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Understanding and Supporting Open Expansion

Daniel Greenebaum, Coordinator of IFC Services
North-American Interfraternity Conference

In preparation for Halloween last year, the manager of the general store in Collegetown was trying to decide which candy to sell. Bill sent a letter to multiple candy distributors expressing his need. Several sent back similar forms to allow him to order candy at comparable prices. However, the distributor who sold peanut M&Ms© also sent a large cardboard cutout of the yellow M&Ms© character from their television commercials. Since Bill was worried that he really only had room for one kind of candy, and peanut M&Ms© put on the best show, he decided to carry their candy. For months after Halloween, Bill listened to his customers complain. It turned out that a lot of kids in town were allergic to peanuts, so they weren’t able to eat any candy. On top of that, a lot of kids would eat the M&Ms©, but complained that they weren’t very good, or even stopped after a few and never touched them again. Bill knew something had to change.

After having different distributors reach out to express interest in selling their candy in his store, Bill worked with the National Board of Distributors to create a plan where everyone could be successful. He would add new candy to his stock in a timeline that fit the needs of the distributors while supporting the needs of his customer base. If the new candy didn’t sell, Bill and the distributor would re-evaluate the option to restock in the future. Each candy that did sell was kept in addition to other established stock candies, as well as new candy each year. In this way, Collegetown’s Halloween inventory helped every kid in town have the candy she/he wanted without wasting store space on excess stock.

One misperception of the NIC’s Policy on Open Expansion is that we advocate for campuses to throw open the gates to every fraternity interested in joining the campus community at once. The reality is that no one is served by a chaotic clamoring for potential members. Making inter/national fraternities participate in an extensive expansion process might seem like an effective way to select new chapters for campus, but the best “cardboard cutout” doesn’t necessarily indicate an organization’s fit for the community. By allowing every inter/national fraternity a chance to succeed on campus in a timely manner, advisors and administrators can grow the size of the community, without forcing students to choose from a small selection of options.

Why does the NIC support open expansion? The 73 NIC member organizations all agree that expansion will enhance the fraternity community when it is done freely and in collaboration with the institution. The inter/national organization and the institution are partners in the expansion effort and neither wants to fail. When we switch our thinking from the selection process to one where organizations work with the IFC and other campus partners to find opportunities for success, we can see how open expansion creates an environment for continuous growth.
The IFC can lead the charge in creating such an environment by following these key steps:

  • Develop governing documents that support the idea of open expansion and remove any extensive selection processes. The open expansion section should simply state that “The IFC will support the open expansion of NIC member organizations.”
  • As member organizations show an interest in the campus, the IFC can begin to collaborate with them to determine a strategy that will help them be successful. This strategy could potentially focus on recruitment timing or other key areas relevant to the success of the new fraternity.
  • Create a fact sheet that illustrates the number of men on campus, the statistics of fraternity membership, and recruitment statistics. These facts will help initiate an honest dialogue between the inter/national organization and campus professionals/IFC about the areas of success and potential struggles.
  • Facilitate conversations within IFC meetings about the idea of open expansion to eliminate “knee jerk” fears associated with the concept. Existing fraternity men have a tendency to fear expansion because it could reduce the number of men interested in joining; the new fraternity could “steal” the best men; or, the current community is comfortable as-is. In fact, expansion has repeatedly proven to increase interest in fraternities, to empower existing organizations to think differently about recruitment tactics, and to bring men who never saw the fraternity community as relevant into membership. Expansion will not kill the IFC because it actually breathes new life into the membership.
  • Refrain from voting on recognizing new fraternities, but instead welcome them openly and automatically into the IFC. The IFC should welcome the new fraternity into the council because of the opportunity to include them within the guidelines, policies, and practices of the IFC. When a new fraternity stands outside the council, they are able to operate outside council standards and policies, and can damage the reputation of the community as a whole, with no accountability.

True open expansion generally follows one of three paths:

  • The inter/national organization identifies a campus it believes fits their values and growth plan. The organization will express interest to the campus. The local IFC will then work with the organization to determine a schedule/plan that is mutually beneficial while still allowing all interested groups a chance to succeed on the campus.
  • A campus realizes the need for new inter/national fraternities and reaches out to the NIC to communicate the opportunity to its members. Those that are interested will initiate the same process as outlined in the previous scenario. This may involve an expansion calendar to facilitate an organized and fair process for all of the interested organizations.
  • Men on campus come together to create an interest group that seeks recognition from an inter/national fraternity not currently represented on campus. Since this scenario does not generally require the inter/national organization to come in and recruit as in the previous two, the group should be allowed to colonize and earn their charter in the same manner as existing colonies. Students must be empowered to lead and create new opportunities for association. Interest groups should be guided by the same policy as a group of students seeking to form a new club on campus.

Ultimately, every fraternity on every campus started with a group of men coming together and choosing to be called by the letters they represent. If our history had played out differently and an IFC or college/university official had stood in the way of that recognition, many fraternities would not exist today. The IFC, institution, and inter/national fraternities must unite around the common goal of success by supporting one another in the collaborative effort of advancing the fraternity community. When the IFC and university promote a strategy based on mutual success, the whole community will benefit from the opportunity for open expansion.

Let’s Pick Costumes. Not Cultures: Cultural Appropriation in Fraternity & Sorority Communities

Devin Hall, Coordinator of IFC Services
North-American Interfraternity Conference

With Halloween right around the corner, individuals are lining up at costume stores to pick out this year’s outfit. Should I be Fred Flintstone or Darth Vader? Should I go to the party as a sexy animal or cast member from Friends? The brainstorming has begun. Oftentimes, our costume reflects the events or parties we plan on attending. As we enter this fun-filled season of pumpkins and costumes, it is important that we reflect on choices and how they may impact those around us.

Fraternity and sorority communities have been under the spotlight for decades related to the culture of organizations and heteronormative environments. We host social event that are themed around holidays, university traditions, organization history, or celebratory milestones. Too often, when selecting social event themes, organizations have walked the line of creating an environment for cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation refers to a “particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.”
Viewed as funny, ironic, trendy, or an opportunity to be retweeted by TFM, dressing up as a Native American, painting oneself with blackface, or dressing as a homeless person is not only offensive behavior, but also correctable.

This blog post will discuss ways in which an Interfraternity Council can take the necessary steps to ensure that member organizations make responsible decisions regarding event themes, costumes, and social media that reflect their values and morals. Our goal is for fraternities to avoid promoting concepts that reinforce historical stereotypes and mock or offend various cultures, races, ethnicities, or identities.

Diversity Education
The first step to creating a safe and welcoming environment is educating your peers about diversity and inclusion. How often does your community facilitate educational programs that include conversations about diversity? If you have not already, introduce the concept of cultural appropriation as a next-level discussion topic. It is important that your community finds opportunities to learn about cultural competencies, and encourages members to reflect on how their actions or words can be insulting to other individuals, including brothers and sisters in your own community. Awareness is not enough; understanding and incorporation into personal behavior is critical.
Here are some educational programming tips:

  • Collaborate with campus partners to help facilitate the conversation. This topic can be difficult, so reach out to individuals on campus who specialize in supporting marginalized groups. Professional staff in offices focused on multicultural, LGBTQ, and women’s issues and services are a great start.
  • Bring national conversations to your community. Reflect on a recent incidents like at the University of California, Los Angeles, and ask peers how sharing these lived experiences can improve accountability and provide learning opportunities for members.
  • Bring a trained educational speaker to campus. Research individuals who specialize in diversity and speak to an identity your community may be interested in learning more about.
  • Share this education infographic from Intervarsity with council officers, chapter leadership, and social chairs: http://greek.intervarsity.org/sites/greek/files/partyflow900px.jpg

Selecting an Inclusive Social Event
Now that you have provided a foundation in diversity education, it is time to empower your chapter leadership to ensure their organizations are planning inclusive events. Inclusive events are welcoming to and respectful of the individuals that make up a campus’s diverse community. Often, party themes are discussed and decided up on in the vacuum of a chapter meeting. Groupthink often plays a role: individual members recognize an issue with a theme but do not speak up, assuming someone else will, or that there could be retaliation for challenging the idea. Other times, members simply do not recognize a theme as wrong or inappropriate. We need to encourage fraternity men to acknowledge that cultural appropriation is real and needs to be addressed.
Here are some tips to ensure members make respectful decisions:

  • Facilitate a conversation with fraternity presidents about how they would respond if their organization was hosting a culturally insensitive event. What steps would they take to ensure that the event does not take place? Do they see the event as culturally appropriate or respecting others’ traditions?
  • Educate chapters about possible repercussions associated with promoting an inappropriate or discriminatory theme. What are their inter/national organization’s policies, or those of the institution? Does IFC have a policy and procedure in place to hold chapters accountable?
  • Theme parties are often glorified by TFM and TSM, in music videos, and they make major news headlines. This publicity is not what your chapter/organization needs or wants. Show the world what fraternities value by respecting differences and celebrating culture.

Social Event Registration
How does the IFC on your campus ensure member organizations are hosting responsible programing? One of the ways to prevent potentially risky program themes is for the IFC to approve social events that take place in its community. Do you know where chapters are hosting events? How about the themes or name of their parties? These days, parties have their own social media presence (i.e.  #RedWhite&BetterThanYou #KanyeWesten #Back2BackWorldChamps). Have you thought about the impact of cultural insensitivity on individuals who follow you on social media?
Here are some social event registration recommendations:

  • Have chapters register social events by submitting date, location, description of event (theme or title), entertainment description.
  • Discuss responsible social media promotion with your chapters. If a party must have its own hashtag, ensure it is not derogatory, discriminatory, or vulgar.
  • Remind organizations that they must uphold University, council, and organization policies. Create a form that acknowledges the chapter will take full responsibility of the event and will follow all state and city laws, University policies and guidelines, as well as inter/national fraternity and sorority policies.
  • Remind chapters that they are required to monitor the behavior of individuals at their event, ensuring member and guest safety and wellbeing.
  • Ensure that all social event registration information is submitted with the social chair and organization president’s signatures with date signed.

In order to improve our collective image, we need to empower our members to make decisions that represent the values and standards of our organizations. It is your responsibility as a leader in IFC to hold your peers accountable for the decisions they make. Let’s be on CNN for raising millions of dollars for a children’s hospital, not for painting our skin or wearing sombreros to mock another individual’s culture.

We must be the change we want to see in the fraternal community. To learn more about what’s wrong with cultural appropriation, follow this link. For more information about diversity programming, cultural appropriation, or social event regulations, please contact your Coordinators of IFC Services at the North-American Interfraternity Conference at ifc@nicfraternity.org.

From Leaders to Mentors: Impact of Peer Mentorship on Leadership Development

By Devin Hall, Coordinator of IFC Services
North-American Interfraternity Conference

When we think about leaders, we often reflect on historical figures who have made an influential impact on society or have somehow contributed to a greater cause. How often do we reflect on the leaders on our campus? Do we appreciate the talent and commitment our peers have on the fraternity and sorority community? Leadership is built on trust, understanding, and integrity among other things. These valuable characteristics can be found in your campus community. Our peers can provide guidance and knowledge based on their lived experiences, accomplishments, and opportunities for growth. Now how do we get our fellow leaders to become mentors?
This blog post will discuss the benefits of establishing peer mentor relationships within your campus community. I will use Komives’s et al. (2006) theory on leadership identity development to articulate the importance of peer mentor relationships. The Leadership Identity Development model is a linear process where individuals transition through phases of development. College students are often developing between stage three, leadership identified, and stage four, leadership differentiated.  During these two stages, an important component to students’ development is the interaction and influence of others. By fostering meaningful mentor relationships with peers, students can have a positive effect on group membership and leadership development.
What are the benefits?

  • Providing an opportunity for students to connect with peers about goals and leadership aspirations.
  • Relating to diverse peers in a greater community is essential to interpersonal skill development.
  • Older peers provide support as sponsors or role models to help students transition through stages of leadership identity development.

What does it take to be a mentor?

  • Mentors can be anyone who identifies as a leader in your campus community.
  • Students who currently hold or have previously held campus, council, or chapter leadership positions are ideal.
  • Mentors have knowledge and experience to share with others, and have made an impact on your campus community.

Does our mentor relationship have to be structured/formalized?

  • The mentor/mentee relationship should be defined by the participants. Some people thrive in a structured program where others feel confined by boundaries. It is important that individuals be transparent about what they hope to gain from this relationship.
  • Structured relationships will identify weekly or biweekly meetings to discuss upcoming events, leadership opportunities, and goal setting. Make the relationship as platonic as possible. Meet over lunch or coffee and gear the conversation toward building a partnership on trust and understanding.
  • Semi-structured relationships will meet less regularly. This relationship will look much more fluid. As leadership positions open up, perhaps the two individuals will meet to discuss qualifications and go over goals. A semi-structured relationship can make it more difficult to build that well developed partnership piece, so transparency is important. Make sure both participants are finding value and growth from the experience.

What can a mentor learn from a mentee?

  • The mentee is not the only one who grows from this experience. Leadership is a two way street.
  • Mentors can gain valuable insight into their own leadership style through reflection and/or feedback from the mentee.
  • The opportunity allows for cultural competence development through diverse interactions.

How can our campus support mentor relationships?

  • The first step is finding an opportunity to facilitate this conversation among council leadership and university administrators. The fraternity and sorority life staff can help identify seasoned and emerging leaders in the community who can benefit from a mentor/mentee relationship. The next step is creating an application or formalized process to effectively pair mentors with a mentee based on a matrix of skills and interests.
  • How do we pair people? Connect individuals with different lived experiences and from different councils, if possible.  As mentioned above, people grow as they relate to their diverse peers.

This blog starts the conversation on the impact mentorship can have on leadership development. Relationships are a key aspect of fraternity and sorority communities and it is important that there are ample opportunities for these relationships to take place.
Be sure to check out Futures Quest, a leadership program that connects fraternity men who have joined their organization within the past two years with peer mentors from institutions across the country. Peer mentors are undergraduates, from fraternities and sororities, who have held leadership positions on their campus, and want to share their experiences and perspective to help develop future generations of fraternity and sorority leaders.  The focus of the weekend is identifying personal strength and challenges, developing leadership and communication skills, exploring personal values and strength of conviction, and making a commitment to fraternal ideals.
Want to be a peer mentor for Futures Quest? Click the following link: https://nicfraternity.org/mentor-application.html
For more information on building a mentor/mentee program for your campus, contact your Coordinator of IFC Services, Dan Greenebaum or Devin Hall.

Komives, S. R., Longerbeam, S. D., Owen, J. E., Mainella, F. C., Osteen, L. (2006). A leadership      identity development model: Applications from a grounded theory. Journal of College       Student Development, 47(4), 401-418.

Open Recruitment – The Role of IFC

Daniel Greenebaum, Coordinator of IFC Services
North-American Interfraternity Conference

Recruitment, it is one of the most important roles for IFCs around the country.  What do I do? How do I get struggling chapters more involved? How structured is too structured?   To kick off our standards series in the blog this year, we would like to focus on the role IFC has to play in recruitment, how that relates to the NIC Standards and some traps to avoid when thinking about maximizing your success.

The role of IFC is to advocate on behalf of the fraternity experience.  In relation to recruitment, that means that IFC should be focusing on cultivating interest in the fraternity experience on their campus. That’s it – nothing more, and nothing less. Understanding and communicating this expectation is the most important step for any IFC, as it clearly defines the scope of their work. IFC should be helping to facilitate the recruitment process, and in doing so, should take care to ensure that the recruitment process is in alignment with NIC Standards, which call for the following:

Open Recruitment – Defined as the ability of undergraduate chapters and qualified, interested men to enter into an agreement on membership at a time that is in their collective best interest.  Simply put: The ability to recruit any male, at any time.

Commonly asked questions for “IFC Recruitment”:
Q: Does reserving a period of time for IFC Recruitment, during which chapters may not hold events, violate this standard?
Not at all. If the IFC wants to increase interest from high quality potential new members, that is good. With pooled resources you can increase PR for that event, to drive interest for chapter recruitment. In addition, presenting all of the options for men to join might open the door for a man who does not like the first chapter he visits, to consider a second.
Q: How structured is too structured?
Having an IFC recruitment period to organize the start of recruitment can be beneficial In preventing confusion for potential new members Chapters should be allowed to function in the manner they feel will attract the types of men they are looking for. Don’t mandate who can or cannot receive a bid based on their attendance to events or other arbitrary criteria. As far as the NIC is concerned, there are two rules to enforce:

  •  Enforcement of a minimum GPA for membership – NIC Standards call for a minimum GPA of a 2.5 GPA(high school GPA if college GPA is not established) in order to be eligible for membership. This requirement is critical in helping aid in the academic success of both men and Member Fraternities.
  • Prohibition of alcohol and drug use during recruitment activities – There is no place for drugs and alcohol in the recruitment and new member education process. Recruiting with alcohol creates mismatched expectations and can lead to later behavioral challenges within a chapter and community. Removing alcohol from recruitment allows chapters to recruit men who are looking for a fraternity experience that is more than a social experience.

Recruitment is a responsibility of both the IFC and chapters on campus. There is no “one size fits all answer”, so don’t feel like you need to solve it in your first semester, or even that you’ve failed if it isn’t perfected by the time your term ends. Bringing in new members to your community is vital to the success of the next generation of greeks and members believe in your abilities enough to entrust you with it. Be confident. If something isn’t working say so. If you ever feel like you’re struggling or like you struck gold with your solution to a problem, I encourage you to reach out. The Coordinators of IFC Services, are here to provide the help you need. We are always learning and by sharing what you’ve figured out, you could give us a resource to utilize to help another campus with the same problem.

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