Saturday, May 4, 2013


I’m a proud lifetime member of Sigma Phi Epsilon and one who has benefitted greatly from my fraternity association.  The Sig Eps provided mentorship, brotherhood and a goal- oriented, leadership building path for me to follow - all thanks to Big Brother Bud Moore. All but one of my Buxton Brothers were Greek including one who is a fellow Sig Ep. My Dad was a Phi Delta Theta as were three generations of Buxtons before him.  Dad was wearing his Phi Delt ring when he passed to his great reward. Grandfather Littlefield was a DTD at Dartmouth.  No, we don’t think the Greek system broken as some – mostly from outside the system – might suggest.  It does take a far more mature approach and commitment to honestly benefit and forward the very positive agenda of the Greek Fraternity and Sorority system. Having said that, not all initiates ultimately prove their worthiness. It is a lifelong quest
Fraternities by their very nature are highly selective and discriminate in order to attract and retain those with the highest character and personality that will not only benefit from but also contribute to the goals and mission of their organizations.  They mostly get it right but occasionally poor decisions are made though some hope that their positive influence will allow for ultimate success.  The Sig Ep Balanced Man Program follows that path.  The news is full of those who pervert or skew what fraternity is all about though the greater majority of the time those organizations bring honor and glory to their name.  The goals of developing character, leadership skills, philanthropy and camaraderie based on “the love of God and the principle of peace through Brotherhood” are impressive and achievable.  What happened at SMU recently demonstrates that we have some work to do though we caution that despite some already drawn conclusions, all is not necessarily what it appears to be.

From what we have been able to determine, it is alleged that several members of Lambda Chi Alpha (LXA) were caught engaging what they call – pranking – in this case, the ritual spray painting of the now iconic red front door of the Sig Ep House.  One of the LXA members ended up in the Sig Ep house and whether voluntarily or forced (that is yet to be determined), claims that he was beaten and held against his will. This alleged response, if proved, however perceived as well deserved, was as bad as or worse than the prank.   Our Red Door – long a symbol of welcome - has been the target of vandals and misguided pranksters - many times alcohol motivated - who think it funny to desecrate one of the more sacred symbols of our organization.   

Indeed, mischievous members of other fraternities or pretenders haven’t just singled out the Sig Eps historically.  In that same spirit other immature ne’er-do-wells have painted, tarred and feathered and even urinated on the SAE lions - even removed Greek letters from fraternity houses. We could go on and on with examples of immature behavior from so-called future leaders (no boys will be boys here…).

SMU and their University Police have come to the conclusion that four Sig Eps were, “guilty of violations of the SMU Student Code of Conduct and University policies, as well as the standards and values of the fraternity itself."  We note that they are also facing criminal charges “stemming from the attack.” SMU then suspended Sigma Phi Epsilon for two years though it now appears they could be back on campus as early as the fall of 2014.

While we abhor and do not condone the alleged immature, over-the-top response by some SMU Sig Eps, we think this looks an awful lot like “who threw the first punch?”  We ask, What about Lambda Chi whose members were surely complicit in the “prank” against the Sig Eps that prompted the response?  The defense mounted by the Sig Eps legal counsel seems plausible coupled with an attempt by the Lambda Chis to deflect from their participation in this whole affair.  The Sig Eps didn’t “prank” anybody as reported in the media… They probably just threw that second punch…

Notice to those that engaged the vandalism against the Sig Eps and think it funny.  This was a violation of the SMU Code of Student Conduct and probably about a dozen laws of University Park, Texas.  If I were a member of the Texas Upsilon Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon and the identities of the perpetrators were ultimately determined, I would have recommended filing formal charges against all of them.  It was funny, you say…  See how funny it potentially is from the inside of a jail cell. It’s time to grow up.  

We certainly understand why some members of Sigma Phi Epsilon may have responded violently to the vandalism though there was no excuse for those behaviors.  If true, this was a grievous lapse in the basic philosophy of Sigma Phi Epsilon and our Balanced Man Program. These Brothers and probably some other members of that now suspended chapter now have to defend themselves and their reputation.  All need to heed the message that however justified they feel, taking the law into your own hands is unwise, illegal and not an option. We have been charged as Sig Eps to be different - to be above the Madding Crowd.  

We can’t allow violence to begat a violent response - a strategy that would most certainly be denounced by our Founders.  Surely the more mature and certainly the most responsible way to respond to this situation is not to, turn the other cheek,” rather call law enforcement and let them pursue the matter along with the University and the IFC. And how about an immediate ban on any tweets or other social media comments about the incident?   

So what of the role of Lambda Chi Alpha in this whole mess? It certainly appears that some of their members were responsible for the act that precipitated whatever the Sig Ep response was.  We wonder after having vandalized the Sig Ep house and losing one of their members, no attempt was made to retrieve him.  How about a knock on the door, an apology and offer to repair the damage? It will be interesting how the lawyers spin this one…

If it is legally determined that the Lambda Chi’s were complicit in the vandalism against the Sig Ep house (if it goes that far) then they should be as severely sanctioned as the Sig Eps and all other organizations who should be held responsible for violations of the law and the Code of Student Conduct by their members.  They need be held accountable to the university, their national organizations, law enforcement and ultimately their own conscience.

We noted that the SMU Lambda Chi’s had previously come under the scrutiny of their national headquarters for so called “risk management violations” in 2009 which resulted in the expulsion of 35 members of LXA in 2010.

Membership in a Greek Fraternity/Sorority is a privilege and a life-long commitment.  Like any organization, there are obligations which accompany membership - to abide by the principles of their Fraternity and charter.  They are only as good as their last at bat – in this case their last interaction with anybody whether it be Brother, Pledge, the University, fellow student or anybody else on or off the street.  If you can’t embrace and abide by the rules, regulations and by-laws of your sponsoring organization, University and local and national laws, then you don’t deserve to be a part of that group.  You have to continually prove that you deserve the honor and privilege of being embraced as a part of that group.  It’s an earned benefit not a right or entitlement – you earn those Sanguine et Purpure colors every day of the year for the rest of your life.

If you are looking for a good party or just another chance to push the boundaries of acceptable behaviors in an illegal cartel disguised as a fraternity, please don’t even approach the Sig Eps.  They’re working to get it right.  A little weed and feed across the board apparently wouldn’t hurt…

So, continue to counsel and remind Sig Eps and the members of all Greek Fraternities and Sororities of their pledge to embrace and live by their organization’s core values and continue to responsibly prepare themselves to be good citizens and stewards of our planet. They could be the last bastion and defenders of our way of life…

Ned Buxton

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