I’ve spent more than 30 years involved with the Fraternity and Sorority system as a chapter officer, chapter advisor, regional volunteer, foundation board director, house corporation board member, and president of a company that focuses on alumni/ae and parent relations as well as fundraising. I met my wife through my fraternity. My son is a fraternity brother. My best friends are almost all fraternity brothers. I’m proud to say my fraternal experience has been more than rewarding.
Many fraternity and sorority members joined our chapters for the right reasons – a sense of belonging, a way to be involved on campus, a way to share good times and create memories, a place to learn how to become a good leader, and/or a place to develop lifelong friendships. Unfortunately, too many members join to drink up and hook up, and that leads to a significant number of juniors and seniors checking out and moving-on.
Fraternities and sororities are social organizations, but “social” should be 25% of who we are and definitely not 75% or more. Not one ritual or mission says please join our chapters, use us for a few years of socializing and then move-on. If our organizations existed solely as a social outlet for our undergraduate members, we would not be called fraternities or sororities, we would be called social clubs. Fraternal organizations are supposed to be about academics, leadership, service, socializing, and brotherhood and sisterhood for a lifetime.
It’s time for local chapters, headquarters, and universities to join together and develop membership organizations that actually benefit our alumni/ae and undergraduate members as well as host institutions. When I suggest seriously partnering together, I mean, innovate and commit to change…and not just talk about it. This may mean a reduction in membership size, but it may not. Maybe many students who were avoiding joining the Greek System because of actual or perceived behavioral concerns, might choose to join if we focused on our core values.
Like no time in the last century, the very existence of Greek-lettered social organizations, is at a crossroads. It’s vital that we provide more value to our members and the universities where are chapters are located. The acceptance of alcohol and drug abuse, bias, hazing, and sexual assault must stop! While I know it is the minority of our members crossing the line here, society is dictating that we are responsible for all of our members. Fraternities and sororities must become living-learning centers: places where young men and women are supported, become career-ready, and develop a lifetime affinity for their chapter, national/international organization, and university, while having a safe social experience.
I challenge all stakeholders to make the difficult changes, but mostly, I challenge chapters to recruit and educate for excellence. Great fraternities and sororities are often the best learning incubators on a college campus. Students, alumni/ae, parents, headquarters and universities are in this together. If we really care, then we need to be committed to providing an extraordinary experience.
Check out my next Blog: Message to Today’s Undergraduate Fraternity and Sorority Members
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