4 Critical Steps for Fraternities Nationwide – What Do You Think?

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This month, we have asked our alumni relations partner to give us some insight this month on a few trends that are helping fraternities nationwide innovate and swing the pendulum from suspension to some of the smartest management the Greek community has seen in decades.

In today’s world, the fraternities who are raising the most money, engaging the most alumni and racking up the strongest recruiting classes are NOT those with the best parties or the happiest story. Rather, they’re the fraternities who are asking difficult questions and making huge shifts in the way they manage their chapter houses.

So, what are these chapters doing to make a difference?

1. Going Dry

2. Hiring a Resident Advisor

3. Recruiting Better Men

3. Returning to Core Values and Mission

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1. Going Dry

Before you say it’s impossible, look at the role that alcohol has played in fraternity suspensions. And if you’re thinking this will hurt recruitment, think again. According to Time Magazine, after going dry, Phi Delta Theta grew from 8,500 student members to over 12,000, the average GPA for members has increased from 2.7 to 3.1, and liability insurance costs have dropped by half, from $160 per person per year before 2000, to $80.

Other potential positive outcomes: a cleaner house, less property damage, less risk for sexual assault. According to Campus Safety Magazine, at least 50% of college student sexual assaults are associated with alcohol use, and 90% of acquaintance rapes involve alcohol.

2. Hiring a Resident Advisor

RAs can provide structure, supervision and accountability. RAs in fraternity houses work to foster an environment that promotes the educational experience of residential living and furthers the values of the chapter.

Sigma Nu at UCLA, Sigma Chi at Montana and Kappa Sigma at Ohio State are just examples of chapters who have embraced the house director/resident advisor concept.

3. Recruiting Better Men

New members are the future of every fraternity. The legacy of every chapter, and in a sense every alum, is in their hands while they represent the fraternity on campus. Seek out men who are committed to academic excellence and service to the campus and the community, and who demonstrate a true desire to embrace the values of the fraternity and lead by example. Also, avoid jerks.

4. Returning to Core Values and Mission

Every fraternity’s creed and mission statement were crafted, probably painstakingly, by a group of men with a true dedication to every word and phrase. Our vision is a “Moral Compass for the Modern Gentleman.” What does that really mean? The real benefit of fraternity membership is personal development; maturing into a respectable, service-minded adult, eager to be a leader. If that sounds like hogwash to a new, or even current member, that young man is not right for the fraternity experience. Period.

Brother Ben Irons has an important message for undergraduates today. As the former university attorney for East Carolina University, Purple Legionnaire for East Carolina’s Phi Gamma Delta chapter and current partner in the Greenville-base Irons & Irons law firm, Ben has a unique perspective from which to advise undergrads today. In April, Ben addressed both undergraduate and graduate attendees at the first daylong Phi Delta Theta Carolinas Summit:

“There is the belief that fraternities are not what they say they want to be. We have to do all we can to ensure our men do understand those values and behave in a way that represents those values. We want our young men to be developing character and discipline during their time at the university. We do not want them adopting bad habits and making mistakes that can permanently change the course of their lives. We want them to understand that the atmosphere in which they live doesn’t always encourage right living. We are thankful for these opportunities to help them develop their character and enable them to make the right decisions.”

Change is hard. Yet, it’s also sort of simple. The only thing standing between fraternity men of all ages and decades is themselves and their willingness to make tough but vital decisions.