Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Scariest Part of Being in a Sorority Is…

Guest Essay by Jen Glantz
 
Do you want to know what the scariest part of being in a sorority is?
It’s not suddenly becoming friends with more girls than you’ve ever known in your life, or dealing with fraternity guys who smell, permanently like tequila and stale Doritos, or having to wear matching outfits to things (though have you seen 150 girls all wearing the same t-shirt and white shorts and brown sandals? It’s a little scary).

It’s doing something called recruitment. And no matter if you’re in the most popular sorority on campus or the least, you have to do it.
What is it?
Well it’s 4 to 5 days of timed conversations with absolute and complete strangers.
It’s terrifying.
All of a sudden, the doors of the sorority house swing open and there they are. A group of 100 girls you’ve never met before in your life. Who are forced to go from sorority to sorority and decide which they’d like to be part of.

I wasn’t in the most popular sorority when I was in college. No. I was in the “new” one. The one with more “down to earth and unique” kind of girls. The one where if we wanted to recruit a new group of women, we had to work to prove ourselves. We were the only ones without a house on campus – so, for the week, we’d rent out a falling apart fraternity house and decorate it with balloons and spray gallons of Febreze all over the place.

Day one: You vs. a group of 3 girls. You have to speak with them for 35 minutes straight. No cell phones, no distractions, nothing to do but talk. You talk until the music starts to play and then you say goodbye and walk them out of your house.
And then what do you do?
You do that 10 more times that day. And then the next, and the next, and the next.
So what do you say?
Well, somewhere in whatever you say, you need to also toss in some props for your sorority and tell them why they should join.
But seriously, what do you say?
It’s frightening and awkward and every single girl in the sorority has to do it. And not just once, every single year you’re in it, this is what you have to do the first week of August or January. And after a couple of days, when the selection process continues, some of the girls who come to your house are forced to be there. They don’t even want to be there – but the recruitment gods make them go and give you another chance.
Want to know what they do to show us how mad they are about that?
They refuse to talk. They play mute. You’ll ask them how their day is so far and they’ll look at you like you just wiggled around and did a dance. Or maybe they’ll speak. In one word answers. And so either you can do a 35-minute staring contest with them or you can talk. 

Talk like no one is listening (because let’s face it, they aren’t).
I bet you don’t hear about this often?
Which is a shame because sororities are most-well known for liquor gorging themed parties and hazing incidents. But they are not known for this. The one thing that actually builds extinct social skills in our 20-something, technology obsessed selves. One day, I know, this recruitment process will be out of date and sororities will recruit people like we do dates on something like tinder. Swipe right if this girl looks like a good fit for your chapter.

Until then, this process takes everyone – from the shyest girl in the room to the one who could talk to a wall – and makes them do this.
I once had to talk one of my sorority sisters off the ledge. Literally. She was hiding in a bathroom stall, standing on the toilet. Refusing to come out because she was so scared to do this.
Talking to strangers is absolutely terrifying.
Here’s some of the techniques we’re taught in order get through this – which truly apply to real life conversations as well.
  1. Open ended questions - ask these kinds of questions so the conversation doesn’t die. Questions like: where are you from? Why did you move here? Tell me more about your job?
  2. People love to talk about themselves: so indulge them. Find out the keywords and phrases that they say that make them light up and ask them to tell you more, to elaborate. It’ll get them talking and talking and talking.
  3. Level set. “You don’t want to be here, do you? Me either.” Drop the act and be real with the person you’re trying to talk to.
  4. Water cooler topics. Oh my god, did you see the latest episode of Scandal? What do you think about Kim Kardashian posing naked on that magazine? Can we talk about that legendary Photoshop job for a second?
I’ve done recruitment 3 times in college, and then I worked for my sorority afterward, running recruitment workshops for chapters around the country.
You’d think I’d be a pro at this by now.
You want to know the truth?
I’m not. I still get terrified. Sometimes I go to events alone and want to approach a group of girls but I freeze and I get so nervous that my heart races and I just end up standing 3 feet away from them lurking over their shoulders, wondering if they see me. They do. I know they always do.
Last weekend, I was invited to a conference put on by Cosmo. There were 2,000 women there – all in my demographic. I had to go and speak to as many people as I could about my blog and my book and my business. I packed a gigantic professional looking briefcase with as many business cards as I could stuff in there. I put on a blazer. I brushed my hair. I checked my teeth before I got there for lipstick. I wore a new fur coat – which I realized 4 hours in, I forgot to take the tag off of.
But when I got there, I froze. I couldn’t speak. If I did speak, it was only to say, “Hi, I’m, Jen,” and then the conversation would die. One time I tried this on a girl who was about to sit down next to me and I put out my hand to say hello. But the girl was carrying too many things at once and when I stuck out my hand, I accidentally knocked over her half eaten yogurt on the floor. And the whole thing was so jumbled and awkward that she ended up moving three rows behind me because she probably thought I was some kind of clumsy breakfast stealer.
So what did I do?
I took my 4 years of recruitment experience, my briefcase of beautifully printed business cards, and I left.
Yep. I left.
I walked 5 blocks east to Argo Tea. Ordered a large muffin and an extra-large tea.
I was finally safe.
But then I told myself, no. No. It can’t be like this. You have more conversational training and skills than anyone in that entire Lincoln Center ballroom. You’re going to go back there. You’re going to tell them who Jen Glantz is. You’re going to talk to strangers and shake their hands and not spill their food. You’re going to do this.
And of course, I’m saying all of this out loud to myself in Argo Tea and a group of tourists are staring at me. One of them pulls out his iPhone to video my powerful monologue and another one whispers something loud enough that I hear him say, “New Yorkers are absolutely bonkers.”
So I went back. Yep, I did.
Okay, I thought to myself. How can I do this?
And then I remembered this, the best way to enter conversation with someone is to do it naturally. People will get weird if you walk up to them and say, “HI, I’m Jen Glantz. I just talked out loud to myself in Argo Tea about how I was going to come back here and make friends."
Natural conversation forces people to let you in. It’s conversation they are used to, trained for, neurologically wired to respond to. Because if it’s not natural, we’re trained to ignore it, just like we ignore the guy on the street shouting at us that the world is going to end! Or the guy who approaches us as we’re waiting for the subway and says, “Damn, girl, let me show you a good time.”
Ask a question that makes someone do something to help you. It’s the key to getting any stranger's attention, to letting them let you in, to starting that stranger trust.
“Do you girls know when the next session starts?”
That’s how I did it. I walked up to two women and I asked that. We then spoke for 45 minutes, exchanged info, and took a selfie together.
It’s that easy.
Okay, maybe it’s not.
Maybe it’s getting somewhere new, eyeing a bunch of intimidating strangers and having to throw yourself in front of the bathroom mirror to pep talk the heck out of yourself before going back out there and speaking to someone, something, other than yourself. Maybe it’s making someone spill their yogurt or having a group of girls wonder why the heck you’re standing so close to them and not saying anything. Maybe it’s spending your first few days of recruitment, at the age of 19, making every single conversational error in the book. Saying lots of “ummms” and sweating through your yellow cotton shirt so badly, that you start all conversations with, “It’s getting hot in here, isn’t it?”
Maybe it’s a bunch of that before you finally see that the less you plan it out, the less you let yourself get all suffocated with nerves, the more you'll just go for it.
Toss yourself into the conversation like you’re the keynote speaker.
Believe deep down that you are.



Jen Glantz is the author of the novel, All My Friends are Engaged. She’s exposed the intimate details of her dating, career, and personal life on her website The Things I Learned From for the past three years. Most recently, her “professional bridesmaid” ad from Craigslist went viral within 48 hours – and became an overnight business called "Bridesmaid for Hire"


 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

5 Things That Will Fix Your Greek Community

The previous post challenged 5 oft-considered “silver bullet” solutions to problems facing our Greek communities.  Believing that any of the 5 ideas would be stand-alone answers to what we face is to believe in fool’s gold.   

So, what can fix our Greek communities?  You could say this whole blog and the almost 150 posts have focused on that question.  But, in order to stay with the theme I established in the prior post, let’s try to delineate the 5 things that WILL fix your Greek community.  Note that each of these is not as specific, because again, we can’t believe in shortcut solutions and make any headway.  And off we go…



As mentioned in the previous post, we tend to want to solve issues by exerting more control.  When faced with the feeling of chaos, we tend to overreact and go to the polar opposite: severe rigidity.  We start putting more rules on recruitment and expansion, establish plans that dictate how organizations should operate, and turn our Greek staff and councils into overseers.  We try to choreograph too much.  And I believe it doesn’t work because fraternities and sororities are not organizations designed for control.  We are designed for self-initiative and independence.  In my experience, more control equates to more status quo.  It's hard to compel change by force.  Rather, change needs to be inspired and then encouraged with plenty of room for innovation.  Let’s make it easier for chapters to innovate by taking our thumbs off of them.  With Ritual as the basis, we should allow for many different positive expressions of the fraternity experience.



It’s an old adage: what gets recognized gets done.  If you want to inspire better behavior, seek ways to recognize it.  Here’s a fun exercise: throw out your current Greek awards process and start from scratch.  First, identify the desired Greek community you want.  What does it feel like? Look like? Act like?  What are the chapters doing?  What are the members and leaders doing?  Now, build your awards and recognition around those behaviors.   For example, let’s say you develop a list of the five things you want your chapters to be doing more of, which could look something like: (1) help members achieve better academically, (2) perform more meaningful community service projects, (3) host responsible social events that encourage personal development, (4) demonstrate innovation in recruitment and retention, and (5) build a strong working relationship with the campus community.   So now recognize those who are demonstrably achieving those things and you have your five feature awards for your end-of-the-year Greek Awards banquet.  



Much has been made of the University of Virginia’s decision to suspend all fraternities because of a Rolling Stone magazine article alleging a brutal rape in one of those fraternities.  Suspending all Greek activities for the actions of a few seems to be the standard protocol now.  To fix a Greek community, you need a scalpel and not a hatchet.  On your campus right now are organizations that are trying hard to live by their Ritual.  There are also organizations trying their level best to  live opposed to their Ritual.  Why punish the former because of the latter?  Here’s a novel idea – go to where the problem is and remove it.  Mike McRee wrote one of the seminal pieces on accountability when he argued that more chapters need to be closed.  We know what chapters these are.   And we know what chapters these aren’t.  To fix your Greek community requires a surgical approach to target the source of the problems and remove them.  It can be a scary proposition, but let me assure you that no matter how big, historic, or influential that fraternity may be, you can live without them.  




In the previous post, I argued against the motivational speaker as the answer to your prayers.  A speaker can work if it is part of a larger education plan.  But, there is an issue: speakers can eat up a big chunk of your programming budget.  So – you have to decide – what is the best return on your investment?  I’m a fan of speakers for celebratory events like Greek Week, convocations, Greek awards ceremonies, etc.  I also love speakers that build in smaller workshops or consulting to accompany their 60 minutes of stage time.  What I like most are retreat-style events in which more interaction and in-depth discussion can occur.  I also like small targeted gatherings like officer roundtables and Greek leadership classes.  Overall, start with your objectives, build the plan, and see how a speaker fits instead of the other way around.




If you believe, as I do, that grassroots change is much more effective, then stop waiting for your college/university to solve these issues for you.  Your Greek advisor shouldn’t be the one pointing out to you that your all-Greek GPA is tanking, or that sexual assaults are becoming an issue on campus.  You have eyes and ears.  You can see these things also.  One of the biggest problems we face in Greek life is that we’re losing our self-governance.  In some instances, it’s being taken away forcibly, but more often, we’re giving it away by abdication.  Think about your last IFC meeting.  What did you talk about?  Of those things, what really matters to the future of your Greek community?  Self-governing Greek communities will not shy away from difficult matters.  Self-governing Greek communities will set strict standards for being a “citizen” in that community and will police their own community.  Self-governing Greek communities are in charge because they want to be, and are willing to accept the work that’s involved.  Those who ignore big issues, squelch controversial discussions, and refuse to take a stand are relinquishing control of their future to others, and they deserve what they get.  

Students – these are your chapters and your Greek communities.  You can decide the strategies to fix the problems that are keeping you from greatness.  First, own the problems.  Then, own the solutions.  And, avoid the shortcuts.  This can be long, hard, grueling work with extraordinarily bountiful rewards.



Thursday, November 20, 2014

5 Things That Won't Fix Your Greek Community

Don't expect these to be the silver bullet solutions to your problems.

In Greek life, we have no shortage of problems.  Pervasive and longstanding ones too.  What these problems lead to are Greek communities that sit on the brink, with pressure mounting to make changes or else.  Student leaders and staff are often left with trying to figure out what to do.  I have seen time after time, these concerned leaders come together to solve these problems and emerge with big, lofty, silver-bullet solutions that don’t have much of an impact at all. If you are in the midst of visioning or problem-solving for your Greek community right now, let me try to help save you time, energy, and resources.  Here are five go-to answers for fixing our Greek communities that most likely won't:



One of our first inclinations is to bring people together and develop a sweeping plan.  When I was an undergraduate at Miami, a committee of staff, students, and alumni created the Miami Plan for Greek Excellence.  I know many institutions have such a plan.  These plans can be beneficial in identifying the problems, and the discussions that create the plans can be enlightening and productive.  However, the plans themselves almost never create a lasting positive impact.  Why?  First, the plans are rooted in logic and intellect and most of the problems they address are not.  Second, staff and student turnover on most campuses make sweeping multi-year plans tough to stay committed to.  And third, no matter how much student “voice” is brought into the plan’s development, it cannot avoid being seen as an authoritarian top-down approach. 



I love professional speakers as thought-provokers and educational entertainers.  But too many believe that putting one in front of their whole Greek community will bring about big change.  To have that expectation is to unfairly burden the speaker, and to unwittingly subscribe to the discredited notion that speeches create action.  A speaker is a great compliment to a larger educational strategy.  But, a speaker is typically not the sage savior that will “light a fire” that produces change.   If you have ever attended a regional leadership conference, such as NGLA or AFLV and the only real idea you came away with was a speaker that you just HAD to bring to your campus, then you fell victim to this silver bullet.   Instead of internalizing the speaker’s message, the dialogue in your head (and this is common) probably sounded something like “if only my whole Greek community could hear this!”  Great speakers can set a table, but you need to own the meal.



Repeat after me: Our Greek community does not have a PR problem.  And keep repeating it until you believe it, because it’s true.  Bad PR is the most frequent misdiagnosis for the problems we face in Greek life.  And thus, we put way too much emphasis on good PR as a solution.  If you have the time, write a press release.  It probably won’t get printed.  If it’s cathartic for you to fire off a letter to the campus newspaper, go for it.  But, if you want to use your time more wisely, ignore the campus newspaper and pledge to do things that are worthy of notice.  Even if you don’t get the media attention you desire, you’ll move further away from getting the unwanted kind.  Nonetheless, the battle for our future as Greek organizations will not be waged in the op-ed sections or on the magazine racks.  Don’t get sucked in.  


This one is for the IFC’s and the senior campus administrators.  When faced with problems, the knee-jerk response is to exert more and more control over recruitment.  The old adage of “if all you have is a hammer, then everything is a nail” applies here.  Recruitment is the hammer.  Campus administrators wield it as a carrot, and stick, and everything in between.  The fact is – pervasive issues in Greek life are pervasive on campuses where recruitment happens year-round, recruitment is deferred a semester, deferred a year, deferred two years, loose, controlled, etc.  Why do we go – even as student leaders – to the recruitment card so often?  Again, it’s about control.  Open recruitment feels like the giant bin of mismatched legos, and we can struggle with that much chaos.  So, we instead seek to create instructions for what to build with the legos and Krazy Glue to hold it together once it’s built (referencing the Lego Movie here, which you may not have seen but you NEED to).  It certainly appears more orderly, and we appear more in control, but what we’ve lost is the creative energy that fuels grassroots inertia for change. 



When a Greek community is facing challenges, it’s natural for those involved to want to huddle up, hunker down, and stop business until the problems are solved.  As mentioned, recruitment is often a way this manifests itself.  Yet another is fraternity expansion.  We tend to think that a system in turmoil cannot withstand any disruptions, and so we stand still.  However, a disruption may be exactly what’s needed.  A new player, a new model for others to observe, and new energy infused into the system.  If you are looking at a Greek community that needs to be fixed, don’t put up a fence.  Don’t shut out the rest of the world and believe that you can go into a cave, make repairs, and emerge brand new.  You may get some temporary relief from that, but more often than not, the system will revert back to its previous state.  The best thing for you to say, at a moment of consequence for your Greek community, could be “let’s bring on some new groups.”  Keep moving.  Don’t stand still.

What did I miss?  Where am I wrong?

And in a couple of weeks, look for the 5 things that CAN fix your Greek community.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Fraternity and the Insanity of Fandom

I love sports.  So do you.  Well, most of you.

And most of us just don’t love sports, we allow sports to make us temporarily insane.  I don’t mean in jubilation for winning or sorrow for losses.  I mean sports make us insane because they alter our integrity.

Let’s admit one thing – we can all be steadfastly opposed to athletes who cheat, steal, do drugs, assault their spouses, make racist or homophobic comments, or generally act like arrogant SOBs…as long as they play for the OTHER team.  If they play for our team…well…?

There are athletes who deserve our scorn, and if they play for the other team, they are a properly labeled as jerks.  If they play for our team, we may actually root harder for them, because they are OUR jerks.

You could carry disdain for someone on the other team for years, but then they are signed by your team as a free agent.  Instantly, he’s matured as a player, learned from his mistakes, fallible like any human being, and someone who should be judged for his play, not his character.  

See – sports make us insane (ethically).

There are some exceptions.  I don’t know that any fan would have truly embraced Barry Bonds.  Or Mark McGuire.  Or Michael Vick (well, actually that one did shift).  And if Ray Rice ends up on another team, what will those fans do?

So, what does this have to do with fraternity – the subject of this blog? 

A fraternity or sorority – like many sports teams – can be prone to differential ethics when it comes to their own “players.”  In other words, when it’s our guy, a behavior or action can easily be dismissed.  When it’s the other team’s guy, we very easily pass out judgment as easily as candy on Halloween.

Consider a scenario.  Imagine you are at a party hosted by some other organization.  At that party you see a guy making moves on a clearly intoxicated woman.  In that situation, we may intervene, or at the minimum, be upset or disgusted by that behavior.  Now imagine if that same thing is happening in your chapter house, and the guy is your brother.  Might the feeling be different? 

The challenge is that we become emotionally invested in those on our team – those we are expected to root for.  It makes us treat them with situational ethics.  But, in reality, that emotional investment is selfish.

If we were truly invested in our players – then we wouldn’t have different accountability standards for them.  Because the best thing for those players is to be held accountable, so that they grow as individuals.  Our members are not served by our protection, or willful ignorance of their screw-ups and misdeeds.  

There is danger in team mentality.  It can cause us to apply our ethics in a schizophrenic fashion.  We should also remember that no single player is greater than the team. Dismissing behavior that should be confronted is gambling with our organization’s future – just like the sports franchise that drafts someone with a history of problems.

We should definitely be fans of our own fraternities and the members who belong to them.  Let’s choose to practice the best aspects of fandom:
  • Fans are patient and loyal, and can survive losing seasons because of hope of what’s to come.
  • Fans are forgiving, and generally will accept mistakes if there is demonstrated intent to make corrections.
  • Fans can bring life to a team when it needs it most, and the best fans do not give up until the bitter end.
At the same time, let’s remember some very important points that may not be reflected in professional sports, but should be true for our organizations:
  • Winning with players you admire and respect is exponentially better than winning with players whose behavior you have to tolerate.  Choose to populate your team with the former, even if it delays winning.
  • No player is entitled to be on a team, nor is any team forced to accept a player below their standards.
  • Any hate or disdain for players on other teams should be redirected towards rigorous accountability for players on our own teams.  
A quick point in closing: it’s not always the miscreants in sports that can make us temporarily insane.  It’s also the exceptional individuals.  Think about the hatred cast upon Tim Tebow.  Or Lebron James for a time.  In sports, we have a tendency to hate people because of how good they are.  Crazy, but true.  Steer clear of that in fraternity as well.  If the other guy in the other organization is doing really good stuff, seek to learn from it, not hate it.  

We can choose who we root for, who we root against, and the reasons why.  I challenge you to stop and consider that for yourself.  Let’s be fans who are loyal, patient, and enthusiastic.  

But not insane.



Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Problem with Fraternity "Colonization"

Guest essay by Brent Turner 

Remember when you joined that house chapter and met some of your fellow pledges new members? Rush Recruitment was an exciting time filled with anxiety and anticipation, as you and other rushees potential new members hoped to join a new community of lifelong friends. The frat guy fraternity man culture on campus needed a transformation through positive change, with a focus on risk management education and harm reduction.

We've come a long way, yet we have a long way to go.

This week we saw multiple postings on social media related to Columbus Day and the 'true' story of history often untold. I want to expand on the notion that history tells this story of exploration and discovery, often omitting death and demise of the indigenous people of the native land. Let's bring that to the fraternity/sorority world.

Our organizations have evolved over time to be inclusive of the current context, particularly with our language. In fact, we as a community have changed several of our terms over time. But there is one word/concept that I feel needs a revolution: COLONIZATION.

Colonize (verb)

1. to establish a colony in; settle.

2. to form a colony of

Colony (noun)

1. any group of individuals having similar interests, occupations, etc. usually living in a particular locality; community

The definitions above seem suitable in building community, but when placed in a historical context we uncover the problem.  When we 'colonize', the actions assumed are to have a western civilization interrupt a native culture, promote power and privilege, and become the dominant leader of the land. But often that's not our goal. Rather, we intend to be recognized in the campus community and by governing councils, succeed with high expectations, recruit diverse and inclusive members, and sustain on campus with a focus on values-based recruitment and programming. The goal, however, is to promote positive change and growth within the entire community on that campus. 

Growth and expansion are crucial efforts for sustainability and success, as each of our organizations have intentional plans for the future of our membership across multiple institutions. I was honored to be a founding father founding member (this is another issue as we continue to welcome trans* and gender inclusion) of my fraternity the spring of my sophomore year, so I have been a product of a ‘colony’. 

So what if? What if ‘colonization' become the next phrase we transform to meet modern context? What if we stick to extension and expansion? What if ‘colonies’ were renamed associate chapters, pre-chartered organizations, societies, interest groups, establishments, etc? I commend those organizations that have courageously and progressively changed their culture and language and I urge others to challenge these terms. For some it’s just semantics, but for others it may reflect a lifetime of oppression and pain.

I challenge us all to continue to transform our values into action, through positive social change, cultural competency, and inclusion. We have an obligation to cultivate a place for all students, promote community, and challenge words that often have a negative connotation, history of oppression, or meanings that do not reflect today's context.  Let’s shift from micro aggressions to micro (if not macro) affirmations. It’s my hope that inter/national headquarters colonizing seeking charters on campuses consider this idea when recruiting new colonies associate chapters. 



Brent Turner serves as the Executive Director of Student Involvement at Northwestern University. He has been actively involved with the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors, American College Personnel Association, The LeaderShape Institute, UIFI, and his fraternity, Beta Theta Pi. He can be reached at bdturn03@gmail.com.



Wednesday, October 8, 2014

It's Time for the Choir to Stand Up

Guest Essay By Dave Westol, Limberlost Consulting 

National Hazing Prevention Week (NHPW) 2014 has come and gone although a number of campuses designate a week at other times during the academic year for that important purpose.  Seminars and workshops are held, discussions occur, and people from many different departments and areas of a campus spend time talking about a practice that has become a malignancy in clubs, organizations, teams and indeed men’s and women’s fraternities and sororities.

A BFNM (Best Friend Never Met) of mine is Dr. Fran Becque.  Fran, a proud alumna of Pi Beta Phi Fraternity, authors “Focus on Fraternity History”.  Her blog is an oasis for me and many others in our movement—in the midst of so much negative news, I know I can turn to her work and find historical perspective and a refreshing break from the day-to-day, not to mention interesting information about all of our organizations.


Fran recently noted that we are “Preaching to the choir” in terms of hazing.  And I agree, with one additional point.

The term “Preaching to the choir” means what?

That we are encouraging those who are already at the place of worship, not to mention volunteering their time to enhance the service, to be faithful.  They don’t need to be encouraged.  They get it.  They are there.  The people who need to be reminded to be faithful aren’t there.

True.  But what do choir members do before they sing?

Let’s see.  They practice?

Yes.  Hours and hours, sometimes, for one or two songs.  Not that I would know with my voice.

They wear robes?

Yes.  They uni up.  They also may walk in together, sometimes in formation or particular order.  What else?

Hmm.  They sit together, sometimes in an area reserved for them.

You are getting to the point.  Now, the choir director, who is usually in front of them, may tap a small wand or other device…and then she or he raises her hands…and what happens?

The choir stands up.

Yes.  The choir members stand and often rise together…something like the offense on a football team coming out of a huddle by clapping their hands together.  It is a gesture of organization but also of unity.  For the choir, it says, “We’re ready.  We’ve practiced.  We’re unified.  We’re ready”

And that simple act of standing up is what is missing from our chapters.

That applies to hazing…and also to all of the other issues that arise in fraternity and sorority life.

Our members—most of them, anyway--understand right from wrong.  And we have, as Fran notes, many “choir” members who get it—who know that the values and ideals of their organizations are timeless and that those must be perpetuated.  We are sitting right where we should be.  We are robed up.  We are ready.  We don’t need to be preached to about hazing or sexual assault or dumb party themes or risk management.

But we aren’t standing up.  We’re still sitting.

We sit and listen.

We sit and watch.

We let the worst of our members in our chapters speak and act in ways that embarrass us at events and on social media.  And then, those same members rush back to our sisterhood or brotherhood and insist that we defend them because...”I’m a sister/brother and you owe it to me!”

We allow the loud jerks, the has-been young alumnae/alumni and outspoken boors to make decisions for us.

We allow those afflicted with ego, self-aggrandizement and TSM/TFM disease to dominate our meetings.

We bystand when the facts, circumstances and situations call loudly for upstander behavior—to act.  Or at least to speak.  On our feet.  Emphatically.  With purpose.  With meaning.  With sincerity.

September, 2014, will be recorded as a bad time for fraternities and sororities. Numerous high-profile incidents have occurred that quickly undo all of the good things that we do and have done. 

Yet, if just one person—just one—in each situation would have stood up in a chapter house or a meeting or at a gathering and said, “This isn’t a good idea.  This isn’t right.  This is not us” the outcome could well have been different in each of those situations last month.

Are you in the choir in your chapter?  Showing up for meetings? Reciting our creed or credo with meaning and in a thoughtful way?  Being a good member?  Proud of being in your organization?

Then get on your feet.  Get your voice back.  And say something.

One adage used in the 1800s when officers rode horses in battle was, “One man on a horse is worth six on the ground”—that the size of the horse plus the elevation of the rider was superior to any other way of leading troops.  Soldiers were more apt to follow a leader on horseback.

Today, one woman or one man on her or his feet…will make a difference.  And more than six times a difference.  You can change the course of a 250-member chapter.  If you stand up.

We need you on your feet.  Today. 




Dave Westol served as CEO of his national fraternity for eighteen years and now has his own consulting company, Limberlost Consulting, Inc., in Carmel, Indiana. He has served on the board of directors for FIPG, Inc. for sixteen years and has been honored with the Gold Medal from the North American Interfraternity Conference for service to the interfraternal community. He can be reached at David.Westol@gmail.com.