One aspect of the SigEp experience that differentiates our fraternity from many others in this day and age is our approach to building brotherhood while having brothers work to establish themselves within the fraternity is through the Balanced Man Program. Up until 2014, Sigma Phi Epsilon was typical of most other fraternal organizations in that full acceptance into the brotherhood, the right to wear letters and full access to the amenities of being a brother were tied to completing a semester of pledging. An over a century long tradition amongst Greek life, pledgeship has been used to legitimize both a sense of brotherhood within a chapter, and loyalty to the organization as well as those around you.
The Balanced Man Program is SigEp’s relatively new alternative to pledging, where there is a greater emphasis on year-round development of members versus a period of pledgeship when members first join. Upon accepting a bid, a member is given the rights of all other members of the chapter and is inducted into the Sigma challenge; the first of four different challenges that are centered around building balanced men, with the others being Phi, Epsilon, and Brother Mentor. While all vary in the types of activities they consist of, they are all geared around personal accountability of the brotherhood to develop as they ascend in their college years.
The current direction in which Greek life across the country is heading in, should public perception and organizational responses not improve, is arguably looking grim to say the least. At Virginia Tech, about 14 fraternities were “kicked off campus” in the past six years alone, with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life & Student Conduct repeatedly citing hazing as a causation for their loss of university recognition. At the time of writing this, over 1/4th of university recognized fraternities are on some sanction, whether it be probation or deferred suspension (amongst other consequences) with many of these offenses being tied to pledgeship activities.
The transition from traditional pledgeship to the Balanced Man Program arguably was an effort to mitigate risk both to the wellbeing of brothers and to the continued growth of this fraternity. A number of other fraternal organizations have followed in the steps of SigEp by adopting their own non-pledgeship models of initiating members, such as Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s “True Gentleman Experience”. For those that still rely on “traditional pledgeship” as their means of initiating members into brothers, many are showing signs that they are opting for temporary solutions as responses to issues with their chapters, such as mandatory reduced pledgeship periods.