6 Important Beta Updates
August 18, 2020
Beta Brothers, New Members, Parents and Friends:
Recent months have provided me substantial time and space to reflect on our beloved fraternity’s response to these trying times. I have observed members, chapters and volunteers adapt under stressful circumstances, and witnessed great sacrifices made in the name of brotherhood. The journey has led me not toward feelings of worry and fear, but of inspiration and resolve.
Brothers and friends from all generations and across all corners of Beta’s Broad Domain have breathed new life into the timeless words of Founder John Reily Knox: “What a few men united in object and effort will to do can be done.”
The path ahead is of course uncharted, but for those still wondering how Beta Theta Pi will navigate this complex new world, my answer is simple – we will continue to do so together.
It is traditionally this time of year when we unite at the General Convention and receive updates on pressing matters facing the Fraternity. Because our annual reunion was canceled in light of COVID-19, I feel it’s best to brief all of you personally on some of the ways General Fraternity leaders are backing our members and chapters in the year ahead:
Brotherly Support Comes First
Even in the toughest of times, Beta steps up. Thanks to significant financial assistance from the Beta Foundation, Fraternity leaders are helping protect members’ health and safety by providing free Beta-branded masks to all undergraduates. House corporation volunteers have also been connected with a personal protective equipment supplier to support the needs of our chapter homes. Additionally, billing cycle adjustments have been implemented to allow chapters additional time to secure their finances, and all 139 chapters are being offered $500 in need-based relief scholarships for member(s) facing financial uncertainty in light of the pandemic.
Beta’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
As racial tension flared across North America this spring, the Board of Trustees reflected humbly and decided it was important to answer the call by creating Beta’s 24-person Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which has recently completed its work. Recommending an initial framework focused on the language, voices and education of the Fraternity, the ultimate goal remains the fostering of a welcoming environment for men from all walks of life and an even greater sense of belonging for all brothers – past, present and future. Equally important, the Board has made a long-term commitment to this cause, authorizing a standing committee to continue the valuable work this commission has started. We can all be grateful for the incredible pace by which the commissioners worked to improve the Fraternity in such meaningful and important ways. Stay tuned for progress reports in the coming months.
With many families of undergraduates facing unprecedented financial challenges, the Trustees have acted and relief is on the way. In addition to the fee reduction introduced in June, the Board has authorized a multi-faceted plan providing financial incentives, credits and further reductions to General Fraternity dues. This plan will be announced before initial billing statements go out at the end of August, and the General Fraternity will work closely with chapter and volunteer leaders to chart a successful financial path this fall.
Standing up for the Greek Experience
The General Fraternity is unequivocal in its belief that Greek organizations are part of (and often lead) important cultural changes in our communities. Unfortunately, a growing number of campus administrations and student bodies are experiencing intense pressure from anonymous “Abolish Greek Life” social media accounts demanding draconian action by institutions, as well as a call for chapters and members to resign/cease operations or be on the wrong side of history on matters of social justice. To be clear, the General Fraternity will continue to defend its students’ and alumni’s right to operate as important parts of the local institutions they call home. If you see a similar account arise at your institution, I encourage you to contact the Administrative Office so our team can work alongside you to navigate this challenge.
Securing Beta's Future
Recruitment is our lifeblood, and the Fraternity is making an unparalleled investment in key areas to help chapters identify, recruit and retain quality members. By providing growth coaches and a recruitment collaboration program, securing a partnership with professional recruitment experts, offering at-cost branded marketing collateral to all chapters, and doubling the Men of Principle Scholarship Grant from $500 to $1,000 per chapter, the Fraternity is going all in on its investment in chapters to ensure local success.
Continuity of Leadership
Finally, I want to honor four dedicated and selfless brothers who concluded their volunteer service to the Fraternity last week, including two-term General Fraternity President Bob Schnese, Wisconsin ’83; Vice Presidents Cary Wood, Purdue ’89, and Brad Kiesling, Westminster ’01; and inaugural Undergraduate Commissioner Ryan Padden, Connecticut ’20. To ensure the Board’s continued operations in the absence of the General Convention, two positions have been filled: Justin Rutherford, Northwestern ’00, has been reappointed as a vice president and Tom Cassady, Cincinnati ’76, will now serve as General Fraternity President. Plans are developing to hold a special business meeting during the Chapter Presidents Leadership Academy this winter, pending COVID-19 realities, in order for our delegates to host Board elections and consider the granting of charters. More details will be shared with our chapters and volunteers in the coming weeks.
Brothers and friends, it goes without saying that no one knows exactly what lies ahead in the coming days, weeks and months. As we move forward, we must all remember that there are still many uncertainties that will require us all to make adjustments to further meet the moment. Beta has done so before, and we will do so again.
I’m reminded of a 1915 quote from Beta Great Francis W. Shepardson, Denison 1882/Brown 1883, at a time when the perils of World War I tested our unity and brotherhood: “It is up to you. Here is the situation as has never faced us before. Here is an opportunity to prove what Beta Theta Pi, what fraternity, means.”
Through your patience, resilience and support, you have shown that the essence of our Fraternity rests in its brothers’ loyalty to one another and this organization that consistently endures the peaks and valleys of life. No matter the trials or tribulations, our values keep us united – whether in-person or from afar – and marching along in Beta Theta Pi.
Thank you, welcome back to our undergraduate brothers, and best wishes to all Betas, friends and those you love. I look forward to staying in touch this fall as we ensure a meaningful future for Beta Theta Pi.