Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Like a Boss

This year, how about doing everything #likeaboss?

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

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

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?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Member Education Should be More Like Steak

Not the charred, flavorless, 'menu says eight ounces, what's on my plate looks no more than three,' variety you get at your local flair-on-the wall family restaurant. We already have plenty of pledge programs and initiation weeks like that. Like a bad steak, more often than not, our members spit them out. Pushed beyond their limits doing purposeless tasks, members leave, complain, or burn out.

We're talking steakhouse steak: juicy, succulent, mouth watering, "I'm not sure if I wore a big enough belt because it's just SO good," steak. What if undergraduate organizations focused more on delivering this type of educational product? Their mission: to deliver developmental programming so vivid, so mind-numbingly engaging that everyone is oblivious to the fact they are actually learning something. Instead, they focus purely on the joy of the experience.

And their members keep coming back, and back, and back, for more.

Think back to kindergarten or preschool. You know - when you began building the developmental foundation for the rest of your life. You learned to do more than count and spell; you learned to share, to investigate, to love. Teachers engaged you with one-on-one attention. If you fell, they helped you up. Better yet, they cared if you failed, struggled, or needed help. You learned social skills through interacting with the strange kid who always tried to put gum in your hair or the one who insisted you be the dog catcher when playing House while they got to be part of the family.

So what does this have to do with steak? A great steak, or any well-prepared, well-served meal for that matter evokes the same reactions. We laugh, we savor, we store the experience in our database of "What I should do again." We build an association between physical fulfillment and happiness.

This is the same association our members should build with membership development. But it all starts with the product we serve.

You may be asking yourself, "How can I turn my chapter's member education program into a perfectly cooked, porterhouse of personal growth?" Here are a few guidelines on how to cook it up:

1. A good membership development program is prepared properly.

Like cooking, developing others takes time, hard work, and commitment to purpose. Just watch an episode of FoodNetwork's IronChef: America if you doubt us. Too often, we spend our time designing our next recruitment T-shirt rather than providing the tools for our members to become good human beings.

2. A good membership development program is fresh.

Wondering why we chose to frame this blog post around a comparison to steak, rather than publish a article titled "5 steps to creating a membership development program?" Information delivered in a fun and exciting package is far more memorable than that presented as is. Think of ways to appeal to your members' five senses. Ask yourself: what can they see, touch, smell, taste, and hear that supports your material? Don't be afraid to get out of the chapter home and engage unexplored parts of campus. Field trips are fun for a reason.

3. A good membership development program is the right size portion.

Trim the fat. If a program doesn't align with your organization's core values, eliminate it. But, be mindful of what you replace it with; a hollow experience can be just as detrimental as a harsh one. Plus, you want your members to have enough to stave off hunger but not so much they get too full to finish. Start with the core values you want every member to exemplify everyday and create a program within your institution's standards and guidelines that speaks to your members' inner desire to grow.

4. A good membership development program is served by those committed to good service.

This blog post provides one of the best examples of customer service we've ever heard of. What would our members do if they received this level of attention from our officers, alumni and advisers?

Imagine if a student on your campus tweeted:

Hey, @yourcampusgreeklife, can you provide life skills, character development and friendship before I graduate? K, Thanks. :)

Would your organization be able to answer? How about deliver the actual product? Today? Tomorrow? We must have organizational structures and communication processes in place to evaluate and accommodate the needs of our students rapidly. Our future as a relevant campus community depends on it.

5. A good membership development program isn't consumed once.

Know of many steakhouses that subsist on customers who have a great experience and never come back? Similarly, our organizations rely on repeat customers. So why do most of our programs focus on new member experiences alone? Structure your educational program around outcomes for students of all ages. Encourage alumni to train and be trained. Engage the advisors on campus to participate.

We understand it's not a perfect analogy. Steak is a red meat. Too much steak, like anything, is bad for you. We respect and acknowledge our vegetarian and vegan friends who choose not to eat meat. But, there are plenty of people who don't like tomatoes, either. Don't get hung up on the analogy. Focus on the message.

If we don't do everything in our power to share memorable, values-based, thought-provoking and fun experiences with our members, there will be no one left in twenty five years to have bland, boring, or offensive meetings with.

Bon App├ętit!