are best positioned to make an impact:
1. member education
2. access and affordability
3. recruitment and growth
4. volunteer recruitment and education
5. staff practices, policies and training
Following phase three, our committee will move into phase four—strategic planning—to recommend actions to make Pi Kappa Phi a more inclusive organization. We look forward to sharing the committee’s ideas and recommendations to the Fraternity for consideration and action in the coming months.
Pi Kappa Phi’s Commitment
Our history leads Pi Kappa Phi to affirm new commitments and reaffirm commitments we have made before.
We challenge every brother and friend of Pi Kappa Phi to reflect on our fraternity’s history and your own personal life journey as we strive to make our brotherhood more welcoming, supportive and inclusive for all our brothers and friends.
We will work to ensure racism, bigotry, and hatred—whether blatant or subtle—have no place in our organization.
We will challenge each other, our leaders and our communities to be more welcoming, supportive and inclusive of everyone.
We will hold each other accountable for our commitments and actions.
We will invest time, money and other resources at all levels of the organization to ensure a sustained commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Most of all, we will be true to our Student Creed as we continue to prepare our men to shoulder their full responsibilities as citizens and work toward a more diverse, equitable and inclusive future.
Yours in Pi Kappa Phi,
William T. Sigmon, National President
Mark E. Timmes, Chief Executive Officer
James D. Dukes, Jr., Chairman, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Standing Committee
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