Day 25: “We can’t just initiate anyone. We have to have some standards.”

The following is a guest post from Director of Risk Reduction Fred Dobry.  Fred is a former Leadership Consultant for the General Fraternity staff.

Most chapters rely solely on their new member program to weed out those individuals who shouldn’t be initiated into the Fraternity.  I have heard many times of chapters extending bids to anyone who expresses interest and then relying on the new member program to expel those who shouldn’t be invited to join the chapter.

Instead of wasting the chapter’s time and resources conducting a new member program for individuals who shouldn’t have received a bid for membership in the first place, why not increase your recruitment standards?  Why else would so many chapters have a 50% or worse retention rate?

I know there are cases where Candidates “slip through the cracks” and turn out to be different from what they portrayed during recruitment.  Yes, that will happen and yes, the chapter should remove those Candidates.  Candidates should be removed for their inability to uphold the standards expected of all members of the chapter.  However, that should never exceed 10% of the Candidate class; otherwise  your chapter’s recruitment program needs some serious improvement.

Now you might be saying “our chapter has a great values-based recruitment program and still has a retention rate around 60%.”  This should be a clear indicator that your new member education program needs an overhaul, including the elimination of some questionable activities.  New members usually quit because there is a difference between the actual chapter operations and what they were told when they were recruited.  For example, a potential new member was likely told by a chapter member during recruitment, “Sigma Nu was founded against hazing so you know that you won’t have to deal with hazing in our chapter.”  Meanwhile, the chapter requires Candidates to endure numerous arbitrary acts of hazing.  This difference between perception and reality is a common reason for leaving the chapter, and those who leave under these circumstances would likely have been model brothers.

The new member program is not a time for a Candidate to prove he belongs (you never stop proving yourself).  That should be done through recruitment and beyond.  The new member program is a time to provide Candidates with knowledge and experience necessary to uphold the standards expected of the initiates (e.g. pay your financial dues, attend chapter events, get involved on-campus, etc…).

This post is part of a series dedicated to providing answers to common excuses for hazing.  The #40Answers in 40 Days campaign aims to promote National Hazing Prevention Week (September 20 – 25, 2010) and to ultimately create the definitive collection of crowdsourced knowledge to eliminate hazing.

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