Not long ago, the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) launched NIC 2.0, a “restart” which altered the organization’s mission and structure. The changes gave the NIC greater reach/influence and a larger budget, but little has been done to give students more ownership of the fraternity experience.
Fraternities and sororities have been centralizing their operations and decision-making powers for more than a century, and the result is larger organizations with more money, but limited mobility and one-size-fits all solutions which come with the establishment of any bureaucratic system.
Your fraternity is awarded votes for NIC matters based on its size and its financial contribution to the NIC – both of which depend on student members of a fraternity, and we mistakenly accept students’ ignorance of the process as trust in it.
Students pay dues, which allow national organizations to pay NIC dues. Vendors pay the NIC to sell their services through the NIC to students (at least $100,000 in contributions in 2017 based on giving levels shown on the NIC’s website). In either case, our youngest fraternity members are footing the bill for decisions they have little control over.
All that said, here are some ideas to bring student leaders front-and-center to the decision-making processes at the very top of the fraternity world.
Establish an “IFC Congress” in which IFC Presidents (or an equivalent representative) would be able to vote on NIC matters.
The votes may hold no weight at all, but they will at least give us an indication of what our on-the-ground leaders from around the country think of our plans for the fraternity world.
That’s important because, as mentioned, students are ultimately responsible for funding the NIC, funding their national offices, for electing their representatives, and for carrying out the programming expectations we place on them. There is no need for students to meet in person to vote (INTERNET!), and IFCs can be allotted votes based on whichever tier of services they purchase from the NIC.
Additionally, requiring that an IFC President and/or other officers contribute to the national debate may inspire more and higher quality students to seek IFC positions as genuine leadership opportunities.
It would also require that NIC representatives and voting delegates from fraternities share and explain upcoming NIC votes with the leaders of IFCs, which are equivalent to chapters of the NIC. Overall we would experience greater transparency, greater involvement from students, and ultimate decision-making powers may still remain as they are today.
It’s nice to consider and expect changes to be made at the NIC to amplify student voices, but change can more easily come from within our respective national organizations.
Some brothers and I are putting together legislation for our Fraternity’s 2019 Convention to require greater transparency in our involvement with the NIC.
The proposal’s ultimate aim is for the voting delegates of our Fraternity to understand and influence how they are represented within the NIC. I’m not sure if our legislation will get a vote, let alone pass, but perhaps more members should ask their fraternities:
- To explain financial contributions to the NIC & NIC Foundation
- To alert student/alumni leaders of upcoming NIC votes 30+ days in advance
- To give student/alumni leaders opportunities to vote or share thoughts on upcoming NIC votes
- To require a vote to determine whether or not their fraternity endorses legislation at local, state and federal levels
Similar legislation could be passed at the NIC level, requiring that all member organizations follow similar guidelines, but it’s likely that such requirements would need to be inspired by changes within several influential fraternities (Let’s say, Sig Ep, Pi Kapp, Pike, SAE, & Sigma Nu, just to name a few)
Do I trust our fraternity leaders? Yes. I certainly trust their intentions and that they are doing their best to create a safe experience for student members.
Do I believe in student leadership? Yes, and that’s why I believe that they should have greater involvement in decision-making, especially when the greatest burdens of those decisions tend to fall on the students.
To act in the best interests of our members we must know the interests of our members. Frankly, that’s difficult to do when we rely on several dozen people to make high-stakes and broad decisions on behalf of millions of others.