Many people will argue that fraternities and sororities promulgate the idea of elitist organizations which lead to a divisive campus. However the reality is that fraternities need to be selective for two reasons – that the reputation and brand management of an organization is its most valuable asset, and that the lifetime commitment of a fraternity requires a selective process in order to gain the finest members
Although concerns regarding exclusiveness are somewhat founded, fraternities are a natural extension of the inclination of people to gather themselves into groups. Since it is a natural extension, fraternities are doing nothing more than what would happen organically except for the fact that it formalizes the bond the individuals share. Think about any campus – or any group of people for that matter. People naturally unite themselves under common interests, goals, and hobbies. Even within these groups, further division occurs into executive boards and active bodies. Drilling down even more into these sub-groupings, we find “cliques” of individuals who are closer to one another than to others. While this may seem obvious, I want to make the point that no matter what, people will divide themselves into groups naturally. Yet, critics point to fraternities and sororities as the main “divisive” forces on campuses. I can’t say why this occurs, but I assume negative experiences with Greek Life attribute to this view. Of course, every group has people who are disliked and who act out of line (which will be touched on later in this blog), but the actions of a few individuals are definitely not reasons why a fraternity should not exist (in the same way that the actions of a few religious radicals should not deem a religion unnecessary). Greek life unites individuals under shared values in a formalized way – this is the very reason for its existence. These shared values drive the organization forward and allow students to accomplish things they would normally not do.
Secondly, fraternities must be selective. Corporations spend huge percentages of their budgets every year on recruiting and training. Why? Because recruiting new members and training them properly is the single most important activity of any corporation. This stems from the fact that the reputation of any company is of utmost important. For instance, the BP oil spill tarnished the reputation of BP and hence will hurt its profits for years to come. Realize how fragile this reputation is – just one bad action can cause extremely deleterious effects on any chapter. For example, if a fraternity recruits a member who is arrested for selling drugs or who physically assaults another student on campus, the whole fraternity is brought under the spotlight. Newspapers covering the story will affiliate the member with his fraternity (especially if it occurs at a Greek party), and this will destroy the reputation of that chapter for a long time. This is why fraternities and corporations must be so selective. As an organization, you want to recruit the best and brightest – the ones who will bring acclaim and positive attributes to your organization. As a natural extension, the recruiting processes must weed out those who are “bad seeds.”
However, another angle exists here. A commitment to a fraternity is a lifetime choice. The gravity of this decision is properly conveyed through an intensive recruiting and training process. If the process was not selective, then individuals would consider the membership as a casual commitment rather than a serious one.
In closing, it is true that fraternities are disparate groups of men. It is true that fraternities are selective. But they must be in order to fulfill their purpose. Just because a fraternity is by definition a group of men does not mean that this definition requires an intolerant attitude. I hope that fraternity men reading this will always strive to be unifying forces on every campus and in every community.
This blog post was originally published by Brother Ehson Afshar on September 27th, 2010.