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 all the time. 

In fact, isn’t almost every standard fraternity rush event just something we would otherwise expect to include alcohol no matter our age?

I am not shocked when adults serve wine or cocktails when hosting guests. The same could be said when for a barbecue or gathering to watch an event – whether that be a football game, presidential debates, or an awards show. It is normal for a gathering of friends to consume beer, wine, or cocktails at a restaurant or a bowling alley.

All of these are similar to the types of events fraternities are encouraged to promote throughout formal recruitment, and fraternity men, despite our childlike treatment of them, are adults.

We can try to convince them otherwise, but the truth is that it is easier to speak with a drink in one’s hand. As a result, we spend time and dollars teaching fraternity students to forget all they’ve observed as children and host these types of events without the alcohol. Recruiting without alcohol makes sense, but our obsession with prohibition is hypocritical. Chances are that a fraternity and sorority advisors return home from an educational program to their partner, finish one or more bottles of wine between them, and gossip over who deserves a Grammy.

Again, I have no sympathy for a chapter which feels as if it cannot recruit without alcohol, but formal recruitment processes are no better a way to make friends.

Formal recruitment is the factory version of making friends. It is an artificial process condensing a process which takes weeks or months to occur naturally to happen in 7-14 days. Even in “deferred recruitment” models, where fraternities must wait several months to “recruit” potential members, there is still some sort of parade of men and women marched from place to place, forced to try to relate to others over the course of 30-60 minutes in an event similar to a party in all ways except for the nonexistence of alcohol.

It is a confusing system in part because formal “rush” did not start as an alcohol-free affair; it was, at most schools, merely a creation of inter-fraternity organizations to give each chapter a “fair” shot at and free publicity to those considering fraternity/sorority life. We removed the alcohol, but everything from the party-like events to the themed days is just a reminder that these were once just a week or two where every fraternity and sorority would host party-after-party to impress potential members.

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 Productions. It’s good stuff, and it is a great way to make friends regardless of the situation you’re in. Still, it is 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.

Removing alcohol from a process established decades ago is not how we progress. We need to consider a more decentralized recruitment model, one which encourages chapters to make smart decisions.

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. Councils can plan publicity events throughout the year to encourage fraternities to recruit when they are ready. We can bid farewell to 100% bid acceptance and growth for the sake of growth. We can bid farewell to fraternities/sororities with ineffective leaders thriving on the life support of formal recruitment PNM Parades.

Just because a process is “formalized” and free of alcohol does not mean that the conversations are of quality. Consider this disturbingly realistic depiction of the recruitment process from Total Frat Move (TFM – lots of profane language).

^^Formal recruitment favors & idealizes first impressions^^

The great fraternities will wait, and great men will wait for them. They would 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, the true trump card, remains in the potential member’s hands.

The men and women joining these chapters do not have a genuine understanding of the personalities they are joining in our current model. . . well, until the after parties. They may have joined a chapter which put up a front throughout the recruitment process but which drinks or hazes far more than anyone expected.

A fraternity or sorority who acts hastily does its reputation no favors. There is an equal amount of social pressure to get the most or best people as there is pressure to not appear desperate. Our formal recruitment processes have for too long propped up fraternities and sororities unwilling to make needed changes to their operations.

Let students make friends how they make friends. You will learn far more as an adviser by observing their natural recruitment processes than by requiring that they pretend to value what you value for one or two weeks out of the year. Then, when we can identify which chapters recruit poorly or offensively, we can target our sermons to where they are most needed.

I say is that managed “formal” recruitment is a relic of the past demonstrated through its bewildering “parties but not actually parties” design. Chapters should, like all other student organizations, be expected to recruit excellently or fail. We may come to see the benefit of a more relaxed policy toward students creating fraternities, and therefore inject much-needed diversity into the fraternity offerings at college campuses, as a result. 

December 2018 – This post was updated for clarity and to include links to relevant content published after the publication of this post. Happy Holidays!