Advice From America’s Founders Applied To Fraternity

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We believe, as mentioned many times on this website, that many of our actions as professionals have inadvertently created more work for our teams and students.

Our profession has wandered too far along a path divergent from the guiding purposes and principles of our organizations. We’ve complicated “fraternity” beyond reason, often feeding the advice, “look back at what your founders wrote,” to students in need of a fraternal rejuvenation.

Well, we don’t all have our rituals and founding members in common, but what we do have in common is something even better: These United States of America! Listed below are a few quotes from the founding members of this nation to aid us in resetting our approach to fraternity and sorority in 2015 and beyond.

“He that composes himself is wiser than he who composes a book”

– Benjamin Franklin

We have an infatuation with celebrity figures in this world of ours. I’ll give a million carrots to a professional who believes in the capacity of herself, her student partners and her coalition of volunteers over the professional who believes that bringing Simon Sinek to campus will solve all of our problems.

Personally, it’s sad to see our field delve into the same education trap as every other field, where one’s ideas are only as valued as their perceived contributions to the field in the form of research, writing and speaking. The change we need will come from our ground troops, so long as they stay a principle-guided course.

“The truth is, all men having power ought to be mistrusted”

– James Madison

So long as we continue to project the impression of governance should we expect our students, and in many cases alumni, to fight against our actions. This is a truth that we must acknowledge, and one that can be addressed by giving up some of that addictive control and putting it back into the hands of students and chapters.

Our professionals make the all-too-regular mistake of creating requirements or programs without consideration for the wants and needs of our members and for limiting the definition of due-process to one that often assumes guilt with the expectation of proving innocence. We need to empower students by giving them real control, not after-action surveys.

“Few men have the virtue to withstand the highest bidder”

– George Washington

This is related to Mr. Madison’s quote above: We should assume that we in positions of leadership are lead by some form of self-interest and preservation. The researchers in our field demand more research. The speakers in our field demand we double down on alcohol and hazing prevention. The expansion professionals, like me, advocate for more open and regular expansion.

We are all guided by what keeps us relevant; we should approach all of our ideas knowing that our students are aware that this is the case. They don’t know what “nationals” (It’s “National” kids, we are not a cheer competition) wants money for, but they know we want it. They don’t know what benefit the administration gets by shutting down Greek Life, but they know it’s inevitable. Approaching solutions from the mindset of our students will encourage us to act more reasonably and transparently.

“It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged is to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad”

– James Madison

Whether it’s the students vs. the administration or Greek Life vs. “unfair and biased” stereotypes, our supposed enemies have calcified all of us into a mummified state of slow to no action. The loss of liberty part? Consider that every fraternity or sorority chapter is basically a hybrid between a student organization and the life of a prisoner on parole.

FIPG is nothing but a way of avoiding liability when our enemies (angry parents) attempt to sue us. It’s done nothing to address the issues of alcoholism and binge drinking that affect the entire country. The same can be said for our actions against hazing and just about any “major issue” we face. These are not unique to fraternities and sororities; we know this, but refuse to act like it.

Our only enemy is the ability to distract ourselves from strategic purposes.

“When angry, count to ten, before you speak; if very angry, a hundred.”

– Thomas Jefferson

Our job is not to teach a young student our own personal value-sets, but to enable him or her to achieve great things by connecting him or her with other ambitious students aligned with those ambitions. All too often we get a rise out of teaching people a lesson rather than teaching them to overcome a problem.

No solid idea was ever formed under the guidance of emotion. You call it challenging the process, students call it annoying and unnecessary, and our founding fathers would likely side with the students.

“It could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency”

– James Madison

Closed expansion, community values, community standards processes, recruitment limitations and mandatory events only for fraternities and sororities are the result of a trust deficit between fraternity and sorority professionals and their constituents.

It is regular expansion and growth that makes our communities stronger and competitive, the individual values and standards of our organizations that allow them to attract the right student, and the trusting of fraternities and sororities like other student organizations that will create a fair and level playing field.

For too long we’ve restricted our students and organizations under the banner of stability. On paper, things look great; in reality, it’s all falling apart. Students built what are now national organizations spanning hundreds of years of American History. What makes you think that you are smarter than your founders or that our students are any less prepared?

“A man who reads nothing at all is better informed than a man who reads only newspapers”

– Thomas Jefferson

Many of my friends made the claim that being up with the times is important for any citizen of society when I decided to boycott the news in 2015. In reality, keeping up with the news is keeping up with journalists building sad careers around sensationalizing non-news.

Jessican Gendron Williams of Phired Up lead a session at the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors (AFA) annual meeting and when asked what to do when things our chapters do, like hazing and binge drinking, derail our initiatives or goals she candidly responded, “don’t let them derail you.”

True, it’d be better for us all if perhaps we spent less time hopping on every social revolution bandwagon and staredt leading the revolution of building better men and women. . . like we are supposed to. It’s a simple process, recruit them into values-based organizations and let them connect! Just set it, and forget it!


What is your favorite quote from an American figure? How can we apply the principles of it to Fraternity & Sorority Life? Sound off below!


Explore more posts on America and tips for a better fraternity world.