Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bigger, Better, Best?

Cloak and dagger time, for real...

We received a copy of a rather pointed exchange between two people who are well known to the brotherhood. The substance revolves around the year-end report that was recently released. There is a fundamental disagreement over the strategic direction of the Fraternity. Do we build Chapter Quality by increasing Manpower, or do we build manpower by increasing Chapter Quality?

We are not going to identify the author of these statements, but since we got the information third-hand (at least) we see no reason not to publish them. The excerpts that follow convey the substance of the longer e-mail message
"[...]I'm out here trying to provide a great fraternity experience for young men[...] and the only thing we hear from Richmond is manpower. I would rather have a quality 75 man chapter than a 100 man chapter with 25 deadbeats tearing down the morale of the other 75. That's not the message we get from Richmond...100 men is better than 75 men."

"[...]when I reported that "YYYY Omega" was selected as chapter of the year I heard from one HQ staffer the next day asking "when can we expect them to be over 100 men?" There seems to be this mystical number of 100 that in some minds justifies that a chapter is good or bad if they exceed this number."
[...]
"When I speak with Greek Life professionals and talk of the national organization I get the comment that ... "oh SigEp is just about numbers." I'm on a committee at "XXXX University" interviewing candidates to fill the vacant IFC advisor position and the topic of numbers came up again Sunday night during an interview. My fraternity has the reputation among Greek life professionals that numbers are the most important thing....not the undergraduate experience....that hurts."
[...]
"I understand that next year the NLC (and Staff) wants to reduce the number of CLAs available for our chapters and make the cost of additional members to attend to be so much we can't afford to send beyond the minimum."
[...]
"Last Spring my AVCs were able to send a total of 18 men to CLA from "XXXX" and 9 from "YYYY". These guys came back to the chapter and made changes to improve their chapters. It pays off.....both "XXXX Omega" and "YYYY Omega" were chapter of the year on their campus. Take away the ability for me to send young future leaders to CLA to see the big picture and my chapters will suffer."
[...]
"We celebrate and note the chapters who have big numbers but where is the celebration for being the best on their campus? I reported to HQ both "XXXX Omega" and "YYYY Omega" as winning the most outstanding fraternity honor this year on their campus. Did either chapter get a letter from the national organization about their accomplishment? Is there a place on the national website where I can see the chapters who excelled on their campuses? Are we even collecting that information? Many of us have resorted to reporting this information to the Blog because that is the only celebration of brotherhood outlet we have."
What is obvious to this spectator is that longtime volunteers and Headquarters often find they are at odds with each other. I doubt that comes as a "newsflash" to anyone who has ever worked for the fraternity in either a paid or volunteer capacity. The fact that this man, even as frustrated as he is, continues to tilt at the windmills and encourages the men he works with to do their best for the Principals - and succeeds at it - is little short of a miracle. He and the men like him at all our chapters are the men that will show the next generation how to make a virtuous, diligent, and loving transition into adulthood. With any luck they will be prepared to make choices that will leave this world, if not a better place, at least less worse off than they found it.

We need to have the debates. We need to argue and get mad and struggle through it anyway because what we believe in is worth it. Do we want to be the best fraternity because we are the biggest? Or the biggest because we are the best? It seems fundamentally like a "Heart vs. Head" question.