Fraternity Board Member Application

Please answer the questions honestly with either "YES" or "NO."

Name: ________________________________

1. Was the name you wrote above your fraternity nickname?    YES /NO

2.  Is your working theory of dealing with college students centered on command and control?     YES / NO

3. Are you in this for the free dinners and travel to convention?     YES / NO   

4. Do you think you can do the Executive Director's job?    YES / NO
 

5. Do you want to do the Executive Director's job?    YES / NO

6. Do you have a pet project that will become your singular answer to every challenge the fraternity faces?    YES / NO
 

7. Do you have Roberts Rules of Order memorized and/or an autographed copy?    YES / NO

8. Are you excited to answer every big-picture strategic question with the words, "Well, in my chapter..."    YES / NO


9. Do you think every undergraduate should have the same exact fraternity experience you had?    YES / NO
 

10. Strategic plans are stupid, right?     YES / NO

11. Do you approach boardroom debates like King Leonidas fighting the Persians at Thermopylae?    YES / NO

 12. Do you feel it's best if the staff's reaction to you is based on fear?    YES / NO


13. Does your fraternity resume include “Hell Week Chair?”    YES / NO

14. Do you believe you are the only one who can save the fraternity and all of fraternity-kind?    YES / NO
 

15. Do you love to "play politics?"     YES / NO

16. Do you like to share your opinions via 3-page email rants, to which you have copied every person in the fraternity directory?    YES / NO

17. DO YOU WRITE YOUR EMAILS IN ALL CAPS?    YES / NO

18. Are you still thinking about your pet project?    YES / NO
 

19. Does the word "micromanage" make you smile and/or giggle?     YES / NO
 

20. Do you plan to buy undergraduates drinks in order to get their votes?    YES / NO

21. Is your home chapter untouchable?     YES / NO

 
22. Is any chapter untouchable?     YES / NO

23. Do you consider any of the following to be the devil incarnate: email, Instagram, Twitter, or text messages?    YES / NO

24. Do you plan to ignore the financial reports because numbers make you tired?    YES / NO

25. Do you believe that the hallway or the parking lot after the meeting is where the real business gets done?    YES / NO


26. Will nothing stand in your way of having The Rock or Taylor Swift be the keynote speaker at convention?     YES / NO


27. Would a colleague describe you as someone who likes to raise his/her voice in order to make a point?    YES / NO

28. Do you think it’s a fun challenge to walk into the board meeting completely unprepared and see how long you can fly by the seat of your pants?    YES / NO

29.  Can your motivations for completing this application best be summed up by the words "ego trip?"     YES / NO


Thank you.  Please be aware that if you answered YES to any of the questions above, we will promptly dispose of your application.  We have plenty of those board members already.  Have a great day.




A Knock on the Fraternity House Door


Hi, good evening.  

I don't know if I'm in the right place.  

I'm wondering if you might be looking for new members?  

Before we discuss it, I need to tell you some things about me...

My parents are divorced, and I feel forgotten.

My parents are both dead, and I’ve never really felt at home anywhere.

I’m lost.

I’m gay.  Or, I might be.  I don’t know.

I don’t know who I am.

I am poor.

I am rich.

  I come from a different country, with customs you’d think are odd.

People always stare at this. 


But it doesn't slow me down.


I’ve supported my siblings since I was twelve.

I’m ready to lead, but I don’t know how.

I don’t like my body.

Sometimes I feel empty.

I’ve always been in the minority.

Most people ignore me.

I act tough to hide my insecurities.

I’m a recovering alcoholic.

I walk funny.

I’m paying for my own tuition.

I’ve never had to pay for anything.

I stopped using drugs last year.

I’m a Republican.

I’m a Democrat.

Nobody has ever told me that I matter.

I’m battling HIV.

My clothes are from a thrift store.

My mom never told me I was right.

My mom never told me I was wrong.

I’m blind.

I’ve seen things I don’t want to remember.

This thing is for my insulin.

I never show my true feelings.

I used to have hair.
 
I’m scared.

My religion is different than yours.

My teachers told me to be quiet.

My teachers told me to speak up.

I’ve always felt alone.

I’m a parent.

I’ve never experienced "family."

I don’t know what to believe.

I’m ready to build something important.

I’m always running.

I’m always considered different.

And I don’t know what to do next.

So, I guess I'm wondering...


May I come in?

  

Introducing a New Program: The Invitation

Designed to positively change the culture of your Greek Community.


About the Program:
The Invitation is as compelling as a keynote, and as substantive as a workshop. Four hours of strong insights, powerful questions, engaging discussions, and lasting impact. The goal is to inspire your newest members to see fraternity and sorority as a truly special experience, correct the perspectives that lead to damaging choices, and set them toward lives of significance. Not bad for a weekend morning or afternoon!

The target audience is new members, although any member would benefit. Almost all audience sizes can be managed. Cost is comparable (and likely less) than your last 60-minute speaker.





John's invitation to rethink fraternity was the perfect educational opportunity for our students to explore how they show up to their experience. Students left with a better understanding of why they join and how they can allow their organization to be a bigger part of their life. 

Jenny Levering, Miami University
Director, Student Activities and Cliff Alexander Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life





About John:
John's speaking talents and facilitation skills are complimented by his years of hands-on work in the fraternity and sorority industry as a campus professional and as the former Vice President of Leadership Education for the North American Interfraternity Conference. John has been a volunteer for his national fraternity, a board member for the Center for the Study of the College Fraternity, and a team member of RISE Partnerships.

John has spoken all over the world to audiences of all sizes. He has delivered educational programs in 44 states and 13 nations.

John's presentations are substantive and uplifting. He believes that the fraternity/sorority movement can only be changed for the better if members understand and embrace the power of their experience. John is not focused on entertaining your students, or making them scared stiff, but instead, moving them into a deeper level of awareness around the true purpose of fraternities and sororities. He achieves this through creative and imaginative presentations that participants will likely describe as unexpected and compelling.


Fees and How to Book:
Program fee ranges from $2500-$3000 (plus lodging). Can also design packages that include book copies.

Contact John directly at johnshertzer@gmail.com or 515-201-5755. Limited to 3 engagements this Fall, so act quickly!

Fraternity and the Lasting Power of Connection


In the previous post, I argued that fraternity can be a force for social change, especially around some key social epidemics that we may be primed to solve. I want to explore some of these topics in more depth and argue why fraternity can be an answer. Let’s start with the social epidemic of loneliness.


Look at this alarming data from 2018 study by Cigna: 
  • Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone (46 percent) or left out (47 percent). 
  • One in four Americans (27 percent) rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them. 
  • Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful (43 percent) and that they are isolated from others (43 percent). 
  • One in five people report they rarely or never feel close to people (20 percent) or feel like there are people they can talk to (18 percent). 
  • Only around half of Americans (53 percent) have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, on a daily basis.

The same study found that Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation. These are the young men and women you may have just talked with at formal rush. 

Loneliness is a major issue that has huge health implications. Former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says loneliness can be fatal. As quoted in a CBS news story. Dr. Murthy says that "The increased mortality associated with loneliness is equal to the increased mortality we see with smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It's in fact greater than the mortality associated with obesity." 

Dr. Frank McAndrew in Psychology Today argues that “Rejection by others psychologically wounds us more deeply than almost anything else, and research by neuroscientists reveals that ostracism can lead to feeling actual physical pain.” In addition, the amount of stress that loneliness creates can have serious mental health implications. 

But here is an important point: just being in proximity with people does not mean one is not lonely. Dr. Murthy notes that it’s about the quality of “authentic relationships” one has, which may be only a handful. The number of social media followers, for example, does not indicate if someone does or doesn’t experience loneliness. 

So what does this mean for fraternity? How can we be an answer to this epidemic of loneliness? 

The easy answer (and wrong one) is that we simply are clubs made of people and thus we are an easy place to gather and escape loneliness. Remember, it’s about the quality and authenticity of relationships that matter. By all means, we should be as open as possible to individuals who are seeking connection and wanting to live in community with others. But, what matters most is how we foster those connections once our rosters are full. 

Fraternities and sororities are unique on college campuses because we seek to create brotherhood and sisterhood, which TRULY are the types of relationships that fight feelings of isolation and loneliness. Brotherhood and sisterhood is rooted in shared values that we speak and live together. It isn’t based on the fact we occupy the same house, or wear the same letters. It’s based on what we pledged to do together, often while standing shoulder to shoulder. 

It’s those deeper connections that make fraternity and sorority an absolutely relevant institution in modern times. Many clubs based on shared values in our society are fading away (see Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis). And thus, connections outside of your family unit that aren’t rooted in networking or happy hours or other thin experiences are in short supply. 

So, your work is to determine if you would qualify your undergraduate brotherhood or sisterhood experience as a thick and consequential one. Do you observe that members benefit from their connections with each other in social and emotional ways? Here are some questions you could use as you investigate that question: 
  • Do members seem more fulfilled by their daily lives and act with purpose and energy? 
  • Are they able to fight through stress in a positive way and don’t let difficulties linger? 
  • Do members seek out opportunities to interact with each other? 
  • Can you observe true moments of connection, such as outreach in times of pain or authentic reactions to positive events? 
  • Is your organization free from cliques and bullying that would cause some members to feel isolated?

Beyond undergraduate experiences, could fraternities and sororities help solve the epidemic of loneliness by putting increased emphasis on alumni and how they can reconnect with the values and the brotherhood/sisterhood they once experienced daily? Alumni-focused efforts are largely to support the undergraduate “product” or for fundraising but what about a product just for alumni and just for the purpose of building human connections at a time when we all need it? Things to consider at the national office as you plan for an alumni engagement program. 

Loneliness cannot be eliminated from our society. There are too many contributing factors. But the nature of our organizations - fraternities and sororities - gives us a unique opportunity (I daresay obligation) to do what we can. 

An important point: part of the beauty of the fraternity/sorority experience is the closeness it can provide. And thus, we may be more aware than anyone else about someone’s mental and emotional state. We need to stay observant to signs of struggle (which may look like loneliness, or anger, or stress) and be willing to talk with each other. If you emerge from your fraternity/sorority experience with an increased comfort in talking with a friend about their struggles, then you will have earned a critical skill many people spend a lifetime chasing.
 
 

Fraternity as a Force for Social Change

It’s beyond time to change the way we talk and think about fraternities and sororities and their role in our modern times.

Ever since fraternities were founded, their relevance and purpose has been questioned. Because they started as secret societies, formed in opposition to the institutions their members belonged to, fraternities have been under attack and constantly criticized. This causes us to have a reactionary posture in our DNA. To often wait for the incoming fire before we build a shield.

And it also causes us to look internally and be protective. Our question too often is “how do we protect what fraternity is from these forces acting against us” whereas it could be “how do envision what fraternity should be in light of the world we inhabit.”

The calls to shutter our doors and abolish Greek Life will keep coming, especially when the only apparent contributions to society that the public sees are networking to get jobs and the occasional low-level service project. We can be so much more, and it's time to show it.

I have been in the fraternity movement for 25 years, and I have lost count of the number of committees, commissions, blue ribbon panels, studies, and conferences focused on reacting to our greatest ills: hazing, sexual assault, alcohol consumption, inclusiveness, and more. I don’t question the need for such work, and many of the essays in this blog and in my book deal with these same issues. But beware, especially new entrants into this movement, that when you hear someone say that forming a committee or conducting a study to address a longstanding issue is a “bold move,” it’s actually one of the most mundane and redundant things we can undertake.

What would be bold? To go on the offense. To start thinking about and talking about why fraternity matters to our greater society in 2019 and beyond. We need to discuss this and then deliver messages that indicate that we see the world the way it is today, and we want to be part of the solution. There are vast and truly debilitating social epidemics in our culture today; ones that we as fraternities and sororities are primed to solve.

Let’s look at it this way: by sitting in a reactionary posture and thinking that true leadership is only addressing the issues we face internally, we act like a crumbling brick structure. We try to patch, we try to rebuild, but for every brick that we add, 2 or 3 fall to the ground and shatter. We appear to the world like an institution always under fire and thus always trying to shield ourselves from the onslaught, or pretend that we’re not crumbling. But it’s clear to all that our structure is not as tall or sturdy as it once was.

Being proactive means that we need to consider for ourselves what value we want to offer the greater society. Thinking about the value we offer our host colleges and universities is one part of that, but if that's all you think about you aren’t thinking boldly enough. We are a big enough movement to affect life beyond our campus gates.

So let’s appear to the world like an institution that believes it is vitally important to advancing our culture and building stronger communities. Because we are.

While we put some energy towards solving the issues that plague us (such as hazing), we need to run a parallel track that addresses how the fraternity of the 21st century leads in a world that wants and needs cures for catastrophic social epidemics.

What kinds of social epidemics? The list is long and alarming. More Americans indicate they feel lonelier than ever before. Suicide rates are climbing and the rate among teenage girls is the highest it's been in 40 years. 130 people a day die from opioid abuse. People are finding all manners of destructive ways to cope with the lack of connection they feel in their lives.

What else? How about the #metoo movement and the apparent racism that continues to exist in our society? What about sexual violence and gun violence, and violence of all forms? What about the fact that 7000 students drop out of high school each day?

And as a punctuation point, consider that in my home city of Indianapolis, zip codes only 14 miles apart (a 15 minute drive) have differences in life expectancy of 14 years. This isn’t an impoverished or war-torn city. This is a growing Midwestern municipality. This is in America.

Can the fraternity and sorority movement address these social calamities?

Wrong question.

HOW can the fraternity and sorority movement address these social calamities?

Let’s work towards that goal and prove ourselves to be a structure that doesn’t crumble, but rather is adding new layers of impact all the time.

Over the next several posts, I plan to take on specific social epidemics and discuss how the fraternity and sorority movement can be a force in their dissolution. I encourage you to join me in this quest and consider this institution you love a bit more boldly.

Let's make fraternity a force for the social change our world most desperately needs.


Love Your Brothers

"I don't have to like my players and associates, but as their leader, I must love them.  And, please believe me gentlemen, my love will be relentless." 
(Vince Lombardi)

In regards to the current improvement and future success of the fraternity movement, the Beatles had it right: All You Need is Love. 

Yes, love.

Let me offer this in a different way.  As fraternity men, we do not love our brothers enough, and if we loved our brothers more, we'd be in a better place.

I'm not speaking about romantic love, although that could happen.  I'm speaking about much more primal and original meaning of love - the act of extending yourself for others to make them better.   

C.S. Lewis said that,  “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”  

In short, when you decide that love is more than a Nicholas Sparks novel or a Hugh Grant movie, you'll realize that love abounds in the fraternity experience.  Yes men, love is all around, and love is all you need.

It's hard for men to say "I love you" to each other.  It can feel awkward and unusual.  I remember the first time I decided to start saying it to my dad more frequently.  Ironically (or perhaps not), I made this decision while in college and while in my undergraduate fraternity years.  I decided one night to start ending our weekly phone conversations by saying "I love you" to my dad.  I wasn't sure what I would get on the other end of the line.  After a few seconds, the reply was "I love you too." 

If you have trouble saying those exact words to the men you call your brothers, understand that there are other ways to say it.  It gets back to understanding what love really means.

Loving your brothers means confronting them.  It means putting a halt to decisions that could ruin the lives of your brothers, or others around them.  It means stepping between a brother and potential disaster.  When you say "stop" or "no" to a brother, you are saying "I love you."

Loving your brothers means caring about their situation and their experiences.  It means observing a quivering lip or a watery eye, and putting your arm around him.  It means noticing someone's absence and taking the extra step to find him.  It means genuinely inquiring about their life.  When you say "how are you doing today" to a brother, you are saying "I love you."

Loving your brothers means pushing them.  It means challenging them to bring their best. It means getting them off the couch and to the meeting, or event, or service project.  It means acknowledging achievements and rewarding extra effort.  When you say "I expect more of you" to a brother, you are saying "I love you."

Love is central to the fraternity experience.  Love is central to the bonds that create brotherhood and sisterhood.  Love is another one of those cherished few aspects of fraternity that separate our organizations from every other.  When we forget the importance of love in the modern college fraternity, it's as though we're forgetting the fraternity itself.

If a person chooses to live life independently, to be the solitary climber on top of the mountain, then he may be able to avoid love.  Although, loving yourself may be the most important action any person can take.

When you elect to be a part of fraternity, and let fraternity be a part of you, you give up independence.  The same can be said for marriage, or bringing children into the world, or any other decision that involves intense relationships.  When you make those choices, you decide to begin sacrificing a part of who you are in order for the others in the relationship to thrive.  And they do it in turn for you.  This willing act to give yourself for others and be in community with them is a glorious expression of love.

And that's why love exists in every minute of the fraternity experience.  

Let's all strive to be better at loving our brothers.  It is not easy, but it's fairly simple.  If you've ever been to a wedding, likely you've heard the famous biblical passage about love found in Corinthians.  It can serve as a roadmap for how we can be better at love.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 
This passage wasn't written for weddings only, or even at all.  It was written, I believe, to attempt to describe the indescribable - to put into words the human experience.  To try and reflect the best of who we are as people.

And isn't that what we try to do in fraternity?  To strive to be an ideal expression of human connection?

Without getting too deep, I would just offer this:  If we accept love as the only way we can truly be brothers with each other, then we can realize our potential as organizations that bond men together.

And, it wouldn't hurt to say it more often as well.

And just because I'm not sure if I ever said it back long ago - to all my brothers from 310 North Bishop...I love you guys.






Leadership in Our Chapters…and the Abilene Paradox

Guest Essay By Dave Westol, Limberlost Consulting

It has been said that the boards of directors of non-profit organizations are often composed of good—I will make that very good—men and women who nonetheless may make bad or occasionally terrible decisions as a board that none of the directors would make as individuals.

And that sounds counter-intuitive. Why would individuals, who were theoretically elected or appointed because they possess strong positive qualities including the ability to analyze facts and data and make sound decisions, do the exact opposite while in a group of good people?

Why indeed? And how does that apply to our undergraduate chapters?

Mr. Rhetorical Question, may I present the Abilene Paradox?

The Abilene Paradox is the creation of Jerry B. Harvey—now Dr. Harvey—who has contributed in many ways to the study of organizational dynamics. His Paradox theory has been used countless times to explain a simple concept—that people react differently when in a group, especially when they are in a leadership role.

The Abilene Paradox occurred to Jerry when he was a doctoral student. He and his wife were visiting her parents in Coleman, Texas on a Sunday afternoon in August. Coleman is located about fifty miles southeast of Abilene.

Jerry was sitting on the shaded back porch of the home playing dominoes with his father-in-law at about three o’clock in the afternoon. It was hot but pleasant—a breeze, cold lemonade, peaceful. Then, it happened. His father-in-law got to his feet and said, “Let’s go to Abilene to the cafeteria for dinner!”

Jerry, not wanting to be branded as the whiny son-in-law, said, “Ah, okay”. His wife, knowing what was in store but also wanting to go along with the apparent majority, said, “Ah, okay”. His mother-in-law said, “Let’s get going if we’re going to go”. And away they went, each of the four knowing that the trip would involve a two-hour drive over dirt roads in an un-airconditioned automobile for a dinner that would be a tribute to gastrointestinal distress followed by another two-hour drive home.

The trip and the food were worse than anticipated. After they arrived home, his mother-in-law reportedly said, “I don’t know why I let y’all talk me into that”. Jerry responded that he didn’t want to be in the collective “Y’all”—that he had not wanted to go in the first place. His wife agreed. His father-in-law then justified it by observing that his daughter and son-in-law seldom visited and he thought that they might want something different. He added that he would have been happy with a beer and leftovers served on the back porch.

There you have it…the Abilene Paradox. Four intelligent people agreeing to a course of action that not one of them would have done as an individual…and to please others who in fact were not pleased.

When board members fail to state their true opinions; when they misperceive the collective reality; when they will not challenge or question because they defer to older, more experienced board members or when they allow friendships, shared experiences or other real or imagined affiliations to affect decision-making—then the board of directors has just climbed onto the bus for Abilene, as Dr. Harvey notes in subsequent writings.

Dr. Harvey also includes action anxiety (my interpretation is the reluctance by board members to pull the trigger or make a decision—“We need more information!”), fantasized risks, fear of ostracism by other board members and group tyranny as other aspects for the Abilene Paradox.

And do those dynamics apply to undergraduate chapters?

Absolutely.

Perhaps more so than with a board of directors, because our undergraduates often have stronger perceived bonds. Friendships, roommates, “She gave me a ride home last Thanksgiving”, “He threw me a TD last week at the game”…all factor into the chapter version of the Paradox.

One of the best arguments against the emphasis placed upon pledge class unity in hazing chapters is that we intentionally create our own version of the Abilene Paradox—we require our new members to think, act and in some cases speak alike, thus effectively snuffing individualism, critical thinking and initiative. When I served as CEO of my national fraternity I often saw that dynamic, especially during times that called for a significant decision. The brother who was stiffing the chapter on a large bill and up for suspension…the junior who was unsuited to serve as president but nominated…watch and listen as his pledge class lined up on the side of their former pledge brother because of blind loyalty rather than what was right for the chapter.

What can we do as chapter leaders to prevent our version of the Abilene Paradox?
First, we can create an atmosphere—a culture in our chapters—in which all members, not just older or more experienced members—can voice their opinions without fear of being ridiculed or mocked. Presidents and other officers: this is your area of control. Set the tone at meetings.

Secondly, we encourage a culture of inquiry—that is, a culture of healthy debate. We ask for and listen to opinions and arguments. We don’t, however, waste the time of the chapter with repetitive arguments or duplicate comments that begin with, “I agree with ___” Chapter presidents, this is your time to guide but not control the discussion.

Third…we get it right. That means that we may disagree with others but through that process of discussion and debate—attorneys often call it, “Discourse”, which is a good word for reasoned, respectful disagreement—we arrive at the best resolution.

Mark Baltz is an official in the National Football League who lives in Zionsville, Indiana, and attends some of the weekly meetings of the high school football officials held in downtown Indianapolis. I am co-chairman of the Football Committee with Bud Klumph, a Sigma Chi from Arizona State, and we schedule Mark to speak to our 100+ officials each year.

In his presentation Mark always notes that the biggest mistake he made in his career was starting a varsity football officiating crew with four friends. They were good officials…but they had difficulty speaking to each other in blunt and candid fashion. They allowed their friendships to get in the way of getting it right.

As a football official, I understand that simple concept. We must get the call right for the players, the coaches and the fans, whether there are 200 or 8,000. Friendship, hurt feelings or perceived slights have no place in an effective crew. We cannot get on the bus to Abilene and agree with a bad call because we don’t want someone to feel hurt.

As chapter leaders, you must encourage, prompt and indeed stimulate thoughtful discussion and discourse, especially about important topics or issues. Then, you must zealously safeguard the right of each member, regardless of age, seniority or status in the chapter, to speak to those topics and issues. You must insure that members feel comfortable challenging and questioning practices and decisions that in years past may have been no-brainers.

Finally, you must help sisters or brothers find that “getting it right” place. Sometimes that means you must put aside your feelings about an issue or question. There is a difference, of course, between a legitimate issue and voting on an illegal activity such as hazing. That is one occasion when you must stand up and speak out.

The Abilene Paradox…will exist as long as we fail to encourage our members to stand up and speak out. Many a chapter has been asked, “What were you thinking?” after a serious incident, problem or tragedy. I suspect that the answer is: “We were thinking…but we were not expressing our thoughts”



Dave Westol served as CEO of his national fraternity for eighteen years and now has his own consulting company, Limberlost Consulting, Inc., in Carmel, Indiana. He has served on the board of directors for FIPG, Inc. and as a football official for over 30 seasons. He can be reached at David.Westol@gmail.com.