Monday, June 16, 2008

Quality vs. Quantity

Bob Kerr has sent in another article for your consideration. As usual it is excellent and thoughtful material.

In a critical examination of the sustainability of the North American Fraternal Movement, it might be helpful to ascertain some basic facts about the Movement. For me, long have I wondered about the debate between quality versus quantity. I found this distilled to a simple question of are we a collective (quantity) or are we a community (quality). Within that distillation, I see some interesting data points worth examining.

If we can use Dr. Martin Burber’s work on community versus collective, we see these unique differences. Here they are:

Collective   Community
1. Social activities   1. Interpersonal relationships
2. Seeming   2. Being
3. Judgment   3. Empathy
4. Propaganda   4. Education
5. Autocracy   5. Democracy

Pretty striking realities, and sadly enough, an all too familiar landscape.

On my campus, I would say the talk, for the longest time, was “community” but the actions were that of a collective. As chapters pulled endless and increasingly destructive pranks on each other, including the stealing of charters, The end result was an earned reputation of petty criminals that didn’t care what they did but who insisted that they were “just having fun”. A variety of sanctions and rules were developed to reign in this destructive behavior but nothing seemed to change. Then, Vishal Khemlani, a senior Sig Ep at Oregon Alpha had a vision.

He wanted to help those less fortunate than us and build schools, provide drinking water and create mobile health care for the people in underprivileged areas. Thus Karmic Causes was born: An organization whose sole purpose was to direct funds into direct care needs of the global underprivileged. But, he knew he couldn’t do it alone. So a truly wise vision of one man now needed to find a community to help bring it to life.

Fortunately, some very compassionate chapter leaders were willing to reach across organizational lines and launched Sig Stock. This multi chapter-event raised $25,000 in the first time collaboration between Sigma Phi Epsilon, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Sigma Chi and Kappa Sigma. The money was raised for Karmic Causes and will build 3 new schools in an impoverished country and provide one mobile medical unit as well. I would suggest that is community in action.

In this example, no argument was made about quantity or quality. No annual report scrutinized, no field consultant engaged and no alumni involved. Just a group of students who were tired of the same ole, same ole and wanted to make a tangible difference now. My experience suggests there is always urgency to creating and sustaining community. There were also no debates as to who got the credit. I have always found it exciting when a group of people come together and no one is concerned about who gets the credit. So, was it quality or quantity that got Sig Stock off the ground?

Whether you side with “it took quality to conceive it and then quantity to create it” or “it took a community of quality people to breath life into it” at the core of this extraordinary effort was one man with a vision and the faith that others would support the vision. This faith was rewarded by building a bridge between four fraternities who rarely cooperated on anything; much less undertake such an extra-ordinary task. As for me, I believe a quantity of people was raised to quality performance when an opportunity presented itself to them and inspired them to live out the ideals of their individual chapters. So, perhaps it is more about the intent than the starting place?

Imagine if we can that each chapter of each fraternal organization sincerely pursued quality performance in every aspect of operation. Wouldn’t this attract people, both in terms of numbers and in terms of quality to our chapters? Where we were actuality building and sustaining campus Greek communities that were performing at a highly effective manner across the board? If we really are mere collectives, won’t we find it hard to attract authentic quality people but can expect to see such masses attracted to us that we gain in revenue but lose in effectiveness? So, I submit that the issue is to be clear about the intention of the individual. Do they want to pursue excellence or are they looking for a social outlet that will not require much of them so little is given.

If better is possible, good is not enough.” – anonymous

In my experience, I have seen chapters filled with quality men pursuing less than quality endeavors. There was no achievement, no sense of living up to their potential. On the other hand I have seen a chapter of less than quality pedigree

men work towards high achieving goals and earning Outstanding Chapter recognition against chapters 3 times their size. They were clearly focused on their chapter goals and they knew what they had to do to achieve their potential. They effectively pursued their potential and were handsomely rewarded for their work.

Regardless of which side of the debate, quantity or quality, we fall on, it is our intent and our actions that are the final outcome.

Bob Kerr