A Standards Program That Is More Than Standards?

We love empowerment. What if we used a commonly accepted measure of empowerment for our chapters?

The Context

For four years I have facilitated a program called the Undergraduate Inter-Fraternity Institute (UIFI). For four years, my perspective has been challenged and changed at UIFI.

It’s a program designed to enact a sense of urgency and responsibility in our student leaders; it’s a program that encourages our young men and women to be the change they wish to see.

So after 20-something years and 15,000 graduates, why are we still facing the same threat, elimination from college campuses, that we’ve faced for decades?

The Culprit

It would be impossible for me to factually point to any one thing. I have not done research or polled the masses, but I do have a thought. It’s actually something we’ve discussed over at Fraternity Man many times (we have a tag called “Students Rights” regarding the issue of over-programming).

I think it’s our Standards/Assessment/Accreditation Programs

Our standards programs largely came in to being for two reasons:

1. We claim we build better men and women and needed a way to measure such empowerment

2. Liability and fear run our industry, and so creating a system of benchmarks allows us to reduce the number of risky chapters and out-program hazing and drinking (to an extent.)

The unfortunate side of a campus or fraternity’s standards program is that it typically ignores the people of the organization, their aspirations and what they want out of the fraternity experience. These programs regularly hold the lowest performing chapter to the standards of the highest, and they often close as a result.

Take my fraternity for example. A chapter of 10 men will find it nearly impossible to score well on our accreditation program, putting them at risk of probation, re-development or closure. Furthermore, the financial expectations are magnified for smaller chapters, who have fewer resources to make a turnaround and an equal quantity of expectations as a chapter of 100 men.

A key lesson of UIFI is to move past the multitasking expected of our chapter leaders to address serious issues like fraternity men and women regularly dying after a night of “fun.” How can our students do this if their chapter will cease to exist for failing to send 85% of the membership to an alcohol program?

An Idea

This week, on www.fraternityman.com a new post will outline some key tenants to a standards program that meets chapters where they are at, empowers student choice, and will magnify the impact of programs like UIFI.

The best part? A program like this may go into effect at one organization this year! It will incorporate things like Maslow’s Heirarchy of needs, will take into account the regular transitioning of students, volunteers and Fraternity & Sorority Life professionals, and will eliminate red-tape for smaller/poor-performing chapters to make a turnaround.

What ideas have you had for chapter assessment, standards or accreditation programs? Share in the comments.

Check out fraternityman.com this week for the scoop.