The Sacred Purpose Blog

SexualAssaultAM
As many of you know, our goal within Sacred Purpose is to educate not only ourselves but our members and communities about issues that the American college student faces. One of the most important topics is Sexual Assault and Misconduct prevention on college campuses today. Sexual assaults are most likely to happen between the months of August and October and are not limited to women. It is important to note men are victims of sexual assault as well.

Suffice it to say: we must do more, and it starts with us.

I’ve heard it said once before. “Silence is complicity. Silence—you’re an accessory.” Strong, but fair words about the culpability of bystanders who do nothing.

But what can or should we do as Greek men, exactly? How do we combat the systemic bias towards sexual assault reporting? The answer may seem easy, but it will take work.

  • Engage in prevention programing.
    • Partner with groups on campus and show solidarity with these issues. Your chapter might not be the problem, but your chapter can be a part of the solution.
  • Help your campus partners design and implement customized programing for Fraternities and Sororities.
  • Participate in training on how to effectively respond when a friend or family member discloses an incident of sexual misconduct.

Hold your university to account and get the education and training YOU need to be a better advocate for sexual assault prevention. Things like:

  • Providing bystander intervention training
  • Ongoing education starting your freshman year and continuing through graduate school
  • Making information regarding on-campus efforts to stem intimate partner violence available to all students
  • Engaging men in conversations regarding sexual assault

Your ability to help in any capacity is about sending a strong message to your campus community about your commitment to helping prevent sexual assault and misconduct.

SAAM

Bystander Intervention Tips

  • Talk to your friends honestly and openly about sexual assault.
  • Don’t be a bystander – if you see something, intervene in any way you can.
  • Trust your gut. If something looks like it might be a bad situation it probably is.
  • Be direct. Ask someone who looks like they may need help if they’re okay.
  • Get someone to help you if you see something – enlist a friend, RA, bartender, or host to help step in.
  • Keep an eye on someone who has had too much to drink.
  • If you see someone who is too intoxicated to consent, enlist their friends to help them leave safely.
  • Recognize the potential danger of someone who talks about planning to target another person at a party.
  • Be aware if someone is deliberately trying to intoxicate, isolate, or corner someone else.
  • Get in the way by creating a distraction, drawing attention to the situation, or separating them.
  • Understand that if someone does not or cannot consent to sex, it’s rape.
  • Never blame the victim.

 

If you are a victim, a survivor or helping someone in that situation go to http://www.notalone.gov to get the resources and information you need. You can also call theNational Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.

During the 2015-2016 school year as a Field Executive for Theta Chi Fraternity, I conducted visits at over 25 chapters and colonies from Terre Haute, Indiana all the way up to Oswego, New York. Every time a visit is conducted a Field Executive makes a presentation to the chapter on the policies of FIPG (Fraternal Information & Programming Group). The policies of FIPG cover four main areas: Alcohol and Drugs, Hazing, Sexual Abuse and Harassment, and Fire/Life Safety (http://fipg.org/). Fire/Life Safety remains an important area for our chapters to focus on.

fire-safety

That’s why I wanted to discuss some simple ways to make sure your living quarters are safe from a fire. Here are a few of the FIPG guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Meeting local fire, health, and safety codes/complying with engineering standards are best done through the owner of the property whether it’s an alumni corporation, the school or a 3rd party landlord.
  • If you see something unsafe, speak up!
  • Posting emergency phone numbers (fire/police/ambulance) in common areas is an extremely easy task. Create, print, and hang up.
  • Having evacuation routes posted on the back of each door throughout the house is also a must.
  • Possessing a gun is often not permissible on college campuses and never in fraternity houses. Most, if not all, school police stations have gun lockers free for students to use.
  • Candles can make your room smell like a gingerbread house; they can also turn the house into a giant campfire. If you are really determined to make your room smell better check your local grocery store. Plug-in air fresheners cost no more than $2 apiece.

Is your house in need of renovations to make it safer and more livable for current and future generations of Theta Chi brothers? The Norwich Housing Corporation, a not-for-profit lender that provides housing loans to alumni-led house corporations associated with chapters of Theta Chi Fraternity, offers Life Safety Loans for these types situations. These loans are offered for financing housing upgrades that are necessary for the reduction of serious safety risks. For more information visit https://www.thetachi.org/the-norwich-housing-corporation/. If you believe that your house would qualify for this loan and are interested email Jim Powell, Chief Financial Officer and Associate Executive Director at JPowell@thetachi.org.

For more information, check out these past blog posts written by Brother Peter Mulvihill, Epsilon/Worcester Polytechnic Institute, ’78. Pete is the chapter advisor for our Beta Phi chapter at Nevada.  He is the recently retired Nevada State Fire Marshal.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

Nick Hoke, Field Executive

The night of September 28, 2014, I received a phone call as I pulled into my driveway. I expected the voice on the other end to radiate positive energy as I had grown accustomed to over the years. Katelyn Katsafanas is the type of person I aspire to be, day in and day out. When my name comes up on someone’s phone, I want to give off that energy too. Unfortunately, when I answered, the conversation that happened was not what I had expected. Katelyn needed my help. A brother needed my help.

Katelyn was dating my pledge brother and best friend, Parker Jordan.


To say Parker and I were close would be an understatement. We received our bids to join Theta Chi Fraternity at the University of Alabama together and from that point on, we forged a relationship that could rival George Strait and Pat Green’s any day. Everyone knew it—we were Texans and like any person blessed to be born in the greatest state in the Union, we were damn proud of it.

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Over the years, Parker would come to my family home in Mobile for Mardi Gras and I would play golf with him at his home course in Fort Worth. It was obvious; we were put here to entertain each other and to make lasting memories throughout our time at Alabama. More than friends, we were brothers.


The conversation that came from that phone call shocked me more than anything up to that point in my life. She told me she was worried about Parker. More than worried, actually. She was scared he may hurt himself.

Parker and Katelyn were always upbeat, happy, fun, loud, and the life of the party. She was an amazing match for him, and from the outside looking in, things were perfect in their often glowing little world.

We didn’t know about the demons waging war inside of him. The treacherous mine field Parker was living in was something none of us could comprehend. Katelyn knew I needed to be with Parker in that moment and I could feel it in my bones, she was right.

I remember the conversation we had that night. We talked about school. Parker was in a grueling intermediate accounting course and his ability to think clearly was starting to fade. The stress just intensified the feelings of self-doubt already blurring his thoughts. He was worried he wouldn’t make the grades he needed to get into our local Accounting Honor Society. Parker was making A’s and B’s on all his tests, but still he was overwhelmed. I felt like he was better after we talked it through. Sometimes, we just need someone to talk to. I wanted to sleep on his couch that evening but he insisted he was okay. Before I left, we set up a meeting for him with our Dean of Students office and talked about how Katelyn contacted his family.

He promised me, in a tear filled hug, he would not hurt himself. I told him I loved him and headed home.

At this point, an entire support system was beginning to form around Parker. Our Vice President of Health and Safety, Johnston Watkins and a few brothers noticed Parker wasn’t himself and began to check in on him, regularly. This group didn’t even know about the rest of us doing what we could to help Parker. They knew the oaths they took to watch after each other and were living our creed. This was the Fraternity in its most pure form. Brothers looking out for one another and doing everything they could to help. We are our brother’s keeper to the best of our ability.


Parker took his own life, 2 years ago today.


As I write these words, tears still fall. Two years later the pain is still very raw and very real, but I firmly believe on that day, Parker knew he was loved. Mental illness is scary. Modern science still struggles to understand all of its intricacies, just as we do, with those we love suffering from it every day. We will never understand why Parker choose to leave us but the events which followed that horrible day provide comfort for us all.

I have never felt the full breadth of our brotherhood as I did in the days that followed Parker’s death. I was the Chapter President at the time and the outpouring from brothers from around the country was astounding. Hundreds of emails, calls, and texts flooded my phone. If you are reading this today and were one of those people who sent your condolences: Thank You. Your love and support is what this Fraternity truly embodies.

Over the past two years, tens of thousands of dollars for mental health research have been raised in Parker’s name. Right now, a Parker Jordan Memorial Scholarship is being created. Dedicated people who loved Parker have managed to create some good out of this tragedy.theta-chi-2015-suicide-prevention-walk

Nothing will bring Parker back. I desperately wish I had the power to do that. The power I do have is to honor him by living the life we often discussed together.

For the readers still with me here, I hope this inspires you to never take a moment for granted. To be cognizant when considering the health, physical and mental, of those around you. Recognize the signs of depression and suicidal tendencies early and never hesitate to act.

 

Marcus Gibson (Alpha Phi/Alabama 2015)

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Editor’s note: It is important to recognize the signs of depression and suicidal thoughts. Below are a list of warning signs as well as resources for yourself or those you know who might be in danger of hurting themselves. Make sure you understand your role and promote the intervention of professionals. If someone tells you they want to take their life,  offer help and compassion but know there are ways to ensure their safety too. You can report the threat to the police and in most situations, they can physically intervene and take them to a safe place.

According to the Mayo Clinic, suicide warning signs or suicidal thoughts include:

  • Talking about suicide — for example, making statements such as “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead” or “I wish I hadn’t been born”
  • Getting the means to take your own life, such as buying a gun or stockpiling pills
  • Withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone
  • Having mood swings, such as being emotionally high one day and deeply discouraged the next
  • Being preoccupied with death, dying or violence
  • Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation
  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
  • Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
  • Doing risky or self-destructive things, such as using drugs or driving recklessly
  • Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there’s no other logical explanation for doing this
  • Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again
  • Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated, particularly when experiencing some of the warning signs listed above

 

 

Click here to find Support for yourself or someone you know

1 (800) 273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

College. We’re adults now. We’ve heard a thing or two about the birds and the bees. It’s a time when many people begin to have sexual experiences. Whether or not it’s your first time, sex should be an enjoyable and consensual experience.

But then there’s drunk sex. In college you learn you might like alcohol; you might like to have sex. So is it a good idea to put the two together? The truth is, a lot of people are having drunk sex. It happens. People get drunk, have sex, and they might even think it’s consensual.Drunksex3

Picture This

You’re at a bar and having a few drinks when you notice someone. They’re having a drink too. You two hit it off right away and your flirt game is better than ever. What are the odds? One thing leads to another and you end up back at their place.

Now it’s morning.

Do you remember asking for consent, or did you wake up  and not even think about it?

Alcohol affects everyone differently. There is no way for you to tell if another person may be too intoxicated to give consent. They may wake up in the morning and realize that they were taken advantage of while under the influence, regardless of what you thought in the moment. Again, if alcohol is involved, there is NO WAY for you to tell if a person is capable of giving consent.

The news headlines blare: “Fraternity Guy Takes Advantage of Drunk College Girl.”

Maybe it seems unlikely to you that this can happen. You’re a “good guy” who doesn’t want to take advantage of anyone. The reality is, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 1 in 5 college aged women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.

The best way to avoid sexually assaulting someone is to obtain consent. Each state legally defines consent in its own way. While this may seem confusing, RAIIN.org explains the three main components each state uses to define consent: freely given consent, affirmative consent, and capacity to consent. Our focus today is a person’s capacity to give consent. In many states, if a person has consumed any alcohol whatsoever, they legally DO NOT have the capacity to give consent.

You may ask: “So even if they said yes, verbally, enthusiastically, and we were both drunk, this can be considered rape? So every time I had drunk sex, I risked committing a sexual assault?”

Well; yeah.

Women are often taught ways to avoid being raped: Stay with friends, pour your own drinks, carry pepper spray, etc., but as a man, a fraternity man, what should we be taught? A good first step is opening the discussion on what consent is, and how and when to obtain it. Understand the fact that consent isn’t just a onetime question, but a continuous conversation. Realize that any amount of alcohol negates consent. Educate your members on effective bystander intervention and the role brothers can take to prevent sexual assault throughout the entire community. It is our Sacred Purpose to prevent sexual assaults, because even one is too many.

 

When you ask for consent, you respect the answer. Period.

drunksex

If you’re having trouble understanding consent, here’s a helpful video:

https://youtu.be/oQbei5JGiT8

teaconsent

PJ Ricketson, Field Executive

Three weeks ago this Saturday, the game changed.

Every year, thousands of collegians on campuses all across North America participate in leadership events, community building exercises, self-help seminars, personal development, team building trainings, and countless other activities which will ultimately define who they become once they leave their college/university. This has been the standard for decades for members of Greek letter organizations. Get your education but also live and learn outside the classroom. While the intent has always been there, fraternities have not always been the best at being able to quantify and articulate exactly what the fraternal experience is. This all changed July 23, 2016, when we launched The Resolute Man.

The feeling in the room was electrifying. As I began to field questions during the launch and in the days that followed I could see the wheels start to turn in the minds of our collegians and for some, I could see when it clicked.

CamRMSP“This is what we have been waiting for!” one brother quipped. “Resolute Man will make is so much easier for me to explain to non-members or even their parents the benefits of fraternity membership,” said another brother.

The Resolute Man for all intents and purposes is a road map to getting the most out of your collegiate experience. It highlights educational and experiential opportunities for collegians to fully engage in, not only through their academic pursuits on campus, but it also serves as pathway to instill leadership and social competency into their own personal and eventually professional lives.

It is true, the Resolute Man is a four-year journey for our collegiate members. What is truly special about Resolute Man is it purposely absorbs and adopts the tenets of Sacred Purpose; something which, when done correctly, can have a great impact on the lives of our entire membership and not just a single member.

Sacred Purpose’s mission is to foster a sense of responsibility in the protection of our brothers and our communities. The pillars of Sacred Purpose can all be traced back to the idea of creating true friendships rooted in learning and caring for one another. This can been seen in the updated leadership structure within local chapters, new advisor roles dedicated to health and safety, and the over 800 events created and implemented over the past two years. Creating opportunities for our collegians to have critical conversations with their chapter and their communities is one of the most rewarding aspects of our collective Sacred Purpose.

The Resolute Man makes it a priority for any collegian going through this journey to not only attend Sacred Purpose events put on by his chapter, it also requires them to help plan and implement an event themselves. A Resolute Man is a leader in his chapter and on his campus and through Sacred Purpose a Resolute Man is dedicated to the safety of his brothers and his community.

COKEBOTTLESrmSP

History was made in Theta Chi Fraternity with the Resolute Man and Sacred Purpose is an essential part of this historic move. I cannot wait to watch our collegians and eventually our alumni (myself included) achieve this historic distinction.

For more information, CLICK HERE

Summer-The warmest season of the year, in the northern hemisphere from June to August. What student doesn’t love this season? It’s when the rigorsNick Hoke
of classwork slow down. It’s that time of year where you don’t have to peel off multiple layers as soon as you walk into a building. Finally, after months, you are able to escape the rattling indoor heat to indulge in the sights and smells of the great outdoors. Most students see this as a time to kick back and do, literally, nothing. Why not instead, take advantage of the opportunities available to you during this break?

 

Here are some tips to help make the most of your summer.

 

Get a job/internship

Are your dues owed by the time everyone gets back for fall semester? Planning on a spring break trip next year? What about formal? These things all require a good amount of money, but if you start working and saving over summer, it’ll be much easier to manage. The scope of jobs and internships available for college students is vast, but they all can help you plan for a great year, while at the same time provide you with real world work experience. The great part about this is that you are choosing it. If you get an offer for an internship that you aren’t excited about, look around for another opportunity.  Summer offers something we normally don’t have an excess of: time. Regardless of the path you take with a summer job or internship, the experience could provide opportunity for full-time employment after you graduate. At a minimum, you’ll meet new people and expand your network.

Take a class

A lot of majors have that one required class that nearly everyone seems to struggle with (organic chem. FTW). Taking it during the summer is a great chance to earn a better grade. You have the opportunity to take one class at a time and won’t have other coursework to distract you. Yes, having class during the summer is not ideal having fun, however ask yourself: Do I really want to take this class along with a full course load? Equally, it could also be a chance to take a class that interests you, but you haven’t been able to fit into your regular course load. Just because you’re a molecular biology major doesn’t mean you should bar yourself from taking a stab at that sculpture or piano class. Don’t be scared to try something new.

Establish a workout routine

Summer is a great time to start a workout schedule. Due to the nice weather gyms often offer great deals during the summer to attract more customers (I used to pay $60 for 3 months during the summer with free parking at my school’s rec center). With the warmer weather you can create a mixture of inside and outside exercise routines to keep you invigorated. Developing an effective workout schedule in the summer gives you time to build a habit and perfect it towards your needs. By the time fall semester starts up, it will be that much easier to continue and give you an outlet whenever a break from classes and studying are needed.

Make time for yourself

Whether it is reading a book on the sunny veranda or hitting the links for a round of 18, making time for your own enjoyment is essential. Summer is a great time to decompress from all the hours of studying from the past school year. It also gives you time to hang out with friends and family. Enjoy this beautiful season before reality hits, once again.

Summer never seems to be long enough (especially up in the north). Instead of spending your entire summer on a couch do something to help better yourself. Don’t worry, Netflix will still be there once the cold weather hits again.

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Nick Hoke, Field Executive

Addiction doesn’t always start in a back alley. Addiction often starts in the medicine cabinet of your own home. Addiction is an indiscriminate, chronic disease that can dismantle whole communities given the chance. You can come from a suburban bubble, rural town, culturally diverse neighborhood, single parent household, all the privilege in the world, or none; addiction knows no bounds.

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This topic has been on my mind lately after realizing drug overdoses now take more lives every year than traffic accidents. I have been struggling with how to write a compelling post on a topic I have no direct experience with. I do not personally suffer from drug addiction and to be completely honest, I couldn’t recall anyone in my immediate circle who is. That’s the weird thing about addiction though, it hides in plain sight. Your parents, siblings, neighbors, fraternity brothers, classmates, colleagues, and friends could all be struggling to live with their addiction and you would never know it by looking at them. This made the gears in my brain begin to rotate.

I’ve heard it said before that college is a dangerous place. Dangerous because it is the place you go where your beliefs are tested, your opinions are scrutinized, and any preconceived notion about how other people live is often shattered. You meet people from higher and lower socio-economic standing, different races, different religions and, different expectations of what college is supposed to be.

I met a student named Bob once. I was in a position to help Bob get into college. He wasn’t a traditional aged prospective student, but somehow Bob’s application ended up on my desk. When we sat down to talk face to face I could tell there was something he was struggling with but from a professional standpoint, I was not the person he needed to speak with. Then the topic of housing came up. Bob opened up, explaining he was recently released from a substance abuse recovery center and was unsure of the best housing option for him.

People often ask what motivates me and my answer is consistent; I want to feel like I’m helpful.

In this moment, I knew Bob needed my help. He didn’t need my help to combat his addictions (I am severely underqualified to help in that regard) but what I could do was be empathetic and point him in the right direction. At this point in his recovery he was ready to tackle college again. I never asked Bob about his past or his recovery but I knew what was ahead of him. An often precarious place, college can harbor temptations and resources an addict would need to relapse. College is an easy place to experience a setback. College is a dangerous place.

After a few meetings with Bob over the course of a summer, we worked together to get his paperwork in line so he could begin course work in the fall. Once he was enrolled, our paths did not cross again for a number of years. My purpose in Bob’s life was served and I was able to yield whatever power I had to get him started in the right direction. Knowing my own college experience and knowing the landscape of universities today, I would often think about what he was up to. Was he still abstaining from whatever he was recovering from? Did he give in? Did he find a group? Is he even enrolled? All of the thoughts would come in random bursts, but as we all know,  life comes at you pretty fast. In the interim from our last encounter Bob was not part of my thought process any longer. Other students with other challenges came through my door and I did my job to help them navigate their way to begin a college career. It wasn’t until an all staff meeting, years later, did Bob reappear in my life.

Bob’s name was on the agenda in the spot we normally reserve for campus professionals. They would come to tell us about new initiatives their department had coming up or to ask for our assistance during an all campus event. When I walked into the meeting, Bob was in the front of the room in a suit and tie (a far cry from his camo shorts, backwards hat and flip flops I was accustomed to seeing him in). Bob was ready and waiting to present on a Collegiate Recovery Program he and a few other students in recovery were launching on our campus.

He lived his life, as I then found out, actively abusing mind altering substances for 10 years before he sought treatment. I sat and listed to an impassioned man discuss the systemic biases the general public and some universities hold in regards to recovering students. He outlined their plan to help students in recovery feel wanted on a large campus and engage them in ways that would not interfere with their long-term recovery. Their group had the backing from campus administration and were in the talks of acquiring a wing of a residence hall specifically for recovering students. His purpose for coming to our meeting was to get the word out. He knew my department was considered the front porch to the university. Having this knowledge in our back pockets could lead other students to them and could possibly move students closer to recovery.

As he spoke I wondered if he remembered who I was. There had to have been at least twenty more impactful people in his life since we had met. I could point out a few when he was discussing  who he had partnered with on campus. After taking questions he addressed the group but looked in my direction and said “thank you”. As Bob was walked out he headed in my direction and I stood up, really unsure of what I was going to say but before the words came out of my mouth,  his intentions were clear:

“I remember you. I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t help. Thank you for believing in me.”

I know my small role in his life is not what kept him in long-term recovery but his acknowledgement is what keeps me grounded in the work I do. The small things I did to help a student get into college had become one of the turning points in his life. I was part of his long-term recovery. The magnitude of his appreciation was strongly felt by me and in that moment I knew what I did mattered. What we do as educators, administrators, friends, colleagues, brothers, and human beings matter.

Bob graduated last weekend with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. He did this while simultaneously winning national awards for his advocacy, being selected as one of the top 40 student leaders on his campus, becoming a certified Peer Recovery Specialist, and joining a fraternity.

This fall, Bob is on his way to an Ivy League school to work on a Master’s Degree in Social Work to continue in his pursuit to be an advocate for those like him, in long-term recovery.

Collegiate Recovery Programs are all across North America with many being on our host campuses. The mission of CRP is to meet the needs of this growing population of recovering young adults as they pursue their educations. Several colleges and universities have also developed collegiate recovery communities to help young adults in recovery maintain their abstinence while in school. The primary goal of these communities is to provide a safe haven for young adult students who are struggling to maintain their hard-won abstinence while surrounded by resources to enable their addictions.

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For a full list of universities  click here.

Need help with substance abuse? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.

After traveling across the country and visiting with numerous chapters who differ in every way imaginable, I couldn’t help but notice at least one similarity across the board: every Vice President of Health and Safety (VPHS) had slightly different definitions of what their role was in the chapter. Some would say, “I’m the bro other bros can come to with problems” while others would express “I’m the dude who puts on events and encourages less partying.”

Taylor

While all have some semblance of truth at their core, they all miss the mark on the original intent of the position and how it has evolved to address the needs of the ever-changing Greek landscape. It is imperative every VPHS fully understands why Sacred Purpose came to be, their role in the chapter, as well as how to bring our Sacred Purpose to a community wide level, and beyond.

If you google “fraternities” your search results would be riddled with informational links and unfortunately the majority of the info you see would be negative content. Articles sometime range from alcohol abuse statistics among fraternity groups, to hazing allegations, and even the tragic death of undergraduate members. The idea these stories have become a normal narrative in Greek life is the very reason Sacred Purpose came to fruition. The word “sacred” is used intentionally and is not to be taken lightly. Our Founders took an oath to protect and support one another, with the understanding that today’s members would continue their legacy.

Caring for others is the highest expression of courage and true friendship. The mission of Sacred Purpose is simple: Develop a deeper level of mutual caring for one another, in turn, strengthening the brotherhood and the community as a whole.

The VPHS is the embodiment of Sacred Purpose and their role is twofold. He should be a resource to the members for emotional, physical and relational strength, while at the same time educating the chapter to do the same. He should cultivate working relationships with campus and community health and safety professionals who can support the mission.

The VHPS should be on a first name basis with offices that promote health and safety initiatives on their campus. Counseling centers, university health centers, campus Title IX coordinators, police and fire departments are all resources that should be utilized to maximize the effectiveness of this position and our Sacred Purpose. These trained professionals can assist in our efforts to host community wide events to shed light on tough topics like sexual assault prevention, mental/physical health, or life safety best practices.

The Sacred Purpose movement is unique to Theta Chi and is at the forefront of making health and safety a priority among Greeks. The VPHS serves an invaluable role which needs to be accepted with passion, responsibility, and accountability. Our Sacred Purpose is gaining traction and starting to be recognized by friends and allies in the general population. Critical conversations are being had in our chapter houses and on campuses across North America, and the VHPS is keeping the dialogue going. It is time to put an end to the negative perception fraternities have in the public eye and start a productive conversation on how Greek life can make a positive impact on its members and campuses as a whole.

We cannot simply say we are “…ennobled by a high and sacred purpose…” We have to live it.

Taylor Dahlem, Field Executive

Death is a harrowing ordeal. Death can bring friends and families closer together or drive them apart. Death can mobilize people into action or leave them in a perpetual haze; unable to act. I have witnessed the maelstrom of emotion evoked by the death of a loved one, but nothing has brought  more heartbreak to me than suicide.

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I once knew a man who had everything you could want; an elite education, a great family, an adoring niece and nephew, countless friends, enough money to live a comfortable life, and a thirst for adventure. He had been well spoken, but not verbose. Approachable, but reserved being more his style. He knew his way around a room and it had been clear when he spoke, his intellect shined through.

A year and a half ago this man took his own life. A year and a half ago a friend, a brother, an uncle, a son, a cousin, and so many other things to so many people decided enough was enough and ended his life.

Still today, I struggle with the idea of him being gone. He will never again light up someone’s face when he enters a room. This feeling still lingers in my brain. He never seemed unhappy to me. Constantly traveling. Constantly learning. A man of many talents with an abundance of wealth (and not just the monetary kind). He was one of the most educated people I had ever met and his laughter had been contagious. His thoughtfulness, patience, and compassion was ever-present but above all else, he seemed so together. Always in the moment when you were with him and you could see in his eyes he genuinely felt love for you as a person.

But underneath it all, deep down, hidden from everyone he knew, a dark and tormented mind became overwhelming. The constant pressure to do and be more was an unbearable burden he could not withstand. So, on a Wednesday evening, after an ordinary day in the life of my friend, he went to sleep with the intention of never waking up again.

You kick yourself around thinking, “what could I have done?” or “why didn’t he talk about it” but unfortunately for us, the ones who are left to pick up the pieces, we will never know. We will never   fully understand why.

I miss him often. We all do. It comes at some of the most random times. Passing a picture on my refrigerator with his face staring back at me, my mind suddenly becomes thrust into the moment I found out. Thankfully, over time, those thoughts quickly move to the times we shared together and not just the tragic end we all experienced. I see his features in pictures of his niece and nephew and think of what they will miss out on, not being able to fully comprehend at the time he wasn’t coming back. No more soccer matches, no more birthday parties, no more impromptu visits because he missed them. They will never really get it and maybe that’s a blessing. I don’t know enough about the cognitive development of children to accurately describe what death does to them emotionally or developmentally, but for me, it hurt. Still, today, it hurts.

Many of us compartmentalize our emotions. Truth be told, it’s a coping mechanism for myself, but for those who are suicidal, it may be how they get through the day. Pushing things down and off to the side sometimes becomes the way they seem so together and happy when they need to be. These struggles are internal and often they will never see the light of day because of how adept their owner has become and concealing them.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there is one death by suicide every 12.3 minutes. Suicide among males is four times higher than females, and the prevalence of suicidal thoughts, planning and attempts is significantly higher among adults aged 18-29 than among adults 30+. This information is jarring. Even the act of looking up these statistics makes me fearful for the men in our organization who feel so trapped in their own mind that the only way out is to take their own life.

According to the Mayo Clinic, suicide warning signs or suicidal thoughts include:

  • Talking about suicide — for example, making statements such as “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead” or “I wish I hadn’t been born”
  • Getting the means to take your own life, such as buying a gun or stockpiling pills
  • Withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone
  • Having mood swings, such as being emotionally high one day and deeply discouraged the next
  • Being preoccupied with death, dying or violence
  • Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation
  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
  • Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
  • Doing risky or self-destructive things, such as using drugs or driving recklessly
  • Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there’s no other logical explanation for doing this
  • Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again
  • Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated, particularly when experiencing some of the warning signs listed above

But what do you do when you see someone you care for exhibiting these or others like it?

Your willingness to talk about mental or emotional issues and suicide with a friend, family member, or co-worker can be the first step in getting them help and preventing suicide. Something to keep in mind is to never minimize or shame a person into changing their mind. Trying to guilt them into not going forward with it will only deepen their guilt and hopelessness. When someone is suicidal, they are often not mentally able to make decisions and desperately need intervention by others. Reassuring them help is available and the feelings they are having are treatable is key.  If someone tells you they want to take their life,  offer help and compassion but know there are ways to ensure their safety too. You can report the threat to the police and in most situations, they can physically intervene and take them to a safe place.

Life can get better.

My take away from this experience is to not allow a moment to pass you by when you think, “I could have said something.” We can all say something and having an emotionally open dialogue with our brothers, friends and family about suicide is an important first step in prevention.

For more information about Suicide and Suicide Prevention follow the links below

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education

1 (800) 273-8255  National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

 

 

For KMT.

A few weeks ago I was invited to The White House. Take a minute to let that sink in. This guy from Texas was invited to represent Theta Chi Fraternity at The White House. Only 24 hours have passed since I was sitting in a room with about 100 other folks and I still cannot believe it happened.

Get to the point – okay, I hear you.

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I was invited on behalf of It’s On Us to represent Theta Chi Fraternity and, on a larger scale, Greek life across America to honor ten students who are doing extraordinary things to make a difference on their college campuses for sexual assault awareness and prevention.

Why was it important to have Greeks represented at this event? The Greek System is the largest network of volunteers in the U.S. Members of Greek life donate over 10 million hours of volunteer service annually and have roughly 750,000 active undergraduate members in 12,000 chapters on more than 800 campuses. Greek students are Student Body Presidents and Vice Presidents. Greek students are founders of spirit clubs and consistently the most involved on any given campus, year in and year out. Suffice it to say their circle of influence is vast. So what can we do as Greeks to bring about positive change on our campuses? Start the conversation.

The It’s On Us campaign is committed to ending sexual assault on college campuses in America. The campaign, starting in the fall of 2014, asks that we all take personal accountability for preventing campus sexual assault by working as a team and fully realizing it is on ALL of us to make the change. It’s On Us puts the control in the student’s hands and empowers individuals on campuses to affect positive change. It’s On Us asks individuals to take The Pledge. This pledge is a personal commitment to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault. It’s a promise not to be a bystander to the problem, but to be a part of the solution. Taking the pledge is the first step.

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The It’s On Us Champions of Change honored 10 students who have done some amazing things on their campuses. Jessica Davidson, a Chi Omega and Student Body Vice President of the University of Denver, led the charge in making comprehensive sexual assault prevention education and policy changes. She became a part of a national conversation on sexual assault with her blog post landing on the front page of the Huffington Post. Malayna Hasmanis is a Phi Mu and the founding member and president of Greeks Against Sexual Assault at Grand Valley State University. For the last four years, Claire Kelling has coordinated Take Back the Night at Virginia Tech and will begin her pursuit of a PhD in Statistics to bring the power of data analytics into the conversation.

These are just three examples of how students are leading the effort to eradicate sexual assault on college campuses.

Vice President of the United States of America Joe Biden has been an advocate for the end of violence towards women for over three decades. He too was in attendance yesterday. He addressed the audience for more than 30 minutes about how important this cause is to him. With the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, written by Biden himself, he began to slowly erode the age old established notion that domestic violence was a family issue. His words resonated with the crowd when he said “nothing short of changing the way women are treated on college campuses and high schools will be treated as a success. We can change the culture.” The Vice President made it clear when he closed with this statement: “My goal is setting the foundation so your generation, when you drop off your son or daughter at college, you will not have the feeling in the back of your mind ‘will they be a victim of abuse?’”

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Many Theta Chi chapters across North America have taken the pledge, and have even organized events with It’s On Us to raise awareness. Gamma Tau/Drake University has used their influence on campus to create change. Iota Sigma/Towson, Zeta Sigma/ Wisconsin-River Falls created their own PSAs taking the pledge. Alpha Mu/ Iowa State hosted a sexual assault and domestic violence candle light vigil reflection for students and faculty on their campus. More and more chapters are participating in events hosted by other organizations with the single goal of letting their fellow students know, they are not alone.

We as men of Theta Chi Fraternity are charged with extending a Helping Hand to all who seek it. It is our obligation to help others and to find them help. We have to look in the mirror and ask ourselves every day, “am I doing everything I can?” As corny as it sounds, we are the future of humanity. If we are able to affect a cultural shift that pushes us away from the idea that intimate partner violence and sexual assault is okay, we will take that shift into the work force, into our own homes, and eventually into the lives of our children.

“When men can stand up and start conversations and end the jokes about rape and vulnerability, then we can have culture change.”- Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States.

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