A student died at Louisiana State University; you know this – it’s been in the news.
You may also have come to anticipate the responses. Everyone condemns the activities of the students, the college or university temporarily suspends fraternity and sorority life or redoubles its efforts to temporarily eliminate alcohol use.
Here’s a fun fact: Phi Delta Theta, the fraternity of choice for this particular young man, has an “alcohol-free housing” policy and has had one for many years. My fraternity, Delta Sigma Phi, also has an “alcohol-free housing” policy, as do many others. It’s nothing new.
America even tried an “alcohol-free nation” policy early in the 20th Century, the result of which was an obscene level of gang violence and an increase in non-violent criminal activity (running a bar, etc.).
The people of the United States eventually came to the conclusion that alcohol was something a little too difficult to ban out of existence, and there are still questions today as to whether the restrictions we have in place, namely the age requirement, are relevant, productive or ethical.
What’s the point? A short while ago I tweeted this:
It was in response to the linked press release, within which were new policies all NIC fraternities are expected to adopt by the end of 2018 to curb hazing and other activities we deem uncouth.
Drury University recently enacted new, but not really, hazing policies which are not only contradictory in claiming that they are not “top-down” but which they are sharing with other universities without ever having tested.
Why would any educated person so blatantly share their new policies as if they are the second coming of Christ without having tested them for at least a year to determine whether or not they are even workable, let alone effective?
Higher education, which is increasingly directing our fraternities’ and sororities’ operations, is so obsessed with making face and being “woke,” that they’ll peddle anything they can think of even if it turns out to be snake oil (i.e. ineffective, useless, a scam).
We often conflate an elected or appointed body passing some new rules with solving a problem or addressing a situation. People expect it of their senators all the time. The fact is that the only thing a legislative body can do, whether it be that of a fraternity or that of a nation, is write into effect new rules – each of which is essentially a threat and derives its power from the likelihood that it’ll be strictly enforced.
For example: Your senator cannot make health care more affordable, he or she can only write and vote on new rules that those who provide health care or a safety net (insurance) must follow to avoid being penalized or which threaten jail to those who make X amount of dollars and refuse to pay a tax or fine to subsidize the cost for others. Neither of those make it “more affordable,” they simply re-arrange the billing process by threat of force.
Here we see a similar situation: A fraternity took decisive action many years ago, and the students didn’t listen. Additionally, the fraternity’s policy (that of no alcohol) contends with the university’s policies, in the linked article above, which limit, yet still allow, alcohol at fraternity parties.
To whom will the students respond? An office of a few dozen people hundreds or thousands of miles away, or an office of a handful of people down the block? The answer is neither, they’ll give in to peer pressure because those are the types of men we recruit.
I can’t help but feel that the policies proposed by the NIC will have a similar effect to the decisive, alcohol-free housing policy of this one fraternity. Expect:
- Students to get around the rules by hosting parties at houses other than the chapter house (regardless of how many times they are then told that any function with X number of members is a “fraternity function”)
- Students to hide their activities from their advisors, their campus professionals and their national/international headquarters
- The general disagreement between who is liable for an individual’s actions to result in similar situations in which the professionals and parents points fingers, pass new, more complex policies, then get away without so much as a scratch while some students do jail time or are forever branded as hazers, substance abusers or perverts.
Are these policies “action,” or are they just convoluted ways for fraternities to rightly acknowledge that their small offices meant to facilitate the national or international networking of members are unfit to monitor thousands of individuals who join their respective component chapters?
Are they a means for schools to manage a crisis or to refuse to address their loose admission standards in the name of accessibility? Do the policies just consolidate decision-making power away from the individuals making these terrible decisions as opposed to helping improve their ability to make better decisions?
I’m not sure how to solve our greatest issues, but I am annoyed with these policies going undiscussed until it’s time to vote them in or until after they’ve been voted on and passed with only a half-hearted whisper informing those whom the policies affect.
My theory remains that it is not the role of, nor is it possible for, a national friend club to be tasked with and held liable for the actions of student members unrelated to the purpose of that organization – which is to be a friend club.
Membership is lifelong, but people only question liability when it’s related to student activity. Once you are an alumnus, apparently, your fraternity is free of liability regarding your poor decisions.
So here’s what I’ll do in the coming year to try to bring these deliberations to light:
Within my fraternity, I’ll propose amendments to our Constitution and Bylaws requiring notification of votes taking place at NIC Annual Meetings, restrictions on those votes, and investigations into existing policies and programming regarding hazing, substance abuse and sexual assault and whether those are better determined and enforced at a collegiate or individual level.
I will find cosponsors within my fraternity and share with you all the final language of the proposals as we submit them.
If you’d like to assist or propose similar resolutions within your fraternity/sorority, shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s “take action,” as so many love to call it.
What will my proposals aim to accomplish? I would like more transparency regarding how fraternities make decisions at the NIC Annual Meetings, especially when those decisions affect component chapters, which the NIC was not initially created to monitor or oversee (though I must give credit to the lack of a legitimate “history” piece on the NIC’s Wikipedia page or website).
I would like that same level of transparency within my fraternity and all fraternities.
I’d like to make sure we look back at the money and time we spend combatting these issues and determining whether we are being effective or if we should adjust our philosophical approach way from re-parenting adult college students.
I’d like to stop pretending an office of 5-40 people is capable of monitoring the lives of, and enforcing complex policies among, thousands of students.
Realistically, I’d like a check on the number of policies fraternities are passing as a collective whole and with immense ease.
We give far too much credit to our leaders for passing idealistic policies, expectedly failing to universally enforce them, and then passing additional Band-Aid policies thereafter – both as a nation, and as fraternity men and women.