Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Divergent: Just like recruitment and our new member processes?

For those of you not in the Divergent loop (don’t worry, half of us weren't either), the plot of the movie centers around a society broken into five factions:
  • Abnegation (selfless)
  • Erudite (intelligent)
  • Amity (peaceful)
  • Candor (honest)
  • Dauntless (brave)
Following the results of a special test, teenagers are forced to make a binding decision of which faction they want to join. Should they follow their test results, which are meant to tell them the faction they fit into best? If they disagree with their test results, should they follow their hearts and choose their own factions? What about those who fit into multiple factions? Those folks are Divergent and are meant to be eradicated, as they cannot be controlled or manipulated by the government that put the faction system in place.

Choosing a faction is strikingly similar to recruitment and intake processes held annually year (the factions names are even in a different language!). Once you join, it is rare (if not impossible) to leave the organization to join another group that fits your needs better. Based on limited interaction, information, and experiences, thousands of college students each year make a lifelong decision to join a group they ultimately know very little about. Many students feel like they could fit into one or more groups and choose their fraternity or sorority based on superficial reasons like a group’s colors or social status.

Take what happens after Divergent’s protagonist Tris chooses to join the Dauntless faction following her divergent test results. She leaves the choosing ceremony with all of the new Dauntless initiates and is forced to jump off moving trains onto high buildings and off high buildings into an unknown abyss. It is immediately clear that Tris wasn't necessarily meant to be part of Dauntless, but her instructor works to help her fit in and stay alive. Those who fall to the bottom of the initiate class in Dauntless are cast away to become “factionless”: jobless, homeless, and ultimately forever at the bottom of the food chain. “Faction before blood” is the motto of the society (seriously), meaning those who leave their families for a new faction are cut off from their family and former lives, even if they are ultimately not accepted by their newly chosen faction.

They weren't this "frat" before recruitment.
Countless fraternities and sororities follow this method of bringing in their new members. They tell potential members just enough during the recruitment and intake process to make the organization seem appealing, but the moment someone becomes a new member the truth comes out. New members are oftentimes subjected to strenuous physical and mental tests. They need to change their wardrobes, interests, and friends to fit into the mold of the organization they joined. Being outside of the fraternity/ sorority community is for outcasts, and befriending members of other fraternities and sororities can be frowned upon if they’re not in the “right” fraternity/sorority.

This is the antithesis of the experiences relevant fraternities and sororities should be providing to their members. Recruitment or intake should be a time where the real membership experience is conveyed to members. By the end of the recruitment period, interested students shouldn't feel conflicted or nervous that they will not fit in. New member processes should be about building brotherhood and sisterhood through positive interactions and mutual learning. Fraternity/ sorority communities should be united together and with the greater campus community, forming positive and impactful relationships.

“Divergent” potential members possess many great skills and qualities that would make them a valuable asset to any organization. How can you improve your chapter and campus operations to be less like the society in Divergent, and more like the relevant fraternity/community new members deserve?