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Our fraternity has several problems: morale, feeling like the Fraternity Executive Committee makes decisions without the majority’s wishes in mind (aka brothers have no say and that several core Exec members are the source of this), and that brothers don’t want to run against the people already on the Fraternity Exec Board or those endorsed by Exec members.
In terms of morale, I believe the negativity is perpetuated by two of the core Fraternity Exec members. They have good ideas but believe they know better than everyone else what the Chapter needs, and they focus very much on the problems and negative aspects of our Chapter and never the things our Chapter does well. They have a vision of what they want the Chapter to look like, but don’t ask the brothers what Chapter means to them. These people are intelligent, hardworking brothers, and as another Exec member and someone who cares about our Chapter and is equally involved, I’m also associated with this negativity and disregard for Chapter’s feelings even though that’s not how I or many other Exec members feel.
As a member of the Executive Committee, both I and some of my fellow members, have made attempts to ask Chapter for feedback when presenting a problem, potential event, etc. but the brothers don’t speak up and they have glazed over eyes while we’re speaking. There’s generally no response from Chapter when we ask questions, or ask for thoughts and comments. We want to empower Chapter, but we don’t know how.
How can we combat these negative feelings, address them with Chapter, and get everyone to move from this negative place and be invested in our Chapter again?
I’ve personally tried speaking with the individuals above about being aware of their negativity, and Chapter perceives and is affected by both their actions but also what they say and how they communicate it to Chapter. With elections coming up, I’m trying to encourage people who have never been on Exec to run for a position. But what can I do beyond affecting a few individuals (we have about 120 in our Chapter) to improve the overall Chapter atmosphere and attitudes?
I believe your fraternity is suffering from a lack of shared vision and common goals amongst the brothers. Ideally the core vision of the chapter is something instilled during the new member period, reinforced by shared group activities, and continually reassessed by open dialogue. For whatever reason, it appears the brothers of your chapter are now missing this common ground, which causes them to have a withdrawn interest. The brother’s apparent apathy then forces the executives to push for reform by focusing on negatives. This can be a toxic environment to function in and difficult to fight.
Your chapter needs a serious reset to find a shared vision, and there is no better way to do this than a retreat. Having an open discourse about how the fraternity sees itself is not something that can be done at your normal weekly meetings because members are usually just going through the motions at these. A retreat will take the chapter out of its comfort zone and create an environment for open discourse.
Plan a camping trip that involves a difficult activity such as a rafting trip, or hike to have the brothers accomplish a difficult task together. After this gather the group around a fire and try to lead them in an open discourse. Have a moderator focus the discussion and ask questions like:
• What is our chapter best at?
• What is the most important thing to you about the brotherhood?
• What could we do better? Why?
• What goals do we want to accomplish this year? In three years?
• Ask Seniors to share the most valuable lesson they learned in their fraternity experience
• Ask Freshman what they hope to accomplish, and learn from the fraternity
These talking points should flush out a good discussion about the values the members hold important. Ensure that as many brothers as possible participate, which can be difficult for a large house, but important to make this a shared vision. Take notes on the most agreed upon ideas and goals of the conversation to revisit at chapter meetings down the road. Hold discussions on what progress has been made, and on the parts that could be done better.
I have seen this method used as a legacy planning to develop young leaders in a chapter. A new crop of brothers gets inspired by the vision they helped create and end up taking over the executive council with a mandate for action. Furthermore, having a shared purpose in the brotherhood’s activities will combat the apathy members often have when they feel to have no say in the chapter’s plans.