Monday, April 19, 2010

A Serious IFC (Part 1 of 2)

When used correctly, the Interfraternity Council can be one of the most dynamic, forward-thinking, credible, and professional organizations on any campus. At many colleges and universities, however, the general sentiment is that the IFC is a “joke.” There is typically no one person to blame for this, and most IFC officers I talk with are working very hard to reverse this attitude. An unserious IFC likely didn’t lose its credibility overnight, and it will also take time to make it better.

This first post will examine what causes an IFC to become a “joke,” and then next week I’ll post practical strategies for becoming a more serious organization.

From my observations and work with IFCs, here are what I see as the biggest reasons many of them lack credibility:

Reason #1: The Meetings Are a Waste of Time
No – they’re not just a waste of time, they are a colossal waste of time. Watching Cheaper By the Dozen 2 each week for an entire year would be more productive. Of course, that would make each meeting longer, by about 1 hour and 45 minutes. If your IFC meeting agenda resembles this: (1) Call to Order, (2) Roll Call, (3) Officer Reports, (4) Announcements, (5) Adjourn, then your delegates may not take it very seriously. If everything that happens in your meeting could happen quicker and more effectively through Twitter, then you have a problem.

Reason #2: The Wrong People Are in the Room
I love sharing leadership. I love that we have officer positions for about everything in Greek-letter organizations (I’m talking to you Co-Assistant Facebook Fan Page Chair). It’s fun and adds to our uniqueness. But, there is one position I wouldn’t mind eliminating – the IFC delegate. It’s true – on some campuses and in some chapters, this position is held in high regard and taken very seriously. However, more often than not, this position is one of the last to be filled and desired by the eventual recipient as much as he would desire the Bird Flu. The IFC should be the place where the future direction of the fraternity system is charted, and most chapters are sending the poor freshman who thought that IFC was internet slang for “In-Fashion Clothes.”

Reason #3: “What Exactly Do They Do?”
Many IFCs are invisible. Nobody really knows that they exist. Or, if they are aware of the IFC, they still don’t know what they do. This is true for random students and senior administrators alike. If a random person were asked about the IFC, and the response is a shrug, questioning look, or “huh?” then you may not be seen as serious. The answer isn’t a publicity or marketing blitz – it’s becoming important enough to notice. Would you notice a meteor if it were a million light years away and looked like some random star in the sky? Probably not. What if that meteor was 100 yards away and coming right at you? Now you notice it. In many cases, we’ve allowed our IFCs to just be one little star within a sky that has millions. It’s time we start doing important work and get noticed.

Reason #4: Lack of Purpose
Invisibility can also be a signal for a deeper issue – lack of purpose. Let’s face it, many IFC officers and delegates are also unaware of what the IFC does and why it exists. That’s because we are unsure of our purpose. Think about it this way – if your IFC were to hibernate for 12 months, would anyone notice? Would the fraternity system be harmed by your absence? If your answer is “no,” then wrestle with this question – why is your IFC even here? Ask that question at your next IFC meeting and see what happens. You will likely get many different responses, and some confused looks. Defining a purpose is important. Making that purpose significant and inspiring is essential. This is work that you need to do for your particular IFC, but a good model is the NIC. The NIC’s purpose is to Advocate, Collaborate, and Educate. Sounds like a good one for an IFC as well.

Reason #5: The Wimp Factor
Nothing against wimps, but don’t be one. It kills credibility because it diminishes respect. Nobody respected George McFly until he stood up for Lorraine and laid out Biff. How often does your IFC take a stand? Do the chapters view the IFC as a champion for their rights? When some entity enacts a new policy that fraternities view as unjust, who speaks on their behalf? People take seriously those who they can rely upon, and those who are on their side. Conversely, how can you ever take seriously someone who always gets rolled over? Don't be a "yes man." Don't be a puppet. Be George McFly – the post “get your damn hands off her” George McFly.

What do you think? Are there other reasons I haven't considered? Tune in next week for some suggestions and advice.

For part 2 of this article, click here.

4 comments:

  1. "Lack of Purpose...why is your IFC even here?"

    Nice and true! But, here's another way to put it. The question they might want to ask each member is, what can we do before our meeting next week to provide a service to our chapters, students, and school? For those services that are long term goals, what steps can we take in that time to get ourselves closer to fulfilling them? Then, how did we do when we asked ourselves that, last week? A whole meeting focusing on those three questions might make for an effective organization.

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  2. I'm sure this is likely the case at many schools, but it doesn't have to be. I served for two years on our IFC exec cabinet in the early 90's. At that time, we were very well respected for the serious work we coordinated and accomplished. At that time the Greek community was under fire and we were determined to address our own challenges - rather than having the University do it for us. Our meetings were dynamic, well attended and efficient. Lots of excelent leadership training! let me add: a very good greek advisor goes a long way.

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  3. I am currrently in IFC representing my house aswell as the student government. Our IFC is exactly what an IFC should NOT be; a joke. The biggest problem that I see with our IFC is that our Greek advisor is basically a dictator who decides on her own what we are allowed to do and not do as well as what we are required to do. Even when as a council we agree on something or are attempting to impliment some kind of change, she puts a stop to it. I don't see the point of having an IFC if we are just ammusing the administration. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what I can do?

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  4. I think the best solution is always to start with a conversation. Does he/she know your concerns? If so, and the behavior continues, take it up the line. Talk to the Dean or VP about these challenges. Most likely, the Greek Advisor is not actively trying to be a dictator, but perhaps he/she has expectations on her to manage you closely. Or, perhaps trust has been shaky in the past, and this is the result.

    Start adding more one-on-one meetings with the advisor, and other administrators in order to build up trust and goodwill. This will likely pay off in the end.

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