That Ain’t Purpose, Buddy, It’s Public Relations

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The purpose of is to provide insight for students and alumni into the workings and bureaucracy of higher education and fraternities and sororities. I stole that picture from . . it just screams “PURPOSE,” doesn’t it?


On occasion, I hate on fraternities and sororities (and colleges) for being a jack of all trades and master of none. Do you know what those types of people did in the old days? Here:



Most who work with fraternities talk regularly about core values and the purpose of fraternity and sorority. Professionals of higher education and Greek Life, the leaders of our “movement,” and students, aspiring leaders themselves, seem to agree on a few key values for fraternities and sororities. They are, in no particular order and excluding something very “important” to someone, somewhere:

  • Community Service
  • Philanthropy
  • Leadership (typically graded by involvement in on-campus organizations)
  • Brotherhood (um. . . )
  • Academics

“What’s wrong with that?” – you say.

“None require fraternities, that’s what’s wrong with that,” I say.

Are we so devoid of “purpose” that the only way we know to build character is to require young men and women to volunteer and raise funds for other organizations? Doing community service isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not the central purpose of most fraternities. Is there a reason you are counting the hours and trying to win a trophy? Yes, there is a reason. That reason is public relations.


Are we so devoid of “purpose” that our members are only considered valuable when they become leaders of other campus organizations? Why? Is it because there isn’t any value in being a leader of a fraternity or sorority? Being highly involved doesn’t mean you are a good person or leader, it means you are highly involved. It is a demand for students to work over-time (a no-no)


Are we so devoid of “purpose,” that we pick a variety of undefinable, unmeasurable unknowns, such as “friendship” and “brotherhood” as key strategic initiatives of our organizations? Every chapter has the best brotherhood according to every chapter, so if this is our purpose maybe we shouldn’t do all the other jazz.


Perhaps we are so devoid of purpose that we make the entire point of attending college, earning a degree, one of the key pillars of our organizations. Perhaps colleges and universities themselves have so lost their way that they need student groups to pick out the students who actually wish give academics the old college try.


What am I getting at here?

A purpose is singular; a purpose is a reason for bringing people together. Purpose is uncluttered. Companies and organizations and people with a clear purpose achieve their purpose. Organizations with many leaders but little or an unknown purpose perform publicity stunts instead.

If your chapter’s purpose is to be academically inclined then do that. Stop trying to please everyone else with your service and philanthropy chops.

If your chapter’s purpose is “brotherhood,” which I am still confused by in terms of why you need to join a fraternity to build strong friendships, then stop all the other crap to make yourselves look good and focus on the brotherhood.

This isn’t just a problem for our students either – Professionals in our field, fresh out of school, with limited real-world leading experience and burdened by more rules and regulations to jump through than the damn Department of Education seem to have no confidence in their organizations’ abilities to be valuable on their own. Instead, we create processes/expectations to make fraternities a benefit to everyone except the members.

In return, we promise them “leadership” experience. Perhaps one day, those men and women will grow up to make lists of things to do of their own! Perhaps one day, people will see fraternities as enough of a leadership experience that fewer men and women choose to hide it from their job applications.

Buddy – whoever you are. Don’t spend your life making it appear as if you add value to the world. Figure out what value you want to add to the world and make that happen. Hashtag No More Checklists.

She looks like she’s getting a lot done. . . looks like it