We labeled 2015 the year of limiting the fraternity and sorority obsession with fixing everything all of the time. For 2016, why not share our approach to each of fraternity and sorority’s main issues and how we would address them. This post will be geared toward those who work professionally with fraternities and sororities. We’ll have another post tailored for students in the coming days.
Best of all, each of these points will paint a picture of what to expect from this blog in 2016 (though who knows what may come up to be written about). So without further adieu, here are some of the key issues we’ll focus on in 2016, a taste of the Fraternity Man position, and some links to past work regarding each topic:
People are having fewer kids and it makes less sense to have brick and mortar 4-year colleges when so many people can make so much money with 2-year degrees. Those people who choose a 4-year institution (and even the youngins) may choose to save tens of thousands of dollars in debt to go to an online academy.
This is the single biggest issue facing fraternity and sorority in the face: how do we maintain record growth? We need a new fraternity experience, an online and individual-member experience.
Currently, fraternities are organized as a federation, which works well as a governing structure, but needs to include component chapters designed for the internet. Students (and professionals) should have access to mentors, online programming, in-person meet ups and programming, and an achievement system that allows an individual to track his or her progress as a fraternity man or woman.
In short, we need to figure out an online membership experience, and the best way to do that is to create an online experience that both compliments the physical fraternity experience and offers enough draw for individuals attending online schools (or schools without chapters) to become a part of the fun.
2. Legislation & Position Statements
There are things we should clearly lobby for or against. Our Foundations should be able to make housing upgrades to broken chapter facilities (particularly those that are not up to code) without those upgrades being limited to computers or educational spaces.
This year, fraternities and sororities received flak from their professionals (and some students) for positions taken regarding the SAFE Campus and FAIR Campus Acts. Here’s the thing (and we’ll have a post on this): You cannot suggest that organizations/corporations are not people, and then demand that an organization/corporation “take a position.”
Those are in-congruent. You also cannot be in favor of federal investment in education if you don’t want federal law (like the right to due process) to be applied to education.
So when it comes to lobbying, it’d be best for our groups to focus on simple legislation that won’t cause drama, because half of our members will likely be offended by any position on controversial legislation and we are (surprise!) membership organizations, not political action committees.
In fewer words: Grow up and stop talking about politics like you’re favorite personality talks about politics. . . read more books and less news.
3. Risk Management
Take a deep breath. Let go.
Put more simply, define our enemies once and for all. Stop suggesting that 100% or even 50% of those who go through “rush” deserve a bid. Our desire for everyone to find their space ends up pushing losers who get their chapters closed into “their space.”
Almost every risk management concern can be completely fixed by encouraging chapters to be more selective, less exclusive and for us to stop encouraging them to “GROW GROW GROW.” As far as alcohol is concerned, the prohibition needs to stop. It isn’t working. As far as drugs are concerned, we can’t defer to federal law in some instances but state law in other instances, pick your poison.
In regard to hazing, not even nationalized new member education programs or the elimination of pledging has eliminated hazing. So we need to drop the talking points we have about equality and dignity and start talking real about what hazing is and what isn’t hazing. Scavenge on scavenger hunters.
It’s amazing that most professionals identify helicopter parents as a negative, but not helicopter professionals. Hmm.
4. Sexual Assault
I’ve separated this out from risk management for a simple reason: It’s a ridiculous beast of its own.
First, treat students like adults. My organization recently began piloting a program created by Aaron Boe and the feedback we’ve received was that the students enjoyed being spoken to like adults and not being lectured.
Your women’s studies campus prosecutor will not connect with the men of almost any fraternity. I can factually state that he or she will be too divisive, too analytical and too judgmental. The whole session will be like when someone says “no offense,” and then goes on to offend you. I know that we have an urge to stop sexual assault, but let someone a bit less passionate do the talking.
Our issues have become jokes because everyone has untested or “research-tested” solutions that offer limited value, plus high price tags, in the real world.
We also need to stop pretending that abstinence is not an option. Is it not ridiculous to anyone that someone will, in the same breath, decry the sexual promiscuity that leads to sexual assault but encourage all individuals to explore their sexual nature?
People, it’s not just sexual assault. Lots of infections happen through sex, babies and abortions happen through sex and terrible relationships often begin with sex (as opposed to friendship).
Yes, I’m actually saying this, stop having sex and thinking it’s cool. It’s not. Stop encouraging your students to explore their bodies; think of their parents; think about how you are not their parents and how you’ll have no responsibility to care for their child, their feelings or their infections, but that you may be responsible for them having to deal with those problems and all before they land a job.
5. Standards Programs
Throw them away if you are at a campus or limit them to the same expectations your institution has for every campus organization.
If you refuse to do that, stop making your Standards of Excellence, Accreditation, or whatever it’s called a P.R. stunt and make it about the issues a chapter is addressing.
Attending an alcohol event does nothing beneficial to the chapter if it’s only a check mark and a way for the school to avoid liability in the case of an alcohol abuse issue.
We recently revamped our annual accreditation system to be focused on coaching and a chapter’s longevity. Chapters aren’t on probation if they don’t meet certain point thresholds, they aren’t scolded, it’s merely a way for professionals and volunteers to have an idea of where a chapter may need help if they’d like to stick around. Check it out, build on that concept.
Our current systems are checklists that suck up all of our students’ time and force our organizations to be bland jack-of-all-trades-type organizations. Let your chapter’s choose their own goals and advise them as their founders would want them to be advised.
6. Program Development/Assessment
Here’s a fun fact: More data can be bad, very bad.
People who read the news claim to be “informed,” but the only thing they are informed about is a narrative that a for-profit organization designs to get more readers. Donald Trump probably isn’t as ridiculous in his day to day life, but the news will spend 5 days talking about one thing he’s said. When you are addicted to the news, you are addicted to stories that often leave out more than they include.
Most news stories are just a regurgitation of headlines and talking points from the “source” story anyway. Read a press-release, not a review of it.
Think a non-profit is any better? Their narrative is that for-profit organization are bad and deceitful: narrative. Think “research-tested” means anything? You aren’t exposed to half the research out there and true science is based on probability, not “fact.” The whole point of Einstein’s theory was that anything a human creates, even a super computer, is limited by the same limitations of naked human observation.
That means that an ant may be on a sidewalk, but have no concept of what a sidewalk is. Similarly, there are things we can’t even fathom affecting EVERYTHING.
As for assessment, having a bunch of data is not a good thing. It’s just confusing and a talking point that data companies use to get your business. Stop relying on assessments and feedback and data, it will not save your organization. Steve Jobs didn’t listen to his customers, he anticipated them; he knew what his company was about and he stuck to it. (Tim Cook. . . not so much).
Figure out what your job is and what your organization is about, then work to make that happen. More data often muddies the water more than it makes it clear.
7. Your Profession
We’ve written here that professionalization has ruined fraternity and sorority life. I stand by that statement as a fraternity professional not to suggest that we should fire everyone, but to suggest that we who work for these organizations or campuses with these organizations should recognize that the core principle of these groups is that they are student-led and student-governed.
Stay out of the mess, provide advisory support and membership services and your job will be done. Let them fail.
That’s a taste of some of what we may expand upon in 2016 and a little review of what we’ve hit on in 2014 and 2015. There will be more posts providing suggestions/resources to students, more Q&A’s with the movers and shakers of Greek Life, and more op-eds/contributor posts that make FraternityMan.com the Devil’s Advocate Blog for Greek Life.
Happy New Year!