Do you pour cereal before milk or milk before cereal? Should toilet paper unravel toward you or away from you? How about paper towels? These questions are ultimately irrelevant, but I imagine some of you reading this article may have a visceral (hateful, even) response to the image above.
Oh, stop huffing and puffing! There are many ways to eat a KitKat. Even if the image does not depict the best way to make the most of your KitKat bar. That said, it is marketed as a single bar of candy. The jingle goes, "Break me off a piece of that Kit-Kat bar." That marketing jingle, paired with the technical design of a KitKat, lead to a common understanding that a Kit-Kat bar is meant to be broken into 4 separate pieces (8 if you have a King Size, 2 for the Halloween/snack size). Each piece is then individually consumed.
Still, even that common understanding is open to debate. For example, consider the Kourtney Kardashian Method: (KKM – with over 3 million views at the time of posting. . . seriously, where are people from?)
I tried the KKM, which inspired this post, and I must admit that it changed my perspective. The candy is more enjoyable, lasts longer, and I could appreciate each of the flavors and textures of a single KitKat bar. But, at the end of the day, a KitKat is simply made to be eaten. It fulfills its destiny so long as it is consumed.
Now, I might raise an issue if someone throws away a perfectly good KitKat bar. (Heathens) They are a wonderful candy and – as far as I recall – one of the few made without high fructose corn syrup. (Give me that real sugar, baby!) That said, I wouldn’t make a fuss so long as someone is eating it. Different people enjoy KitKats in different ways, and they are allowed to. Once the money changes hands, it is theirs to consume.
Oh wow, this was a metaphor!
College fraternities also have an ultimate destiny. They exist to provide a home away from home for college students. Fraternities have always done for fraternity members the things families do for family members: Hold them accountable, build them up, help them launch their future, and support them through tough times. Some are better at those things than others (Wow! Just like real families!).
Still, that sounds like a valuable experience in its own right. It is especially valuable for those students who do not come from supportive or well-connected families. So why do we obsess over every little detail regarding how a fraternity is structured and how it works? Why is a fraternity only successful if it puts on a certain number of certain kinds of programs on an annual basis? Which (admirable) family operates in such a robotic, impersonal way?
The vast majority of campus professionals I worked with would emphasize the need for something different at their school. They (along with the students who approved our expansion) would demand we create a new chapter that would shock their Greek Life system. In almost every case, however, the chapter was expected to do the same things as every other chapter on campus immediately after establishment. When our partners said “different,” what they often wanted was a fraternity chapter that would do everything asked of them without question. They wanted a group of ass-kissing robots to demonstrate to the other fraternity chapters how to follow whatever arbitrary rules were put into place.
“At this school, you are not a fraternity if you don’t participate in the lip-sync.” “At this school, you are not a fraternity if you don’t have a house.” “At this school, you are not a fraternity if you don’t at least try to win all of the trophies we offer.” What does that have to do with giving students a support system? How is that considered “self-governing”? What happened to all that “different” stuff you said before?
What about if students don’t care about those things? Based on registrations for “rush,” 70%-80% of students at most college campuses don’t care about those things. How do we appeal to them? Do we make the lists more complex? Do we further limit and intensify the definition of what specific things need to be completed to be a “fraternity”? Would more people enjoy or purchase Kit-Kats if we demanded that everyone eat them according to the KKM?
Our laser focus on getting the checklist of leadership just right (“Zero tolerance! We know best!”) prevents chapters from focusing on things that would allow their members to stand out. Some people just want a home away from home. They are not interested in vying for trophies or proving that they are better than every other fraternity. Are they wrong for wanting those things? Can't there be a fraternity for those people?
Highly Curricular Extra-Curriculars
I would occasionally be turned down from setting up a chapter at a school because a few chapters were “struggling.” What’s worse is that the only way for those struggling chapters to be considered successful was if they grew and did everything all of the other chapters were doing. Most still failed, even without me adding another competitor to the playing field. The few who survived often took years to get to wherever fraternity professionals wanted them to get.
The process of rehabilitating chapters we perceive to be struggling is not fun. We may be more successful if we just reduced the number of things expected of them, allowed them to grow to a size with which they were comfortable, and let them act as a family. That certainly sounds like a better college experience than struggling to meet someone else's standard, failing, and losing your fraternity as a result.
We forget which chapters won which award within a year or two. The same can be said for the number of service hours a chapter logs or which lectures and workshops they sat through. The “right” way to do fraternity (according to the people who run the show) is repetitive, forgettable, and it distracts students from being creative with their fraternity/sorority experience.
It would be wonderful if we allowed more students to enjoy their
KitKats fraternity experience in a way that suits their needs and interests. Not everyone should be required to subscribe to the KKM our "Standards of Excellence" checklists to eat their KitKat have a home away from home.
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