Why I don’t care that Slick McRick was a Gamma Duder Dambda

Guest essay by Spenser Tang-Smith, Chief Operations Officer, WebGreek, Inc.

Go to any fraternity or sorority website and poke around for a bit.  I promise that there will be an obvious link to “famous alumni” or something like that.  You’ll no doubt find a list of actors, athletes, business tycoons and politicians who were initiated so many years ago, listed as evidence of an organization’s awesomeness. 

I want to question the wisdom behind this tacit assertion.  Any group of people has winners and losers, gods and clods, or whatever you want to call the left and right ends of the bell curve.  Yes, presidents and senators and athletes belonged to some fraternity or another, but if a group is to be judged by its extremes, you’ll have to take the bad with the good.  I doubt an organization would trumpet its more nefarious graduates.

If the purpose behind this practice is to add a few cherries on the brother/sisterhood cake, then that’s pretty cool.  Besides the good times, the service, and the lifelong friendships, members can add “hey, So-and-so is also an brother/sister.”  But an organization cannot simply mention a few big names and say “’nuff said,” because those big names are the outliers.  What will the organization do for me?

I just don’t think that identifying exceptional people who were in your organization is sufficient to identify your organization as an exceptional one.

That is why I feel that the more relevant and powerful statistics revolve around the ways in which going Greek nurtures success.  The notion that Greeks account for so many wildly successful people while being such a small percentage of the population is interesting, but did the organization make the people successful, or were they destined for fame anyway?  I know that Omega Psi Phi didn’t give Shaq his 7’1” frame.

The ability to demonstrate that going Greek turns hard-working people into exceptional people would be very powerful.  I have found that testimonials from members who chalk up their confidence, leadership, and sense of responsibility to their Greek experience, with specific examples rather than platitudes, are much more powerful recruitment tools than any appeal to celebrity.  Case in point: the WebGreek team, which made me reconsider my decision not to rush.  If the goal is to get numbers up by attracting quality men and women, wouldn’t it be better to appeal to a broader demographic of driven individuals, and then cultivate and nurture them?

Joining a fraternity or sorority won’t get you to the NBA Finals or the White House; both feats require a whole lot of work.  I think that the marketing focus during recruitment, and also when making the case for the Greek movement, should be on demonstrating the ways in which your typical high achiever will be nurtured and supported by the organization so that they will be the best that they can be.  Don’t just rely on a few recognizable names of people who graduated long ago.  Make the connection between membership and enhanced success obvious, even to those who aren’t natural born leaders or freakish athletes.

Spenser Tang-Smith is the head writer for WebGreek's blog.  WebGreek is a complete online management solution for fraternities and sororities, and is giving away free trial networks for the summer.