Nature is a game of checks and balances. As much as we’d like to pretend we human beings are a special category, we fall to the whims of cycles just as water passes from liquid to gas and plants and animals fight for a manageable equilibrium to sustain life.
The scale will on occasion tip too far one way or the other. There can only be so many deer living off a field. Too many deer will eat all of the grass; some will starve; the grass will regrow; the deer will overeat, and so on.
We too are subject to this. The Roman Catholic Church went a little crazy and Martin Luther made moves to keep them in place. The British taxed a little too much and our founding Americans pushed back to form a new government. This government almost mimics the natural struggle for equilibrium by creating checks and balances between its branches.
In this blog I’ve asked that we pay attention to the minds and needs of our students. I’ve relayed my thought that the professionalization of Fraternity & Sorority Life has done as much harm as good. I’ve suggested ideas to make membership in a fraternity or sorority a little less sensationalist, a little more practical, and a little more like some of the most successful organizations in the world.
I’m not sure anything I suggest will be taken up by any fraternity headquarters, sorority headquarters or college fraternity/sorority community. It is a little disheartening with about 800 Greek communities and more than 100 organizations that so few are willing to stray from failed policies and the “more is better” philosophy of the shadow figures leading the Fraternal Values Movement.
It won’t be taken up for a simple reason: Those of us who work in higher education believe that we are and hold the answer to why our organizations are even questioning our relevance rather than the drivers steering us in that direction.
The Power of the Purse
Let’s consider this post a warning to those of us who take our jobs and power over our fraternity communities for granted. It is a prediction that doesn’t have scientific reasoning; I didn’t hire someone with a higher education degree to run this through some analytical software and I did not account for “controls.” I’m basing this off of observations in nature, human history, a hunch and, as much as I hate to admit it, a hope.
Our students, upset with a false illusion of empowerment, will withhold funds until equilibrium in decision-making is reached.
At some point, members will demand more value for their dollar. At some point, members will stop welcoming our consultants, paid for with their dues, to help them navigate an increasingly complex maze that we’ve created. At some point, we will have asked them to do too much, and they will break.
“When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body”
– Isaac Newton
The biggest lie we’ve convinced our students of is that they need us, that it is not them who determine whether our organizations are successful let alone able to function.
You pay our bills. You pay for our educational programs. You pay for the network and a coach from your headquarters and a unique college experience. You pay for it all and have no say as to where it goes. Tell me any other company or organization that can con customers in such fashion?
At some point, you’ll realize that you have the power of the purse, and that we are lacking in customer care. You may get fed up with our coercive attempts to change you under the guise of “student empowerment.” You may demand that your dues go toward a membership benefits program, a series of resumé workshops and a TEDx event rather than uninspired programs aimed at telling you how much you suck.
You will realize that you deserve an equal say in who we are and what we do. We will never advocate for breaking the law or treating each other poorly or anything but you being the absolute best citizens you can be. But perhaps we can open our eyes to seeing things more practically. Perhaps we can realize that you are the most accepting generation of Americans ever and that our issues with diversity, sex and alcohol stem from our own troubled histories and suspicions and don’t require 50% of our attention and a large chunk of our annual budget.
Maybe you can convince your fraternity or sorority to formally support lowering the drinking age as a way to combat a destructive, underground drinking culture which leads to death and abuse rather than some stricter rules on how to have parties for members 21 and up.
Maybe you can convince your fraternity or sorority community to let you be you, rather than try to fluff up your appearance with irrelevant programs, standards and outdated and fake talking points about why we are so special.
Maybe you can convince your IFC to pursue relevance.
Maybe you’ll have to be the wake up call that forces us to understand what we are doing is not always in your interests, for your benefit or as altruistic as we may think.
In any case, all I can ask is that you prove that you are the better men and women you claim to be and trust in your power over our purse rather than resort to un-American idiocy. We all want to be considered the cream of the crop. Perhaps a few million minds figuring out what that is would be better than a couple hundred.