Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Chapter Size and the "Dunbar Number"

I saw this article in "The New Yorker" and it  got me thinking about chapter size and how 'effective' the college fraternity experience is. The Dunbar number? Generally speaking it is the number of people you call "friends". The article goes into it with more nuance, but lets call it 150 for now.

For years I have maintained (based only on anecdotal observation) that the minimum size of a good chapter is 50 men. Fewer that that and the chapter struggles to fill the operational positions for exec and the support areas.There is also difficulty managing finances (with the inevitable slow- and non-payers). and even fielding competitive intramural teams.

In reading this article I am led to consider whether there is an upward limit as well. Can you really have a full-on 'brotherhood' experience with more than 150 fellow chapter members? Perhaps there s a risk that a 150+ sized chapter will effectively split into multiple "sub-chapters" - groups who stick together and have independent agendas, even to the detriment of stated overall chapter goals and strategic vision. I know there are some 200+ member chapters. How do you keep it real?

Take a look at the article and share your experience and thoughts about it. Did you belong to a large "Sigma Phi Everyone" chapter, or a large chapter of another fraternity? How well did the experience work out. Was your chapter a smaller (100 or less) size? How effectively did you get to know all your brothers and did you work well together?

I'm not purposely leaving out sororities either. However, I suspect that there will be differences based on the presence or absence of a "Y" chromosome. I'd like to hear about it if only to show the contrast. Too many degrees of freedom and the examination gets unwieldy for this non-social scientist.

Lets hear your viewpoint. Comment either on the blog, Google+, or Facebook. I am hoping for some interesting discussion.