Thursday, June 05, 2008

Another opinion on EDGE

We have another point of view on the question of whether EDGE is worthwhile. In the interest of equal coverage we are treating it as a guest post as well...

I have to disagree almost entirely with the previous post in regards to EDGE being a waste of money.

First of all, the numbers that were used in the article do not support the conclusions that were reached. The article mentions that the foundation spends $375,000 on the EDGE program and that our overall retention rate is at 49%. While these numbers are likely true, it is flawed to then draw the conclusion that half of the people that attend EDGE do not stay members of the fraternity.

The article states that all first year members are supposed to attend EDGE and then extends the words "supposed to" to suggest that all first year members do actually attend EDGE. I have either been a facilitator or been in charge of 10 of the EDGE programs that have taken place around the country. It would be great to have every new member from every chapter in a region in which EDGE is being held in attendance. However, I have never seen this happen. There is no correlation present to suggest that half of those that attend EDGE drop out of the fraternity. I haven't seen any data that compiles a ratio of number of people that attend EDGE to graduation rates. Until such numbers are compiled, I think it is nothing more than inaccurate guessing to reach the conclusion that half of the new members that attend EDGE drop the fraternity and are therefore contributing to a $191,250 "waste."

The article is correct in stating that the overall budget for EDGE is more than the combined totals for the other elements of the leadership continuum. The article fails to mention that the EDGE program is the only one of the four leadership continuum programs that is free to all first year students that attend. The programming of the Carlson Leadership Academies is primarily driven toward members on the executive committees of their chapters. Conclave can be attended by any undergrad who wants to attend and is able to pay the price of attendance. Fewer that 20 students are able to attend the Tregos Quest to Greece Program. Whereas price tags and perhaps intellectual and leadership elitism are, or can be, obstacles to attending the three other areas of the Leadership Challenge, the EDGE program is free and available for every undergrad member of the fraternity to attend at least once within their years as a college student. I am proud to see something offered from a national perspective that is free and available for all undergraduates to participate in.

The article is also correct in mentioning that part of the EDGE programming focuses on alcohol education. This is achieved through a program called Choices. The program doesn't tell our brothers not to drink, as this is an immediate turn off for most college students. Rather, it focuses on having a discussion among fraternity brothers about the consequences when smart choices are not made. It is a program of education and smart decision making, not of prohibition.

The question is asked as to how the EDGE fits into the overall mission of Building Balanced Leaders for the World's Communities. The programming that goes on during EDGE is not all about alcohol and drug abuse, even though alcohol and drug abuse education are essential to the development of balanced leaders. In fact, those topics are only 1/5 of the overall topics that are covered by facilitators and volunteers from across the country. Other topics that are discussed in detail are Leadership Challenge, SigEp Values, Personal Strategic Planning, and Understanding SigEp.

Among other things, these sessions give undergraduate members an opportunity to discuss the characteristics and traits of persons willingly followed, understand SMART goals and develop their own SMART goals, develop a personal strategic map that allows them to detail where they want to be in the next four years and beyond, focus and discuss the areas of personal strategic planning, list and discuss the core values of Sigma Phi Epsilon, and have discussions with their brothers on how SigEp's core values are relevant to and can be used to foster and support the development of their own personal strategic plan.

As for the white water rafting, high ropes courses, and other events, there is no doubt that these events are fun and enjoyable. The challenge courses are usually comprised of a debrief session that allows for discussions to occur on teamwork and communication. It has been really neat to see the undergraduates take the skills learned in a situation that seems as simple as trying to get their entire team across a tight-wire that is surrounded with "lava" and apply that to tasks that they do in their own chapter such as working on a philanthropy together, or maybe building a homecoming float. Not all of the events have a debrief session that focuses on leadership or teamwork. Some of the events that take place, be it playing basketball, football, water rafting or whatever, are done purely for fun. This is a great opportunity for the men to get to know people from other chapters and to begin to experience brotherhood beyond their local chapter. And from a facilitator's perspective, it is a great chance to break up the other sessions with something more fun and active for the guys. Plus, there is a lot of value in getting together this many brothers to have fun and enjoy themselves in a manner that doesn't involve alcohol.

The article also makes the statement that the "real agenda is to reach new members before the bad habits of their chapters are deeply ingrained in them." If this statement were true, it would mean two things: 1.) A lot of our chapters are "bad" and that only "bad" chapters are encouraged to attend EDGE and 2.) Having an "agenda" to dissipate or change bad habits is bad in itself. The first item can't be true. Many of the best chapters across the country attend the EDGE programs every year. And for that matter, I don't think we have that many "bad" chapters ingraining "bad" habits. Certainly there are some out there, and I don't think that is up for debate. But even if one of the agenda items of the EDGE program was to correct things that are counter to the principles of our fraternity, would that be a bad agenda? I don't think it would. I think it would be an agenda that is in align with what the educational foundation and headquarters should be doing.

Additionally, the article mentions that the money that is used for EDGE should be directed toward Recruitment and Member Development. Whether money from the Educational Foundation can be used for recruitment is a topic that I'm not entirely familiar with. My thoughts are that there are legal obstacles in place that would prevent tax deductible money being used in that fashion. I can, however, say that EDGE is member development. As I mentioned before, the men that attend are getting training in the areas of leadership development, values, and personal strategic planning. If that isn't member development, then I don't know what is.

Lastly, the article mentions that more time and money spent on development of members would lead to more men becoming members of the Board of Governors and thus donating more money each year. There's no doubt that more men joining the fraternity could lead to more members becoming Board of Governor Donors, and that would be a wonderful thing.

As a Board of Governor's member myself, I will conclude with saying that I am very proud of the EDGE programs across the country and that I am as equally happy and willing to continue donating to the Educational Foundation for my money to be spent on programs such as EDGE.

-kt