How a Fraternity Survives a Membership Review

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.


My fraternity recently went under membership review and went from a 50+ man chapter to a 9 man chapter. We are on recruitment suspension until Spring 2013. I want some advice on how to manage a small chapter, dealing with “former” brothers, and how do I manage my loyalties with the new chapter and the former relationships I had with the “former” brothers.


I’m going to break down my response to address each of your three questions. I think it’s helpful to compartmentalize them in order to keep a better focus.

Managing a Small Chapter:

–          Small chapters do present a unique set of issues. There are just as many reports, events, and work in a small chapter as any other. The real difference is that now there are fewer people to shoulder the load. Managing a small chapter requires a significant amount of patience. You know that you are asking a lot of your membership with each and every aspect of your chapter’s operations. Your officers cannot zero in one their projects like in larger chapters and may need more time and understanding as the juggle more in-house responsibilities. You have to keep in constant contact and do everything you can to avoid the “it’s not my job” reactions. With 9 people, you don’t have the luxury of passing the buck. As such, you will want to tap into any alumni help that you can. Given the membership review, you may have a divided alumni base and will need to be very intentional about who you seek out.

Dealing with Former Brothers:

–          It may not always be from such a large and significant issue as a membership review, but this is also a normal problem. Brothers quit or are asked to leave and can create some awful situations. In your case, there is no easy way and there is no silver bullet. I’m sorry, but that is the truth.  You cannot forget that there had to be a reason that 40+ of your brothers were asked to leave the chapter. Whatever their actions were, they were not in the best interest of your chapter. It is never easy to balance the relationships with former brothers, much the same way it is difficult to manage relationships with former co-workers. You have the separate the issues at hand. Are they still worth your time to associate with? Are they still that important of a part of your life? Will your continued association with them help or hurt your chapter? You have to decide if the turbulence a relationship causes is worth maintaining. Stay on the high road, but make sure that you act in the best interest of the chapter and ensure that you are not being unwittingly brought down by your association with them. You may have to steer clear entirely. Only you can decide that for yourself on a person by person basis.

Managing your Loyalties

–          When you pledge and join a fraternity, you take on a great responsibility. Every Fraternity has an oath or a pledge that is sworn. When it comes to managing your loyalties, you have to keep this oath in mind. At all times and in every way you need to live up to that oath. Your loyalties are with your Fraternity. Just like the previous portion of my response, you have to act in the best interest of you personally and in the best interest of your chapter. The 9 of you that remain are apparently the only ones that have lived up to your oath. In my opinion, your loyalties are with them.

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.

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


2 thoughts on “How a Fraternity Survives a Membership Review

  1. Solid answer.

    9 guys is tough. After a review, it’s common to lose a few extra guys. They each have to figure out for themselves how to manage those relationships. Their group of friends is broken up. They aren’t getting out of it what they did before. It’s normal that some will walk away. Joe’s right too that you have a whole lot of work ahead of you. You’re essentially a colony starting over from scratch, albeit without the excitement of being new to campus & already have a charter on the wall. When your remaining guys actually come to realize what that really means, some of them may not be as committed. Holding those guys together and buying in to what you have ahead of you is critical. I would spend a lot of time talking to your national office’s expansion staff. They’re good at this stuff.

    The recruiting suspension bothers me. Was that a school thing? Cause I’ve never seen a national office prevent recruiting. And, I have a big problem with schools interfering in recruiting – freedom of association and all that. That being the case though, you’re in a tough spot. You aren’t going to pour straight into recruiting, even though that’s what you desperately need. You’re going to have to spool down social cause you aren’t going to have any money, but you still have to do some stuff to keep it fun, especially with the increased work load. It would seem your reputation is tarnished in this instance. It’s probably a good idea to do a lot of visible philanthropy and make sure you pull solid grades. Set the foundation, in perception if not reality, to show you’re a new chapter coming out of this situation. Summer & the first half of Fall have to be about foundation. After Fall rush is over though, you need to be recruiting hard to land a huge Spring class. Again, the expansion staff should be able to help you.

    Good luck!

  2. Great answer Joe. The only thing I would stress is to make sure you focus your efforts. It is ok if you can’t do everything that a ‘normal’ chapter would do. Be sure though that are exceptional at the things you do do.

    It will be a tough road to get back to the status you were at before the review. However, if you dedicate the time and effort to get there I promise it will be worth it.

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