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Ritual and Social Distancing

The Ritual of Sigma Nu Fraternity is sacred. The performance, spoken words, stated values, symbols, and materials combine to powerfully articulate the importance of brotherhood and our commitment to one another. All members of Sigma Nu are called to treat The Ritual with reverence and respect. All chapters, and colonies when appropriate, are tasked with creating space to discuss and reflect upon The Ritual’s importance and to dutifully perform its ceremonies at meetings and times of induction, initiation, graduation, and remembrance. However, the pandemic has created challenges that complicate our Ritual practice.

Note, chapter should not engage in the use of The Ritual when meeting virtually as it is not possible to seat everyone, in particular the officers, according to Ritual and to use the Ritual items as prescribed by the ceremony. Also, when using certain services, the meeting can be, and sometimes is automatically, recorded.

Until members can safely gather closely in-person, changes and accommodations will need to be implemented to make sure that performances of The Ritual can be done in a manner that prioritizes the health of our members while maintaining reverence for the moment. The following guidelines should be considered by any chapter or colony that will host the performance of a ritual ceremony this academic year.

  • Observe State and Institution Expectations on Social Distancing. Policies and guidance on social distancing are expected to vary from state to state and institution to institution. It is important that each chapter and colony know and follow all expectations that apply to them specifically. For example, if a university has put into place a social gathering restriction of no more than twenty-five (25) people at an event, and the local chapter has a manpower of fifty (50), then the chapter must postpone or alter its ceremonies to meet that expectation.
  • Limit Attendance and/or Hold Multiple Ceremonies. Depending on the size of your expected audience or ceremony participants, chapters and colonies may find it difficult to meet social gathering restrictions. Using the example above, a chapter of fifty (50) would be unable to have all members of the chapter attend any of its ceremonies. To meet social gathering restrictions, chapters and colonies should consider reducing the size of the permitted audience and participants to only essential officers, alumni, and of course, the members going through the ceremony. Similarly, if a chapter or colony were to take a larger new member class, multiple ceremonies may need to be held to induct/initiate smaller groups of the larger class.
  • Maintain Six Feet Apart and Wear a Mask. Among the more common safety recommendations during the pandemic, these two tips should be incorporated into ritual ceremonies as well. As a standard rule, mask wearing is recommended for all chapter/colony activity. Maintaining six feet of distance during ritual ceremonies should also be prioritized. Chapters and colonies are encouraged to select rooms and venues that will allow for ritual stations and participants to be spaced apart at the appropriate distance. The chapter/colony is also encouraged to pre-mark spaces on the floor (painters’ tape is a great solution) so participants and officers can easily find their spot.
  • Wash Hands and Clean Venue/Materials Before and After Ceremony. Good hygiene is essential in this moment. Chapters and colonies should encourage everyone to wash their hands before and after the ceremony. The chapter/colony may also want to have hand sanitizer available. Additionally, the chapter/colony should also make plans to wipe down and disinfect the room and ritual materials before and after use.
  • Avoid Touching/Handshakes. Though alternatives to handshaking are not ideal for ritual ceremonies, handshaking and touching, in general, are discouraged. For ritual specific actions that call for individuals to shake hands and/or to come into contact with one another, chapters and colonies can modify these actions during the performance to eliminate personal contact (e.g. air high-five in lieu of handshake). However, the chapter/colony should be intentional here. Officers are encouraged to be upfront with ceremony participants about what they will experience and what has been altered to meet the moment. As a standard best practice, periods of reflection and discussion about the ceremony experience are encouraged after all performances of The Ritual. This period is ideal for breaking down aspects of the ceremony to provide detail and/or overviews of stage directions that may have been missed or altered.
  • Wear Gloves. This recommendation is primarily for officers, but gloves are encouraged for all members or at least those that will come into contact with other members and/or materials during the ceremony. Cloth, white gloves, like those provided in the hyperlink, are inexpensive and can still complement the formal attire encouraged for the ceremony. Gloves will also give the chapter more flexibility to adhere strictly to the stage directions of the ceremony.
  • Be Open Minded. Lastly, chapters and colonies are encouraged to be open minded regarding the changes that will need to be put into place to perform our ritual ceremonies in a safe and health-conscious way. Obviously, these changes are not ideal, but they are needed for the Fraternity to meet this moment. As we mentioned at the top, The Ritual powerfully articulates the importance of brotherhood and our commitment to one another. It is in that commitment that we must prioritize the health and safety of our members. The attitude we choose in adapting to what is needed also impacts the experiences our newest members receive. Believing that something is bad just because it is different manifests a bad experience. However thoughtful accommodations paired with intentional discussion embodies the reverence expected of our Ritual.

If you have any questions or need additional assistance with The Ritual, ritual materials, and social distancing expectations, please contact your chapter or colony’s Leadership Consultant.

© 2015-2021 Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc.
9 North Lewis Street, P.O. Box 1869, Lexington, Virginia 24450
Phone: (540) 463-1869 | Fax: (540) 463-1669 | Email: headquarters@sigmanu.org

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