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Woodby

Jeremiah Taylor Woodby


Rebecca Agosta
UWRT1103-007
17 November 2014
Freshman Decisions
This fraternity will be different (Jenkens, Gaw, Phillips). Often paraphrased,
I heard this statement many times during my rush experience and first several
months with Sigma Phi Epsilon. Active brothers so frequently referenced this
comment, it inspired more inquiry as to why it was so significant rather than
providing actual information about the fraternity. It was obviously a key factor in
the foundation of the organization I was considering joining, so I found it necessary
to ask what it really meant. This question led me to the history of the group, founded
in Richmond, Virginia in 1901 by Carter Ashton Jenkens, known as Sigma Phi
Epsilon. According to Jenkens, the fraternity would be different. He said it would be
based on the love of God and the principle of peace through brotherhood. I agreed
with both of these founding principles, but I knew, like all things, interpretations
change over time. My inquiry drove me to the current members of the NC Nu
chapter at UNC Charlotte.
Methods
I benefitted greatly during my search for knowledge through the fact that I
was and currently am a member of the discourse community I am researching. This
involvement allowed me to have an insiders perspective on who could give me
accurate information and validated opinions within the fraternity. For my main

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research method, I chose to interview a member of my fraternity. I emailed this


individual five questions about the chapter in order to not constrain his time and
allow him the freedom to truly consider his answers. I asked him questions that
were intended to reach beyond the superficial reasons he joined the fraternity and
why it was and still is an excellent choice for him. I hoped that through asking such
questions I would be able to analyze his answers and consider them when I asked
them to myself. I also dissected John Swales piece on discourse communities and
applied these characteristics to the fraternity that I have recently become a member
of. This will help me judge to what extent the fraternity fits the description of a
discourse community.
I chose Joshua Antonious to interview and provide representation the NC Nu
chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon. Josh was an excellent pick for the interview because of
his time and involvement within the group. He has been a part of the organization
for at least two years and is our chapters Chaplain, an executive position that sets
standards and enforces rules in the organization. His position deals heavily with
standards and has the ability to interpret what the fraternity stands for. Because I
was questioning whether or not my beliefs and standards align with NC Nus, Josh
was the best brother for me to interview. While providing wisdom and strong
opinions about the organization, Josh still maintains approachability, which proved
to be key for my research method and is also an excellent indicator of how the
fraternity is run.

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Analysis

Having such a strong opinion, Josh clearly stated what Sigma Phi Epsilon stands for
through his answers. For example when I asked the virtues that the fraternity
valued, he responded that honesty was at the forefront of our values. I also asked
about the role motivation played within the chapter with him responding that
without it, the fraternity would not be where it stands today as far as success goes.
The next question I inquired was about diligence and why it is vital for members of
our chapter. He elaborated of the fact that our fraternity is one of the most
successful chapter in the nation, statistically speaking, and that it is vital to our
success so far. Josh answered my question about what sort of connections he has
made through being involved with this fraternity by answering that the best
business connections that he has ever made originated with the organization. For
my final question, I asked about the different methods of communication that the
chapter utilized. He emphasized the importance of the chapter using technology the
not only communicate but manage responsibilities effectively. Josh answered each
question concisely and effectively, making my analyzation of his opinions a great
deal easier.
From being in Sigma Phi Epsilon just a short period of time, I have already
witnessed the majority of values he discussed with his answers. Honesty is clearly a
priority inside our chapter, and example of this is if one brother is lying and another
finds out, they will sit down, discuss it, and if no clear compromise or reason is
presented, the lying brother will be called upon in a chapter meeting to explain
himself and his actions. This example also dictates that integrity and accountability

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go hand-in-hand within the organization. Solely through the fact that our fraternity
has six leadership continuums, motivation can be seen within the chapter. Having
only been to the first and lowest tier of leadership academy, known as Edge, I was
very impressed that this program was the lowest tier because of its involvement
and the immediate impact it had on me as far as my level of motivation toward the
fraternity being changed. Diligence is especially significant to Sigma Phi Epsilon
when referring to behavior. At the beginning of the semester, we had a brother who
had allowed his behavior to slip on multiple occasions. This brother was brought
before the standards board and then expelled due to his lack of diligence. One of the
immediate benefits Ive seen to joining the fraternity is the connections aspect that
Josh spoke on. During only the semester Ive been a part of Sigma Phi Epsilon, Ive
been asked to apply for four separate job openings, applied for three, and received
two positions. These openings are all available because of brothers that Ive become
close with within the fraternity. The Chapter has turned to technology for media as
well as for recording dues paid and unpaid. This also implies adaptability as a
characteristic of the chapter, seen through the willingness to change with the
technological wave of the future. I feel as though Joshs answers were any accurate
description of the way that this fraternity operates.
The fraternity is a discourse community, which, according to a Linguistics
Professor at the University of Michigan by the name of John Swales, is defined by six
characteristics. These six characteristics are that a discourse community has a
broadly agreed set of common goals, a discourse community has methods of
intercommunication between its members, a discourse community uses

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participatory methods in order to provide feedback, a discourse community has at


least one or more genres dedicated to the furtherance of its aims, a discourse
community has gained several specific lexis, and finally, a discourse community has
a threshold level of members with a certain amount of experience.
A majority of the characteristics Swales explains can be applied to Sigma Phi
Epsilon. A broadly agreed set of common goals is set for the fraternity every time a
new school year begins, for example our fraternitys goal for this year may be to win
greek week. Methods of communication within the chapter range from formal
payment of dues on a website designed specifically for that purpose to inside jokes
within specific groups of friends. The fraternity has so many specific terms that
almost entire weekly chapter meetings are full of different lexis based on
operational terms. Any brother spoken to can relay that participatory methods are
utilized to provide feedback in everything the fraternity does. Any brother who
know what hes talking about in a group discussion setting such as chapter or a
committee meeting can gain feedback from the attentiveness he receives from the
crowd. Ultimately, a fraternity is a cover model for an ideal discourse community
according to Swales definition through characteristics.
For myself, being a part of a discourse community so small as 70 members
means that joining would have a significant, specific impact on myself and therefore
my values would have to align with the groups. I have a strong moral code and
believe that constantly striving for integrity is a valiant way to expend ones efforts.
I also believe that ambition and a strong work ethic are two essential keys to

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success. Honesty and trustworthiness are also two immediate aspects I look for
when searching for a friend.
Building off of what I believe in personally, I believe I share a similar mindset to the
brothers of Sigma Phi Epsilon. Through interviewing an older brother and applying
characteristics of a discourse community to a fraternity, I found that a broadly
stated common goal of the chapter was to be honest. Diligence and striving for
integrity are essentially one in the same and also key to providing feedback within
the fraternity. Methods of communication and approachability were two of my large
concerns when deliberating on whether or not I should join a fraternity and this
organization addresses both sufficiently. Joshs answers and the tone of his writing
lead me to believe that he is extremely confident in his decision to join this
discourse community, and I am as well. Sigma Phi Epsilons core values align with
mine and I feel like it was the right decision during the right time for me to join this
fraternity when I did.