Tuesday, November 10, 2015

It's Time to Leave Washington DC

There is a great analogy used to describe the differences between the logical/rational part of our brain and the emotional part. The emotional side is like a large elephant and the rational side is a man riding that elephant. On occasion, the man can steer the elephant where he wants it to go. But, should that elephant get riled up and start charging, there is nothing the man can do to stop it.

And that is the primary reason why the fraternity groups pushing to pass the Safe Campus Act should withdraw, lick their wounds, and find a new initiative. The elephant is running wild.

There are some logical reasons why the Safe Campus Act makes sense (or at least portions of it). Rape is second only to murder in terms of egregious crimes (think of how often you hear “murderers and rapists” used as a blanket term for the worst of our society). And so, to think that such a crime committed on a college campus might not have to involve the police or legal representation is strange at a minimum.

Now – if reading that paragraph made your blood boil, then notice the elephant running wild in your mind. You probably thought to yourself, “why would he give a flip about the accused, what about the victims?! Why protect the rapists?!”

Being concerned for those falsely accused of a crime that egregious, having empathy for victims of rape, and having hatred for those who actually commit the heinous act are ideas that can all live in the same space.

There are great arguments on the other side of this issue as well (found amidst the moral self-righteousness that has become a bit suffocating). It’s a contentious issue with strong points on either side and we should be careful to not assign evil motives to those holding a position different than ours.

Oh wait, it’s 2015. We do that all the time now.

The fact of the matter is, the emotion in this debate has won and supporters of the Safe Campus Act have lost the ground to make their case. It’s time to make it go away.

Let’s think about our whole presence in Washington.

We don’t need to be in Washington DC to influence or advocate for an issue. It’s not the only place where change happens (in fact, it may be the place change goes to die). I believe that the allure of the congressional offices, the swanky receptions and dinners, and the ability to feel like the levers of government were moving by our gentle hands seduced us into a bad and dysfunctional relationship.

We’ve spent over a decade lobbying with no significant legislation enacted to improve the state of the fraternity/sorority industry. Millions have been raised for the Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee (unfortunately dubbed the Frat Pac).  Millions that could have been raised instead for efforts to grow the fraternity industry or provide education to our members.

This controversy over the Safe Campus Act is a gift. It’s a way for the industry to say that it’s time to regroup on these legislative initiatives.

In fact, it’s time to go on hiatus and leave Washington DC altogether.

There is an argument that a presence in Washington is always needed because our single-gender status and right to freely associate is always in jeopardy. It’s hard to believe that if those core issues were ever truly in serious danger we couldn’t ramp up an effort to advocate and fight for our rights quickly.

Just ask yourself how many attorneys are on your national board right now. Multiply that by a factor of one-thousand. We’ll be okay.

Leaders in the NIC and NPC: you shouldn’t be blamed or called nefarious for trying to be a champion of Greek life and our members in the halls of government. Don’t be too proud, however, to close this current saga for now. Whether these newest efforts are just or not, the emotional charge is too great to overcome. Soon the damage to our reputation might be as well.

If this is an issue we really have passion for, let’s take it back to the grassroots and have them help us figure out a way forward.

Let’s start doing again what we do best, which is not shaking hands with and embracing congressional staffers, but rather, shaking hands with and embracing our own members.




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