What if… Wild/Extreme/Revolutionary Ideas (part 2)

by Matt Mattson

$1 Million Death Tax.  No inititaion until graduation.  Cut the bottom 10% of AFA members each year.  Membership reviews conducted by non-members.  Model global citizens.  Public votes on chapter approval (every year).  Faculty invited to social functions.  Day of recruiting for GLBTQ students.  Global domination.  Defeat racism.  …and we’re just getting started!

Continuing from yesterday’s post, here are some more wild/revolutionary/extreme ideas from the 2009 AFA educational session entitled FRATERNAL EXTREMES.  These are more responses from participants that attended the session.  Participants were asked to consider, “WHAT IF…” with regard to revolutionizing the fraternity/sorority movement.  They were encouraged to come up with the craziest, wildest, most controversial ideas they could.  Below are the responses that were submitted after the session. Most of these are just undeveloped ideas, notes, or brainstorms… but you’ll get the idea.  

As you read these responses, try not to shoot them down immediately.  Just imagine “WHAT IF…”  These were developed by the participants to spark thought, alter perspective, and challenge paradigms.  Try not to take them as recommendations, but as thought-provoking concepts.

All social events should require learning outcomes and chapters should do post-assessment of how well those were achieved.  Only 1-2 per term. No fraternity man or sorority woman can join or remain an active member without a GPA above campus average.  You MUST perform above average. Every year the lowest performing chapter on a campus would be subject to a faculty vote to remain on campus.  Host in an open auditorium on campus? (how to pick the lowest group would vary)

Initiation does not occur until graduation from college.  During the undergraduate experience, members must commit themselves to membership development.  Failing to commit to values and membership development equals expulsion. Merger of umbrella groups “The Greek Council.” Scouting and recruiting in high schools.

What if chapter/council philanthropy and/or service projects had the same impact that “CNN Heroes” have? What if we had collective council retreats? What if we had a day of recruitment dedicated to the GLBTQ. What if Faculty and staff were invited to social functions. What if Faculty and administration stopped by houses on a regular basis to have dinner, or just say hi? What if women’s recruitment didn’t have physical aspects (change it)? What if the organization raised money to help brothers/sisters pay for dues? What if we had a Greek job fair? What if we had a community chapter once a week with ritual?  What if we offered quality wellness opportunities? What if we had non-Greek student allies for each organization?  What if when a chapter has a GPA problem, they are only allowed to recruit studnets with a 3.5 and above?  What if when a chapter has an alcohol problem, they are only allowed to recruit people 21+? What if non-affiliated people did membership reviews?

Transparency: How do we each (campus/chapter) rank in all core areas.  Published in quarterly distribution channel.
Membership fees scalable based on GPA (3.0=$500, 2.0=$1,000).  $1 Million Death Tax.  AFA/NIC/NPC/NPHC/NALFO… charged inter/national org $1M everytime their membership killed someone.  Money goes to a prevention fund. Remove 10% of AFA membership every year based on performance standards. All media/PR (T-shirts to YouTube to radio spots) produced Interfraternally and subsidized for consistent national branding.  Reverse expansion:  What if universities/councils recruited large pools of high quality members, and then offered the group to the highest bidding fraternity/sorority? What if schools were on a waiting list to get an org to expand there?

What if fraternity/sorority houses were the cleanest and safest place on campus?  What if paddles (even decorative ones) were no longer symbols of fraternity and sorority life?

What if we all modeled and acted with relevance all the time versus just when we wanted to/it was convenient?

Inter/National organizations share ideas and programs freely because all organizations are differentiated by values, not programs.

We educated higher education institutions who will not support fraternities and sororities on their campus and actually changed their minds to believe that Greek Organizations are the best things going for the institution.
We expanded our organizations to community colleges.  We would continue to encourage those individuals to continue on to 4-year institutions.  Provide a smoother transition to transfer students to enter into a social network.  IF we are truly life long organizations, why must it only begin at a 4-year institution?

Pick a routine activity or program and the next time you start to plan and implement that program break all the rules – do everything differently.  (Faculty participate in meetings, debate pro/con of Greek Life).

Alumni development programs: Taking our values and applying them to our professional lives. IFC Alumni groups.
Professional development programs so prestigious it is paid for by employers. Alumni Interfraternity Institute: Chapter members provide the connection to the ritual for the alumni.

Create a leadership experience from the beginning that continually progresses throughout their membership. All-inclusive membership. What if we removed the membership privilege of those who don’t meet our standards (buy in or get out).

Being that part of the Beta Sig purpose statement is to have a group that realizes that life rooted in Christ is the only true means of existence and therefore I wish our groups could and would lead the fraternal movement in spirituality through our relationships with churches and the worship opportunities we offer to our campuses –Tim Anderson

(general) Fraternities and sororities actually living and learning their ritual and founding principles. (extreme/specific) Possibly have fraternities and sororities look into purchasing businesses around local campuses and employ the members.  Teaches a wide variety of skills.  Use funds that have traditionally been used to fund parties.  What if all fraternities and sororities on campus pool funds and create a company like Toms?  Both business and philanthropy.

Everyone Greek and non-Greek would be socially responsible. Our members would be more socially conscious of the world around and want to make better and more responsible decisions for themselves.  They would also challenge members of their organizations and other organizations.  They would also challenge everyone around them to become more socially conscious.  Our Greeks would feel responsible for all students and their well-being.  Get rid of bystander behavior.  The level of tolerance for those who are different would increase.  All people would be embraced regardless of sexual orientation, race, creed, abilities, etc.  Level of discourse would be raised.  Greeks would refocus on the on the idea of a scholarly exchange of ideas. What if we stopped talking and started doing.

Have fraternities and sororities set a high bar for what the best and brightest students at the institution would be like.  Essentially Greek students would be the poster. Have members travel to another chapter (different campus) and spend a semester/quarter there.

Academic success was the standard. All Greek study hall. Organizations/chapters were required to have GPA above non-Greek GPA. Annual membership review required: Submit judicial (individual); GPA requirement above non-Greek; Service requirement; University GPA requirement.

True institutional partnerships.  A recognition that fraternities and sororities are the places to learn the things that you can’t learn elsewhere.  Tours begin and end with Greek Life.  We teach seminars and classes on social excellence, you can receive academic credit for being Greek.  What if college applications were given to Greek houses.  If they had to apply to fraternities, not the institution.  What if schools were 100% Greek?  Classes held in fraternity houses.  Grad schools recruiting through us.  Being Greek 1st thing on a resume, not last.

All potential new members must participate in a leadership development class for credit that is pass/fail and if you fail you can’t join a Greek organization on campus.

What if fraternity and sorority members were model citizens – not just students.  Not just American citizens, but global citizens.  We obey the law, have good morals and are engaged in our dialogue about our future as a world. What if you didn’t have to go to college to be Greek? Alcohol free period until 21.

To not accept a low percentage of leadership within chapters.  To strive for 100% participation.  To create a standard of excellence and not a minimum standard.

Stop programs that only look good on paper.

Here are even more ideas… These are the remaining submissions from the survey results.  Again, these people were asked, “Considering the vast resources, millions of educated members, considerable money, and significant potential of inter/national fraternities and sororities, what are your wildest ideas for what Greeks could do (imagine no barriers, all ideas are great ideas, think HUGE)?”

Ultimate Leaders : Greek could ultimately be the leaders in every area of our campuses, our communities, our country, and quite possibly our world. Our organizations should be teaching us from the moment we are introduced to them (even if you haven’t joined yet) how to be better leaders through skill building, in all areas of leadership and there are just too many to name, critical thinking, empowerment, etc. And not only should that be what our members are gaining, but our members should also be learning how to empower others with the same skills even if they aren’t members of their own organization. I think sororities could also have a major impact on body image and other issues of women. If more of our chapters didn’t make women feel like they had to look a certain way or dress a certain way or own this or that to be a member or be liked I think we would be better off. I realize women grow out of that when they get older, but what if girls and women didn’t have to go through that in the first place? I also think Greeks could have a huge impact on the abuse of alcohol on college campuses. If more of our membership development and new member programs focused on good decision making, critical thinking and individualism we might not have the same problems with alcohol abuse.

Actually Educate (Tricia Fechter, AFLV): Your question prompts my first thought… actually EDUCATE our members. I don’t think that is necessarily happening. Sure, most of the time they have a college education, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are providing them with state of the art learning opportunities to inform them about our organizations, or our collective power as a community. Second, I think we need to stop being territorial, and start getting along. It doesn’t matter if if was your idea or initiative, or mine, if it is a good one, we should support it together, and move it forward as a community. Third, we need to stop living up to our negative stereotypes and start showing up. We need to eliminate hazing, eliminate problem drinking, and eliminate all the other negative things. Clean that up, and in a short while, everyone else will take notice, and begin to respect the collective power that we have.  

Adult Fraternal Experience: Continue beyond the campuses and continue to do great things as adult fraternal members. We truly need to exemplify the statement we make: membership is a lifetime journey. All the wonderful things our chapters do would continue on but with adults in communities not touched by colleges and universities. The experience will only improve as members mature and decide not to act like idiots.

True Values Congruence: Live in congruence with their values. I realize that is not very sexy, but the ramifications of such a move would be incomprehensible. Imagine millions of members living to the espoused values professed by organizations. I have no doubt it would radically change our educational system and our country. If you’re going to dream, dream big.

Reward Faculty Advisors (Chuck Eberly, EIU): Universities are all experiencing difficult budgetary issues. Long-standing traditions are most likely to be altered during times of stress, so opportunities abound at this time to make inroads in areas heretofore impossible to change. Among the challenges that fraternities and sororities face is finding tenured faculty members to serve in roles such as chapter advisors, academic advisors, etc. Almost every aspect of faculty culture on most campuses mitigates against young or old faculty members taking time from their week to work with undergraduates in out-of-class activities, particularly with fraternities or sororities. What about working through department chairpersons and learning the equivalent cost of one academic course load (three credits) of faculty time, then offering to make a contribution to the faculty member’s department in that amount of money IF the department chairperson is willing to defer those three credit units and make advising a student group part of the faculty member’s academic load (assignment)? The effect of such a faculty load assignment would be to legitimize student group advising as a part of the regular faculty workload rather than as a “service” activity that receives only grudging notice in faculty retention, promotion, and tenure determinations.

Live Their Rituals (Dan Bureau, Indiana):  Live their rituals, examine daily how they can better align actions with espoused values, recognize that they are a mission oriented organization, have honest discussions with members about the components of ritual and their role in their actions. I don’t think we need a lot of resources or money to do this. We need to push students to become who they say they are going to be sooner than they’re ready to do so.

Extreme Leadership and Activism (Aaron Schwartz, Undergrad, SUNY Plattsburgh): Fraternities and Sororities could actually follow their values and build the leaders of tomorrow, there is no reason why every (or nearly every) politician from this point forward cant have been involved in some sort of Greek Letter organization. Furthermore i think that fraternities and sororities should act as political activists on campus. A good example is here at SUNY Plattsburgh and throughout the SUNY system where the SUNY (State University of New York) has taken a $90 million plus mid semester budget cut, with the likelihood seeming that it will only get worse. I would like to see instead of the administration or student government taking the lead on protests, letter writing campaigns, and further political action, i believe that it is time for Greeks nationwide to begin taking stands on political and social issues. No longer should it be acceptable for out members to hold outdated prejudices regarding racism, ablism, ethnocentrism, classism, or any of the countless other “-isims” that we make moral decisions about others off of. I think that considering the history that many Greek letter organizations hold and the values that they represent it is time for us as a nation spanning millions of members strong community, to take up intellectual arms against forces of ignorance and apathy.

Global Domination as a Force of Good: What a sight it would be to see every social fraternity & sorority represented on every single campus in the country… and then world. Global domination is typically thought as evil, but what if fraternity & sorority life achieved true global prevalence by being a force of good. What if the demand for fraternities and sororities was so great that we were forced to grow beyond our wildest dreams?

Reform Alcohol Policy and Image: My wildest idea for what Greeks could do is to reform the U.S.’s policy and image of alcohol consumption. I would like to see the drinking age brought down to 18 or 19, but with incentives for people to complete their high school degree. I would also like to see the legal limit for BAC brought down by at least half for motor vehicle operation.

Defeat Racism (Jeremy Berggren, Delta Tau Delta alumnus):  IFC/NPHC collaborative Leadership development programs to work through racism in the 21st century. Modeling the freedom rides of the 40′s, and 60′s, the program will take place multiple times throughout the year to build on the legacy of anti-racist work and create new anti-racist strategies for the current time and address how racism manifests daily in our own lives. HQ initiated LBGTQ work and massive ally and safe space trainings for members. Maybe more HQ would sponsor the Out & Greek conference. There is certainly enough dough. Social Justice retreat center to address privilege, oppression, and power and Greeks can go learn about social justice and create action plans to promote social justice in their own organization. It will be awesome, built in the tradition of a “folk school” and modeled after the Highlander Center and popular education model, which is where folks like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr were trained in nonviolence and creative resistance. The wildest part of all is that I will be employed there, which will be downright awesome. Full ride scholarships to serve overseas in war torn countries with values based international leadership and education model. Greek partnership with Americorps to fund year-two year long service opportunities within the US. Students will be funded and receive scholarship or tuition assistance. Have Phired Up do material in your new member manual. Boo-ya!

Redefining Student Orgs Through Social Excellence (Nick Gilly, Chi Psi HQ): If Greeks could truly band together and leverage their membership and resources, Greeks could redefine the relationships between student organizations and higher learning institutions. Greeks could be recognized as full fledged partners to Universities – recognized as a counterpart to academic life and the avenue through which students develop social excellence. Colleges and universities everywhere should be introducing Greek Life as part of its own value proposition – they look to us to teach social excellence. Campus tours should include information about the many beneficial aspects of Greek Life. For a higher level institution, investing in Greek Life would be considered investing in itself. At many institutions, students are offered the opportunity to teach classes to their peers. At UC Berkeley, for example, a “deCal” is a class proposed by students and taught by students to other students. Greeks could provide classes and seminars to their peers on social excellence. We need to find ways to reach out and benefit others with what we are learning within our fraternities and sororities. If we can first learn to exemplify social excellence, and then spread the word to EVERYONE through informal and formal avenues, Greeks and social excellence would become synonymous. If we do that, and live our values to such an extent that our schools have confidence in fully partnering with us, we can become a relevant part of not only the lives of our members, but student and community life as a whole – everywhere.

Educate Our Nation’s Youth (Travis Gass, Undergrad, U Washington): There are many things possible that can be achieved through the movement of a collective Greek body. The opportunity for Greek members to gain affiliation to their respective organizations stems from their participation in secondary education, or by attending an institution of higher learning. As a student who came from an environment of modest resources and information regarding to obtaining higher education, I feel the biggest duty bestowed upon us collectively is the education of our nation’s youth. To create opportunities for those who come after us, and to instill upon those future generations the courage and willfulness to learn and explore, are amongst our chief obligations.

Unity (Ben DeLost, Phi Kappa Theta Alumnus):  That Greek organizations around the country and world would all understand the aspect of that “WE’RE ALL THE SAME MINUS A RITUAL OR TWO!” I know this is a rather large secret right now and we might have some pretty upset members from our chapters. But if we would all work together and take the competitive nature we have against the other greek letter organizations on our campus and brought it together so that all students at our universities would have the impression that this would be something they would want to join. And if not then they must not want to develop into a well rounded young adult and continue the development through their life. If we did this then recruitment would be a thing of the past and members would be lined up at the door. If we could do this I believe it would drop the “Animal House” stereotype that is so hard for us to shake. We would be such an intricate corner stone of our respected universities.

Many Great Ideas:  *Fraternity men on campuses across the country would be highly active in planning Take Back The Night events. *More energy and resources would be spent on philanthropic and service work than parties and events. *Chapters would help chapters struggling with recruiting good men/women to recruit great members. *We would become a truly open community in terms of race, class, sexual orientation, ability level, etc. *Staff sizes would be significantly increased, both on the campus and IHQ level, to be able to meet the needs of our growing student population. *We would raise our overall GPA requirements for attaining and retaining membership (women’s groups seem to understand this more than men’s groups). *Sorority Recruitment would be scraped for a process that actually encourages women making meaningful connections with each other. *Transgender students would be welcome in fraternities and sororities depending on how they identify their own gender.

The Way it Should Be:  That only the best and brightest students from every campus would be members. They would all live in well-maintained living/learning communities and would be functioning at the highest levels, achieving amazing GPAs, completing tons of service and philanthropy. Chapters would reflect the diversity of the campus and be safe environments for people who are from different backgrounds. There would be no hazing, as all national organizations would true membership development programs. Each chapter would have a full advisory board of dedicated and involved alumni who give back to the chapter and the university. Programming would be attended without it having to be required. All the different groups would have good relationships with each other and other student organizations. IFC/PHC groups would work collaborative with MC groups. All organizations would have well-trained professional consultants who visit high performing and struggling chapters at least once a year. Alcohol use in chapters would be less than the general student population and chapters would effectively use juridical processes to adjudicate members not upholding values. The public would have no reason to continue stereotypes of Greeks and fraternity and sorority members would stop giving excuses for their bad behavior. Parents will want their child to join a Greek organization. Retention of members would be 100%. Sorority recruitment would focus on truly getting to know women and petty recruitment violations would not exist.

Global Experience (Matt Mattson, Phired Up):  What if the student of the month from our best chapters won a free educational trip to China, Kenya, Indonesia, Bolivia, Antarctica, Paris, Moscow, Sudan, Tibet, etc.? 

What if instead of buying T-shirts for Greek Week, recruitment, homecoming, mixers, and formals… and instead of buying thousands of high-gloss “Greek Life is Awesome” fliers to the pay to mail to thousands of students and parents… what if we took all that money (likely tens of thousands of dollars between chapter, council, and university expenditures) and sent our fraternity/sorority students on multiple short educational group trips to some of the most amazing places on earth.

Wouldn’t that be cool enough to attract more members without having to even bother with fliers and t-shirts?

Extreme Networking (Matt Mattson, Phired Up): We’re members of “social” fraternities and sororities, for the most part, right?  One could determine how “social” you are by measuring how large your network is, right?  Many fraternities and sororities offer as one of the primary benefits of membership the ability to build a large NETWORK, right?

What if fraternities and sororities refocused their purpose on building as many meaningful relationships as possible with people on their campus, in their community, and around the world.  What if the number one goal of our organizations was simply to engage socially with the world.  Meet people.  Communicate with people.  Learn from people.  Everywhere.  Lots of them.

Wouldn’t this help with recruitment?  Wouldn’t this likely help with cultural understanding?  Wouldn’t this help with individual members’ success potential?  Wouldn’t this actually be our organizations being social? 

Simple, yes, but what if we just focused our energies on something that is easy to measure and could impact us very positively.  Meet lots and lots of people.

Extreme Accountability (Jessica Gendron, Phired Up): What if our organizations actually made us better people?  What if our organizations actually MADE us do what we say we do with 100% accountability if we don’t?
We say we value service – every member MUST do 100 hours of community service a year with documentation that supports those hours.  At the end of the year, if you can’t produce documentation for 100 hours…your membership is terminated.  We say we value scholarship.  Every member must have above a 3.0.  You don’t?  Goodbye.  We say we value learning.  Every member is required to attend 1 outside the classroom learning opportunity a month.  You don’t?  Membership Terminated.  This means we would actually have to provide support and resources for this to be achieved, but what if we stopped letting ourselves get away with being mediocre and actually were outstanding?

Accountability Reconsidered (Brandon Cutler, Kansas State University): What if all Inter/National organizations and institutions of Higher Education agreed upon a set Risk Management & Behavioral Expectations (such as FIPG Risk Management Policy), and created a zero tolerance enforcement policy. 

If a chapter uses alcohol to recruit, host open parties, or haze members it will no longer be a chapter.  Charter gone, chapter house gone, ongoing behavioral issues with chapters and members…gone!  Student leaders, I/HQ staff, campus professionals, and volunteers spend so much time addressing violations of policies that have been around for 20 years.  What if we just drew a line in the sand and got rid of all chapters that violate these very basic expectations.  Perhaps we’d have the time, money, and energy to focus on events and activities that represent our founding principles.  Sure, we might lose some chapters from the start, but I bet chapters would start taking things a little more serious.  Chapter’s would be forced to hold members accountable, recruit members that will uphold chapter values, and treat all members and guests with respect. 

It’s time to for chapters and members to be relevant to their mission…or be gone.

Multiple Ideas from Josh Orendi, Phired Up

Global Greek Life
Not only would we serve the educational missions of our host institutions, but we would be the international leaders in supporting educational development across the globe.  With a build in network of undergraduate and alumni volunteers we could fund and staff a global education initiative.  Side benefit:  We’d probably estabilish fraternity and sorority chapters at every host site to spread the positive mission of greek life.

Fraternity becomes the model for membership organizations across the country to build a higher quanity of higher qaulity members.  Church congregations … the US Military … professional associations … masonic lodges … fortune 500 sales team … all see dramatic improvements using the newest model for values-based, year-round recruitment.  And, they proudly credit their model back to the fraternity and sorority movement.

Pins & Rings.  Broadcasters, models, TV hosts, journalists, politicians, etc wear their fraternity/sorority badges and/or rings with pride as a sign of their commitment to a values based life.

Admissions tours start and end with Greek Row.  Fraternity and sorority life is the pinnacle of excellence.  The university proudly advocates for fraternity and sorority life.  Prospective students are toured through greek facilities, paired with f/s members, and encouraged to pursue membership.

Greek Employment Circle.  A professional network of top companies and nonprofits that recruit f/s leadership exclusively.

Greek Hostel Program.  Members of any interfraternal organization are connected and offered nearly free accommodations at 1000′s of f/s houses on premier college campuses across the country/world.�

Letters on a Nation.  Senior members of every fraternity/sorority across the country are encouraged to donate their letter shirts to clothe a sponsored nation of need.�

Greek Stock Picks.  F/s chapters across the country battle in real time through online technology to manage a successful portfolio of stocks/bonds.  Participating chapters begin with a $1000 investment.  The winning chater received full ride scholarships for all its members.  Or, same concept but “start a business.”