Formal Recruitment Is Unnecessary, Unnatural & Unhelpful.

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I never felt pity for a chapter whose members felt as if they couldn’t recruit without the use of alcohol; it’s a pathetic excuse, but I also don’t think that drinking with people is a terrible way to meet friends. Professionals do it together all the time. 

In fact, isn’t almost every standard fraternity rush event just some type of event we would otherwise expect to include alcohol no matter our age? Why else would a bunch of men gather in a room to speak to one another without any clear purpose but to get to know one another?

As a child, I’d expect that the adults would have alcohol when they had guests over. The same could be said when there was a barbecue or gathering to watch an event. It’s not highly unexpected to meet friends at a restaurant and for someone to have a beer or wine or cocktail with lunch or dinner.

That is a little weird, because it is easier to speak with a drink in one’s hand, and so fraternities and sororities have dry social functions, dry barbecues, dry football games and dry nights watching the VMA’s. As a result, we must re-train them how to make friends, which largely involves being hyper-social among people paraded into your home whether they want to be there or not. Meanwhile, fraternity and sorority advisors return home to their partners, finish one or more bottles of wine between them, and gossip over who deserves a Grammy.

To put it kindly, formal recruitment is like the mass-produced version of making friends. It’s a machine-like attempt to condense what takes weeks or months to occur naturally to instead occur in seven to fourteen days. I understand the intent behind “deferred recruitment,” when students must wait several months or a semester before joining a fraternity or sorority, but most of these systems too involve some sort of formalized parade of men and women standing in a room being forced to converse with one another, 30-60 minutes at a time, in unrealistic “party” settings.

Would deferred recruitment even be necessary without the rush of men seeking to make friends and the piles of initiated men wishing they were somewhere else? Wouldn’t it be easier to peg which fraternity or sorority cared most about their philanthropy if fraternities and sororities weren’t all required to spend a whole day talking about how important their philanthropy is to them? I’d rather a sorority say, to my daughter, “Yeah we have this philanthropy but no one really does anything with it.” At the very least that exposes an opportunity, for those willing to take it, to make that sorority “better.”

I fully bought into the recruitment education I received at Stetson from Phired Up and later my fraternity. It’s good stuff, and it is a great way to make friends regardless of the situation you’re in. Still, it’s strange to provide our men and women with all of this great advice to build friendships and to then force them into some unnatural, time-sensitive gauntlet to make the best possible first impression.

We have set so many rules around developing friendships, but throwing formal recruitment out the window may actually encourage fraternities to take longer to make their decision. Think about a less tightly managed process:

Students may still be required to make some sort of declaration that they are open to being recruited much like they do for formal recruitment systems now. Instead of some lecture covering the rules, they can take a simple quiz online to qualify (you can make them for free via Google Forms; I’ll help if you’d like!).

Fraternities and sororities are not following a set deadline and are not required to spend thousands of dollars to promote themselves in one week of events with unrealistic rules and a factory-like operation. We are currently forcing them to use the new member process as a means to test someone’s dedication to their friend group, and even then there are only 8 weeks to determine if someone will be committed. If they turn out to be bluffing, chapters may be required to go through an emotional and ineffective expulsion process.

^^Formal recruitment favors & idealizes first impressions^^

The great fraternities will wait, and great men will wait for them. They’d see if he still likes them two weeks after meeting members of the chapter. They will want to know how a potential member acts in class, how he treats his other friends and how he treats potential spouses.

All the while, the decision to join remains in the potential member’s hands.

Formal recruitment did a wonderful thing for fraternities in publicizing their selection process. Each bid to join a fraternity became a public proposal worthy of excitement. Our current management of the “formal recruitment” process; however, creates an unrealistic deadline for our men and women to make rational decisions about which men and women become new members we expect them to treat as equals.

Beyond that, it requires hundreds or thousands of dollars to make an important impression, creates unnatural and awkward environments to socialize, and requires that all conversations be politically correct, meaning men and women don’t have an idea for the personalities they are joining until the after party – which does happen by the way and makes up for all of the alcohol missing form the formal event.

A fraternity or sorority who acts hastily does its reputation no favors. There is an equal amount of social pressure to get “the best people” as there is pressure not to look desperate. That’s science. Our formal recruitment processes have for too long propped up fraternities and sororities unwilling to make needed changes to how they operate.

Have you seen how stressed fraternity men and sorority women become about recruitment? They are attending college; why in the world are we demanding they manage a book of rules while trying to expertly determine which new students they should make lifelong commitments to in a ridiculously short timeframe?

Let them relax, let them make friends how they make friends. Then we can target our sermons to where they are most needed. I can assure you it’s a better plan than shouting lectures at hundreds or thousands of students at once.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that managed recruitment is a relic Band Aid of the past – not a solution. It is from an era in which we didn’t provide recruitment education to all students. Chapters should, like all other student organizations, be expected to recruit excellently or to fail.