Challenge: No Alcohol Talks For One Year

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Everyone throws the “definition of insanity” quote around these days.

For 20-30 years, and maybe more, our higher education field has identified a few things wrong with fraternities that need fixing. In a nutshell, we are too hedonistic, too much like Jenny from Forrest Gump. After allowing that idea to mull around my head for a while I have come to one unbelievable conclusion. We need a full year without any alcohol talks. . . period.

“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

– Albert Einstein

By definition, our obsessive focus on alcohol and the effects of it (hazing, rape, drugs, falling out of buildings, etc.) is insanity. It has become our cushion. Rather than find our own meaningful purpose in the world, we’ve decided that priority number one is to stop students from making dumb choices. Only after that can we move forward and be something worthwhile.

That logic isn’t logic at all; it’s flawed, it’s safe, it’s lazy and it protects us from being judged on our actual purposes. In a sense, our admiration for lecturing our students is a way for Greek Life professionals to feel like we are doing good and to provide an excuse for when the good our organizations do isn’t enough.

In order to move past our alcohol addiction, we need to move past our alcohol addiction. What will we do if we can’t spend countless hours worrying about seminars and how best to shame binge-drinking students? Focus on pain points.

What is a pain point? Pain points are things that get in the way of customers having an enjoyable experience. The term was popularized over the past two years when T-Mobile decided that it didn’t want to suck anymore.

They, lead by John Legere, a former executive at AT&T, were aware of their faults: T-Mobile had the smallest 4G network, spectrum that wasn’t great at penetrating walls, less cash, fewer subscribers and years of customer defections despite their low prices. After a failed merger with AT&T, John hopped on board to right a sinking ship.

John isn’t like other mobile carrier CEO’s; he regularly tweets on twitter, his speeches are littered with curse words, he directly attacks his competitors, calling them lazy, slow and referring to them as part of a “stupid, arrogant, broken industry.” He relates himself to Batman, has 1970’s Steve Jobs hair and wears a signature T-Mo t-shirt with his blazer. He realized that T-Mobile’s only chance was to be as unique from its competitors as he was. So he thought, “What do customers hate most about mobile carriers?”

“Contracts should be something consumers sign when they get a benefit, not when they are forced to.”

– Mike Sievert, T-Mobile

Contracts – gone. Waiting for upgrades – gone. International roaming fees – gone. Data overages – gone. T-Mobile doesn’t count streaming music against your data plan, they’ll cover your termination fees with another carrier and let you test drive their (now improved) network for a week before deciding whether or not you want to switch. They loan powerful wi-fi routers to their customers which enhance their signal indoors and once your phone is paid off they stop charging you for it.

Simply put, John knew what he had, knew what he was up against, and rather than worry about the billions that T-Mobile needed to invest in their network (which they’ve done anyway), he set out to distinguish them as the company to solve customers’ woes.

Did it pay off? Within one or two quarters, T-Mobile will surpass Sprint as the 3rd largest carrier in the country, rising from fewer than 35 million customers to 55 million in less than 2 years. I’d say that is a resounding “yes.”

“We are either going to take over this whole industry or these bastards will change and we’ll still be wildly successful”

– John Legere

How does this apply to us? We know what an issue is, alcohol abuse. It isn’t exclusive to fraternities. It’s not as big an issue with other student groups, but that doesn’t mean it should be our focus. T-Mobile had what was hands-down the worst network of its competitors. They’ve made significant improvements, but that’s one piece of a larger puzzle to develop an indestructible brand.

What will eliminating alcohol from the fraternity setting do? Will more students suddenly want to join? Will our members be less elitist? Have we picked a losing battle simply because we are afraid of trying to actually win?

We have pain points too. Our students hate our accreditation and standards of excellence programs. Any student who says otherwise needs a job reference. Why has no one simplified or addressed this? (Sigma Nu and Texas State have made strides with regard to simplification).

We offer little to nothing to our members beyond training them to navigate our expectations and restrictions and the occasional “you’re a great leader” conference. Why has no one overhauled their education program philosophy yet? Why don’t we make better use of our alumni networks to organize membership benefits or to create content that interests non-fraternity men and women? Why don’t we encourage students to get engaged, regardless of affiliation, with their local and state governments?

Are we afraid that becoming all that we can be will force our member to realize just how incompetent our professional field has become?

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again, and bring their friends”

– Walt Disney

We need to aim to be something rather than worry about the puzzle of college students drinking. We need to address the real reason that students will refuse to join a fraternity or sorority 10 years down the road: we don’t intentionally offer anything of value. I’ve gotten little from my fraternity experience by intentional design. That comment speaks for itself.

Take alcohol and hazing out of the equation. Will the size of your Greek community balloon from a pitiful 18% to 70%? I can’t answer that with certainty, but my gut is saying “no.”

It’s just one year; if I’m wrong we can at least say that we are no longer insane.