Dear Brothers:

I am very sorry to report that the National Headquarters has no membership pins in stock at this time due to poor production methods by our only pin supplier for the basic initiation package. We have just learned of this terribly frustrating problem, and I wanted to waste no time getting the message to all of our chapters.

It appears that the backorder will last until at least January. Our supplier is attempting to rectify the production issues that ruined our most recent order. Your National Headquarters staff is taking an aggressive, multi-pronged approach to try to get pins back in stock as soon as possible; however, in all possible scenarios, a new production must begin from scratch, and it will take several months for the pins to be created.

Throughout the remainder of the Fall 2008 term, all initiation packages shipped from the National Headquarters will not contain membership pins. As soon as new pins arrive and their quality is verified, we will ship them to the affected chapters to provide to our new brothers.

The severity of this problem is well understood by your National Headquarters staff. Fulfillment of orders for initiation materials is our absolute top priority, and we did everything we could to try to prevent this backorder. The NHQ staff placed the order for 2,000 pins – more than enough to make it through the entire academic year – several months ago and has been trying desperately to get the long-overdue order in stock before our existing supply ran out. Unfortunately, when the pins were finally imported from China yesterday, our supplier’s U.S. office inspected the pins and discovered that out of 2,000 pins, not a single one of their clasps functioned properly. As a result, every one of them has been sent back to China for scrap.

We are enormously frustrated about this problem, as I am sure each of you is, as well. Please know that we are committed to solving this problem, and in that light, I want to take the opportunity to explain what has brought us to this point.

In 2000, the Fraternity discovered that its American jeweler at the time had suddenly gone out of business under the pressures of globalization. In searching for a new jeweler, we discovered that the only jeweler that could supply pins at the price included in the initiation package was one that outsourced the production to China. Though problems with quality were initially rampant, careful work with the company had resulted in significant improvements in quality while still maintaining a cost within the bounds of the current initiation fees. However, in the past 12 to 18 months, quality has again declined precipitously, and we are unwilling to ship sub-standard pins to the members. An identical problem resulted in a similar backorder situation in Fall 2007.

Some of you may be asking: Why not just switch to another supplier? We would, of course, if we could afford to do so. Unfortunately, the initiation fee is set at a level which provides no flexibility in the price of the pins – something that no one anticipated when the fee was last adjusted at the 2006 National Convention. As the cost of production materials has continued to inflate at an unusual pace (much like the price of seemingly everything else these days), the pins have long-since exceeded the cost included in the initiation fee. Realistically speaking, if we are to ever see an end to this problem, we must switch to a higher-quality production, probably in the United States. This will of course come with a significantly higher cost. Until this issue can be considered by the delegates at next summer’s 2009 National Convention, there is nothing we can do – our only option is to continue to work with our current supplier, since they are the only one that can supply the pins at the price we can afford to pay under our current initiation fee. We are exploring several legislative options to address this issue at next summer’s convention.

I will personally oversee our efforts to get pins (of satisfactory quality, of course) into the NHQ as soon as possible. As soon as they arrive, we will ship them to each of the affected chapters. In the mean time, chapters should have mentors/big brothers use their own pins to pin the new brothers during the Ritual, and then explain afterward the situation that has caused the new brothers’ pins not to be available at this time. We are enclosing enough copies of this letter in each initiation package to give one to each new brother.

Please accept my most humble apologies for this situation; I am most regretful that our newest brothers will not have pins on the night of their initiation. Please know that we will keep the membership informed of any developments.

Fraternally yours,
In Phi Mu Alpha,

Ryan T. Ripperton
Executive Director