Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"Breaking News" Musings

A recent post made reference to some unrest with the National Board of Directors and the Headquarters Staff. First let me give you an almost three decade perspective of what may have precipitated what has happened.

For as long as I can remember we have had a very unorthodox way in which the fraternity operates. First we have the undergraduate chapters who, in spite of the upper bureaucracy, manage to survive and in many instances thrive. Next we have the Headquarters which manages the day to day operations and is supposed to be a support entity for our chapters. And finally, we have the National Board of Directors which has operated more like a self-perpetuating Monarchy rather than the great democracy they claim to be. While there is supposed to be a symbiotic relationship between the three entites, there continues to be a considerable disconnect.

Having attended staff meetings and NBD meetings among other various "conflabs" where the HQ staff does their dog and pony act, it is quite evident that there is considerable smoke blowing by the staff in giving their reports and in interpreting their data so that they spend more time in trying to remain blameless rather than really present an accurate self-study of what is happening. It's basically an HQ CYA show.

Depending on the alpha dominance among board members at any given time determines in part the agenda du jour that august body chooses to champion at any one time. Over the years we have moved away from the typical academic model of fraternalism to the corporate business model. Perhaps a hybrid could work as we do definitely rotate around the encumbrance of the almighty dollar. Our strategic plan has not varied significantly for almost two decades. It's the same old set of tired powerpoints with just a new background and added slide animation. We have become stagnated in our being at the cutting edge of contemporary fraternalism that will meet the needs of an ever changing student population. The needs of today’s millennial generation is much different from that of the baby boomers and generation X.

We have done no in depth data analysis of that. The same tired harpies still haven't learned from our previous experiences with the demographic and attitude shifts we encountered a decade ago. Another issue facing us is the issue of cultural diversity along with the basic demographic parameters. Current data predicts that in the 2008-2009 academic year we will see one of the greatest increases in college enrollment we have had in over two decades. After that we are on another period of decline in available numbers. The cultural diversity of this population is also changing along with the attitudes and needs of this generation. Denial is not just a river in Egypt.

We continue to set our benchmarks based on the performance of our peer fraternities. One must remember that when people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other. And rather than really setting significant benchmarks we only strive to be "better" than our peers. If your peers are mediocre in their vision, when you just barely surpass them you are still mediocre. We as an organization once proffered achievement based on self-evaluation rather than norm comparison.

Our HQ staff has been considered as being unresponsive, non-communicative, and self-preserving. While this is not new, it has truly gotten worse. HQ staff positions are the breeding ground for our inbred bureaucracy and the fact that we had rather self-perpetuate on an almost incestuous level rather than broaden our horizons and let new ideas, organizational, and operational philosophies see the light of day. It is almost like continually watching Wrong Turn or The Hills Have Eyes over and over again. One might say that our way of developing leadership is analagous to the possible offspring of a sexual relationship taken out of Deliverance.

The Sig Ep standard mode of operation is to embark on a idea that is temporal with no long term forecasting or planning. We also generally embark on a project, report its initial success and then forget about it and let it die. We do too much in the now with no objective or evidence-based plan for long term implementation. We are an instant gratification organization.

I plan on commenting more on these talking points in sequel editorials but suffice it to say at this point that you should never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups. I hope I have perked your interest (or your ire) for now and rest assured that I will do my best to further enlighten you on our Monarchy in an upcoming op-ed on avian fornication.