How could I have gone this long with a libertarian-take-on-fraternity blog and not have made a post calling for a rebellion against our equivalent of the United Nations, the North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC)!?!?1111
I’m actually not doing that with this post. . . not at all.
In a post about the appearance of IFCs as irrelevant to just about everybody, I give an indication as to why I have always liked the NIC. It has historically been hands-off and purely focused on advocating for its organizations.
There are a few agreements between the organizations, but compared to a counterpart in the National Panhellenic Council (NPC), the NIC is decidedly “live and let live” when it comes to its member organizations. (That’s part of why it has 70+ members vs. 26 for the NPC).
A few cracks are beginning to emerge in my gleaming opinion of the NIC, cracks that are causing me to explore its effects on its member organizations. I should note that this has nothing to do with the competency or actions of the NIC or its staff, and I know many if not most of the NIC staff personally. This is merely me discussing the inevitable effects of entrusting more power to the “federal” aspect of any federation.
Recently, fraternity executives came together with their counterparts at the NIC to launch “NIC 2.0,” a nickname for an NIC that is better funded, more representative of organizations based on size/funding, one that more assertively works with IFCs and encourages freedom of association more aggressively.
I have almost no problems with this, except if it gets in the way of any one member organization taking action.
Among the agreements to be a member of the NIC are agreements to work within certain standards of membership, such as each organization adopting a certain GPA requirement or open expansion standards. In part, NIC 2.0 was enacted to provide more resources to the NIC to better advocate for positions it and its member organizations agree to.
On several occasions I have noticed that this has affected my colleagues within and outside of my organization to consider eschewing more difficult challenges into the hands of the NIC. That in turn means that there will certainly be future complaints that the NIC isn’t doing everything under the sun for its newly acquired responsibilities, and will require more funding and therefore more requests for higher representation from those organizations most heavily contributing to that funding.
Sound familiar? Replace NIC with “union” or “government” and you can see how this relates to something that millions of Americans should be weary of.
I don’t have a concern with the NIC or its intentions. Again, I just want to make that clear. I believe that NIC 2.0 can, if done well, certainly be a better advocate and support to its member groups. But I would caution any member organization not to limit its independent voice.
Like most national associations, the NIC will distribute information to its member organizations about the state of fraternity. It shares facts to suggest that fraternities are relevant which are used to lobby congress. It also monitors the media and reports slandering fraternities, often also providing member groups with context, the story, and a suggested talking point or two.
This is nothing new; every association under the sun does that.
My concern rests here. Will member organizations refuse to stand up for themselves in their own unique fashions? It’s pretty likely. The fact is, the NIC will always be one voice, and one voice representing all fraternities isn’t necessarily a good way to go about things in the millennial era.
We like grassroots movements, we like seeing our friends and our brands support something. We want to see 70+ fraternities and thousands of members responding to these Rolling Stone journalists refusing to report facts or Washington Post “journalists” thrashing the fraternity experience whenever it kind of relates to an article. We want to see some organizations more boldly approach the policies of the NIC.
We want to see fraternities make independent stands, encouraging other fraternities to make such stands. Rather than wait to see what NIC 2.0 will be like, why don’t we start advocating immediately and aggressively?
In part, the reluctance may be driven by fear and the NIC is a scapegoat and will continue to be a scapegoat because the member organizations pay its bills and can determine when it, not the member organizations themselves, is at fault.
Open expansion is what all fraternities agree to support, though very few take it so literally as to open a chapter wherever they want and regardless of the presence cooperation of other fraternities and the approval of the school.
The rest of the organizations, fearing for their reputations and relationships with colleges and universities, sit back, deal with the restrictions on expansion, wait quietly, then complain about the NIC’s ineffectiveness and demand that it do more while they continue to suffer.
Few will do more than parrot statements the NIC may make about expansion, but even the NIC delivers every expansion request to its member groups regardless of whether or not those requests abide by open expansion policies. If that is the policy then refuse to support those calls for expansion.
. . . Fraternities don’t need a new NIC. We need cojones of our own!
In summary: I like the NIC, and I think the changes made to the organization can certainly be a benefit to the national fraternity movement. But I would hate to see the NIC staff’s time and energy wasted by fraternities too timid or too afraid to make statements and decisions independent of the other members of the NIC. That would effectively make any NIC effort too small and too useless.
It will continue to fail so long as it is the only voice fraternities trust and until those fraternities learn to trust and utilize their own voices as well.
The motto of my home state (note: it doesn’t actually govern by its motto) – “State Sovereignty, National Union” – should be on top of everyone’s minds before we discuss whether or not NIC 2.0 is more or less effective than NIC 1.0.