Monday, March 23, 2015

It's Not Working

I’m sick of it.

We’ve got fraternity men hazing each other. We’ve got fraternity men chanting racist things that would have made the KKK blush. We’ve got fraternity men taking photos of naked intoxicated women and posting them to Facebook. 

And we’ve got fraternity men dying. We’ve always got fraternity men dying.

What the hell is going on?

It’s times like these that make me want to quit. As I look at these instances, which follow the Atlantic article and other high-profile stories of disgusting behavior, I want to throw up my hands and give up. I enjoyed and benefited from my fraternity experience, but why the hell should I continue to spend my time trying to extol its virtues when it appears like my experience was an outlier.


Perhaps it’s time to let someone else take this on. Or not take it on at all. I don't care. I’m starting to question so much about this movement that I love, because I’ve arrived at two stark and damning realizations.

1. None of it is working. By “it” I mean the entire education industry created to support Greek life. Think about the size of the support industry we have built for fraternity. All of the conferences, associations, companies, and individuals whose livelihood is focused on helping make the fraternity experience better. Think about the hundreds of different leadership events, educational speakers, and books, articles, and yes – blogs that focus on fraternity and sorority life.

We seem to be in no different of a place than we were before this great educational infrastructure was built. There is an old joke that the very first topics on the very first NIC meeting agenda 100 years ago were alcohol and hazing. And what sits on the agenda today? The same crap. And in between the first meeting and the most recent, how many minutes, hours, and days have been spent talking about those issues? How many different speakers have discussed those topics at how many different educational meetings? How many well-dressed and attentive young leaders have sat in an audience to hear about how much that stuff is ruining this fraternity thing, only to turn around and keep doing it?

None of it seems to be working.

Sure, individual lives have been affected through this vast educational infrastructure. But does that really matter if the institution that is wrapped around these lives continues on a downward spiral?

All of us (me included) educators and advocates have to look into the mirror and question if we’re just making noise instead of impact. We have poured millions of dollars and hours into fraternity life, and what’s been the return on that vast investment? Which leads me to my second realization, which is more dark than the first:

2. Why do we need this educational infrastructure anyway? What’s inherently wrong with Greek life that it requires so much education and support for it to live? You could argue that there is no other type of organization that seemingly needs so much infrastructure just to make it functional. In my darkest doubts of fraternity and sorority life, I wonder why our organizations seem to need so much “extra” to just make the “basic” work. Shouldn’t we be able to hand the ritual books to a group of men, and just let it go? Instead, we need staff, consultants, live-in advisors, conferences, and more just to get our groups to a minimum standard.

Set the Ritual book next to the risk management policies, the bylaws and other rules, the minimum standards reports, and officer manuals, and you probably can’t see it anymore.

We have men (and women too) who, unless they receive some kind of educational intervention, will naturally use our organizations for selfish and damaging purposes. For some reason, we are a place for those individuals to thrive. Why is that? Especially after we’ve spent so much time and energy on recruitment education and have built such a structure for “new member education.”

We talk about the idiots among us as “cancers” in our chapters. Well, we seem to be a petri dish that lets cancer grow unabated.

I want to travel back in time and find the founders of my fraternity and ask them if this is what they intended? Sure, our founders would look at where we are and probably kick our asses, but why does our DNA – the one they forged - seem so corruptible?

All of his has got me so tired. I feel like I’m running a marathon and the finish line keeps getting moved farther and farther away. I just want to collapse on the side of the road, and let the vultures do what they may.

I know many of you are feeling like me right now. I’ve seen your exasperation. Why are we doing this my friends? Why do we purposely reside in a world that is constantly criticized and maligned, and constantly affected by clowns and fools ?

I hate it right now. There are a million words in this blog, and does a single one matter? Let’s just walk away!





Okay, I feel better now. Back to work.


  1. Thank you. Great post... the problem is our industry keeps growing, without a check on what is working and what isn't. We grow to grow, and have created large for profit industry around supporting it without thought on if it is helping. Argh.

  2. I think many of us have been there, and many of us are there now. It's an important part of the process of change, and it probably is a great example for our students that the process of change is never easy, and never pretty. But I have a gut feeling that this is "part one" of a larger conversation. As of right now, we have fallen off our metaphorical bike, and we're just sitting here in the middle of the street for everybody to see, with tears streaming down our faces. We've worked hard at this, and we've fallen down in a very public way. We feel exposed and vulnerable.

    But at some point, we have to clean our wounds and get back on the bike. So what does that look like?

    Last year, when the Atlantic article was published, I wrote the below piece as part of a larger post about the need for change in the fraternal world, and I would love your thoughts on a Johnson & Johnson-level solution (see the original post).

    "The issues we face are systemic issues, but we continue to answer them with fractured, isolated, and territorial responses, campus by campus, organization by organization. If our problems are systemic, they cannot be met with a piecemeal solution."