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“Why Don’t They Do Blind Member Selection?”

by Matt Mattson

Just recently I was conducting a focus group of non-Greek student leaders for a campus on the east coast. We do these focus groups as part of our marketing work for sorority and fraternity communities. (They are always amazing!)

During the focus group, one woman named Savannah asked something brilliant.

“Why don’t they do blind member selection?”

The focus group participants were respectfully and thoughtfully offering feedback on the ideas that historically white sororities were not diverse and how there seemed to be “a look” that someone had to have to get in. They acknowledged that this might be a misperception, but it was a perception nonetheless.

And so, Savannah’s question is ringing loudly in my ears. Why don’t fraternities and sororities do blind member selection? (Maybe we could call it something different than “blind” like “anonymous” or something, but we’ll tackle that later)

We say we’re about values and almost all leaders I talk to describe a desire to be inclusive and diverse.

Especially in this time of deep introspection and exploration of racism (and other systems of oppression) being present in the joining process of fraternities and sororities.

This is not a wild concept. The professional HR world has been experimenting with it (here and here for example).

In an age of emerging digital and virtual recruitment processes for fraternities and sororities, who will be the first organization to experiment with a blind recruitment and selection process? Imagine the market position that organization could take, “We are the only fraternal organization that actually selects purely on objective values-based criteria. We don’t consider looks. We remove racial and other oppressive biases from our process. We review applications of highly qualified people, consider their risk assessment, consider their values-alignment, and consider the value they want to add to our organization. We are excited to meet these highly aligned and qualified people upon giving them an invitation for membership!”

Are many readers immediately naming all the downsides to this idea? Yes. But please take some time to list all the downsides to our current selection process. Let me help you get started.

  • Most chapters actually know very little about potential members before they’re selected.
  • Nearly zero chapters are screening potential members for risk factors.
  • Perceived physical attractiveness is DEFINITELY a factor used by many chapters to select their members.
  • The selection process of nearly every fraternal organization includes a lot of subjectivity and opportunity for bias to creep in.
  • Individual members (who are racist, homophobic, ablist, etc.) have a high amount of power in current selection processes – especially black-ball style processes.

Next question: What if we made it “double blind” or “fully anonymous” (we really have to work on naming this idea). But what if PNMs chose based only on legitimate objective information? That might be too much for today, but we’re ready to get into the conversation (and to build software, education, and tools to start experimenting).

We are hoping to work with interested professionals and organizations to experiment with blind/anonymous selection processes for the industry to learn from. We’re seeking partners now. Please email matt@phiredup.com.