Since 1880 the General Convention has held all supreme and legislative powers of the Fraternity. The Convention, which meets every two years, has four main responsibilities and powers. They include:
One of the more important decisions a chapter makes is the selection of its delegate to the General Convention, because all formal action taken at the General Convention is the result of democratic voting, and it is typical for chapter delegates to constitute 65 to 75 percent of the total vote. Those with voting privileges at the Convention include:
The Constitution and General Statutes which make up The Code of Phi Delta Theta are the laws of the Fraternity. These laws govern the structure of the Fraternity, the procedure of its various bodies, and the basic operation of the chapters. Although all chapters are autonomous and self-governing, they must obey the laws outlined in The Code. It is adherence to these basic laws that preserves the general similarity between each chapter of Phi Delta Theta.
The General Statues are amended every two years at the General Convention. Proposals to change The Code are submitted to the Code Committee, a committee appointed by the General Council. Legislation is usually submitted in writing by any member of the Fraternity well in advance of the Convention, but changes are allowed to be submitted even during the Convention proceedings. Because each chapter has one vote, the majority of the votes at the Convention are in the hands of the undergraduate chapters’ delegates. These chapter delegates propose legislation, debate motions, and vote for or against these amendments to the General Statutes. On occasion, these debates become quite enthusiastic as the delegates try to make decisions that are best for the Fraternity.
The Constitution can only be amended by affirmative action at two consecutive General Conventions. The Constitution provides for the powers of the Convention and the General Council, indicates where alumni clubs and chapters may be established, and outlines some of the proper symbols and insignia of the Fraternity. It also gives requirements for membership.
After each Convention, two new copies of The Code are distributed to each chapter. These copies are usually kept by the president and secretary.
Selected by the Province President to serve a two-year term, this alumnus volunteer works with the officers and members of an individual chapter and help it maintain the high standards of Phi Delta Theta. The Chapter Advisory Board Chairman visits the chapter frequently and often attends committee, Phikeia and chapter meetings. He is a guide, a counselor, and a resource for the undergraduates. His also oversees and helps fill the chapter’s advisory board Each advisory board is commonly made up of 2 to 5 individuals who mentor individual officers and aid the CABC. Anyone with an interest in the chapter can be a member of the advisory board.
Many chapters comprise the realm of Phi Delta Theta. Each is a semi-autonomous unit of the entire General Fraternity, one part of the whole. Yet each chapter has its own character, its own traditions, and its own sense of purpose. While each chapter has its own unique qualities, each individual unit has the same primary purpose: to bring the Phi Delta Theta experience to each respective campus.
That purpose of the Fraternity is to promote the high principles which constituted the foundation of the organization, declared in The Bond of Phi Delta Theta. These principles, so eloquently penned by Robert Morrison and John McMillan Wilson, predicate an organized brotherhood in which members support each other in daily life. Indeed, the Six Founders of Phi Delta Theta were visionaries. Through The Bond, they outlined ideals practical both to the individual and to the chapter. They can be applied in a variety of areas of chapter life. With these ideals in mind, it is easier to further define exactly what a chapter is.
The chapter, first and foremost, is a family. Like a family, the brothers participate in activities allowing them to work, live, and socialize together. It is an environment conducive to the development of long-lasting ties, the sharing of similar aspirations, and the fostering of concern for others.
In another frame, the chapter is also a classroom. In this setting, members learn a great deal including management ideas, event-planning strategies, important social skills, and perspectives on topics of interest on all college campuses. A college education is not merely learning from textbooks or lectures, and the Fraternity provides this important education outside the standard curriculum.
The chapter is also a democracy. Group decision making and management are part of the fraternity experience. Brothers participate in the election of chapter leaders and vote on the various policies and activities of the organization. By working together in a democratic society, members learn valuable organization and leadership skills.
The Phi Delta Theta chapter is also a business. The members develop and approve budgets, receive and disperse money, procure various services and products, and follow general accounting practices with monthly and annual Financial statements. Through this process, the brothers and Phikeias learn the importance of sound fiscal planning and financial management.
In the final analysis, the chapter is an opportunity. It provides the chance for members to grow and develop as leaders, helps build lifelong friendships, encourages good scholarship performance, and teaches the individual responsibility to a larger group.
The Survey Commission is composed of alumni volunteers, appointed by the General Council to two-year terms, and responsible for the location and creation of new chapters of the Fraternity. The commissioners investigate inquiries from four-year colleges and universities interested in the Fraternity’s expansion to their campuses. In addition, the Survey Commission actively pursues opportunities to expand the Fraternity to campuses on which Phi Delta Theta would wish to be located.
The commission, in conjunction with the Director of Expansion on the Headquarters staff, establishes interest groups and recommends the establishment of colonies and chapters to General Council.
The Housing Commission is responsible for coordinating programs through the local housing corporations that promote safe, affordable housing for the chapters. Fire safety, insurance, fund raising, property care, and risk management are a few of the areas of concern to the commission.
At Convention the Warden is responsible for tabulating votes, and for the overall discipline of the delegates. He is also responsible for the overall decorum at leadership conferences and acts as Chairman of the Discipline Committee.
Finding that the endowment idea was sound, the General Council thought it was appropriate to establish in 1922 an endowment in honor of Walter B. Palmer who had devoted his life to Fraternity service. The fund is known as the Walter B. Palmer Foundation. The principal is used for investment loans to assist chapter house corporations in purchasing, constructing or refurnishing chapter house. The principal of the Walter B. Palmer fund is more than $4 million.
The 1958 General Convention adopted legislation for the establishment of a Phi Delta Theta Foundation to provide for the advancement of learning. The trustees of the Foundation award annual scholarships and fund the educational programs of the Fraternity. Since the beginning of the scholarship program, more than 1,300 scholarships with a total value of more than $2.2 million have been awarded. The principal of this fund is more than $10 million.
The Canadian Scholarship Foundation was organized in 1973 to provide scholarships to Phi Delta Theta undergraduates on Canadian campuses. Since the beginning of the Canadian Scholarship Foundation, more than $140,000 in scholarships has been awarded.
At the Convention of 1908, Frank J.R. Mitchell, the editor and manager of The Scroll, suggested a plan for life subscriptions which would in time provide adequate support for the Fraternity’s magazine. In 1910, he placed before the Convention a proposal, without precedent in the fraternity world, which called for a plan providing a life payment of ten dollars for each initiate. The principal of this fund now amounts to more than $4 million. Almost every fraternity and sorority has since adopted the plan of life subscription which Phi Delta Theta gave to the fraternity world.