fraternity idiot

This question was submitted by one of our readers. If you have a question you want me to answer go here to submit it: Fraternity Advice.

Question:

What should I (or the fraternity) do about a member who doesn’t care about image and how he comes across? I could really care less about how he feels his actions affect him but when it’s detrimental to the fraternity, that’s where me and my president have issues. We have both talked to him but he continues to shrug it off and say that it’s not a big issue and that it’s his choices to make.


Answer:

I’m going to address this assuming a couple of things.

1) That you have already tried the subtle man to man conversation

2) That appropriate warnings and other informal actions have been taken
It sounds that way. Sometimes, brothers are unresponsive to informal approaches. They don’t see a tangible consequence or feel enabled to continue their behaviors. It is much like disciplining students in a classroom. We want to correct behaviors, so we must make those behaviors result in negative consequences that are undesirable.
With your situation, this brother’s conduct is going to have effects in a few areas of your operations. You will have recruiting issues because prospects will look at him and assume that he represents the rest of the chapter.

Other Greeks will look at him the same way, causing issues when planning socials and interacting with the rest of your Greek community. Administrators will look at his actions and take steps with him, or your chapter, to address the issue. However, this is not a good thing in that it takes the consequences and the process out of your control. If you hope to address it internally, this cannot happen.

Administrators look favorably upon chapters that can handle their business internally well enough to not clutter their schedules with knuckle-head stuff. Not knowing your specific chapter and your traditions, I’m going to briefly outline a few options you may have:

1) Your internal judicial process
– Conduct Unbecoming is a catch all for behaviors that jeopardize the integrity of the fraternity. If the informal approach hasn’t worked, this might be the next logical step.

2) Address the behavior in a chapter meeting
– This does not have the same tangible power as option one, but putting on a meeting agenda and addressing it in your chapter meeting can have an impact. It shows that it is now chapter business and brings it front and center to the attention of your entire membership

3) Limit his exposure and increase your positive exposure
– Think of this as a balancing act. If he brings x amount of negative attention to your chapter, find ways to bring 10 times that amount of positive attention to your chapter. Typically, philanthropic or service based events drive this guy in the other direction. You can never underestimate the power of positive PR and drown out the negative.

4) Find the real source of the problem
– I’ve been around a lot of fraternity men that have other issues that manifest themselves as acting like idiots or bringing bad attention to the chapter. Ask around. Do some research and see what the underlying issue could be. The result may surprise you and not just give you a better plan of attack, but also provide you some perspective.

5) Use your advisor or administrators
– Being disciplined by your peers is one thing. Being disciplined or hammered down on by an administrator or your chapter advisor is another thing. Sometimes, this is like using the nuclear option. However, it can be the only option available is you have not made any headway anywhere else.

This answer was written by Joe Russo, an alumni brother from Phi Delta Theta and new contributor for the thefraternityadvisor.com. If you are interested in writing for thefraternityadvisor.com – let us know (CLICK HERE)!






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One thought on “How to Handle the Idiot in Your Fraternity

  1. I don’t like putting advisors in the same breath with administrators or nuclear option. Advisors are easy to access and been through most everything before. Often in cases where it’s uncomfortable dealing with an internal issue it’s easiest for the advisors to step in an be the bad guy. It’s easier for undergrad leaders to be able to say they have no choice and are just enforcing the orders of the advisory board.

    The biggest reason I like tapping into advisors early in this process through is to moderate the chapter. You asked this in an intentionally cryptic way, which is fine. But I don’t know what you mean by, “doesn’t care about image and how he comes across.” I’ve seen chapters so wrapped up in image that they’d say the things you’re saying because the guy persists in wearing cargo shorts or bringing chicks with dozens of piercings to date parties. There’s a huge gulf from there to him selling dope or handing out pills to girls at parties.

    If he’s doing things that are on their own clearly illegal or in violation of fraternity rules, then prosecute him for that. You have a disciplinary system for a reason. Learn to use it effectively.

    If he’s doing stuff that’s embarrassing or just isn’t the image you want, you need to back up a little bit before you do something stupid. I’m not the guy you’ll find chanting the word diversity while explaining a group coming from many different backgrounds and confident individualized perspectives helps us grow stronger as a team than if we are all cookie cutter pre-country club future corporate titans. But, we don’t make guys with a cookie cutter – I don’t have the crafting skills for it. We make guys who will believe in and effectively deliver the message of our ritual to society well beyond college. We come together because we have the same beliefs. In a practical sense, we also have a lot of the same background and interests. But, we don’t stay together because of public image and stereotypes. Take a step back and think about this from outside the perspective of your fraternity. Are the things he’s doing really detrimental to the purpose of your organization, or are they just immature behavior or someone trying to be a little different? If you were to ask someone completely unbiased, what would they say? Know that answer before you press on.

    And again, I don’t know what people don’t take this extra step in their logic, but if you have a guy like this in your chapter, it’s your fault for letting him in. He’s in now, so he deserves full membership in the brotherhood until his death unless he does something really egregious to betray or defame the ritual. Deal with the situation in front of you obviously, but then stop what you’re doing. Break down how you rush and how your pledgeship works so you can selectively avoid these kind of guys in the future. We’re not exclusive so we can exclude people who don’t didn’t go to the right school or who their Dad is or what he does or who didn’t show up wearing the right brands. We’re exclusive so we can not take guys like you’re describing and only take guys who fit our principles and purpose. If I were your advisor, I’m certain we could either fix the guy or get him out, but part of me almost wants you to suffer through it so it’s a constant thorn in your side forcing you to make your chapter better in the long run.

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