Update: Tau Kappa Epsilon, Kappa Sigma, Lambda Chi Alpha & Phi Delta Theta have instructed chapter officers to pay only the $30 required of NIC-member fraternities. Read TKE’s release (which expresses support of 3 other non-NIC fraternities representing 950 chapters) by clicking here, read Kappa Sigma’s here
The North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) is assuming authority over local Inter-Fraternity Councils (IFC) after decades of neglect. There is reason to fear a power-grab by the NIC, an organization more accountable to inter/national fraternity corporations than their members. But there are silver linings to the plan which could excite some fraternity members.
So, it’s not that recognition from the NIC is a bad thing for students in the long run. I will; however, explain why now is a crucial moment for students to stop following rules and lead. Strategically, this is a rare opportunity for IFC officers to bring relevance to their roles.
A Strategy Behind The NIC’s Hostile Takover
I can imagine many reasons why the NIC may want to take the reins of IFCs. Let’s start with a simple one: The NIC will receive a serious financial boost of at least $400,000. That is about a 16% increase in revenue from the NIC’s Fiscal Year 2017 report. It also doesn’t include what they will collect for IFC insurance, which starts at $599 if there are 5 or fewer chapters on a campus.
The move may pressure non-NIC fraternities such as Kappa Sigma or Tau Kappa Epsilon to re-join the association. They may also decide not to take part, and start their own councils. (ANOTHER council. . . yay?) It also presents a unique opportunity to break fraternity governance away from university policies and administrations. That is something I can get behind!
How Will This Affect Students
- Inter/national fraternities which are members of NIC organizations will lobby and pressure chapters to affiliate their IFC with the NIC. If that is unworkable, they may establish their own IFC.
- “Recognized” IFCs are to adhere to a “Standard Operating Procedure” which can be found here on the NIC’s website.
- IFCs will be billed for the NIC’s “Campus Support Model,” which is a compilation of special-interest-fueled discounts and consulting services. All IFC’s will be billed $30 per chapter of an NIC member fraternity and $330 for non-NIC fraternities (Kappa Sig, TKE, etc.) – OR – An IFC can pay a flat fee starting at $5,000 for additional “perks”
- IFCs, which would ultimately move toward more independent entities once recognized by the NIC, can purchase insurance from the NIC. I do not know how much it costs the NIC, but I have been told to assume that it will take in a profit.
That’s a simple way of putting it. Here is why you should say “No!” . . . for now.
What IFCs Should/Could Demand
Times of transition create opportunities to make strategic plays. Students have a chance to demand greater influence with this “Recognized” IFC stuff. I am not suggesting that students take down the NIC. Instead, students should not pay a dime to the NIC until some or all of the following conditions are met:
- Each IFC earns a vote on NIC matters – Whether this vote “counts” is up to students. Still, even if the vote is just procedural and holds no weight in NIC decision-making, it would be the first legitimate record of how students across the country feel about NIC policies before they are voted upon. The umbrella association has taken advantage of its distance from students and their ignorance toward its deal-making for too long.
Other items to consider:
- All NIC member organizations must be members of an IFC at any campus, and pay dues to the NIC. They should also be required to take part in all of the dog-and-pony-show PR within the new “Standard Operating Procedures.”
- The Standard Operating Procedures should be scaled down and the Campus Support Model scrapped entirely (reasons later). They are replacing one failed system with an identical system, only this one costs more money.
None of the NIC’s plans can happen without the compliance of students. As a former fraternity professional, I know how we take “compliance” for granted. We take for granted that students turn over every 4-5 years, and that student leaders turn over every 1-2 years. So take charge and consider the following when your IFC debates whether or not to pay:
1. “No Taxation Without Representation”
For too long, fraternity big shots have endorsed legislation or passed policies at NIC meetings without consulting their dues-paying members. Some fraternities have better, more transparent processes than others. But there is no “Standard Operating Procedure” in how the NIC or its members deal with students. Go figure.
Colonists fought for independence over this very issue, and it is an important one. The biggest contributors to the NIC’s budget are member dues, vendor contributions, and the new IFC “Campus Support Model” fees. Guess where all of that money comes from? Students.
Undergraduate members pay dues to inter/national fraternities, which then pay dues to the NIC. They pay for services from vendor organizations (directly or indirectly), which then give money to the NIC for preferential treatment. Finally, students pay their IFCs, which will then forward that money on to the NIC headquarters in Carmel, Indiana.
The “Students Don’t Need A Vote, They Already Have One” Illogic
A fraternity executive and I debated this online a few weeks ago. His suggestion was that students can take their problems to the NIC through their fraternity. In theory, students of a fraternity could organize a vote that their fraternity’s delegates could raise at an NIC meeting. That’s a whole lot of politicking when students can directly bargain the NIC by withholding dollars. They own the experience. That is fact.
2. Same Bureaucracy. . . Now More Expensive!
What do students get out of the deal? Hopefully they gain some freedom from hostile college administrators. Perhaps the ideological worldview of Fraternity/Sorority professionals will no longer result in adolescent prohibition policies. No more deferred recruitment, closed-expansion, and/or bloated “Standards of Excellence” checklists!
Unfortunately, such is not the case. The NIC is lobbying like hell for greater “zero-tolerance” approaches to hazing and alcohol. That makes each of those symptomatic problems tougher to deal with. It is unlikely that a recognized IFC will ever be coaxed into deferring recruitment – so that’s a plus. My guess is that “open expansion” will not apply to non-NIC members. That doesn’t matter because Kappa Sigma legitimately doesn’t care.
It’s Standard Operating Procedure; however, should be the straw which breaks the camel’s back. It is packed with bloatware and designed to teach IFC’s to handle issues like the NIC does. That should be concerning. The NIC can’t even get legislation with supposedly strong, multi-partisan support to pass through Congress (R.I.P. CHIA).
3. The Campus Support Model Is A Joke
First of all, no one wants NIC consultants. Second, the NIC could have easily provided students with the discounts from vendor partners free of charge. Why? BECAUSE THE VENDORS ALREADY PAY THE NIC. (sorry for shouting) The highest level contributors give $10,000. Some own multiple brands in the Greek Life space and pay the maximum amount multiple times.
It is a “pay-to-play” scheme whereby the NIC courts vendors to give it money, then requires students to pay to get discounts. There are already too few Greek Life-oriented companies run by millennials. This preferential treatment of vendors is a slap in the face to paying students. It’s also a way to thwart innovation and startups in the Greek Life world. Which is basically how umbrella associations treat new fraternities and sororities.
4. Who Pays (& What They Pay) Is Unequal
Perhaps a helpful staffer from the NIC can enlighten me on this topic. There are many inter/national organizations which are members of the NIC, but not IFCs. Will they be required to take part? How, if not, can the NIC enforce the ideal fraternity experience?
A perfect example are the NPHC (historically-black) fraternities which are NIC members, including Alpha Sigma Phi and Kappa Alpha Psi. Neither will likely be required to take part in the new IFC’s. One must wonder why only some NIC members will be coerced to join the new IFCs and why others won’t.
“She doesn’t even go here. . . “
Furthermore, there are four non-NIC fraternities who will likely be required to pay the higher $330 fee or more. (There are no college campuses with 100+ historically-white fraternity chapters. In no situation will paying a flat fee rate for the “Campus Support Model” result in any group paying less.) TKE, Kappa Sig, Lambda Chi, and Phi Delt have about 950 chapters between them. Together, they will pay a minimum of $300,000 to an umbrella association of which they are not members.
Update 11/11/2019: Sigma Phi Epsilon left the NIC as of 11/7/2019 and will therefore be required to pay the additional $300. There are approximately 220 chapters of Sig Ep.
So here we have a coercive power-play. These non-member fraternity students will ultimately pay just as much as everyone else for the NIC. But without your IFC getting a vote, they have no say in how that $300,000 is put to use. If the NIC is going to directly deal with student-led IFCs, it must also answer to them.
5. The NIC’s Lack of Transparency
I would not be this enthusiastic about students staking their claim were it not for the shady ways in which the NIC handles its business. Why do IFCs need insurance? What is the cost of the insurance to the NIC? What will the NIC do with any profit? Where is this six-figure infusion of cash being spent? Why can’t students get a vote on important policy decisions?
We will certainly hear about how this or that IFC chose to become recognized by the NIC. We’ll hear how student leaders chose to pay more money for no voice and greater bureaucracy.
But then we see emails like the one in the image below. This orchestrated effort to lobby students is par for the course of how the NIC operates. It directs its member organizations’ staff teams to influence chapters to vote certain ways. It’s the same process NIC members use to promote expansion.
I remember being told to facilitate similar conversations when I was the Director of Fraternity Growth. We’d call the chapter president and say, “you have to vote yes because it’s NIC policy.” These are not students making decisions, they are students being made to believe they are making decisions.
The Most Important Opportunity For Student Leadership In My Time
I came to see how students are manipulated by alumni members, volunteers and Greek Life careerists, while working on my fraternity staff. It bothers me to this day, and the NIC represents the highest level of bureaucratic snobbery in Greek Life (along with other umbrella associations).
So, yes, there is a wonderful opportunity to break IFCs away from campuses – a move which I think is essential to the future of fraternity. But to replace one form of bureaucracy with a less transparent, more expensive, equally incompetent form of bureaucracy is insanity.
Students: You need to make your voice heard. You deserve a say in every NIC matter. You actually have nothing to lose in this fight. That’s because the NIC really has no actual power over your fraternity.
But you do :).