Thursday, August 25, 2011

16 Reasons Fraternities and Sororities are Relevant

By now, you've probably seen the web posting by ZenCollege Life listing 15 Frightening Facts About Fraternities and Sororities. We're upset about it and imagine you are as well. But, for those who just threw up their fists to prepare to fight back, consider this:

Yes, these statements are true. And, we're upset because these statements are true - not because someone put them on the internet.

If you know us, you know we're not ones to stick our heads in the sand. You also know we spend a lot of time talking about accountability and integrity. So, here is an opportunity for us to model what that looks like. Yes, these statements are true and we're not going to pretend they're not. We're also not ones to immediately throw up the defenses when we're confronted with information that makes us look stupid. This information makes us look stupid because it's true, we're sometimes stupid.

So, instead of saying "Sure, it's true, BUT..." we're going to offer "Sure, it's true, AND..." It's not accountable to admit guilt by adding a qualifier. Once we utter the word "but" we immediately negate everything that came before it. "You're pretty, but I'm not sure that shirt is very flattering" comes across much different than "You're pretty and I'm not sure that shirt is very flattering." Similarly, "Our chapter hazes, but we did 1000 hours of community service last year" just makes it look like the community service makes up for and negates the hazing - which, for the record, it doesn't.

So, consider this: Yes, these statements are true AND here's the other half of the story:

Note: click on each statement to review the cited source.

1. Fraternities/Sororities build better leaders and more active citizens.

Important leadership skills including working with diverse others, the ability to handle adversity, balancing relationships and conflict, event planning, delegation, and time management are skills are enhanced by membership in a fraternal organization.

2. The Greek GPA is higher than the non-Greek GPA at the top party schools.

Many believe that Greek = Party but at the schools where students party the most, fraternity and sorority members actually do better academically.

3. Membership in a fraternity or sorority increases first-year college retention.

The national average for first-year retention is 76.6%. That means 23.4% of freshmen don't return for their sophomore year. First-year retention rates for fraternity or sorority members is well over 90%.

4. Similarly, members of fraternities and sororities have been found to persist through graduation at higher rates than other students.

A study by Auburn University found the four-year graduation rate for Greek students to be just over 80% while only 70% of unaffiliated students graduated in four years.

5. Fraternity membership has a positive influence on moral development.

The general belief seems to be that fraternal membership hinders moral development. On the contrary, research has also proven quite the opposite.

6. Alcohol consumption among fraternity and sorority members has decreased.

While there is work to be done, progress is being made. Studies in 2000 and later show alcohol consumption has decreased among members of fraternities and sororities.

7. Fraternity and sorority members are serious about philanthropy and community service and spend more hours on service and volunteering than other students.

Even when only considering the numbers from NPC member organizations, sorority women have donated more than $5 million, provided almost $3 million in scholarships, and served 500,000 hours of community service.

8. Gifted and high-ability high school students often choose fraternal organizations to establish leadership when they enter college.

Used to coasting through high school, high ability students who go Greek often report their experience in college as being shaped by their co-curricular involvements. Looking for co-curricular opportunities that support academics as well as leadership, a fraternal organization is often the perfect fit.

9. To prevent rape, more and more fraternity men are participating in male focused programs such as The Men's Program.

The growing popularity of all-male rape prevention programs, such as The Men's Program, have allowed men to view rape from a new perspective, their own. Imagining themselves as a victim teaches empathy and how to help women recover from a rape experience.

10. Fraternity/sorority members spend more time participating in co and extracurricular activities than other students.

One might assume this is a direct result of fraternal involvement, but this study measured all involvement. In other words, fraternity and sorority members are more involved students despite their Greek affiliation.

11. Greek alumni give more to their alma maters than students who were not members of a fraternal organization.

Because Greek students feel a deeper connection to their college/university, they are more likely to give back after graduation. And, when they do give, they give more.

12. Academic performance of first-year students is higher among fraternity/sorority members versus non-members.

A recent study showed the first-year GPA for Greek affiliated women was 3.13 while the GPA of their non-member peers was 3.05. The GPA for Greek men was 2.92 while their non-member peers earned a lower GPA of 2.86.

13. Members of fraternities/sororities report making greater gains in personal development in college.

Fraternity/sorority members are more involved students and both first-year students and seniors report significantly higher levels of personal development than non-members.

14. Membership in a fraternal organization exposes students to a more diverse variety of personality types.

Undergraduate chapters typically bring together 20 to 80 students, and at least that many personalities and work styles. Learning to work as a part of this type of large team develops interpersonal skills and workplace preparation that can't be replicated.

15. Fraternities and sororities create a home for students who were not otherwise accepted on campus.

Woman, African American, Latino, Asian, gay students, and other diverse and marginalized groups have not always been welcomed at American colleges and universities. Surrounded by white, privileged, Christian men, underrepresented groups have long found solace and a safe haven in fraternities and sororities.

And, just because ZenCollege Life lists 15 facts, we're going to go ahead and list 16.

16. Members of fraternities and sororities have exponentially larger professional networks.

With more than 100,000 fraternity and sorority members in the workforce today, Greeks are better connected and prepared for life after college than their unaffiliated peers. New professionals can connect with brothers and sisters via social media, local and regional organizations, and much more.

Monday, August 22, 2011

No Recruitment at USC

After six drinking-related violations - all related to fraternity recruitment - the University of South Carolina has suspended fraternity recruitment indefinitely. We commend the university leadership for not only taking a stand to hold USC fraternity members accountable for their actions, but for also admitting there is a problem - and plainly saying they don't know exactly what to do about it.

USC's Vice President for Student Affairs, Jerry Brewer, stated, "I don't know how to fix this... and I'm searching for answers." Brewer is right, this is a complex situation, and we think the 'stop everything while we take a moment to think about this' move wasn't a bad one.

We're upset about the behavior but we're even more upset by the way the USC fraternity/sorority leaders have reacted to this decision. Complete lack of accountability. In the first paragraph we read, "The entire situation in which the University finds itself regarding fraternities is due solely to the failure of the University to communicate effectively with its Greek Students." Yes, that's really how it reads. Really? The situation doesn't have anything to do with the behavior of the students and the community that supported and enabled it?

The statement goes on to make numerous claims that shift the blame including:

  • The organizations are being tried for the actions of its individual members,
  • The Greek community has become an embarrassment to the University at the fault of the Office of Greek Life,
  • Greek events have low participation because the Office of Greek Life has created a negative image of the fraternity/sorority community, and - wait for it -
  • The Greek community can't possibly realistically address the issues of alcohol misuse because the Office of Greek Life has pushed the problem too far "underground."
Okay, we empathize with these students to some extent. Change is often very frustrating. And, when that change comes in form of what feels like a punishment, it's even more frustrating. Maddening even. Sure, it looks like there may have been some gaps in communication and the student and university leadership need to gather and put together a plan to move the fraternity/sorority community forward. But these type of statements are no way for students to show university leadership they want to be partners.

Reading this statement makes us think that instead of doing a true reflection of what's gone wrong, the Greek leaders who wrote (and endorsed) it aren't taking any of the blame. Instead, they're hiding behind a few convenient statistics that say Greek students are more successful leaders than unaffiliated students and letting these few vague (and incomplete) citations completely override - and even excuse - the cold hard facts that show their own community is making mistakes.

Where is the accountability? If these students really feel as they are superior leaders, we'd expect a more humble response. Is there really and truly a feeling that a drinking culture is solely the result of incompetent and enabling staff in a Greek Life Office? Even if the staff did have shortfalls, now or in the past one hundred years, it seems clear to us that those responsible for actions are those who acted.

The fraternal experience is a worthwhile one, no doubt. If we didn't believe there were extraordinary benefits to joining, none of us would be here. It's when we use the benefits to excuse the mistakes that we get ourselves into trouble. It's ironic, really. If we're really superior leaders, we should have superior accountability. To us, that includes admitting we've erred and being a part of a team to fix it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Alabama Sorority Rappers... Here's Why We Love Them

Sorority rapper haters, you missed the mark when it comes to your analysis of the rapping Recruitment Counselors of the Roll Tide. One, they just went viral and got themselves a spot on Anderson Cooper (who, we think you've heard of) for something not involving alcohol or drugs. Two, they just went viral and got themselves a spot on Anderson Cooper (who, again, we think you've heard of) for something NOT involving alcohol or drugs.

But seriously. Here's why we like it. We're making the safe assumption this is meant to be funny - hilarious even. It's a great video of sorority women having fun and being funny. Remember how people are funny? What if, just what IF, these ladies made this video realizing it was hilarious. Let's be honest, if you know sorority women, you know we can sing on tune and dance in sync. If these women were going to release a serious rendition of a music video - of any genre - we all know it would have been more polished. On the other hand, Rebecca Black was totally serious when she wrote, sang, and made a video for her song, Friday.

Also, let's take a look at the lyric replacements:

Here are Black's original lyrics:

7am, waking up in the morning
Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs
Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal

And here are the replacement lyrics:

7am, waking up in the morning
Make up fresh, gotta go outside
Gotta grab your heels, gotta grab a meal

Could it have been worse? Absolutely it could have been worse. In a TFM world, it may have looked like this:

2pm, waking up hungover
Gotta get home, gotta do the walk of shame
Gotta grab your clothes, gotta pre-party

In our mind, it goes back to the whole "It's funny because it's true" concept. Sorority recruitment is - well - unique. And, nobody knows that to be true more than sorority women . Why not make it funny? Why NOT made it a parody? Women's fraternal organizations are given a structure they need to work within to recruit new members; they've got to work with the tools they have. We appreciate these women for going outside that box and doing something different and for getting nationwide recognition without trashing their fraternal values. And, let's be honest, that's better than some.

Do we recognize the counterargument? Obviously. Doing something for the sake of being funny isn't as inherently strong as doing something with a stronger moral or values-based purpose. But, this video does serve a higher purpose: it is an attempt to contribute to a positive conversation about fraternity/sorority membership. Maybe more blatantly, it inspires people to take themselves a little less seriously. We all know less stress is a good thing.

Here's our advice. Catch that viral wave and ride it for your 15 minutes, and do it proudly. It's not the first time fraternities and sororities have been made fun of and it won't be the last. Our hunch is if these women are tough enough to make a video this ridiculous, they're tough enough to take the prodding.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

LeaderShape Day 7: Think Different.

It’s been a couple weeks since I graduated from AFLV LeaderShape, and I often think to myself, “Today is Day 7: Now what?” (At LeaderShape, we use the term Day 7 to describe everything after the 6 days we were together.)

Coming into LeaderShape, I was one of those people who perpetually had their “cool cap” on. While I could see things happening that I didn’t agree with, I often turned a blind eye to it. I could hear people saying things that I didn’t think were right, but I would never be the one to raise my voice.  That feeling you get in your stomach when something’s wrong? I ignored it.

My excuse? Next time.

Next time I’ll speak up. Next time I’m going to do something about that. Next time I’m not going to be a bystander. Next time I’m going to challenge the status quo. Next time I’ll be like the people that I look up to.  Next time…

I was afraid to talk about topics I was passionate about because I was afraid that people wouldn’t agree with me. Afraid to take a step forward because I thought someone might stand in my way.

I’m not who I was.

After a week of laughter, tears, and newly found friendship, AFLV LeaderShape changed my perspective on a lot of things. But most of all, it changed my perspective on myself. Through the realization of my weaknesses, I learned that I must overcome my insecurities to be the leader I want to be. The leader I need to be.  The leader I am.

I learned that genuine passion for a cause is contagious. And how social entrepreneurship can be a reality, not just something a select few people are capable of. I learned how sometimes, all it takes is one voice to change an entire room’s opinion. One voice.

I’m not who I was.

Throughout the week I had the time to think about a lot of different things:
How do I question and challenge our actions that compromise our values as Greeks?
How can I spread my love and excitement for dance marathon to others?
Can my vision of global access to quality education for all children ever really be a reality?

By the end of the week, I could feel the change within me. Never in my life had I felt so grounded about who I was, what I stood for, and the things I wanted to change. For the first time, my goals felt attainable rather than overwhelming. My aspirations for Greek Life, dance marathon, and my vision all made sense for once because I had a plan and the resources to make them happen.

But now, it’s Day 7. And what am I doing?

Working 60 hours a week. Packing to go back to school. Getting ready for UConn’s Panhellenic Formal Recruitment. Trying to study for the GREs.

But I’ve also started researching different non-profits in order to decide which one I will use to sponsor a child in Africa or Asia (one of my manageable goals). I’ve been answering questions from my peers about how they can start a dance marathon at their school. I’ve started having conversations about our new Fraternal Values Society and the amazing potential it has for our Greek community.

As the summer winds to a close and I move back into UConn, I will not forget all the lessons learned at LeaderShape, my new friends, and the goals I have laid out. Most of all, I will not be silent. After all, I’m not who I was.

“You’re a leader all the time, don’t turn it on and off.”

Vanessa Ball 
Pi Beta Phi
University of Connecticut

Friday, August 5, 2011

Cameron’s Day 4 Blog Entrée:

Waking with the savory taste of the guidance from guest panelists such as Dr. Tisa Mason, the Vice President of Student Affairs at Fort Hays State University, still fresh on my mind, I hungered for the leadership lessons AFLV-LeaderShape had to offer me today. When I saw that The Art of Possibility and Star Power were some of the topics on today’s LeaderShape menu, my first reaction was a skeptic doubt that today would involve more than a cheesy leadership infomercial. However, I thought to myself “Trust the process (TTP) Cameron. You’ve made it this far.” Soon after this self encouragement I discovered some of my new favorite quotes while watching a movie titled Radiating Possibility, a series of recorded orations where philharmonic composer Benjamin Zander compels his audience to be “fascinated” with their mistakes. I took this, not as an excuse to dwell unhealthily on the stumbles taken on my leadership adventure, but I will forever be fascinated with learning from my mistakes rather than withdrawing from them. I had to realize that Zander was not asking me to obsess over my short comings; that would never allow me to grow. I should view mistakes as a note card, constantly in my mind for me to revisit should I need to be reminded of what works and what doesn’t. 

Reflecting on my breakfast of understanding possibility, I had came to realize that if it is truly an art, it would take great practice and intense culmination to get it as close to perfect as possible. It would take some time to sit in the “front row” of my life, quiet any negative “inner voice,” and to fascinate myself with learning from mistakes. My practice, in true Leadershape form, would come later that night in unconventional ways. Now, however, was the time to go to a luncheon; earthquake and chicken salad were the main dishes on the menu. Our new activity brought our family clusters together in an attempt to get out of a fictional earthquake with a set of rules, travesties, circumstances, and a foursome of unexpectedly spoiled chicken salad sandwiches. We learned at end of this exercise that I all situations, especially when on the cusp of survival, attention to detail and effective collaboration behaviors were essential to coming out of uncomfortable circumstances. Like the earthquake, circumstance will come to my chapter and I unannounced and, at times, out of our own control. It is up to us from that point, to utilize both the knowledge and experience from our own lives and lead with appropriate behaviors and detail. After this exercise, I explained how my father always told me that instead of “trying” to do something, say getting yourself out of a disaster, it only gets done if you “just do it.” Though it may at first sound hard, I realized by speaking with other Leadershape classmates how they achieved success in the activity and that, ultimately, it is possible.

There was that word again: possibility. By this point I still only knew one side of the word and it was the side that wasn’t too hard a lesson to digest. But, what about the      other side? For dessert, we had a lesson that started out with sugary sweet good intentions and ended with a bitter after taste of what exactly Power & Influence can bring out of leaders. You see, Benjamin Zander never excluded the possibility of failure; he simply recommended we pay it little attention. What we needed to pay attention to were the behaviors that could cause failure. We, as Greek brothers and sisters, should be the first to admit that failure is possible, but also know that, we can not half-ass intentions. In this simulation of power struggle, whether that power represented influence, money, or responsibility, I, along with most of my fellow classmates, failed to uphold the values that made our intentions strong. I instead upheld the desire to be successful over my values, which was the exact opposite of what I should do, because I perceived it as “just a game.” One of my favorite Drake songs advises that life isn’t “a rehearsal; the camera’s always rolling.” This means that regardless, of whether I thought this to be a harmless game, it was that practice, in true Leadershape form, that came in an unconventional manner. I will say, however, that we succeeded in an effort to educate ourselves on the dangers of getting a sugar rush from the power that we sometimes don’t deserve. Think of all the sour looks bystanders wouldn’t send our way if Greek life upheld their values at ALL times. We have to realize that it’s not “just a game” we are not “just in a fraternity” our values are not “just a few words” and “if you think they are,” as my facilitator, Cara Jenkins says, “it is just an excuse.” It was from that point on that I vowed to no longer use my fraternity and values as an excuse to rise to the top, as a tool to get what I desired, but as a gift that allows me to Love and Respect my Greek community, as well each and every other community I belong to. Moreover, I promised not to dwell on this mistake, but to use it as a recipe note card, constantly reminding me of the right and wrong steps to take in my leadership adventure. Doing this would allow me to rise from this travesty and rise to another occasion with true leadership.

Cameron Martin
Alpha Tau Omega
Middle Tennessee State University