Thursday, June 05, 2008

Over the EDGE - Guest Post

We have a guest poster today who has some things to say about the EDGE program and how it is run. He has asked to remain private for now, but he is a person who is "in a position to know" as the news media would say.
The Summer ‘08 Journal has solidified my previous inclinations that EDGE is a waste of money. The Foundation has continually supported this failure, which the fraternity touts as its basic building block in the Leadership Continuum, with over half the funding for the entire program. Last year, they supported this program to the tune of $375,000. The other 3 steps of the Continuum (CLA, Ruck, and Quest to Greece) totaled a Foundation expense of $290,843 combined.

As of Oct 31, 2007 SigEp’s overall retention rate was 49%. Because all first year members (and Chaplains) are supposed to attend EDGE, if the Foundation spends $375,000 a year on these men, we are throwing away at least $191,250 each year. The Foundation won’t be called in front of Congress anytime soon to testify about excess returns on their investment.

EDGE’s goal is to provide “an opportunity to show members that certain things like abusing alcohol and using illegal drugs have no place in a well-balanced life full of ambitions and goals.” While I hope this goal is being realized with at least a few new members, I wish the Foundation would stop using our money to educate men we will never see again. People donate to SigEp because they believe in the experience and impact it can have on brothers for the rest of their lives. I’m sure they’d be very happy to know that their $1,000 check paid for a few soon to be non-members three day, all-inclusive stay at a campground that includes white-water rafting and a high-ropes course.

SigEp’s overall mission is to Build Balanced Leaders for the World’s Communities. How does a one, two, or even three-day EDGE program fit into this mission? New members participate in high-ropes courses that are quite fun. They listen to speakers who have overcome past substance abuse issues, which are interesting and inspiring. However, two months down the road at 10 pm during the first formal, are these new members thinking about the high-ropes course or the addict’s success story? No, they’re concerned with having a good time with their new brothers, which unfortunately in most cases involves drinking copious amounts of alcohol or consuming drugs.

The dirty secret is that EDGE is a program that hides its true agenda behind the false pretense of alcohol and drug abuse education. Its real agenda is to reach new members before the bad habits of their chapters are deeply ingrained in them. This goal is repeatedly discussed in Richmond. The Staff wanted a way to reach all the new members and impress upon them the view that Headquarters is your fun friend. This isn’t completely unreasonable because, admittedly, some chapters’ views of Richmond are incomprehensible and lack substance, but to disguise this agenda under the packaging of alcohol and drug abuse education for the sole reason of using the Foundation’s Tax Deductible contributions is appalling.

I’m struggling to find the benefits of EDGE beyond a few fun days and a sly Press Release. This program needs to be reformed in order to better utilize the money that is blindly given to the Foundation. Drug and Alcohol education is available at every college campus for free. SigEp should team up locally with each of the Universities to take advantage of this service. This way we wouldn’t be wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars and could still reap the benefits of saying we educated our men on the pitfalls of substance abuse. Meanwhile, the money spent on EDGE should be directed toward Recruitment and Member Development. It’s obvious that we have huge problems with both of these sections of our fraternity as evidenced by our 49% retention ratio. If the Foundation spent more of it’s time and money educating our brothers on recruiting quality men and developing them properly, we could increase our retention ratio to well over the 60% goal. This would equate to at minimum an extra 500 members graduating as SigEp’s each year in which the Foundation could call upon for donations. If a quarter of these brothers became Board of Governors members, the Foundation would receive an extra $112,500 in gifts each year. That’s a much better return on investment than losing over $190,000 each year.