When I first stepped foot onto the University of North Texas in the fall of 2008, I had no interest in joining a frat. It wasn’t because of some movie, or horrendous story that I had heard, I just simply had no motivation to join an organization similar to that of the “He Man Woman Haters Club”, or any other all male organization with no clear purpose.
Needless to say I did end up joining, thanks in part to Brother Craig, who reached out to me the first week of school and offered to help me move in to my dorm. After meeting the Brothers at Beta Eta, I realized how great they were, and how great the fraternity experience could be.
For the most part, based on my own recruiting experience, first generation college students have no feelings, one way or another, regarding fraternities until they have seen them in action. Now that I have been working as a recruiter for the National Fraternity, I can confidently say that Baby Boomers, Generation X, and some of Generation Y, has hurt the Greek movement. That’s right, they have hurt the movement.
Before you get upset over this statement, listen to my reasons.
The stories are great! Late nights on the roof, themed parties, tons of flowing alcohol in every single picture, gives us all a great laugh at reunions and on TFM. However, when these students hear the stories, whether they are funny or filled with terror of hazing, this puts a tough position in the head of a potential recruit. The potential walks on to campus with this preconceived notion of, “frats are just a bunch of drunks”, only because they have heard their family members, or their family member’s Greek relatives, discuss all the insane things they use to do. These stories, as harmless as they may seem, creates a predicament.
It’s because once a mind is made up, it’s nearly impossible to change it.
For example, while working at my most recent project at Oklahoma State University, I had a freshman student refuse to meet with me due to the stories that his own Dad had told him about his experience within his Fraternity. The insane parties, barely passing school, the multitude of hours pomping and learning choreography for a two minute song and dance, and the “awesome” hazing that he experienced that truly made him a better man, and closer with his brothers.
This was the type of guy each and every one of our Chapters across the country should want; an athlete, involved on campus, and had a 3.8 cumulative GPA. The ideal candidate of being a member of Phi Kappa Sigma, ruined by the harmless stories of a previous Greek member.
This is just one of the many examples I have collected over my time on staff for the National Headquarters. Each one ends in the same, upsetting way, a potential who refuses to meet because I’m with a Fraternity, or a person who meets and then withdraws his interest upon hearing his parents experience with Greek Life.
Even if the parent of a potential wasn’t Greek, the run-ins that his parents did have with Greek Life can be just as bad. I’ll use another example that I obtained from Oklahoma State. While going to speak at an organization, filled with candidates who’d be great to be the Founding Father Class of Phi Kappa Sigma, the advisor of the organization shared a brief experience with Greek Life that immediately killed any potential of reaching recruits. Here is what he shared, after I got done explaining the chance to be a Founding Father and create a new organization, one that is tied to a strong moral code and purpose of building better men;
Back in my day, late 70’s, I had a buddy on the Football team. He was a big guy, squatted almost 600 and just all the way around a solid athlete. When he went to a frat party, paid his $5 to get in, he saw that there wasn’t a large turnout. So, he went up and asked for his $5 back, the guy at the door refused, so my buddy just reached his hand in there and took his money out of the jar. The guy at the door gathered about 6 of his frat bros, they had bats and bottles, and they all jumped him. He was fine, they all went to the hospital.
This story, even if it’s not true, paints a horrible image of Greek Life. All thanks to the experience that two non-Greek men had with a fraternity.
Loss of Values
Just as the word fraternity has been shortened to frat, over the course of the creation of our beloved organization, the idea of values were created, disappeared, and has been struggling its way back to life. I’m not saying that all of our chapters, nor all of our members during these years lived without values in the organization, I’m saying they weren’t at the forefront. What was the product being sold? A party. Is it possible that “Frat” came from the synonymous loss of values in the way of recruitment? Perhaps.
Now, I’m not trying to hurt any feelings, it’s just the simple truth. If you read over articles, such as; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-mccormick/should-i-allow-my-son-to-join-a-fraternity_b_5004197.html, you’ll note the exact theme that I’m trying to explain; alumni of a fraternity, reminiscing about his experience, fearing for his son to join Greek Life.
This hurts the Greek movement. This hurts Phi Kappa Sigma.
This fear, by an alumni of a Fraternity for his son, is one of hundreds, if not thousands, of parent’s concerns. The same fears that I, and all of our chapters have to work with, when meeting a potential. There is something wrong when a potential is told they could qualify for $500 - $5,000 in scholarships, build their resume, and be connected to campus, and they immediately turn the opportunity down when the subject of this particular opportunity being provided by a Fraternity.
Is it because these descriptions aren’t representative of what they perceive Fraternities as?
The older generations have done wonders during their time, holding property, keeping the organization thriving, and creating the various perks from which we all come to benefit. But, the damage is coming from the memories AND from the actions of the current chapters. Keep in mind when you are recruiting, as an undergrad, or meeting potentials, as an alumnus, you will be the person who encourages a guy to stay, or reinforces his idea to leave.
As a last note, don’t lose sight of what is important. Every campus has a Greek week, and/or a homecoming of sorts, and they are great! An awesome exhibit of talent and hard work, but is that what Fraternity is for? Some of the money that my own chapter would spend on homecoming, ranging from several hundred to several thousand, could have been used for something more meaningful. Just because it’s a tradition, doesn’t mean it’s valuable for the organization, or for the members.
Can you actually say, with confidence, that the money paid for during these events will better his experience, or improve him as a person?
Keep in mind, this isn’t your dad’s fraternity. Why continue to do the same events that have only been a tradition for a minor portion of time in the Fraternity’s existence? Change the traditions in to something actually meaningful, and invest in your experience. Not just follow what’s expected.