Articles & Thoughts
I have had the privilege of writing a number of articles over the years for various publications and audiences. I thought that you, my visitors to the website, might enjoy reading one or more of these articles. I have edited, updated and in some cases changed the focus of the articles. Regardless, it is my hope that you find these of interest and of value in your endeavors in our sorority and fraternity world.
“They did see it…”
Soon after the opening of Disney World in Orlando, Florida, a group of visitors was given a bus tour of the sprawling complex. As was the practice in those days, a Disney executive was the tour guide. Near the end of the tour, a visitor remarked that it was regrettable that Walt Disney, the creative genius, founder and CEO of the company that bore his name, did not live to see the opening of the huge park.
Mike Vance, Creative Director for Walt Disney studios and the tour guide that day, quickly responded.
“He did see it”, Vance said. “That is why it is here”
Many a women’s and men’s national fraternity or sorority member has made a comment similar to that of the Disney guest. The comment takes this form: “If only our founders could see us today!”
The response? They did see us.
Our Founders saw far beyond their respective campuses. They saw a national organization, chapters in many states, the development of individuals into women or men who would contribute to campus life in many ways.
And, they saw the need to bring more members into the brotherhood or sisterhood. That is a lesson we must emphasize and reiterate each semester and each year.
Regardless of the term used–rush or recruitment–the result in a chapter is usually “Good” or “We could have done better”.
During the past five years many men’s national fraternities have undergone what a financial advisor might call a “Market adjustment”. –the term used to describe a downturn in the price of a stock after a rally or anomaly in pricing. The adjustment is usually explained as the price of the stock declining to a level that reflects the actual value of the stock.
The reasons for the adjustment include but are not limited to the condition of chapter houses, higher expectations from young members, an ongoing battle with our image, the persistent perception that fraternities continue to offer little other than parties and alcohol, numerous hazing cases…and our ongoing reluctance to acknowledge that recruitment is recruitment and not “rush” and that it is indeed 24/7/365.
Within that adjustment is another anomaly. Expansion activity and the recolonization of inactive chapters has become a growth industry in most men’s fraternities. The number of “Spontaneous combustion” groups—young men joining together and then seeking affiliation with a national organization—appears to be increasing. Most men’s national fraternities have growth in chapters as a top five priority.
And, when asked why they would choose to endure the lengthy labor pains of starting or recolonizing a chapter as opposed to joining an existing fraternity on a campus, the young men often say, “We don’t want to be hazed and we want to be different” (you can read that as being values-driven, having a reputation as gentlemen, and being a credit to the campus and community).
What can we extrapolate from these seemingly inconsistent findings?
First: The concept of fraternity remains as fresh and bright and clear as it did nearly 200 years ago. There are tens of thousands of young men on our campuses who get it—who understand that fraternity stands for standards. They understand that brotherhood is a two-way street—that in order to receive the benefits of brotherhood, you must meet the values and expectations of brotherhood. They understand that being a brother may mean being tough or demanding with another brother in order to help him. They understand that there is a significant difference between friends and brothers. On too many occasions to count, the chapter leaders of a chapter in crisis will say, “Now is when we find out how many friends we have and how many brothers we have”. The message: Friends will stand by other people. Brothers will stand by the values of the organization. Friends will take a narrow view. Brothers will take the longer, deeper view.
Second: If they are interested in starting a new chapter, the message is simple. “We have looked at what is available, and we aren’t interested”. That is a message right back to the existing chapters on that campus. Why not invite several of the colony members to an IFC meeting and ask them for their candid feedback (without naming names) as to the Greek community? Or use an anonymous survey of those men or of members and new members from all chapters. The answers may surprise you. The stereotypes, college urban legends and painful perceptions will hurt. So do the headlines as chapter after chapter loses university recognition. It is a choice that each governing council is free to make.
Third: If we are not offering what many undergraduates want, why do we continue to do the same things, year after year? The founders of our national organizations saw a need and responded, again and again, with similar yet unique organizations called “fraternities” or “sororities”, from the early 1800s to the present day. They used a blank sheet of paper and filled it with what they saw as something different. Our chapters could do exactly the same thing…if leaders and sisters or brothers said, “We can make these changes”.
Our founders saw the promise. Will we live up to that promise?