Sunday, September 13, 2009

Responses to Eliminating Pledging

I received some great feedback and opinions from the “No Pledging” post a couple of weeks ago. It helps me clarify my own thoughts to try and respond to some of the comments. I’ve written those responses below.

I should have added in the original post that I am looking at this from a macro level. I don’t think the fraternity movement will measurably advance without bold action, such as eliminating pledging. I also think a pledge-free experience is more true to our history. I recognize that pledging works for some groups. Many groups, in fact. I simply see a more successful future for the whole fraternity movement without it.

On to the comments…

I know you are going to advocate for a longer recruitment process in order to get to know the potential new members but from a formal recruitment stand point I am not sure how this would work.
You’re right. Formal recruitment encourages pledging. You wouldn’t be able to eliminate pledging without eliminating formal recruitment first.

More importantly pledging is a time for candidates to learn about the members and the members to learn about the candidates.
Shouldn’t that be what rush/recruitment is for? Besides, I was still learning new things about my brothers years after I was initiated. That’s the beauty of brotherhood. The problem with pledging is that it creates a power differential and a false finish line. I wonder if we ever truly get to know each other in that kind of setting. I knew great pledges that were terrible brothers.

Initiating men and women within 72 hours is a terrible idea. Groups would have to have several initiations per semester, maybe two in the same week. Don't get me wrong, frequent ritual is important but this would just get excessive.
We have a history of being fairly adaptable groups, and I think we’d figure it out. Why is having monthly initiations/Ritual ceremonies excessive, but having weekly social events okay (I know you’re not saying that)? If there are things we should be doing “excessively,” it’s Ritual and welcoming new men into our brotherhoods.

Great argument from the fraternity perspective, but what about from the recruit's? I needed the pledge period to learn what I was getting myself into. I needed to get to know all the brothers, learn what fraternity meant, and what was expected of me as a brother before making the plunge.
I think you can learn all of this during recruitment – if recruitment is not confined to one week of eating chicken wings and watching football. What if you find out you’re not a fit? It’s easier on you (the potential member) to sever ties with the fraternity during a recruitment process rather than in the 7th week of pledging.

You should do some research on this topic rather than making up statistics. 100% of chapters have a problem with apathy? You cannot tell me that came from a credible source.
Fair point. I didn’t mean for it to be taken as statistically accurate – I was just trying to be emphatic. I would add that I have facilitated conversations with thousands of students (especially when I was at the NIC). I often asked the question, “who has an apathy problem in their chapter?” I can’t remember ever seeing someone keep their hand down. You’re right – maybe more formal research on this question is warranted.

I don't see this working for women's/NPC groups, especially when the majority of new members enter through the formal recruitment process.
Perhaps not. My thoughts were focused only on men’s organizations.

Maybe we need a MORE structured and a consistent program from HQ’s…We need more structure not less.
Most HQ’s have a structured and consistent program, but enforcing that is difficult. If anything, better mechanisms for accountability are what’s needed. Then again – weren’t we founded as a means to escape rigid structure in favor of natural human relationships? Now we want more structure? Instead of more structure, let’s get simpler. Recruit well – Initiate – Repeat.

You're not smart are you?
Ouch! I hope that's not something you say to your pledges!


  1. Your suggestion of eliminating pledging and eliminating formal recruitment is practically a suggestion of eliminating the biggest part of the fraternal experience. My pledging process was one of the greatest parts of my fraternal experience. The whole experience of learning fraternal history and tradition and such with a group of men who are at the same point in knowledge of the fraternity creates a bond unlike any other. And it is a vital trial period that allows the fraternity and recruit to decide whether or not fraternal life is right or the recruit is right for the house. I think the idea of initiating the recruit 72 hours after a bid is ridiculous. There's no proof then that the person is who they appeared to be during recruitment. Unless you are advocating a semester long recruitment where recruits can only visit the one house, then there's no point to this argument.

  2. To anonymous;
    If pledging was one of your greatest parts of your fraternal experience you are missing out on a lot. What is the point of learning all this as a pledge and not a brother? Indoctrination, not education.

    Always looking for proof about hypothetical people or things is what keeps status quo status quo.

    In my own fraternity we were literally saved during the civil war because we did not have a pledging process. Qualified men were found, then initiated. Adding the pledging element was later, and it contributes to a culture of hazing, and minimally indoctrination of values and history, not an education and increased self awareness.