Eta Sigma Phi is an honorary collegiate society for students of Latin and/or Greek. Members are elected by local chapters which have been chartered by the society.
HISTORY: Eta Sigma Phi had its beginning in 1914 when a group of students in the Department of Greek at the University of Chicago organized an undergraduate classical club to which honor students in Greek and Latin were elected to membership. This organization later united with a similar organization at Northwestern University and became Eta Sigma Phi. In 1924 the society became national, and chapters were organized at leading colleges and universities. The society was incorporated in 1927 under the laws of the State of Illinois.
PURPOSE: The Constitution of Eta Sigma Phi states that the purposes of the society are “to develop and promote interest in classical study among the students of colleges and universities; to promote closer fraternal relationship among students who are interested in classical study, including inter-campus relationship; to engage generally in an effort to stimulate interest in classical study, and in the history, art, and literature of ancient Greece and Rome.”
ELIGIBILITY: Local chapters are chartered at liberal arts colleges and universities which are on the accredited list of the Association of American Universities or the recognized regional accrediting agency. Normally the institution will offer a major in Classics.
MEMBERSHIP: There are three categories of membership:
(1) Active membership is limited to undergraduates who are enrolled in classes in Latin and/or Greek in the original languages. A student must meet the basic qualification of an attained grade of not less than ‘B’ in courses in Latin and Greek, with completion of at least one semester or two quarters. The chapters are permitted considerable autonomy in any additional requirements for membership; however, the grade standard stated above must be observed, and it is expected that chapters will maintain even higher standards.
(2) Associate membership is open to graduate students who were undergraduate members of Eta Sigma Phi and graduate students in Classics elected under the requirements of membership.
(3) Honorary membership is conferred upon persons or their interest in the Classics and contributions to the understanding and appreciation of classical languages, history, and culture. These individuals should not be students. Chapters are invited to nominate individuals for honorary membership by sending a supporting citation to the executive secretary. If the nomination is approved, the national office pays the cost of a membership certificate for an honorary member.
ORGANIZATION: Eta Sigma Phi is an undergraduate society, and its officers are active (undergraduate) members who are elected to office for a period of one year by the annual national convention. The finances of the society are managed by a Board of Trustees, composed of five faculty members from active chapters who are elected for a period of three years. This Board also administers the contests and scholarship program. The Executive Secretary is a faculty member of an active chapter who is responsible for carrying out the policies of the society and is required to perform the duties usually assigned to this position.
WHAT ETA SIGMA PHI DOES: The value of Eta Sigma Phi is revealed particularly in the work of local chapters and the effect of the society upon individual members and upon the academic community. Although Eta Sigma Phi is honorary in nature, chapters usually must utilize programs or activities to carry out the purposes of the society. Groups of chapters use regional conferences as a means of stimulating interest and exchanging ideas.
At the national level, Eta Sigma Phi sponsors these activities:
(1) The Scholarships: Each year the society awards two scholarships for study abroad during the summer, one to the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the other to the American Academy in Rome, to members who have recently graduated. A third scholarship, to a session of the Vergilian Society at Cumae, is also offered, with preference going to rising juniors and seniors. The H.R. Butts Scholarship in Classical Archaeology is open to members interested in participating in summer excavations at classical archaeological sites. The Bernice L. Fox Latin Teacher Training Scholarship provides support for teacher certification or continuing education for K-12 Latin teachers.
(2) The Contests: Each year the society sponsors contests among college and university students to encourage the study of Latin and Greek on the college level. Participation in the contests is limited to colleges and universities in which there are Eta Sigma Phi chapters. The contests are in Greek translation, Latin translation, and Latin prose composition.
(3) The Medals: The society makes available to high school teachers inexpensive medals to award to outstanding students. Many Eta Sigma Phi chapters also award the medals in local high schools. These medals are intended to encourage the study of Latin in high school.
(4) The Newsletter: NUNTIUS is the official publication of Eta Sigma Phi, published two times each year. It contains information concerning the society, original articles by members, announcements, and accounts of the activities of the chapters.
(5) The National Convention: The Constitution provides for a national convention each year, late in March or in April. At this time, delegates conduct the business of the society, including the election of national officers, and workshops are held. Local chapters bid to host the convention, and an effort is made to move the site from region to region to accommodate chapters in different parts of the country.
FEES: (1) National: There is a charter fee paid to the national office to establish a new chapter. The only charge for active (undergraduate) membership imposed by the national office is a one-time initiation fee. For this fee an active member receives a membership card, a membership certificate, and a subscription to NUNTIUS during the remainder of his or her undergraduate years. Graduate students can join as associate members at a reduced fee, and honorary members pay no fees. Note, honorary memberships are intended to represent special recognition of individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the chapter, to national Eta Sigma Phi, or to the classics profession. For a list of current membership fees, click here. There are additional charges for NUNTIUS subscriptions and membership certificates for associate and honorary members. There are no annual dues to the national organization. A lifetime subscription to the Nuntius is also available to members who wish to continue receiving the newsletter after graduation. The cost of this lifetime subscription is a single payment of $50. Click here for a subscription form.
(2) Local: Local chapters may impose an additional initiation charge and/or dues, as well as conduct fund-raising activities, to support their operations.
PETITIONS FOR CHARTERS: The procedure involved in organizing a chapter is:
(1) A PETITION (click for link), executed by a group of qualified undergraduate students and with the endorsement of a faculty member of the appropriate department, is addressed to and filed with the Executive Secretary.
(2) The petition is submitted to the Grand Executive Council, composed of the national officers, for consideration.
(3) If the petition is approved by the Grand Executive Council, it is submitted to the national convention for final action.
(4) If the petition is approved by delegates to the national convention, installation of the new chapter may take place upon payment of the charter fee and initiation fee for each person to be initiated. The Executive Secretary designates a person or group to officiate at the installation of the new chapter.
(5) A petition should reach the Executive Secretary by February 15 of any year to be considered at the next national convention. The link to the form for petitioning for chapters can be found above.
(6) It is suggested that the local Classical Club be used as a nucleus for forming a chapter of Eta Sigma Phi. If there is not such an organization on your campus, it is suggested further that such a club be formed prior to petitioning for a charter.
(7) Upon approval of its petition, the new chapter will be expected to pay a one-time charter fee of $75.00.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: The Executive Secretary or the Megas/Megale Hyparchos will be happy to answer any questions concerning the society or the formation of new chapters.