Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Board Directed Ritual Changes

At the September 27, 2019 regularly scheduled Board meeting, Delta Sigma Pi’s Board of Directors unanimously approved revisions to the collegiate initiation ceremony. Effective immediately, the two-part collegiate initiation Ritual is replaced with a revised single-ceremony initiation that eliminates the oral examination of pledges.

What changes were made and when do they take effect? What do we do with our old books?

The collegiate initiation is now blended into a single ceremony instead of two parts. There is no longer any form of oral examination. Key concepts previously included in the first part are incorporated into the single ceremony. The overall sequence and flow is similar to the Honorary Initiation adopted by the 2017 Grand Chapter Congress.

Additionally, changes adopted by the 2019 Grand Chapter to update language to be more inclusive of gender identity and ability have been applied to the single ceremony collegiate initiation.

Ritual changes take effect upon distribution of the updated Ritual. The Board has directed staff to review the initiation schedules submitted by chapters and make the updated Initiation Ritual available to each chapter for use during their fall 2019 initiation. Our intent is to distribute a full, hardbound Ritual book by January 2020. When the full books are received, information will be provided to chapters on how to properly dispose of their old, outdated books to the Central Office .

A proposal to replace the collegiate initiation was defeated at Grand Chapter Congress. How can the board change the Ritual?

Article X. of the Regulations Governing the Ritual of the International Fraternity of Delta Sigma Pi states:
To enable the Fraternity to act promptly in any emergency, and in order that the best interests of the Fraternity may be served, special and emergency powers are hereby granted to the Board of Directors of the Fraternity to make such temporary amendments to the Ritual as they may deem advisable for the best interests of the Fraternity. A three-fourths (3/4ths) vote of the members of the Board of Directors shall be required to adopt such emergency amendments, and these emergency amendments shall remain in effect only until the next meeting of the Grand Chapter, at which time they shall either be approved by the Grand Chapter for permanent adoption or returned to their previous phraseology.
Similar language also exists in the Fraternity’s Bylaws. The Board uses this action sparingly. At the 30th Grand Chapter Congress in 1975, the Grand Chapter failed to adopt a proposal to open membership to women, despite the risk of potentially losing college and university support to chapters across the country. Grand President William Tatum, Jr. led the board in a unanimous vote on November 7, 1975 to open membership to women. The decision was ratified by the delegates of the 1977 Grand Chapter Congress.

The Board, under the leadership of Grand President William Kinsella, voted in 1989 to eliminate blindfolds from initiation in response to an increasing number of state hazing definitions including references to blindfolds. This decision was confirmed by the 1991 Congress delegates.

Why is there such concern about asking questions of the pledges during Initiation?

It has become increasingly clear that questioning of pledges in Part I of Initiation violates not only many state and educational institutional definitions of hazing, but is in conflict with the Delta Sigma Pi Risk Management Policy definition of hazing.
Any action taken or situation created, either intentionally or unintentionally, on or off the college campus, to produce physical or mental discomfort, embarrassment or ridicule; or possibly cause physical harm or injury. Such activities and situations include paddling in any form; creating of excessive fatigue; physical and psychological shock; treasure hunts, scavenger hunts, road trips; kidnapping of pledges by members or kidnapping of members by pledges; consumption of food, beverage or any other substance except in the course of regular meals; wearing apparel at any time or at any place which is conspicuous or not in good taste; engaging in public stunts, tricks, games or horseplay; morally degrading games or humiliating activities; any activity on the part of the pledges or members which might possibly violate any local, state, or federal law, including Fraternity law; late work sessions which interfere with scholastic activities; and any other activities which are not consistent with Fraternity law, Ritual, or policy, or the regulations and policies of the state or educational institution.
“Shotgun” questioning, “rack lines,” “inquisitions” and candlelight questioning are not to be used as procedures in determining a pledge’s qualifications for membership or for any other reason.

There will be no deceptive statement or activity for the purpose of frightening or mentally disturbing an individual. Such deception includes, but is not limited to, causing a person to believe that some action or event is taking place or will take place that, in fact, will not occur.

By submitting pledges to an oral examination, we have inherently created a connection between their responses and their belief in their ability to continue with the ceremony, despite the fact that incorrect answers during Part I are not grounds for dismissal from the pledge program. Initiates consistently report that they have difficulty absorbing the information during Part II due to their processing of their performance and that of their pledge class during Part I. Some pledges have indicated a desire to quit the program and not continue to Part II as a result of their experience in Part I. Additionally, chapters that consider the initiation as the final opportunity for pledges to prove their worthiness for membership often exhibit other risky attitudes and approaches to their pledge programs. During the discussion at Grand Chapter Congress, many opponents of the proposal indicated their own lack of compliance with the principles and instructions of our Ritual. 

Multiple institutions in recent years have explicitly raised concerns about the structure and content of Part I, with some banning the use of any questioning during Initiation by our chapters. Many chapters have sought guidance from staff and national leaders on whether they can modify the Ritual to avoid violating their campus policies. While deviations from the printed Ritual have always been prohibited, feedback from university officials in recent years has increasingly focused on the presence of an oral examination in Part I being in conflict with campus policies, regardless of how accurately the ceremony is performed.

Finally, the Board is in the process of updating the Pledge Education Program and, with assistance from our insurance provider, the Risk Management Policy. As these efforts evolved, it became clear that Part I of Initiation contained elements that did not align with recommended practices and created an unnecessary risk for the Fraternity, its members, and the students and staff of our host campuses. Our insurance provider did not review the Ritual itself, but advised that anything a school would consider hazing should not be in our Ritual.

By making these changes now, we can ensure the most valuable and enduring elements of our Ritual remain while reducing the level of risk to the organization and its members.

Has Initiation changed before, what are examples of that and why were changes made?

Initiation has changed several times over the years. In fact, when Delta Sigma Pi was first established in 1907, we did not have an Initiation Ritual or a Ritual book. Much of our current Ritual was written during the 1940s and 1950s and over the life of the Fraternity, the number of ceremonies has increased. As there were not many professional fraternities at the time, much of the Ritual was based on social organizations. Greek organization rituals were also influenced by the return of World War II soldiers — who had endured military-style hazing — to campus life.

The first Ritual books were published in 1921, with the meaning of the Greek letters added a year later. The Preamble (adopted in 1915) first included “social activity” in 1947.

The Initiation originally consisted of three parts. Part I involved each pledge being examined singly or in pairs while blindfolded and on their knees. Part III was a staged business meeting immediately upon the conclusion of the Initiation in which members were encouraged to insult one another to the point that physical altercations occurred and relationships were permanently destroyed. Additionally, our Ritual deemed various groups ineligible for membership at different points, limiting membership at times to Caucasian, Christian men. Today, these elements of our past Ritual violate many state laws, campus policies, socially accepted standards, and our Risk Management Policy.

Other changes over the years include the elimination of pledge robes; the addition of ceremonies to install officers, celebrate graduating seniors, and honor the deceased; and in 2019 the adoption of language more inclusive of gender identity and ability. Prior to the changes adopted in 2019, the collegiate initiation was most recently revised in 2011.

Despite the many changes over our history to the Ritual — Part I in particular, over 300,000 Deltasigs have experienced an identical explanation of our guiding principles and expectations of conduct, and those remain prominent in the updated Initiation Ceremony.

Will chapters lose CMP credit for memorization if they don't have time to learn the new ceremony?

Local volunteers are tasked with attending initiations to verify memorization for CMP credit. Chapters otherwise effectively reading and performing the ceremony should receive credit for memorization for fall 2019.

How is this being communicated?

Regional Vice Presidents and National Committee Chairs were informed during the Leadership Retreat on September 27. Past Grand Presidents and a number of other volunteer leaders were notified by phone September 30 and October 1. Scheduled written communications include:

  • October 1: Regional Vice Presidents
  • October 2: Chapter Advisors, initiated Deans, District Directors, current Leadership Foundation Trustees, Past Grand Presidents, Golden Council and Trustee Emeriti
  • October 3: All collegiate members and all alumni with email addresses in our database

Collegiate members and their respective national officers will receive additional logistical information. We will also provide updates through the magazine, website, LEAD Schools, and other methods as opportunities arise.

It is likely members will comment (positively or negatively) on social media. While social media is often not ideal for debate and those with questions or concerns can best have them addressed by contacting a staff member or national officer, there may be opportunities for informed members to provide context or correct misinformation shared via social media.

Pledges who have already received a copy of the pledge program will be sent an updated version that no longer references an oral examination during the Initiation. As new pledges are entered into the system, they will automatically receive the updated pledge program.

Who can chapter members or advisors contact with questions?

Chapters can reach out to their District Director or Regional Vice President for assistance, as well as any of the Educational and Leadership Consultants on staff at the Central Office.