Saturday, December 31, 2011

First Steps on the Journey

Hello my fellow Greeks, family, and friends!
When I decided to participate in this trip, I didn’t know what to expect. As I traveled here today I kept thinking about my daily life and how making the decision to immerse myself in service is just the same as the decision I made three years ago when I became a member of Greek Life. I was completely uncomfortable today because I didn’t know anyone or what to expect, but when the group joined and began talking about our values and how they impact our daily lives, instantly it was as if we had known each other for some time. This is the last night in the year of 2011, as I look back I truly have gained an understanding and ability to apply service in my leadership. Going Greek was a conscious decision to publicly vow my life to service, an added responsibility that I would always put others before myself. Although this week will be the opportunity to learn about a different culture in the midst of serving, it is a reminder that I truly am a servant of all, first of all, transcending all.
Frederick Leon Cox III is a Senior at the University of Dayton and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Welcome to San Salvador!


Greetings from San Salvador, El Salvador, the site of our fourth AFLV service immersion trip. Students from all over the US and Candada will be arriving in San Salvador this afternoon for a week of service and cultural immersion. We arrived late last night to lay the foundation for the week, and I wanted to share a bit of information about our upcoming work with you! For the rest of the week, the student participants will be blogging about their experiences, so be sure to follow along all week!

Tomorrow (Sunday) we will be doing some immersion in San Salvador visiting the tomb of Romero, Mass at the National Cathedral, and shopping in the Mercado Quartel. Tomorrow afternoon we head out to an orphanage in Santa Ana. We'll spend the afternoon playing and doing activities with the childern in the orphange.

Monday through Friday we will be working in three communities here in El Salvador. The first is Las Delicias, where Project FIAT has been doing work since their arrival in El Salvador. We'll be helping finalize the construction of a day care center in Las Delicias, as well as working with the children in the before and after school program and doing home visits with the district nurse. To learn more about Las Delicias (en espanol), click here.

The second community where we will be working is Ilobasco. We will be assisting with the construction of a school for the community. Read more about Ilobasco here.

Our third project will be constructing a home for a family in need in Villa Zaragoza. You can read more about Villa Zaragoza here.

Look for student blogs the rest of the week! Thansk for your virtual participation in our experience!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

When you put the shovel down: Moving from homes to hearts.

Compassion. It is the one word that can’t leave my mind as I sit here in the hustle and bustle of dinner time surrounded by some amazing individuals. It’s an unspoken word then has been mentioned here and there throughout the trip but nothing will define it more than today. As we prepared mentally and physically to be working outside today in the mud it was the unexpected surprise that would change us.

Today we got the opportunity to see a different side of this community and the effects the tornado has taken. It wasn’t the image of a house filled with trees or the sight of an empty lot but the individuals that have lived through this disaster and trying to make the best of it. It was those fighters and motivators that have shown me that the city of Tuscaloosa is moving forward.

Compassion from the day was filled with characters that will make me put a face to this trip outside of the leaders AFLV brought together. In order to fully understand the compassion of today I want you to meet these individuals.

First there was Anita. A wild personality that greeted us in her cowboy polka dot rain boots as we got our site for the day, the Tuscaloosa Temporary Emergency Services thrift store and warehouse. As the coordinator of the day, her heart was filled with giving as she pushed the message that you want a person to leave with their day brighter then they came. It was the small act of helping a woman find a shirt when just coming  in for a Christmas hat that changed the mood of the location and our group into an environment that wanted to do whatever they could to make someone else’s day brighter. Compassion was shown in her interactions with families, staff and friends that made it made the act of helping others effortless because it is the right thing to do.

But we can’t forget Katie. A 17 year old junior that took time out of her winter break to work at the warehouse filling baskets with donated toiletries to sorting through dozens of bags filled with toys. For her it was about knowing that even as a teenager, there are individuals out there that have less than her and they need any and all help. It made me think of myself as a 17 year old and how foolish my actions were because I was so focused on myself then others. Her compassion knew the priorities in life and that by this disaster there was a way out.

To better understand these people we cannot forget where we were. My group was placed in the middle of the donation warehouse where families that were affected by the tornado would come to get what little supplies they needed to maintain stability. You see endless racks of donated clothes and a hole in the roof that had buckets under it to understand that to some it would be considered run down and filled with clothes of various sizes and socks with no match but to those that needed it, it was a place to find a warm coat, water and if they were lucky, a Christmas gift. It easily became our home and a place I wanted to spend endless hours to help others. It was the home of compassion.

And lastly, I would like you to meet me. The young college student that has recently become an alumni of her chapter and is about to enter the real world and graduate. Knowing or meeting me though, you would never guess I used to be a child and a daughter from a family that didn’t have the support to make ends meet. I was the little girl that got gifts under her tree from the Salvation Army or would go with my mom to the food bank to fill our shelves to make it to the next month.  It was people like Anita and places like the warehouse that showed the compassion I didn’t know I needed.

But, as our day continued you can’t forget the families. A little nervous at first to try and assume what they need but that feeling washed away when you met the families and shopped for them and their children. As I was bagging up coats for a young woman and her husband, it was the moment she reached over the bags to give me a hug that it hit me. She was the reason I was here. I wasn’t here to clean a yard or cut vines but it was to make a difference. Her hug, so innocent and sincere brought me to the reality of where I was and the effect we were making in the few days we were here. It wasn’t to see a house built but to build up peoples hope that there were people here that just wanted to help.

Compassion. The feeling when you want to jump around and scream with Anita because she just found a donated designer coat for a woman, the feeling when you find a purse at the bottom of a donated box that would be perfect for a daughter’s Christmas gift and the feeling that as you get that tears come to your eyes when you drive away and want to stay because you know what little help you can provide if just enough. Compassion was shown towards me and now I know how to return it many years later.

This trip has pushed our boundaries, living conditions and cultural experiences to a new level. It has asked us to step outside of our comfort zone to see that our ways and views are different but together we can find that compassion to change ourselves, families and the community of Tuscaloosa.

See you in California! Roll Tide!

Kasey Schoen is a senior at California State University, Long Beach and a member of Alpha Omicron Pi.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

TTP = Trust the Process!

Today was interesting to say the least.  I started out not knowing what the day would bring and ended it learning that sometimes you just need to TTP, “trust the process”.  These past few days I’ve come to truths with the fact that I like to over plan things because of the lack of trust I have in what the end result may be.  Within my life I’ve learned if you take the lead than you don’t have to fully put yourself in a position to be disappointed with anyone except yourself, but by doing so, I’ve missed out on a lot of life changing lessons that would eventually come my way. 

I was challenged to “TTP” by one of our trip coordinators this week and am amazed by the personal growth I’ve experienced.  At first, I questioned why we weren’t able to do the everyday experiences were accustomed to like going shopping and stopping at Dairy Queen.  Soon after a very smart individual brought to light that the purpose of this Service Immersion Trip is to immerse yourself in the culture and be able to identify with your surroundings on a personal level.  I learned that the everyday things we are accustomed to are privileges, not rights and that the people of Tuscaloosa have shopping for an Alabama sweatshirt as the least of their worries.  One needs to trust in their leaders and the purpose of what you are doing instead of constantly questioning.

On a personal note, today is one of those days I have been waiting for a while for, my 21st birthday.  I started out the day questioning a lot, from will people remember my birthday and did I make the right decision to be away from my family on a day of celebration?  I learned to trust in my Greek family, the Greek family we all have, but don’t always notice.  Having just met a few short days ago, these Greek leaders I have come in contact with truly are a family to me.  At the beginning of the day, I didn’t trust in the process and in those around me, but ended it receiving one of the best birthday cakes I’ve ever seen and with the best rendition of happy birthday that I’ve heard. 

While learning to “TTP,” I simultaneously learned to trust in myself and how I can bring that trust back into my everyday life.  Every one of us has that capability to trust and just let things happen without questioning whether what you or others are doing is the right.  Questioning your surroundings and purpose is good in certain situations, but sometimes to test your boundaries and grow you need to take that step back and trust in the leaders around you.  By trusting in the process, you will be able to step outside your comfort zone and realize that you don’t always have to be in control.  There is a reason for everything and your leaders are looking out for you and your best interests even when you’re unsure of that.  Trust in the process and you’ll be amazed by the personal growth that will result.

Jaime Domina is a junior at Grand Valley State University and a member of Phi Sigma Sigma.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Common Purpose

Coming into this trip I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into.  Sure, I knew we would be doing something to help with the devastation caused by the tornado with some physical labor, but I had no idea that spending a few days serving the Tuscaloosa community could teach me so much about what it means to be Greek.

I have been lucky enough to have attended Pi Kapp College, my fraternity’s leadership institute, as well as UIFI & AFLV LeaderShape, so I am strong believer in Greeks having a common purpose, but no experience I have ever had before has better answered the question, “What is our common purpose?”

At the beginning of the day we arrived at the Tuscaloosa Area Volunteer Reception Center to report for duty.  It was an amazing sight, 21 college students up and ready to work, all before 8:00 a.m. during winter break.  I was extremely excited to work with a group that I already have become extremely close with.

Right before breaking for lunch, I came across several pictures and award certificates in the house we were working on.  The situation started to feel extremely real, having names and faces paired with the destroyed house.  Observing the damage on all four lots we cleared today, I knew why we were in Tuscaloosa helping, but I still didn’t see the bigger picture.

Around 3:00, my excitement and passion turned into frustration.  The yards we worked on were full of vines, and I began to feel like our work was making very little difference.  While I was taking a well needed break, a neighborhood resident came over to thank us for our work.  He commented on how much better the lot looked thanks to us.  And that is when it hit me!

Yes, on the surface we were in Tuscaloosa to clean up tornado damage, but location aside, this trip had an even deeper meaning.  It wasn’t about just Tuscaloosa.  This immersion experience was about our common purpose as fraternity men and sorority women: making the world a better place.  This trip was a chance to not only serve this purpose, but realize it.  Whether it be in Tuscaloosa, across the country, or around the world, we are called to change the world.  Each organization may have its own values, but all of our founders created an organization that they believed would make the world a better place.

With that common purpose in mind, today’s work proved that we will be most successful with making the world a better place when we work together.  Fraternity and sorority members from across the country came together to make the Tuscaloosa area better, one lot at a time.  As we collaborated to get through the struggles of the 3:00 hour today, I not only understood our purpose as Greeks, but I finally understood why coming together is so important.

Are we collaborating in our own communities?  Are we changing our campus, our community, and our world?  Until we come together as a Greek community, we will never fully achieve our common purpose.


Christopher Rettich is a junior at Western Michigan University and a member of Pi Kappa Phi.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Two Kinds of Tours

It is officially day two in Alabama and after a night of getting to know each other and recovering from long flights, we woke up refreshed and energized. This is definitely a good thing after the day we had. We met Marie, from the United Saints Recovery Project in the morning and she told us a little bit about what happened on April 27, 2011. After some background knowledge and facts we got into the vans and took a tour around Tuscaloosa to really see the damage that still exists within the city. At first, I did not think it was going to be that bad, until we passed the hospital and I looked to my left and saw how much damage there truly was. Houses were torn to pieces, and families just up and left their home. Marie first took us to a middle class neighborhood that was in the process of rebuilding.
As we drove down the street and saw some houses being rebuilt, there was this house on the left that was just bare boned. The outer infrastructure was gone, but some walls and things like the fire place was still intact. We got to stop at the end of the street and get out to take a look and it was something that I have never seen in my life. When I walked up to the house it became surreal. Broken china lay on the once kitchen floor, teddy bears were thrown across the yard, forks were stabbed into the wall, and sinks were in rooms where they did not belong. She showed us a middle school that had no roof and the lunch room was ripped apart. We then went to an apartment complex where the owner did not have insurance and it was in the lower income part of the city. There had been minimal cleanup to these apartments. These were not only one of the saddest things I have ever seen in my life, but also one of the worst. People just left everything in these apartments and I could only imagine that it was because they couldn’t come back after something that bad happening to them. Even the street to this apartment complex was still filled with rubble and debris. Looking at all of this made me have more compassion for these people than ever. The damage was so surreal. I think it made a lot of us emotionally upset knowing that it has been about eight months and still people haven’t been able to remove their own home’s debris. Seeing how many houses that are for sale that have yet to have any debris removed was amazing. People just left everything behind and it is sad to see that some of these people in this city were left with nothing.

After our tour around the city we switched it up on a lighter note and went and explored the University of Alabama. We got a tour in the football stadium and that was great. Once that was finished we went back into the center of the town and stared to pick up debris. We worked for about two and a half hours and cleared the front and back yard of a house. Seeing how much was on the ground still and how many roof shingles scattered about was simply amazing. This trip so far has been such a rewarding experience and it is only day two. To be able to help people who do not have the resources or ability to do it themselves is the most rewarding thing I think I could have done. To know that people are so thankful for the help is so rewarding and just to see smile on their faces is the best feeling. Seeing everything we saw today just reminds me that I am thankful for everything I have and that it truly can be lost in a minute. You have to be grateful for everything because I see this city and think of how many memories were lost and how people never really thought it could happen to them. I cannot wait or be more proud to help out this city within these next few days we have here.

Sara Ellison is a junior at Eastern Illinois University and a member of Delta Zeta Sorority.

Trust


Trust.  It’s what happens when twenty-two students who don’t know each other, from different schools, and different chapter organizations find their way to Tuscaloosa, AL for an immersion trip with little insight into the adventure they are about to take.  We weren’t really sure where exactly we were staying, or what exactly we were doing for the next week, but we packed our bags and kept our eyes peeled for Greek letters at the airport. 

Trust.  It’s what happens when you immediately open up to the stranger next to you just because you know they understand what it is like to be Greek, the stereotypes we face, and the fact that they took the same risk you did giving up a week of winter break to volunteer your time, your mind, and your values. 

I trust the people I have met today, and I am excited to learn each of their stories and to understand the common values which have brought us all here together.  And I am well on my way.

I am so appreciative of all that I have, and all that I have the opportunity to experience.  Being surrounded by such a fantastic group of students who have accomplished, and who have the potential to accomplish, so much in our community is always such an inspiring environment. 

As Greeks, we take pledges to core values that we are asked to live daily.  Discussing these values and realizing just how many of them impact our lives and who we see are to our community seems a bit daunting.  But we don’t have to take on every single value, because as Greek chapters we dedicate ourselves to a select group of core values that exemplify what we hold most important to us.  Between all of our values based organizations, we make up a Greek community that stands for excellence, that stands for compassion, that stands for service, and that represents the best of what we are capable of. 

I trust that this next week is going to challenge me, and that I am going to be asked to leave my comfort zone, but most importantly I trust that the leaders who surround me today are going to make an impact in this place. 

There is no perfect formula of values to live by, but the values that bring a group of strangers together for a week, a group of Greeks who believe in something better, is the perfect formula for creating positive change.

Madeleine Stroth is a senior at the University of Iowa and a member of Pi Beta Phi.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tombstone vs. Totino's


The winter issue of Connections is all about 365 recruitment. As I was editing one of the articles (written by David Stollman, Laurel Peffer, and Tom Healy) this morning, the following statement struck me:

" Most chapters don’t actually recruit. They just select."

Now, I'm no recruitment expert, but this also isn't my first rodeo. Yet, I've never heard the concept put quite like this. It made me think. Using the word 'selection' assumes that you have a line (high quantity) of smart, kind, values-based, and service-oriented (high quality) people standing outside your door just waiting to be let in. We're not betting people, but we think it's safe to bet that this happens to, approximately, 0% of you.

The authors later state, "There is a difference between selecting among people that show up, and actually recruiting people to be there. Putting up flyers or planning the events isn’t recruiting." Aaahhhh, touché. 

Selection
Selection is not how you recruit members for a lifetime of membership to your fraternal organization. Frankly, it's more like how you choose which type of frozen pizza to buy. Tombstone or Totino's? Clearly, Tombstone is the better choice, but it's so much more expensive. Most of us have to wait for it to go on sale before we can afford it. When it does, we fill our carts. Totino's, on the other hand, is cheap. Soooo cheap. No one really wants to eat it but when we're standing there looking at it, next to the expensive Tombstone's, it's too easy to justify the purchase in our minds. It's as if we think that it will taste different this time. It won't be as disgusting. But, sadly, we get it home, eat it, and think, "Nope, still disgusting. I should have splurged for the Tombstone... or just forgone the frozen pizza altogether."

Recruitment
Recruitment is intentional. It's planning ahead and opting not to make rash and stupid decisions you'll later regret. The concept of 365 recruitment works for lots of reasons, but one obvious one is that it doesn't limit the choosing of members to a specific time period.

It's kind of like budgeting. Back to the pizza. You know you like Tombstone . Therefore, every time you go to the grocery store, you check the price. If it's not on sale, you don't buy any. If it is on sale, you do. Even if you know you already have a few in your freezer at home. You'll know you'll eat them eventually. However, every once in a while, you've got a big craving so you splurge for just one, even if it's full price. It's that good and you can afford to do it every once in a while. This approach allows you to skip the Totino's totally. You've finally realized that just because you can get a bunch of them for cheap and fill your freezer with "food" doesn't mean you'll enjoy eating them when the time comes to do so. You know now that buying them is a facade; sure, you'll have a freezer full of pizzas, but they're disgusting.

Membership recruitment is similar. There is no way we're going to be exposed to every qualified potential member during the weeks of formal recruitment. We've got to be checking in on people all year long and invite them to join when the opportunity arises. If we simply try to frantically fill our chapters during the one or two weeks a year, we're just going to end up with too many sub-par members. Sure, we've got the largest chapter on campus - but look at the members.

Stollman, Peffer, and Healy's article has nothing to do with pizza, but it's a good read nonetheless. Surely after reading this, we've got you on the edge of your seat waiting for the issue to come out next month.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

In the Land of What If...

Following is an excerpt from the acceptance speech given by Mark Koepsell, AFLV Executive Director, at the Annual Meeting of the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors this past Saturday evening. Mark was this year's recipient of the Jack L. Anson Award, one of the Association's highest honors. The Anson Award is presented annually to a well-respected individual not in the field of higher education, who has demonstrated a long-term commitment to the fraternity/sorority community beyond his/her respective organization. At the ceremony, Mark was congratulated for his partnerships with higher education and the interfraternal community, his efforts in making positive change to advance the fraternal movement, and his role modeling to students and professionals in fraternity/sorority life.



---

It's (my) collective (network) that inspires me. This huge network of individuals and organizations provides my fuel. And, it's from here I have gained the viewpoints and perspective that I have. Many of you have heard me speak on strategic planning, change management, and other general leadership topics. One thing that is always consistent in those presentations is my transparency about my love of a little place I like to call 'The Land of What If.' Just ask the AFLV staff and Board, I speak enthusiastically about visiting there in almost every conversation. Tonight I welcome you to join me in a quick journey to The Land of What If.

These comments are presented in the form of tweets. 140 characters or less providing a glimpse into The Land of What If. Sometimes there is as much power in the right question as there is in the answer. I'm not pretending to have all these answers, but I do believe the questions will at least get us thinking about where we need to go.
  • #WHATIF we spent our undergraduate years preparing for a lifetime of membership in the org & didn't get initiated until we graduated?
  • #WHATIF there actually was a minimum standard for members & chapters and real consequences for falling short? #greekchat
  • #WHATIF all campus F/S award programs actually measured meaningful outcomes instead of rewarding the most creative writers?
  • #WHATIF Fraternity/Sorority advisors weren't so often the youngest directors in the division of student affairs? #sachat
  • #WHATIF the staff to student ratio for Greeks looked more like we find in most residence life programs on campuses? #sachat
  • #WHATIF we didn't need an org like the @FraternalValues in our communities because 100% values alignment was already achieved?
  • #WHATIF every chapter had the conviction, motivation, talent, and drive that we find in most colonies?
  • #WHATIF new member education truly prepared men & women for a life of values based action? @preventhazing
  • #WHATIF all F/S members valued making a positive global impact as much as they do the fun of brotherhood and sisterhood? #ServiceImmersion
  • #WHATIF the money raised through F/S philanthropy all actually made its way to the advertised beneficiaries? #greekchat
  • #WHATIF philanthropy wasn't so often a sorry excuse for another social event and members actually believed in the cause more than the path? 
  • #WHATIF we had a better vehicle for grassroots fundraising and support of causes within the fraternal market? @GreeksForGood
  • #WHATIF the behavioral expectations & enforcement were the same at the #AFA2011AM as they are at undergrad conferences? #CFLNBGLC #WFLNCGLC
  • #WHATIF F/S professionals stopped prioritizing their largest efforts into Greek Week, Homecoming, and Formal Recruitment? #greekchat
  • #WHATIF Headquarters and campuses agreed that what matters most is building an environment that supports the + development of our students?
  • #WHATIF there were grants available to help individuals & orgs focus on efforts that can make a real difference in the fraternal world?
  • #WHATIF we built a system that allowed House Directors to play a valuable role as support mechanisms and paraprofessionals?
  • #WHATIF all our chapters could prove that membership would positively impact retention and GPA? #GammaSigmaAlpha #OrderofOmega
  • #WHATIF professionals didn't see F/S advising as an entry-level job or stepping stone to something "more important"?
  • #WHATIF universities valued the profession at a level where there was upward movement available without leaving the field?
  • #WHATIF F/S professionals  spent more time creating sustainable change & less time in stupid meetings talking about it?
  • #WHATIF we worried less about who is "taking over the world" and focused more on who is "getting good things done"?
  • #WHATIF Fraternities/Sororities could PROVE their worth to higher education at a level where they were begging for more? #FraternalRelevance
  • #WHATIF F/S professionals were more actively engaged in the higher education arena? (That means IN ADDITION to fraternal matters) #sachat
  • #WHATIF F/S professionals were conducting more research and assessment to better illustrate the validity and worth of the experience?
  • #WHATIF our chapters were known as places of tolerance & acceptance as opposed to exclusivity & petri dishes for the 'isms' that plague us?
  • #WHATIF we had less fewer silos & more orgs working collaboratively to create F/S that are the most trusted orgs of integrity and ethics?
  • #WHATIFI actually felt comfortable that my daughters could join ANY sorority chapter & enjoy a developmentally rewarding experience?
  • #WHATIF all of our members understood that true leadership exists in doing the right thing and isn't related to power or position?
  • #WHATIF we spent more time figuring out how to effectively recruit & support alum volunteers as coaches & mentors?
  • #WHATIF we provided tools to every member to step up in the face of controversy & ridicule for the pursuit of values? @FraternalValues
  • #WHATIF it were nearly impossible to win the Shaffer or Anson Award until the twilight of your career? #dontthinkimnotgrateful
  • #WHATIF every F/S community & office was inclusive & supportive of EVERY org that we represent? #NALFO #NAPA #NPHC #NMGC
  • #WHATIF all fraternities created a culture of respect for women instead of a den of hyper-masculine attitudes & behaviors?
  • #WHATIF alcohol didn't have a place in our houses were a majority of members are underage anyway? @PhiDelt #substancefreehousing
  • #WHATIF the only thing synonymous with 'frat move' equaled actions that are the highest in character and values? @Combat_Frat
  • My quest is not only to dream of the land of #WHATIF but to find the path to get there. Do you want to be part of that journey? #LandOfWhatIf
Thank you again for bestowing this incredible honor onto me. Thank you for providing me the opportunity to work in a field where I find such passion, commitment, and dedication by those around me. Thank you for allowing me to do what I love every day.

------

And, we think we can speak for everyone in thanking Mark for working to make our fraternal world a better place.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Spider-Man on Being Thankful

The phrase, "With great power comes great responsibility" is most often attributed to Peter Parker's (more commonly known as Spider-Man) Uncle Ben. 



As a series of holidays approach us (Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, the winter solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year, and others) it's that time of year when most take a moment to reflect and find time to be grateful for what we have.

As fraternity and sorority members, we have a lot. Namely, enormous amounts of privilege. In fact, we are probably the most privileged people in the United States. We are [literally] the most affluent and educated people around. For this alone, we should be grateful. If you celebrate Thanksgiving, we hope you'll give thanks for this.

However, with this overwhelming privilege comes great responsibility. Privilege equates to power - and we should use it wisely and for doing good. As people, and more specifically as members of a fraternity or sorority, we're committed to making the world a better place. Social justice theory indicates those with privilege ought to acknowledge it and understand how it has benefitted them... and, furthermore,  take action to end the oppression of others. We agree.

Approximately 36% of American adults have earned a bachelor's degree. What do you suppose is the percentage of members of a fraternal organizations who have earned a bachelors degree? Basically it's 100%. This one is a bit of a softball since membership coincides with college enrollment and usually you have to graduate to become an alumna/us. Sure there are a few exceptions, but you get the idea.

What about further education? Studies vary, but most report approximately 7 or 8% of Americans have earned a master's degree and around 3% have earned a terminal degree (Ph.D., JD, MD, etc.). We don't  know the percentage of those graduates who are members of a fraternal organization, but we know it's a safe bet that it's impressive.

How are you using your education to help others and make the world a better place?

What about affluence? Which came first: the affluence or the affiliation? Although we think it's more likely the former, it can surely work both ways. We know that many members of fraternities and sororities have a foundation of privilege that others don't have. But, we also know we have networks and support structures that aide us in success after college graduation and throughout life. Maybe this means a sweeter first job (or simply a job in today's economy), a bigger raise, or a an invite to play golf with the boss (who's a sister in the bond). Sure, not all enter high-paying professions, but affluence doesn't only refer to financial wealth. It also includes social capital and, simply, access to resources.

How are you using your affluence and access to resources to help others and make the world a better place?

Maybe it's a bit heavy. Yes, privilege can sometimes feel like a gift and other times like a great burden. Ending homelessness or hunger is a giant feat to consider; it's scary to even think about such an undertaking, perhaps. But, when we consider the millions - yes millions - of affluent and educated fraternity men and sorority women in the world, it's actually reasonable. Think of a cause that's important to you. Think big.

Uncle Ben knew what he was talking about when he warned Peter about taking his new spider-like skills seriously. And, as a result, Spider-Man famously used his powers for good rather than evil.  

Are you?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Price of Bystander Behavior: What We Can Learn from Penn State

No matter how you feel about the current allegations of perjury and misconduct by leadership in Happy Valley, one thing is clear:

You cannot afford to be a bystander, ever.  Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.

We don't care if you're a freshman member of a fraternal organization or one of the winningest coaches of all time.  By joining a fraternal organization, you've made an unspoken pact to uphold its values 24/7.  And, there is a hefty price tag attached when you choose not to. 

Look at wide receiver coach Mike McQueary. Then a graduate assistant, he testified under oath that he saw an illegal and immoral act take place in the showers of the football building, yet the details of whether or not he did anything to stop it are unclear.  McQueary had an opportunity to put his #valuesinaction, and now, because his own words indicate he did nothing beyond telling his father and his professional superior, the quality of his character and validity of his career are called to question.

Based on what we know so far, even if Coach Joe Paterno may have done the right thing legally - it appears he didn't do the right thing morally.  When you choose to do act in a tough situation, you have to be sure you've done more than just enough, you must ensure you've done all you can with concern to both legal and values-based consequences.

By the way, Paterno is a member of a fraternity - so he is doubly obligated to act and follow-up, through both his fraternal oath and professional commitment.

Every time you avoid or lie about a situation in which your values have been compromised, plan on getting more than you bargained for.  If you're not particularly savvy with calculations, let us help you do the math.

Action
Cost
Avoid the Situation
$ Guilt
$ Credibility
$ Self Respect
$ Integrity
$ Lies to cover your inaction (See below)
Lie about the Situation
$ Multiply the above by four
$ Respect/trust of others
$ Value of your hard work and education to get where you are
$ Ability to continue in your chosen profession or path
$ Fear of being found out
Do the minimum required (legally or morally)
$ Others question your values commitment and ethics
$ Being remembered by this choice, rather than your accomplishments
$ Trust from those who formerly believed in you


If you're not acting to stop behavior that doesn't align with your values, or you are currently avoiding or covering something up because you're scared, ask yourself:

Is it worth it?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Consider Your Costume Themes... and not only on Halloween

If you go to college, work at a college/university, or know people who fit into either of these groups (that's pretty much everyone who might read this), you've probably seen this poster in circulation.


This call to be thoughtful in Halloween costume selection was initially made by a student group at Ohio University called Students Teaching About Racism in Society (STARS) and it's good. It's getting tons of national press for all the right reasons.

Today is Halloween and by now, most have already chosen their costumes if you're going to wear one. Yes, choose your costume thoughtfully. This is not new news.

What this poster made us think more about, however, is the fact that fraternity and sorority members have lots more opportunities to wear costumes than the average college student. For some reason, a culture has been established where party/event + costume/theme = AWESOME.

For the record, we love costumes. So much that we've considered the concept of 'costume Friday' instead of 'casual Friday' here at the office. Okay, that's not really true, but you get the picture. We're into dressing up.

To us, one of the larger conversations that needs to be tied to this campaign is this: what themes are you choosing for your chapter events where costumes are involved?

Let's think of a few popular ones:

Cowboys and Indians
Dressing up like 'Indians' (and, really, you probably shouldn't use that term in most areas of the U.S.) is not only offensive, it's almost always incorrect. The garb that American Indians wear for spiritual ceremony is sacred. No American Indian wears feathers and moccasins as their daily clothing. The wearing of feathers has deep spiritual meaning. For example, they might be worn by chiefs to symbolize their communication with the Spirit and to express their celestial wisdom.

Other themes that may offend a culture:
  • Cinco de Mayo
  • White Trash Bash (fraternity/sorority members are the most affluent college students in America - basically this is like saying "let's dress like poor people!" That's really not that funny.)
  • Homeless Ball (see above)

Pimps 'N Ho's
Do you even know what a pimp is? Sure, the word has become casual slang and probably you're not using it literally when and if you do, but here's what's wrong with pimps. The pimp/ho relationship is abusive and possessive. Physical and psychological manipulation, starvation, rape (including gang rape), beating, forced drug use, and shame are all commonly used techniques to establish the culture that the pimp owns (literally) the prostitute. Prostitutes have sex with five, ten, twenty (or more) strangers a day, every day. Besides the sheer numbers involved, some of those strangers are going to use a person in ways that are bizarre, painful, disturbing, humiliating, and occasionally fatal. And, to boot, they don't even get to keep the money paid - it all goes to the pimp.

There are lots of renditions that are basically the same as Pimps 'N Ho's:
  • Bro's 'N Ho's
  • Catholic School Girl/Principal
  • CEO's and Secretaries
  • Playboy mansion
  • Lingerie party
  • Pajama party (It's not like you think the ladies will show up wearing bathrobes, fellas, we know what you're hoping for.)
  • Dirty Doctors/Naughty Nurses

What do all these themes have in common? The woman is the slut. The men get to wear (basically) normal clothes and the women dress scantily clad. Any rendition that glorifies the dominant male and provocative female should be reconsidered. Ideally, because of the dangerous roles they perpetuate - but in the least because of this: lots of people stereotype fraternity and sorority members to be more promiscuous than the average college student - why purposefully perpetuate that stereotype?

Maybe we're overestimating your intellect. Maybe these themes aren't plays on power and sex. Maybe it's simply a group of adolescent men's efforts to get a whole slew of women to come over dressed in practically nothing. But, seriously how juvenile is that? If you have to have a slutty party theme to get to see a lady in her undies, that's your problem.

As you can see, we're not just talking about being politically correct, we're talking about some serious issues, folks. Sure, we get it, wearing a pimp costume doesn't mean you're actively advocating for sex trafficking and rape. But here's what it DOES mean: you're either ignorant to the issue or you know about it and simply don't give a damn. Either way, this spells out P-R-O-B-L-E-M.

Sorority ladies, sick of people saying you're a bunch of sluts? Fraternity men, sick of people assume you've committed a date rape? Besides the obvious - stop doing these types of actions (if you are). But also, consider stopping sexualizing your date parties, for starters.

Finally, if you're reading this and thinking, "that's an awesome theme idea! We're going to use it!" We have two reactions:
  1. Get real
  2. Don't

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fraternal Life: Not an Ad Campaign

I don't think Siri even knows what a fraternity or sorority is. I find this hard to believe since she knows everything - including how much wood a woodchuck would chuck if it could chuck wood. We asked Siri, "what are fraternal values?" and she had nothing. When we asked why she had nothing, she referred us to the Genius Bar folks. We felt snubbed. She couldn't even think of something witty to say.

So, we got to thinking. Why doesn't Siri know more about fraternal organizations?

Maybe it's good sign. Maybe the fact that she didn't respond with something horribly cruel, stereotypical, or Animal Housey should make us happy. 

Or, maybe she's just practicing the age old adage "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

Well, now we're just paranoid.

All of this begs the same question that has been asked a thousand times: what do the non affiliated think of us (we're making the safe assumption that Siri isn't a sorority woman)? But, more importantly, how are we earning our reputations? Far too often, fraternity and sorority members talk about PR from the viewpoint of wanting to pick and choose a few good things they've done in order to guide and control how the rest of the world views them. For example, we create a press release about the $2,000 raised at last week's philanthropic event and want the world to read it with awe but get pissed when people talk about us when we get busted for hazing.

In order to have a good reputation, a few things need to happen. First, you have to actually do good things. Second, you have to actually be a nice person. Third, you have to do good things and be a nice person consistently - and not just for show. We have little tolerance for fraternity and sorority members who say stupid things like "people only know us for the bad things we do." Um, the problem isn't that people only know about the bad things, the problem is we're doing the bad things.

Okay, blah blah blah, you've heard this before. But, here's a spin you might not have heard before: flaunting that aforementioned $2,000 kind of makes the whole fundraising action a little less authentic - if we may be so bold. The best leaders tend to let their actions speak for them; they don't run around shouting, "Hey, everyone! Come see how good I look!"

We can't pick and choose what people know about us. We can't advertise the good stuff and hide the bad stuff. Worse even, we can't do the good stuff to make up for the bad stuff. I mean, Lindsay Lohan can say she's a stable and reliable adult a million times but no one is ever going to believe her if she keeps acting like a head case all over the place. Call it JV, call it Gaper Greek, call it whatever, you get the idea.

So, Siri doesn't know who we are. Fine. We can wrap our brains around that. We shouldn't need Siri - or the rest of the population - to tell us we're great to know that we are. We'll let our actions speak for us.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

#GaperGreeks

Wolf Creek ski area in Pagosa Springs, Colorado opened this weekend. One of the first ski areas (and THE first in Colorado) in the United States to open this season. Ski and snowboard season has begun, folks.

If you ski or ride, we assume you've heard the term 'gaper.' If you don't ski or ride, we think it's safe to assume you've heard of the Urban Dictionary. According to Urban Dictionary, a gaper is a skier or snowboarder who is completely clueless. They are usually distinguished by their clothing and their oh-so-noticeable "gaper gap" - a gap between the goggles and the helmet (or worse, they're not even wearing a helmet). Urban Dictionary states, "[gapers] will sit on their ass for a good 5-10 minutes talking about what they're going to do off that "jump" or "rail" while everyone behind them goes before them and they stare with their mouth gaped open." Gapers go up lifts that only access black runs but look like fools trying to get down them. Basically, gapers are posers. They *kind of* have the right outfit on the mountain and talk like they can ski/ride but they pretty much suck at it.  So, they just sit in the snow and talk in skier/rider lingo and annoy all the people who are actually there to fine tune their turns.

Gapers think they're cool, but to the people who are actually know how to ski/ride, they suck. They spend thousands of dollars on passes and gear to just sit around and make the rest of us look bad. Gapers are just there for the image - and for the beer drinking that follows their difficult day of skiing/riding - I mean gaping.

Yesterday I was at the grocery store and saw a group of five or six fraternity men outside collecting food for a campus food drive. I don't know what the other unpresuming grocery patrons were thinking, but I was thinking, "blech" and curling my lip and rolling my eyes while thinking it.

What?! You're surprised! You thought I loved fraternities and sororities! Well, I do.

I might love fraternities and sororities, but here's what I hate: Gaper Greeks.

These men were wearing the perfect outfit: clean sweatshirts with letters, well tailored jeans, preppy-but-but-not-too-preppy running shoes, and they were all standing next to their new and freshly washed typical Colorado extended cab pickup truck. Plus, the chapter clearly chose their perfect match of handsome-but-not-too-sexy group of men to represent them at the grocery store. Don't they look like nice young men collecting food for the food bank?

Sure they do, but I knew they were #GaperGreeks so they made me gag. This is the same chapter that is constantly getting busted for drugs and alcohol at events in their chapter house. Oh, wait, their "chapter house" isn't even an actual house - it's basically two third-world-looking run down shacks next door to each other. There are three foot weeds in the yard and - literally - there are boarded up windows. Yes, these clean cut classy men *live* here and ladies enjoy going to their parties. Rumors of sex assault swarm and let's just say, if I wanted to buy an eight ball I think this would be a good place to look. Oh, and did I mention, they're not even recognized by IFC due to their repetitive bad behavior.

Yuck, #GaperGreeks.

Gaper Greeks are all talk, they sit around and talk about fraternity and *think* they know what that means and feels like. They don't. They're not there to actually fine tune their leadership skills and practice their fraternal values - they're only there for the beer drinking.

While these #GaperGreeks were  flaunting their Greek at the grocery store, a man from another chapter (of non-GaperGreeks) humbly came to my door with a grocery bag to collect food for the same drive. He introduced himself, told me about his fraternity, and asked if I would donate food. Get this, he left the bag with me and said he would pick it up the next day if I left it on my doorstep. Um, these guys were actually doing work - and they chose to do the same task without parading themselves around. They just wanted to collect food and were seemingly uninterested in promoting their chapter in some inauthentic way. This guy wasn't even wearing letters.

The problem with gapers - of any kind - is that the majority of the population thinks they fit into our non-gaper group. They say things like "Ugh, I hate snowboarders because they just sit on the hill and get in the way of the skiers." Um, not true! If you actually know a snowboarder - who's not a gaper - you know they can rock the back bowls and the T-bar lifts as well as any good skier can. It's the gapers who are on the front side just planting their asses under the lift - and the rest of us don't like being associated with them.

The same goes for fraternity/sorority members: many people think all fraternity/sorority members are huge partiers. We're poor students and don't enhance our college/university whatsoever. Not true, those are the #GaperGreeks you're talking about. Like the gapers on the mountain who stand out because of their bright-colored clothing and the fact they're always in your way, #GaperGreeks, steal the spotlight with their substance abuse and hazing. You don't see the non-gapers on the mountain because we're in the back bowls - away from the crowds and not calling attention to ourselves. We actually want to spend our day skiing/riding. Similarly, the non-gaper Greeks continue to plug away with community service, building relationships, developing leaders, and succeeding in school.

The problem is, gapers do actually fool people. But, the only people they're fooling are the tourists and the novices - those people who only get out to ski/ride a few times a year. Unfortunately, this is about 90% of the people on the hill. Same with #GaperGreeks - you might be fooling lots of people, but you're not fooling those of us who matter - the ones who are members of a fraternity/sorority for the values.

We're onto you, #GaperGreeks. We can spot you from a mile away. And, while you might be feeling proud and smug about fooling 90% of the people who came to the grocery store that day into thinking your fraternity is a group of classy guys who does philanthropy, you'd be arrogant to forget about the 10% of people who saw for what you really are: a #GaperGreek.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Like a Boss

This year, how about doing everything #likeaboss?



Personal:
Dean's List #likeaboss
Perfect class attendance #likeaboss
Eating right and staying in shape #likeaboss
Running for and winning elections #likeaboss
Healthy relationships #likeaboss

Chapter:
Winning national awards from headquarters #likeaboss
Largest recruitment ever #likeaboss
100% of new members initiated #likeaboss
#1 chapter in grades #likeaboss
Ongoing weekly community service #likeaboss
Zero alcohol at community service or philanthropic events #likeaboss
Largest amount of money raised and donated to philanthropy #likeaboss
100% dues collected #likeaboss
Regular, positive articles published about the chapter's positive impact #likeaboss
Zero hazing #likeaboss
Zero judicial sanctions #likeaboss
At least one brother/sisterhood event or retreat per term #likeaboss
Less than half of all chapter events have alcohol present #likeaboss

Community:
Getting rid of chapters that don't positively represent us #likeaboss
Expansion/extension of chapters to grow the community #likeaboss
Recognize outstanding faculty #likeaboss
Zero negative publicity or press #likeaboss
Regular events co-sponsored with non-Greeks #likeaboss
Multi-year strategic plan #likeaboss
Regular leadership development/educational events than the previous year #likeaboss
Applying for and winning ALFV council awards #likeaboss
Values congruence #likeaboss
Founders are proud #likeaboss

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Andrew's Story: A Young Alumnus on Hazing

To further conversations regarding National Hazing Prevention Week, we wanted to explore the complex challenges students face when dealing with fraternal hazing. To do this, we talked with someone who was willing to be honest and open about the very real problem of pre-initiation hazing and ritual degradation that still happens within fraternities and sororities.

Luckily, Andrew (we've changed his name to protect his anonymity) stepped up to the task.
Andrew recently graduated. He served in several officer positions, including Hell Master, an officer solely in charge of putting new members through severe emotional and mental distress the week before initiation. 

Andrew stepped forward to discuss his experiences because he cares deeply about fraternal life and believes hazing contradicts the values on which fraternal organizations were founded. He chose to remain anonymous because even as an alumnus, speaking out against the practices of his chapter strains his relationships with his fraternity brothers. Here are Andrew's responses to our questions:

How do you describe your experience as a new member?
I joined the chapter and I was excited. The semester of joining, there were a lot of things we had to do and a lot of information we had to memorize. It didn't seem like there was any real hazing going on. When I came back before second semester to be initiated, that's when it all changed. Hell Week began.

 What was Hell Week like?
There were both emotional and mental aspects to the week. There were so many tasks and things we had to do, it felt like we weren't going to get initiated. The active brothers gave every new member a set of pebbles and took a pebble from us each time they said we messed up. If we lost all of our pebbles before the end of the week, we wouldn't be initiated. Additionally, pledges had to thoroughly clean every part of the house; we got almost no sleep. The whole process was very intense and by Thursday night almost everyone had lost all of their pebbles. On Friday, the active members were upset and threatened to take our last pebbles. But, then they said, "We got you!" and told us the vote for our membership actually took place several months before. All of this was for nothing. One of my pledge brothers almost quit after hearing that.

What was the most challenging part?
We were all exhausted from the emotional roller coaster and mental exercises. My pledge brothers thought it was all so stupid but I convinced them to stick with it. It put an intense emotional strain on us.

How did you feel after the week was over?
We did Ritual the day after Hell Week ended. We were so tired we couldn't even think straight and therefore didn't recognize the Ritual for what it is. I knew we had been hazed. Based on the traditions of the chapter, the next Hell Master was one of the newly initiated. Somehow I knew I was going to be the next Hell Master and I didn't like it at all. I didn't want to put people through what I went through.

So why did you decide to run the next initiation week even though you disagreed with it?
The brothers told me to watch how the new members came together and bonded during the week. They said I needed to participate from the other perspective to understand it, so I did. I was tough as Hell Master, and I thought the pledges were bonding and connecting as a result. But, just after the week was over, a parent of one of our pledges who had left during Hell Week contacted our National Organization. The Headquarters staff and University professionals asked us "Do you feel that you were hazing or hazed?" No one else said we were hazing, but I decided to say "Yes, we were hazing."

And how did the members of your chapter react?
Some of the new brothers asked me why I admitted to hazing since I was the one who hazed them the most. One of the really negative things I learned about hazing is how much it separates the new members from the rest of the chapter. It becomes us against them. They ask, "Why are they being such jerks about this?" but can't do anything about it. This separation is harmful to the chapter. Sure, the new members were coming together, but they were coming together against us.

What sort of effects did the formal hazing investigation have on the fraternity?
Chapter performance went down. Lots of disagreements started to occur. Some people still felt we did nothing wrong. We cut the initiation week program but we didn't have anything to replace the hazing with. There was also no motivation for new members to do anything about the problem. We lost a lot of the structural support. A lot of people were angry there was nothing to help rebuild.
 
What advice would you give to another student in your position?
(If you're hazing) Stand up and say something about what's going on. Sometimes, the alumni are the problem too. I remember when we finally brought this up to the alumni and all they said was, "How did you get in trouble for this? We thought we removed everything that was considered hazing a few years ago." This created dissonance between the chapter and the alumni.
To member educators in particular, I'd say, "You have it tough." In order to stand against hazing, member educators have to go against both the active members and the alumni - assuming both of those groups think hazing is okay. If you've already vocalized your concerns, and everyone says no, the best you can do is to opt out of the week or activity. It's a tough call.

How do you feel about hazing now?
There is no reason why you can't have programming that builds better members and doesn't involve hazing. There is no value in hazing. I mean, making someone eat a goldfish, what purpose does that serve? Hazing doesn't align with Ritual and it alienates new members from the rest of the group.

What is the best way to know if you're hazing?
Here's a great way to test if you're hazing: tell the new members everything up front before they join. Tell them what they're going to go through in member education. If anyone has a problem with what's said, you either need to explain the reasoning behind your action, or you're probably hazing. If you have to hide some part of it until the last minute, avoid those actions at all costs.

What do you think are the best resources to help develop alternatives to hazing?
If the men or women who feel hazing is wrong aren't there in a year, change may not continue. Turn to your campus resources and look for partnerships with events on campus that build positive qualities in your members. Have the alumni come do a professional networking day. Talk to other chapters about what they do. Include activities that focus on building skills and encouraging teamwork. Build communication skills training; help members learn to talk to people they don't know. These are values that are important for real life: communication, teamwork, unity, friendship, and all the values that Ritual promotes. Based on the values of your Ritual, it's very easy to figure out which values are important. After the whole process, the new members should be able to identify the most important values from their experience. Consider it a preview of what your organization finds important.

Our Thoughts:
Understanding perspectives like Andrew's is essential to preventing hazing. It's easy to numb the vulnerability and fear we feel toward hazing in our own organizations by thinking that hazing is perpetuated by monsters. But it's not. Hazing is more often enabled by real, good people who don't know how to challenge a dissenting majority. They just need the courage to speak up.
As you reflect on your commitment to ending hazing this week, we challenge you to consider Andrew's story. Do you know someone who is in a position to prevent others from experiencing the humility and degradation that accompanies hazing, but isn't sure how to speak out?
If you answered yes, now is the time. Take that person out for dinner, go for a run together, do whatever you have to do to engage him or her. Your offer of support could change their life - and your organization's future - forever.

Monday, September 19, 2011

One Little Thing

Unless you're under a rock, you know this week is National Hazing Prevention Week. What are you and your chapter doing to recognize this important issue? You've seen last week's Call to Action from the North-American Interfraternity Conference, right? Did you love it? Did you agree with it? Did you re-post/tweet it? Okay, great, but the big question remains: WHAT ARE YOU ACTUALLY DOING? How will your actions change to better align with your fraternal values? Lucky for you, we've got an idea. Take a stand. Start this week. Do #onelittlething that leads to the elimination of hazing in your chapter or community. One thing.

Maybe it's talking to a brother or sister about your uneasiness about hazing. Say it out loud: "I don't think it's the right thing to do," "I don't like it," "What could we do instead?"

Maybe it's choosing not to be present when it happens. First remove yourself from the situation and next remove one other person. The Domino Effect.

Maybe it's replacing a hazing activity with something that still promotes membership, unity, and loyalty without being harmful or humiliating. A service project, a brother/sisterhood event, one-on-ones for big/little brother/sister pairs.

Maybe it's bringing a resource to a chapter meeting that you think will illustrate the dangers of hazing.

Maybe it's speaking up to share that you didn't actually like being hazed... and don't actually like hazing others.

Whatever it is for you, commit to doing #onelittlething this week.

What will you do?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Recruitment: Don't Forget About the Linemen

The last two defending Super Bowl champions - the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers - will kick off the 2011 season tomorrow night at Lambeau Field. How's that for starters?

Consider the Quarterbacks:
Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees might as well be Clint Eastwood and John Wayne. They're some of the best quarterbacks in the league and looking to stay on top for the 2011 season. Rodgers is a gunslinger; a moniker often attached to quarterbacks who can sling the ball and take some risks while doing it.

Then, of course, there's that guy the Miami Dolphins painfully passed on - twice. Brees is only a five-time Pro Bowl selection, has a Super Bowl ring and Super Bowl MVP, and was named the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the year in 2010. No big deal. Oh, and the fact he's the only player other than Marino to ever throw for more than 5,000 yards in a season counts for something.

The Supporting Cast:
But, anyone who follows football - or any sport for that matter - knows the quarterback is only one person. Sure, many other team members don't have any hope of being on the next cover of Madden Football, but they still exist. This year, the Packers own perhaps the most disjointed roster in their history; as it stands, they have a mere 24 players on offense, two fewer than their average since 1993. The Packers' decision to keep five tight ends has been called amazing, heavy, or just plain stupid.

Our friends in the Big Easy, however, have lots of good returners: notably the same group of wide receivers (gotta have someone to catch those 5,000 yards) and second-year tight end, Jimmy Graham. Sure, they've got some new folks but opted to make just a few key additions rather than a full overhaul.

Some argue that despite the small offensive line of the Pack, they'll still be able to exploit the Saints' defense . Others are saying the Packers' defense are the ones in trouble because the Saints' passing offense is a force to be reckoned with.

Sure, football is awesome, but what does it have to do with fraternities and sororities? Well, in case you haven't noticed, fall is also the time for fraternity/sorority recruitment, not just football season.

What's your strategy when putting together your roster for the year? So many fraternity/sorority leaders [over]use the phrase "quality over quantity" but we're not sure it's really a good phrase. Sure, in concept it makes sense, but at the end of the day we all want chapters with enough people, right? We need to pay the bills, those of us with houses need to fill the rooms, and in the least we want to be able to fill the positions on the executive board. On the other hand, we can't be handing out bids left and right JUST to fill the rooms and pay the bills.

Quality vs. quantity - think of it like this. The Packers have five tight ends - FIVE. Sure, the tight end is a little like a rover (they're athletic and versatile) but there's typically only one in an offensive line formation - does any team really need five?  The tight end position is oftentimes held by the most athletic players; they have to be strong enough to play like a lineman but need the speed and hands of a receiver. Okay, we get it, they're terrific. The potential new members who are super leaders, have great grades, and are extraordinarily good looking are like the tight ends. They look good to us - and make us look good.

Think about this: in your chapter, who is your quarterback? Your wide receivers? Your tight ends? How many do you have and how many do you need? What positions do you need to fill in order to have a complete roster that's going to win games? Yes, we realize your chapter roster is a bit different than a football team. Mainly, you can't trade people when they suck. You can't trade the underperforming senior tight end (he used to be strong and fast but ruined it with a Wednesday through Saturday beer drinking regimen) for a new, spry freshman tight end. But, at the end of the day, there IS such a thing as too many tight ends.

Recruitment is a rush - no doubt. We all want the "best" new members in the pool. However, we too often fail to really look at what makes a potential new member the "best." The students who are uber-outgoing and have a long list of leadership experiences may stand out in the crowd, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're the best. On the same note, those who've never been involved in the past and are pretty shy aren't the worst. Just like quarterbacks and wide receivers - and tight ends - get a lot of visibility in a football game, we'd be stupid to overlook the linemen. Linemen are important because they have to be strong enough and heavy enough to give the quarterback enough time to find an open receiver. Linemen might not move very far, but they make a huge impact. In your chapter, these linemen might be the ones who balance the budget for the first time in ten years, finally take a stab at ending hazing, or engage a faculty or chapter advisor who can really help your group.

Is your chapter disjointed or strategically created? Which positions are vacant?

And, who are the linemen in your new member pool?