by Matt Farrell
On February 14th, 2018 a young man entered a high school in Parkland, Florida, pulled out an AR-15, and turned Valentine’s Day afternoon into a horrifying murder of 17 students. This happened over a month ago and yet remains one of the top news stories across America today. I’m not here to get into the debate about gun control, as the Internet offers no shortage of opportunities for that. Rather, this is an opportunity to think more about how vocal the Parkland students have been since (seriously, just read this or Google “Parkland students” if you haven’t seen the nonstop activity) and how it impacts our fraternity & sorority work.
Move over millennials: there is a new wave of students arriving on campus. If you need to brush up on your Gen Z knowledge, check this out.
My takeaways on how to view Gen Z through the lens of Parkland students:
Gen Z is inserting themselves into a complicated problem. Our team’s research on Gen Z has shown these students want to harness the newest technology and target larger scale issues, most importantly those involving safety. While plenty of millennials have talked about changing mass shootings and other major issues, Gen Z stands the greatest chance of doing the work. They are aware of this, and regardless of how messy this particular issue is–they’re diving right in. They’ve grown up during a period where mass shootings have become so normalized, that they’re simply unwilling to sit back any longer.
Gen Z is relentlessly driven. First of all, they’re all over social media and unafraid of expressing their opinions to anyone. But their relentlessness goes far beyond a keyboard. These kids have already set up a march, rallied their peers nationally, built apps to attempt to counter the problem, and are traveling to their state capital, major media headquarters, and even DC to seek action. Are they getting help from older generations to do these things? Of course. But, Gen Z is keeping their foot on the gas pedal. And they don’t appear to be letting up anytime soon. Gen Z seems to have abandoned the “lazy and entitled” stereotype of the previous generation and flipped the pendulum to being a driven and relentless group of young people.
Gen Z is polarizing. While Parkland students have inspired millions of people, there’s no denying they’ve done plenty to alienate those who disagree with them. They have bragged about blowing off meetings with leaders they don’t like, use occasionally biting language to combat their adversaries, and carry themselves with the same swagger as personalities that have worked for decades to get where they are. These students have built a platform to invite plenty of attention, and appear to be OK with being hated or disliked by some if it helps them be ignored by less. My personal opinion on this is that the students aren’t intentionally looking to anger people. Rather, they are incredibly passionate about safety and fear that being more calm may lead to inaction.
OK, so what the heck does this have to do with fraternity & sorority life?
First things first, I think it’s important to realize that less than a month ago, these were “normal” students attending a “normal” school, with many headed to pursue a “normal” college experience. In other words, these are students arriving at our campuses and eligible to join our fraternities and sororities. While it’s uncertain how exactly this will affect our industry’s future, it’s hard to imagine things not being different. Let’s go back to the above thoughts on Gen Z, and consider how we can adapt our strategies to recruit and develop them.
Gen Z is inserting themselves into a complicated problem. Hmmm, this one sounds a little bit familiar. Conversations about Greek life these days are not significantly different to those of mass shootings (multiple sources causing unnecessary death, our society’s approach to masculinity, an urgent desire for change but worry of how it can be enforced). The difference? In my opinion, most Greek students are not empowered to understand the full problem and be a part of the solution until if/when they’re initiated, or if/when they obtain a leadership position. Our problems are often sheltered from our newest talent until they are proven to be loyal and committed. What would it look like if we empowered our newest members to help us solve our problems, instead of doing our best to hide them until after they get fully involved?
Gen Z is relentlessly driven. This one is interesting because of how often we complain about apathy in our organizations. If there’s one thing all sides can agree on about Parkland’s survivors, it’s that they’re pretty much the opposite of apathetic. This makes me wonder if we’re actively searching for our newest members’ passions, or merely just hoping we can impress them enough so they align with ours (then complaining when they stop showing up). What would happen if we built the fraternity & sorority experience around our new members’ passions and added ours, instead of the other way around?
Gen Z is polarizing. This one excites and scares me the most. When studying the words or actions of these Parkland students, it’s easy to see amazing future fraternity & sorority presidents–as well as those who would be repulsed by our organizations, alienate members, or drop. Now more than ever, there is a need for positive role models in the fraternity & sorority experience. These students think they know all the answers, which can make us mad because they obviously don’t. But, what we’re failing to realize is they know a lot more than we give them credit for. We need people to harness their passion while guiding them through conflict. We need people they can learn from without feeling lectured. We need mentors beyond big brothers or sisters. Every day we seem to be losing role models in our larger society, creating even more of a need for them in our everyday life. How can seniors, alumni, and supportive peers change the way we view mentorship in our organizations?
As we continue to observe Gen Z’s role in our nation’s path forward, it’s important to always be considering how it will impact the future of fraternity & sorority. We need to help show our future members the way—without getting in their way.
by Jason Allen
We know that mentor is an overused word in our work. However, the sentiment remains: people need someone to look up to for guidance, to be challenged, and to be supported. Fraternity men, and future fraternity men, especially need that now more than ever.
Insert bRho Gamma idea here.
The first time I heard “bRho Gamma” as a phrase, I laughed. I laughed hard. It’s ironic, because we hear all the time that IFC Exec members are trying to remove the typical “bro mentality” from their community. But, the concept is brilliant and essential for successful fraternity recruitment: a young man to guide other young men through the struggles and triumphs of recruitment is immensely helpful. It is something our Panhellenic sorority friends have been really good at for years, so SHOUT OUT to y’all.
IFC men, don’t read that last sentence as we now have to do something that is anti-Panhellenic, which is what we typically jump to. They have figure out a way to make recruitment guides work for them, and we can do the same.
If done correctly, IFC recruitment guides would directly impact the way we view and run recruitment. With recruitment guides, and a strong recruitment guide program, PNMs could ask questions to an unbiased person, get to see more chapters than the ones they have heard or seen, and building early community with a recruitment group before they officially enter into the IFC community. At Phired Up, we believe a great recruitment guide program has three fundamental parts, and two supplemental sections: Recruit; Select; Train; Running Recruitment; and Post Recruitment.
Recruit great men to be recruitment guides is where the program truly starts. In our recruitment of guides, we need to be sure we are setting expectations early and often for what recruitment guides will do. This way, we hopefully prevent the guys from signing up who are doing it just to say they were doing it, or they were “voluntold”, or the dreaded word- mandatory! If we have an enticing recruitment plan, with tangible outcomes for the guide program, then best of the best from the community will volunteer. Cast your net wide for how you choose to recruit; this will lead to a larger pool of applicants.
Select guides who you know will do a great job. Don’t be afraid to have standards for these guys. Think outside of only GPA, service hours, and leadership positions; even though those are just as important. What do they value? Do they have references? Did they answer the application questions seriously and realistically? Will they have ample time to do this role? Again, I want to be sure you all understand, it is 100% okay to have high selection standards. This again is how we ensure we have the best of the best. Have interviews, have group interviews, watch them interact with each other, see if they are comfortable pulling down their cool guy mask, and if they can just relax and be themselves. We want to be sure we are selecting men who can truly counsel, guide, and lead these PNMs to recruitment success.
Train these guys to be full of resources and compassion. Sure, they should know a few facts about each fraternity, and some base level knowledge. But, they should know the values and vibe of each chapter, some of their interests, and the type of men they are looking for. We should have each chapter come train our recruitment guides on this information; not their colors and founding date alone. Have professionals from your campus and community come in and teach the guides about varying topics. These guides should be able to offer a brotherhood tour, and not just a house/fact tour. Our job is to make sure the guides feel confident in their abilities to lead PNMs to a bid from their a chapter, or explore other activities on campus if IFC is not right for them.
Running recruitment should be fun for our guides. Yes, they are going to have to do some problem solving, and maybe some coaching of our PNMs. However, recruitment should be fun. We need to be sure they feel motivated, continue to be empowered, and know that we appreciate what they are doing. And post recruitment should also feel like an accomplishment; particularly in the early years of a new recruitment guide program.
I think, as men, we often feel uncomfortable sharing our feelings and appreciation for someone. But, people will 100% do more and go above and beyond when they know and feel they are appreciated. We get to model good behaviors here, and share some bromance love.
I know this type of program feels new and weird, but it will work. We have to be willing to try new things, or we will continue to be frustrated with the same results. Maybe we don’t call it “bRho Gammas” (no judgment if you do), but we need these guides to make a better recruitment process for our PNMs.
If you are interested in being a pilot for IFC recruitment guides, email Jason at email@example.com.
by Brittany White
Ladies and gentlemen, March Madness is upon us. As the reigning Phired Up Fantasy Football Champion, when the opportunity for another work-related sports competition league presented itself I wanted to jump on the chance to defend my title when our company put together an internal bracket challenge.
True life: I’ve never filled out a March Madness bracket before. I’m super competitive, and I always saw people get up in flames when their bracket was ruined so I didn’t even want to put myself through the pain. (That is the perfectionist in me – we can unpack that another time.) I just enjoyed watching all the games and watching the underdogs screw up everyone’s bracket. I’m here for the Cinderella story. However, this year I decided I should expand my expertise beyond football and filled out my very first bracket.
If I’m being totally honest, it was hard. I’m an intense over-thinker. I over-analyze every choice I have to make. I take everything into account almost to the point of exhaustion. I look at their records, wins, losses, average points per game, average opponent points per game, and how they did in their tournament play. I have to hash it out with my dad because I trust his opinion. You know there will be upsets, so you have to calculate and prepare for them based upon current injuries, sleepers in the division, and grit. When I think about grit, I think about which team has the bigger chip on their shoulder or has more to prove. Then emotional bias comes in. There will always be teams or coaches that you have a bias against, who cares what seed they are, you secretly hope they lose the first game and get knocked out completely. I’m also the woman looking for the Cinderella story, so that just takes my emotional bias to a whole new level.
Finally after all of that consideration and endless research, I submitted my bracket. Honestly, I probably could have filled out 50 of them. But this is my first year, I didn’t need to go crazy, I just needed to commit. Loyola-Chicago is my sleeper team in the South division. Probably the craziest thing I did was choose New Mexico State and College of Charleston to both win and make it to the next round. Ultimately, my final four comes out to Virginia, North Carolina, Villanova, and Duke and Villanova coming out of the dance on top.
My NCAA bracket got me to thinking about sorority recruitment. Honestly, I can find just about any scenario in life to think about recruitment. We have a resource to help PNMs better understand themselves and what they are looking for in a chapter. It’s called iValU, and we ask PNMs to fill out a bracket with their values. I hadn’t filled it out in a while, so I decided to refresh my memory and try again. Basically a PNM starts off with an extensive list of values, and chooses 32 to face-off against each other. The first task itself is hard – some values are super important to me, some values less important to me, and others are important for people in my life to possess but maybe not directly related to me.
Once you have selected your 32 values, the software sorts them into a bracket! Sports and recruitment coming in hot! From there, you choose your values based on the pairing and continue to narrow them down the same way you would an NCAA bracket. Obviously, you don’t have to do research on the teams to understand their body of work, player injuries, or which team you hate more. This is about reflecting on yourself and what’s important to you.
For me, it might has well have been my NCAA bracket. It was actually harder than my NCAA bracket. Why? Probably because it’s totally personal and self-identification. It requires thought and analysis that only I can truly provide the answers to.
For example, in my first round, I had to choose between authenticity and kindness. Woof. That’s tough. I absolutely value kindness. I don’t want to be around mean people. I would also much rather be around people who are unapologetically authentically themselves. Although kindness means people won’t be mean to you, I would rather be surrounded by people who are authentic who encourage and cultivate my authenticity too.
In the second round, I had had to choose between integrity and loyalty. Oh man. If you talk to any of my closest friends and asked them what I valued most in a friend, it would be loyalty. I need to know that you will always have my back – no matter what – because I will always have yours. If I doubt someone’s loyalty, I doubt if we are even friends. On the flip side, integrity is about doing what is right over what is easy. Integrity is about putting our values into practice rather than just using them as a buzzword. As I continued to go back and forth, the more intertwined these two values seemed to be. Similar to the conundrum between authenticity and kindness, the ultimate question that I asked myself was “If I’m choosing a group of women that I want to be around everyday, what is the most important quality that those women possess?” You can’t teach people to be your ride or dies.
If we are ever going to find the right people to join fraternity and sorority, then we should provide support for PNMs to better understand themselves and what they are looking for in a fraternity or sorority. We need encourage intentional self-reflection and self-understanding before these PNMs just join a fraternity or sorority based around superficial or frivolous criteria. This Values Bracket and iValU provides some tangible criteria around what PNMs are looking for, and encourages them to ensure that the chapter they join meets that criteria.
While we have no control over our NCAA March Madness now that the games have begun, we do have control over preparing PNMs for recruitment and chapter selection. The selection process is never easy, but the glory is worth it.
If you are interested in learning more about iValU, check out phiredup.com/ivalu or email me at Brittany@PhiredUp.com or Jason Allen, Curriculum & Learning Director at Jason@PhiredUp.com.
by Matt Farrell
Watching a new Greek organization begin is special—there’s no simpler way to describe it. Staff, students and alumni collaborate across campus seeking motivated students that want more out of college for themselves and their community. Strangers of different majors, interests, and backgrounds come together for a positive purpose. It’s entrepreneurship. It’s adventure. It’s college community at its best.
That was my job for the past three and a half years, and it took me all over North America to meet thousands of amazing people. The process brought constant challenge and didn’t always flourish. But even when we didn’t reach the success we wanted, I found all of the above to be true. So, why did I want to leave and take on something new? Well, last year felt different.
All summer, everyone in our industry heard or thought about Penn State on a daily basis. It was an inescapable conversation—a horrific tragedy that uncovered a sickening process. Like any semester, my staff had over a thousand conversations with unaffiliated men looking to join our organization. But this time, talks went much deeper. I was tired of just hearing students’ perception of issues, and wanted to know the reality. When we encountered students who had friends or roommates going through the new member process, we’d ask about what they were doing or how it was affecting them. If we got a vague answer, we’d probe further. Why? It was hard not to. Our role wasn’t to play detective, but we really wanted to know more about the realities our groups would be facing between bid day and initiation. As we got deeper, the responses got more alarming. While the Penn State news stunned many, students (especially at similar Power 5 institutions) saw it as the norm.
During the middle of a conversation with a potential member, he pulled out his phone to get a text from a friend at LSU as news of another death broke. Many people nationally were stunned that it happened again, but the news fit perfectly into discussion we were having. It was chilling to think about, and gave me an added fear of what the group we were starting could eventually become. Our conversation blankly continued, only with the added question of “who’s next?”
We all know the answer by now—as countless more communities have mourned deaths of young men preparing to be initiated. I couldn’t stop thinking about the inevitable challenge that neither our staff nor our future students were fully prepared for. We were creating an amazing home for our group, but also creating a deadly weapon.
I started to hear, and ask myself, some big questions about the new member process. I’d encourage you to do the same.
Does our current format (even when done well) align with our purpose?
Who should be involved?
How should the lessons be structured?
Does our obsession with removing liability actually create danger?
Do we, as an industry, even have a unified vision for what should happen between bid day and initiation?
Almost every question feels like fair game. Maybe it’s time to start from scratch.
Over the past 15 years, Phired Up led a massive national reform to reshape the way our organizations recruit. The results have led to us attracting more quality members than ever before. The results have also shown that better people in our organizations does not lessen our problems. If anything, it’s shown the magnitude of our problems is stronger than the better members we’re bringing in.
It’s time for the next phase of the reform: how we onboard our new members. There’s plenty still to learn, but here are some of my beliefs from my past seven years in the Greek world (half as a student, and half as a staff member).
Many students feel new member curriculum is out of touch with their needs and focused on liability, causing students to feel like they have to go underground if they want the full benefit. Students know the risk, but don’t want to settle for less.
The desire to earn membership is a natural human trait and we need to harness it, instead of denouncing it, to make sure new members are safe.
Students want to talk about what they can do rather than what they can’t.
I believe new member education can address liability, history, AND be exciting and engaging for our new members. I believe that new member education should teach young men what it means to be a member of their fraternity AND what it means to be a fraternity man. I believe new member education should allow young men to work hard together for a common goal in a way that is positive and transformative. I believe new member education should be looked at as “onboarding” our members instead of just educating them. I believe there are ways to “earn” your right of passage into fraternity in a healthy, positive and meaningful way.
In my first three months with Phired Up, I’ve been fortunate to have had conversations like this with hundreds of undergraduate leaders and professional staff. We are ready to reform the mindset behind behind the new member onboarding experience – for both men and women. The movement is spreading across the country as we engage students to be part of the solution.
Who’s with us?
Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Fraternities everywhere are starting to adopt a “PNM Orientation” session or a “Recruitment Kickoff” event (read more about “structured IFC recruitment”). These events are often well-intentioned (IFC’s want to set high expectations, educate prospective members, and give every chapter an opportunity to share their story), but too often these events result in a lackluster experience for the potential members. They can be full of boring presentations from ill-prepared chapter members with broken audio/visuals, they can be well-meaning professionals who end up lecturing students on stuff they haven’t even done wrong yet, or maybe even worse, they can set a tone of “fun buddy-club” that makes Potential New Members confused about what a fraternity is.
Phired Up offers a PROFESSIONAL SPEAKER who can provide an unforgettable program for PNMs and members. Our fraternity trainers will work with you to build a custom experience that sets the perfect tone for your recruitment process. We will deliver funny, engaging, powerful education about “What it means to be a fraternity man,” “How to have meaningful conversations during recruitment,” “How to be an educated potential member,” and more. We can also incorporate our Social Excellence message and facilitate real conversations between PNMs and members — conversations that go beyond “What’s your major?” “Where you from?” and “Did you play sports in high school?”
There are three keys to a great RECRUITMENT KICKOFF: 1) Expectations, 2) Education, and 3) Engagement. The KICK-OFF isn’t a time to dump information on the PNMs. It’s a time to help them experience the EXPECTATIONS of what it means to be a fraternity man, to EDUCATE them on how to find a healthy chapter that’s a perfect fit for them, and to ENGAGE them in real conversation with one another and with members of the fraternity community.
A great RECRUITMENT KICK-OFF can create healthier and safer chapters. A great RECRUITMENT KICK-OFF can increase retention of your best members. And a great RECRUITMENT KICK-OFF can make the recruitment process significantly better all around for everyone involved.
To book your Phired Up Recruitment Kick-Off, contact Austin Netherton (Austin@PhiredUp.com) or Matt Farrell (Farrell@PhiredUp.com).