interfraternity council

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:

We were recently voted on by IFC to become a recognized fraternity of our University. Unfortunately, they voted no. In my opinion, I think the voting went this way because they did not want to compete with us on campus. We have more members as a colony than the recognized fraternities, we have great philanthropy and we are good guys.

At this point I am concerned for my group because hearing no from IFC broke our hearts. We tried so hard to get to this point and now it feels like it’s for nothing. My question for you is, at this point, what kind of advice can you offer?

I feel we will be able to keep this going, but a lot of guys will drop because of the ruling. I want to keep everyone, but where do you think we should go from here?


Answer:

I am real sorry to hear the ruling didn’t go your way.  I offer two solutions to your problem.

1 – How my Fraternity Handled this Same Situation

I joined a colony at NC State.  We applied to become members of IFC, and were shot down.

We were bummed.  However, we thought about it, and realized the only drawbacks were not being invited to participate in intramurals and Greek Week.  We were really bummed about intramurals, but didn’t really care about Greek Week.  All in all though, it wasn’t the end of the world.

On the positive side, we did not have to pay IFC dues or play by their rules.  As a result, we had parties during times when IFC prohibited it.  We did not have to attend IFC mandatory functions.  We pretty much did whatever we wanted and showed our ass in the process.

We parlayed this rebel attitude into a very successful year.  We had a ton of fun, and we bonded using the ‘us vs the world’ mentality.  Our brotherhood became very strong, and this was the foundation for years of success.

The next year though, the IFC realized that their organization would be better with us in it, and we were accepted.  Ironically, I become the IFC president a few years later.

That being said, this is the wrong approach.  There is a better way.

2 – How you Should Handle IFC Rejection

First, you need to have your nationals lay the groundwork for you getting accepted.  They need to have meeting with the Greek Life staff discussing what your chapter brings to the table and how to get accepted.  While the Greek Life director does not make the decision, they can definitely influence it.

Next, you need to have your chapter’s executive board have a meeting with the executive board of the IFC.  In this meeting, you need to explain that while you are disappointed you were not accepted, you appreciate them reviewing your fraternity.

Then, and this is key, you need to get them to give you guidelines that your chapter needs to meet to be considered for membership.  After the meeting, follow up with a letter documenting these requirements, and courtesy copy your nationals and the school’s Greek Life office.

Now, you have goals you need to accomplish.  Meet those goals, and then apply again.

While you are striving to meet these goals, be sure to build relationships along the way.  Become familiar with the Greek Life office, and ask for their guidance.  Participate in IFC events when allowed – especially community service events.

Also, become familiar with the other fraternities on campus.  Have your president reach out and meet with the presidents of other chapters.  During these meetings, your president should ask for advice on how to make your chapter stronger.  These conversations will lead to your fraternity having allies during the next vote.

If you do these things, you will be accepted into IFC without fail.  You will be accepted because you will have become part of their community.  You will no longer be viewed as an outsider.  They will see your fraternity as an asset to their organization, and you will be welcomed with open arms.

Don’t let this rejection get your fraternity down.  Use it as motivation to get better as an organization.  Being accepted into the IFC will be much sweeter for your brotherhood when you realize you have had to work hard to earn it.

Of course, ironically, a few short years from now your brothers will be complaining and want to quit IFC because they do not see the benefit.  That’s a talk for another day though…

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.






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4 thoughts on “How to Get Accepted by the IFC

  1. He’s basing that on a common misunderstanding of what NIC is and what it’s bylaws say. I’ve talked to their staff about this within the last year. My godfather is a former NIC President and echoed the same thing.

    Before I explain this, I’ll clarify that there are a couple exceptions to what I’m about to say. A couple national fraternities have adopted the NIC open expansion position as part of their national bylaws and do require chapters to vote in favor of all instances of expansion regardless of consequences. However, in most cases it is still a local discretion issues, which it should be.

    NIC is not the nationals of any IFC and does not have authority over any fraternity. It is strictly a trade association for the national organizations of fraternities. It does research, education, and national advocacy. Article II of their constitution specifically says the sovereignty and self-determination of national fraternities has primacy over anything NIC does, including their constitution/bylaws.

    In other words, representatives from each member national get together and make suggestions for common standards that no one is required to follow even if they agree to them. NIC has no enforcement power other than to vote a fraternity out of the association if it is so massively violating agreed standards on the national level that the group can no longer tolerate it.

    If that sounds like I’m negative on NIC, I’m not. They are a great organization doing some good things in the fraternity movement. They provide the leadership that assembles fraternities together to work on their mutual interests. But, what I admire most about them is they know what’s important – and that’s the sovereignty of each individual fraternity. They do not attempt to boss fraternities around. They seek common ground on which they can get unanimous agreement and they leave it to each fraternity to interpret for themselves how to apply those agreements on a day-to-day or strategic basis.

    More specific to their bylaws though, article XIII states some standards for member nationals.

    Section 1 states membership requirements for a national to be part of NIC. Anything not on this list is not a requirement. Expansion is not listed.

    Section 2 states standard/expectations. It starts by saying, “nothing in the NIC Standards shall be interpreted as implying that a NIC member organization has a duty to supervise, direct, or control collegiate students or chapters associated with that member organization.”

    In other words, it is expected that the following standards be the position of each national headquarters, but they are not expected to enforce those standards on subordinate chapters. Only if headquarters massively violates those standards on a nationwide basis with such severity that all other nationals vote to eject them from NIC can any action be taken.

    One of those standards states, “Member’s chapters agree to and support open expansion on their respective campuses (implemented no later than September 1, 2004)”

    In other words, NIC suggests that each national take the position of advising, but not necessarily ordering, their subordinate chapters to support open expansion on their campus. So what does open expansion mean?

    Later in section 2, under the heading “Campus Expectations,” they suggest wording. It says, “No NIC member organization is prohibited from selecting undergraduates for the purpose of establishing a chapter on the campus of the host institution. The host institution’s Interfraternity Council may not deter expansion by withholding membership of NIC group from IFC.”

    What that means is nationals do not need permission of a campus or IFC to start a colony; and, IFC should not block expansion by denying IFC membership. Again mind you, they have no authority over IFCs, national fraternities, undergraduate chapters, or schools. They’re just making a statement.

    If you will read the remainder of their bylaws, you’ll see several statements that sound like they’re issuing orders to nationals, IFCs, chapters, and schools. The very next item for instance is open recruitment. It says schools and IFCs are not to set any minimum standards (ex academic, disciplinary) on who can or cannot join fraternities. I think just about every IFC and school in the country has such standards, and well they should.

    Legalese aside, I’d like to take a second on the philosophy of expansion policy.

    NIC is doing their job. They’re pushing for the widest possible freedom for their member nationals. That’s what they’re there for. The only people voting are national executive directors. There is no voice for universities, chapters, or advisors. Of course their position is going to be to massively empower nationals to do whatever they want regardless of the consequences and leave it to them to decide. That doesn’t mean such a total unrestricted position is what should actually happen. All policy requires balance.

    I think we can all agree that adding 50 colonies at once would destroy a Greek system. The demand doesn’t support it. Each organization will not be able to sustain enough members to survive. Many charters would be lost. If we agree on that point, then we already concede that unrestricted open expansion is bad. Our conversation is about where to draw the line.

    NIC will tell you that most times expansion is blocked it’s about protecting existing weak chapters. They believe no chapter deserves protection. That if a struggling chapter can’t hold enough market share to survive in the face of more competitors entering the market then it should die to make room for someone else to have a shot.

    I come at this from a business perspective. The simple fact is that fraternities are a business. They are required to abide by a very strict set of rules which make the cost of operation very high. That cost varies widely from campus to campus based on the local cost of doing business and regulatory environment. Based on your student body, the market will bear a maximum dues rate. The only variable is chapter size, and the only thing we have going for us is economies of scale. If you don’t maintain a minimum chapter size need to finance operating by all the rules, then you die. It’s not exactly that cut and dry. What actually happens is you’re forced to break the rules or die. That leads to massive disciplinary issues, dangerous behavior, and ultimately injuries & deaths. From a business perspective, chapter size is the holy grail of essential survival factors.

    When you consider expansion, you need to have a very strong handle on that cost structure to chapter size dynamic. If you’re talking about one or two struggling chapters can’t reach that chapter size, then that’s where NIC’s logic makes sense. But, if almost no one can meet those survival standards, then over expansion is just slightly more damaging than shooting yourself in the face.

    Expansion has to be done in a reasonable and controlled way. You need to develop market demand first, and then capture that excess demand with a new competitor in the market. A colony will initially recruit outside the rush pool and will for a short time raise the overall number of Greeks, but after chartering it will enter the zero-sum market at the cost of chapter averages. Grow the rush pool, then expand as needed to meet the demand.

    As to the original question though, Pat is spot on.

    I would reinforce his final statement there… formal association with a most universities is bad. They don’t give you anything of value and almost everything they do with Greeks will be harmful to you. That said, you probably have no choice. As a colony, I would imagine your nationals requires you to gain acceptance from IFC and to be a registered student org. They fully know that university administrators are a constant thorn in our side, but they also only have the resources to send one young underpaid overworked staff member to visit you for a couple days a year. They need people on the ground watching you more closely or things will get out of control and they’ll be destroyed in lawsuits. They appoint advisors (like me) to look after their interests. While those guys probably have much more business, organizational, and life expertise than anyone else you’ll work with, they also have full-time jobs and families to distract them from watching your every move. As an advisor, I hate association with the Universities I work with, but I begrudgingly accept that it is a necessary evil. IFCs can be the same, but are generally a much more positive interfraternal experience.

    Explain to your members the lack of value in IFC membership. That should help retain them through this setback. But, reinforce that it is a necessary requirement to charter. Then do what Pat says and you should be fine.

    • Dennis, thank you for explaining that. It makes sense that the NIC has no power of university IFCs, but they are promoting fraternity growth. Also, I agree about the lack of value in the IFC. That sounds like a good topic for a future article…

  2. Also, don’t forget that almost all of these fraternities are NIC fraternities most likely. That means, nationally and locally, they are obliged to vote yes on all expansions and membership.

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