FM Quip: Fraternal Thoughts To Ponder Together

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Some things come to the mind incomplete. I wake up in the morning, have a thought about fraternities, jot it down, and may never return to it again. Many of the posts I write are forever drafts, never to be published. Occasionally, two or more writings come together to make one good post.

Some thoughts; however, may benefit from their open-ended nature. They are questions not yet answered, or ideas which may affect how we view other ideas. Occasionally, they are too radical to flesh out. Here are some of those thoughts. Let’s have fun with it; let’s discuss.

Fraternal Thought 1: Should fraternity students/college students sign waivers?

Would signing a waiver cement the idea that a college student is a free adult? Can a waiver instill a sense of responsibility into students and parents for their actions? What if it explained that, per university policy, they would be at fault for the actions of their associations?

It is not unusual for students to reaffirm their organizational policies at the start of each year or semester. What if each member was exposed to the fine print? How much more seriously might they take their college or fraternity experience? A waiver would not be necessary in an ideal world, but our world is not ideal. We require waivers for a tug-o-war tournament, why not a 4-year experience away from home?

Fraternal Thought 2: What kills fraternity men besides alcohol and hazing?

If memory serves me correctly, falls from fraternity houses cause about as much death, injury, and/or damage as incidents of hazing or substance misuse. Would we consider policies or legislation limiting fraternity houses to single-story facilities? Why does it seem like we are most focused on protecting those lives which may be lost only in the most newsworthy ways?

To my knowledge, there is little or no training for fraternity members on standard house safety. Do chapters know to make an evacuation plan? Have students practiced what to do in the event of an emergency or active shooter? What about those chapters whose costly houses violate a single-story policy? Should their upstairs windows be sealed shut, hotel-style? Would that be going to far? What is too far?

Fraternal Thought 3: Where are my intuitive people at?

Attend an Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors (AFA) annual meeting and you’ll pick up on an interesting habit. People who have built careers out of Greek Life are sort of obsessed with justifying their careers. As a result, we bow down to concepts of academic research, data-driven decisions, SCIENCE!, etc.

It is an understandable response. Most people do not understand what it means to work in Greek Life. That obsession to prove our value; however, has painted us into a corner. Suggesting an idea based purely on experience or tuition is like committing treason. Heck, we rarely ever listen to the data we have; just look at the hazing debacle.

A thought – ask students what problems they are facing. Help them think through their problems. Stop worrying about whether or not the help you offer is backed by research. Don’t even consider writing about what you’ve done for a journal or magazine. Just help.

Fraternal Thought 4:Why aren’t we our own philanthropies?

The work our organizations do for community partners is inspiring. I see many fraternities and foundations; however, struggle to provide passable services for their members. Why do we spend so much time raising money for 3rd party non-profits? Could fraternity be enough of a service to the community on its own?

What if a fraternity made reducing the college debt burden its priority? Would it attract high quality students seeking a way to pay for college and willing to learn the ways of Greek Life?

What if a fraternity offered supportive services to local high schools? Could they be valuable partners in helping that fraternity expand to new college campuses?

How could fraternities be different if the better people we built weren’t only dues-paying members? What if each fraternity had a purpose as unique as its name, something which gave it unique value to society? Would alumni be more willing to donate and stay involved? Couldn’t that serve as a way to integrate service into a more holistic leadership model?

Fraternal Thought 5: Do anti-hazing laws affect all hazers?

If we take a zero-tolerance approach to hazing, is that for all people, nationwide? Or, is it just for fraternity men and marching bands? Will gang members be charged with hazing violations? What about Major League Baseball players or our armed forces?

I wonder this because if we truly believe that systemic bullying is a problem, should we not try to get rid of it in all of its forms? How much could our nation improve if we went into dangerous or unlikely areas to uncover and eliminate hazing?

Fraternal Thought 6: What if chapter members wore body cameras? What if we convinced them they already do?

Remember how everyone began demanding body cameras on police officers? What if we required body cameras on chapter officers while in chapter facilities? Would that be too great a violation of privacy to stop systemic bullying and substance misuse?

I might never support this idea, but it still captivates me. Cell phones can operate like body cameras in many ways. Much of the evidence related to tragic incidents can be found on members’ phones or on social media. What if this topic could open up new ways to discuss privacy and integrity in fraternities?


What are your thoughts? Could any of these make for interesting discussions during a chapter meeting? Tell me.