“Partners” Don’t Just Follow Your Lead

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Our first AFA-specific post this week was related to getting more out of AFA by being open to debate. Let’s break that down a bit more.

At any Association of Fraternity & Sorority Professionals Annual Meeting, roughly 1/6-1/4 of educational sessions incorporate some discussion or lecture around the idea of a partnership. It may be rephrased as student empowerment or cooperation between a headquarters and campus-based professional. Great, we should all be friends.

In candid conversations; however, it becomes more and more clear that the idea of a partnership here is not its literal definition. For example, the decision to pull a charter is ultimately the decision of a fraternity or sorority. Just because one doesn’t do so at a campus professional’s request doesn’t make them a bad partner; what that professional is actually looking for is a subordinate. Likewise, the decision to pull university recognition is up to whichever body makes such decisions at a university.

A student or professional who challenges our candidate-of-choice’s interpretation of social justice is not a “bad partner” or “bad fraternity man” or “bad sorority woman,” they are a person with a different opinion. In 100% of those cases, they are an adult person with an adult mind and education.

That must be respected. A partnership requires treating others like adults who can form opinions for themselves and make decisions for themselves. Those of us who simply see a partnership as “agree with my platform and my positions” aren’t interested in partnerships at all!

This should be clear: You may not define what others consider themselves. What does that mean?

A gay man who is a conservative is not a self-loathing person. He is a man with a different opinion than the accepted stereotype of gay men.

A student who does not consider a scavenger hunt hazing (funny, AFA is running a scavenger hunt right now!) is not ignorant, she is a student who hasn’t considered that a scavenger hunt can include disgusting or humiliating things.

A campus professional interested in a safer community is not necessarily a Utopian; he or she may simply be someone who’s interested in fewer student trips to the hospital.

A headquarters professional interested in expansion or disinterested in immediate closure or expulsion without due-process is not opposed to social justice; they are simply maintaining the interest of their membership.

We often forget that it is the students’ job to run our organizations. It is a headquarters job to grow an organization and offer services to its membership. It is a campus professional’s job to ensure that each fraternity or sorority is living up to its unique founding principles.

Disagreement is a necessary aspect of partnerships; otherwise we all might as well close up shop now and go.