Ostriches, Illusions and Self Deception

The bad news just keeps on coming. This week it was a front page article in the Sunday New York Times (circulation 2.1 million): A heart-wrenching, in-depth piece about a rape inside the Kappa Sigma Fraternity House at the Hobart and Smith College, Vernon, New York. Read it and weep.
{NOTE: It gets worse with the Vernon Police report issued in response to the NY Times article. Click here } Add to this many dozens more of the same ilk — {Google search terms: Fraternity. rapes. expulsions. alcohol}

All of them mirror Atlantic Magazine’s devastating cover story The Dark Powers of Fraternities (circulation 700,000).

What the add up to is solid-proof of five-alarm fires raging all over the American collegiate Fraternal landscape. Right now that fire is consuming whatever is left of the good reputation that Fraternities used to have in abundance – and now almost gone entirely. In one decade – two at the most — these fires will consume the entire landscape. How terribly sad.


The hard truth is that the words “frat” and “Animal House” are inter-changeable. The hard truth is that Fraternities have lost the trust and respect of the university, the parents and the local community. The hard truth is that a great many Alumni have also lost most (all?) of the affection and trust they once had for their Chapters Fraternity. Without them, how can we get back the rest?

Yet when we present “novel” ideas to Fraternity “Leaders” —  along with questions about the practices reported — we get the same tired and worn-out blaw, blaw, blaw.

As if repeating the “right” WORDS

 trumps all the wrong ACTS!

Why re-think ‘standard operating procedures when everything is just fine?

Like ostriches with their heads in the sand, these “leaders” don’t want to hear what others have to say; they operate an illusion which feeds their own self-deception. Harsh words. Consider the following.

+ When asked about putting a professional inside the House as an “On-Site Property Manager” –  hired to impose strict rules, they are either silent or say they can’t afford such person. (Most are grad students — one year and gone.) What good are ‘The Rules’ if there is no one on-site to enforce them?

+ When asked about highly visible events designed to prove actual concern about such subjects as rape  – (like Walk A Mile In Her Shoes) – they simply shrug. “These problems will disappear with the next news cycle.” How do you change a culture without the hard work of a Big Event – followed by 365 days ensuring you practice what you preach?

+ When asked about ’empty and idle” Houses in the summer, where  undergraduate members are allowed absolutely free-reign, the “leaders” have no interest in an alternative. “We’ve always done it this way…why would we change?” Yet it is the summer where opportunities for vast improvement is entirely possible; all by way of a “Flipped Fraternity.

+ When asked to review the resources spent to tin-cup for cancer or the Red Cross as versus re-allocating those resources to help Eagle Scouts, Junior Achievement, Youth Build  — youth organizations that represent huge strategic opportunities  — we are told “Not interested.”  Which is the same response we get for the idea of smart outreach to advocacy groups fighting alcohol, drug and sexual abuse. Here are people with the best insurance money can buy….  free for those willing to embrace the blueprints they provide.

+ When asked about the impact of either the New York Times or the Atlantic Magazine the message we hear is “these publications don’t reach our audience.” “Or don’t affect our Fraternity.”  Give me a break!

+ When asked about use of the House all year-long for revenue generating seminars with topics of interest to the Fraternity and their Strategic Partners — to include public relations, social media, event management, fund-raising, on-site management practices — such talk passes without a smidgen of interest. How can this be?

+ When asked about the sharing economy — and most especially AirBnb.com – (where its absurd to allow millions of rooms to go ’empty and idle’ every summer) — it’s like talking to a frog. This is both morally repugnant and financially irresponsible. {See also How To Monetize EVERYTHING!}

These “leaders” should give lessons to ostriches. Or magicians. Or Hollywood movie makers.

Let’s close. Remember the 1919 World Series-Black Sox scandal? Remember the kid who asked the star of the White Sox:

“Say it ain’t so, Joe. Say it ain’t so.”

Fraternity Leaders, House Corporation Presidents, Headquarters Directors:

Say it ain’t so!


About oregonhibbs

I'm passionate about improving access to education, worldwide, sailing, Duck football (I live in the shadow of the University of Oregon in Eugene) and connecting with people with ideas and work that "can change the world". With this in mind, I am the "Skipper" for Global Learn Day, which you can find out more about at bfranklin.edu.

Posted on July 17, 2014, in Flipped Fraternities & Restoration. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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