No matter where I am at with my travels for the Fraternity, when I am talking to a chapter about their new member process, they always say something along the lines of, “The goal of our new member process is to ensure our new members are one with each other and operate as their own chapter within the chapter.” When I hear something like that, I typically think to myself, “What does that even mean, like you want them to form a clique within your chapter?” Now, I am not going to act naïve and say that I don’t know what their aim is by saying something like that, but more often than not, the result the chapter is trying to achieve by making their new member class “one” is counterintuitive to what actually occurs. More often than not, that concept that a lot of chapters beat the drum to creates a plethora of issues for them long term, and members don’t even notice because by the time they would be able to understand the negative impact it has on their chapter they are more than likely graduating, perpetuating the cycle. Those issues tend to create cliques within the chapter and a lack of interest in meeting members outside of their new member class unless it is forced upon them. It forces inorganic relationships among the groups because they are forced to learn everything about a certain new member counterpart, all of which creates a culture of apathy in far too many cases. In reality, the goal should be to have your new members become “one” with the chapter and its overall mission and goals. That is how you set your members and chapter up for success. Let’s talk about relationships, which is at the root of this concept of being “one” and being their own “Fraternity within the Fraternity.”
Cliques – The Fraternity Within the Fraternity
The fraternity within the fraternity concept is one of those concepts that is good in theory, but does not materialize into anything but burnout, apathy, and sometimes academic decline. When a chapter makes their new member class run their own events and conduct their own activities as if it is going to teach them everything they need to know about running the fraternity, it is just absurd. Can you really expect a group of men who are more than likely just trying to figure out college, coupled with this new fraternity experience that they just joined, to execute at a high level? You can’t. At that point they are going to feel overworked and burned out. Do you think that is going to make them a go-getter in the chapter or someone who feels like initiation is the finish line? Probably the latter. Now, I am not saying that it’s a bad idea for your chapter to have the new members hold similar positions within the new member class that mirror the chapter’s leadership and organizational structure. That can actually be productive if done right in the form of shadowing their counterpart within the chapter. Check out the blog on New Member Shadowing to learn more about making that a productive component to your new member process. Other than that, the whole fraternity within a fraternity concept is often poorly executed and provides little value.
An important component to everything I am mentioning has to do with forming relationships, so let’s take a look at that.
Relationships – A Two-Way Street
If you’re one of the members that says, “Well how are the new members going to get to know each other if we make that less prevalent in their new member process?” then I would say you need to understand how relationships form. Developing a relationship is something that must be worked on throughout time and does not happen in two weeks, four weeks, six weeks, or eight weeks. Rather than forcing your new member class to get to know each other in an unproductive way, the intent should be to have them get to know everyone in the chapter that they are joining including the individuals in the new member class as best as they possibly can. If you are a 100-man chapter, it is going to be very difficult for your new members to meet everyone in the chapter and truly get to know them in the small time frame that is new member education. Additionally, relationship development is a two-way street. It takes initiative from both the initiated members and the new members to achieve. Initiated members should take the lead on wanting to learn about the newest members of their organization. The bigger concept here is that relationships take time. The moment you try to force feed a relationship, it will more than likely not work out. That is just the way it is. Relationships typically happen organically, but you should encourage all members (both new and initiated) to engage each other during chapter events, school events or just on their own. Now that’s initiative.
So, if you’re a current executive member or new member educator reading this and want to change to encompass a more holistic approach to onboarding, what should you do if your chapter currently promotes a culture with the new member class of being “one”? Just get rid of it. Get rid of the negative activities and messaging within your new member process that promotes that type of culture and don’t listen to the vocal minority who may think otherwise. Remember, you bid these new members to be an integral part of your chapter moving forward, so the goal should be to make them feel “one” with the greater whole, the chapter. If your chapter can foster a culture around being holistically “one” you are bound to see a tremendous impact on the morale and closeness of your brotherhood.
To ensure that your new member program reflects a quick and modern onboarding process and help drive the idea of being one with the entire chapter, be sure to check out the New Member Education handbook and the onboarding curriculum located in the myPIKE Resource Center. Also, be sure to check out complementary blog posts to this one, Eight-Week vs. Four-Week New Member Education Programs and the Purpose of New Member Education.
Devon T. TeixeiraDirector of Membership Development