I frequently comment on the North American Inter-Fraternity Conference, whether that be suggesting the umbrella group go co-ed  or noting that their response to an Atlantic article comparing fraternities to gangs was elitist and regressive . I still think those and many things about the NIC and it’s leaders’ determination to transform it into a governing organization (It is not), but I’ve pledged to be a little nicer and proactive – so here it is.
The organization recently announced a coalition with HazingPrevention.org, The Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors (AFA), The Association of Fraternal Leadership & Values (AFLV – technically also AFA, but whatever), and four families of fraternity men to prevent hazing. The three-point plan includes:
- Pursue state-based anti-hazing legislation that delivers greater transparency through stronger hazing reporting requirements, strengthens criminal penalties and encourages prosecution, calls for university accountability for bad actors, provides amnesty to encourage people to call for help, and calls for student education.
- Expand awareness and intervention education, including providing a platform for the parents to speak to tens of thousands of college students.
- Engage fraternity and sorority members in educating high school students to confront hazing and bullying.
Sounds great – I am all for more collaborative efforts with parents and less pandering to campus administrations – which are demonstrating complete disregard for the fraternity experience . Better yet, this makes for some great news: the people ultimately suing and garnering TONS of earned news media about their disdain for hazing are now working with fraternities to stop it.
Still, I have my reservations about the coalition. It has nothing to do with the coalition itself, only its methods to address the hazing issue. Support for the REACH Act should be nixed entirely. If states want to bundle together some already illegal things and make them more illegal then whatever, but we should not require that colleges/universities, fraternities or taxpayers shell out additional money for woefully ineffective educational programming .
Here are three things I think should be considered along with links to corresponding posts which go into depth (in case you are curious and have an extra 5 minutes which, let’s be honest, you definitely do).
- Reform Fraternity Insurance: The manner in which fraternities insure their chapters politicizes the investigative/closure process, impedes the ability of students to understand the policies to which they agree to, requires that excellent chapters provide an unnecessary lifeline to wealth-producing, but risky, chapters, and creates a giant pot of gold which appeals to anyone with the mind to file a lawsuit. Decentralize insurance. 
- Start Reporting Hazing Statistics Now: Let’s face it, the NIC’s lobbying efforts are a failure. We were all told that the Collegiate Housing & Infrastructure Act (CHIA) had multi-partisan support to pass and that we “only needed tax reform” to get it done. Well, tax reform came and went and CHIA is all but a distant memory. Instead, partner with colleges/universities, many of which endorse the REACH Act, to start reporting these statistics now. It isn’t leadership for Penn State to endorse legislation requiring all schools report this information – it would be leadership for Penn State (among others) to set the example. What are they waiting for? More tax subsidies?
- Advocate For Free Association By Ending Checklist Leadership: Fraternities, sororities, and their campus communities often enforce lengthy, time-consuming checklists they call “standards,” but these standards do little to benefit the fraternity experience. In fact, the sheer size and quantity of expectations encourages chapters to eschew quality-control and niche development in favor of manpower. 
That’s it: nice and simple, right? I can certainly suggest more, but these three things are all within the power of the members of the coalition to make happen. Their current priorities are not – think about it:
- Legislation requires lobbying, which takes time and dollars away from interacting with students – who ultimately determine whether or not dangerous hazing continues underground.
- Presenting to students is great, but we have been presenting to them for dozens of years with little to show for it.
- Getting students to talk to high schoolers – same premise. I remember being in high school and we laughed our asses off at the speakers who would come to us if they were the least bit unprepared, overly scripted, or weird. That is a punishing audience.
The coalition is great in its concept, but it relies too heavily on others to act for anything to change. We can change how we are insured, we can change how we report statistics, and we can influence what qualifies for “standards” and why generic, catch-all checklists impede the progress of the fraternity experience.
If we can do so much without begging the government or high schoolers for favors, why don’t we simply add them to the list?