This post is a reaction to the article Why we should close more chapters by L. Martin Cobb and Michael McRee. You may view the original document which includes the authors’ contact information at the end of the post.
This article begins with a reality check about hope. Simply put—hope cannot be a strategy. If that is what an organization chooses to rely on, then they cannot expect to have a proper vision. Another way to think of this is that if you are mediocre, then you will never be able to attain better than that and perhaps possibly be even worst. Forever, you will remain average, and therefore your organization will remain average. People have become lazy and the culture has grown to accept that a few good members will get an organization by.
Our superiors give organizations the benefit of the doubt, but quite frankly, making excuses for problems is not a solution. There are several examples that are provided by the article. It begins with one thought from an advisor of why headquarters hasn’t closed a disastrous chapter. Advisors are one of the most important links between an organization, the university, and headquarters. They are responsible for taking action. It is not about being the bad guy or being the one to sellout. They have an obligation to do the right thing. This does not mean defending a bad chapter—it means taking care of issues before they become a threat. For example, if there is hazing that appears in a chapter and an advisor looked away instead of handling a situation and a member of that chapter died as a result—consider the devastating consequences. Now this doesn’t mean that an advisor should immediately resort to gathering appropriate documents to close a chapter but they should do whatever they feel is right to tame and correct the bad behavior, whether it is through sanctions or levying fines. Essentially, take care of a situation before it explodes like a wildfire.
Another perspective that is discussed in the article is from that of headquarters—they have a chapter but are worried about closing the chapter because of the financial difficulties. I agree with the reality of the situation. It makes sense to levy a huge fine to shut an embarrassing chapter down than to be faced with a multimillion dollar lawsuit. The final view that is presented is that of an alumni—don’t close a chapter because they won’t ever be able to have the prestige again. Clearly, you need to drop the axe and rid headquarters and the universities’ good name of a bad chapter. There may be several years of silence but it is absolutely possible to colonize once again.
The next concept that is discussed is single-loop learning vs. double loop learning. Single-loop learning is simply reactive and double-loop learning is proactive. With single-loop your are merely learning from your mistakes. However, it’s pointless because you mess up before you take action. With double-loop learning, you consider many aspects of issues. Clearly, double-loop learning is harder to do, but it is the right thing to do. This is an important part of creating a positive and effective culture in an organization. The article states that typically chapters are closed after a major incident or maybe they just seem to fade away after limping for several years. In both of these cases, double-loop learning would have guided an organization in the proper direction.
Another concept that is covered is one by the author Jim Collins. It is the idea of “first getting the right people of the bus, getting the wrong people off and then figuring out where to go.” This is one of the most obvious and yet powerful ideas that I’ve ever learned. An organization is only as good as their weakest links. If an organization has members that are destructive and do not represent the values of that organization, then the need to be dealt with. This does not necessarily mean expelling members. Perhaps judicial board/honor board is appropriate but ideally, it may be that these members just “don’t really know.” They need to know, understand, and live the ritual. They may “know” portions of the ritual but if they don’t truly understand it, then how can they ever honorably represent it? The article cites that a closing of chapters came with an improvement in GPA. Well, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that would have happened. They got rid of chapters that failed to uphold the values—several years later, new members were brought it, and they were educated. This led to even more positive effects: increased recruitment, more advisors, and more participation in leadership development. This leads up to the next topic discussed.
It is appropriate to release bad members before attempting to close a chapter. The issue could have been that those bad members were leaders—bad leaders, and so they led a portion of a chapter to follow them. Now that an organization is released from the wrong influences they can strive to be “winners.” This can be thought of as the “AND.” We can hold our ritual close AND still be sociable. We can create a stronger sense of brotherhood/sisterhood within our organizations AND within the entire greek community. It true that advisors may get caught up in daily politics but I do not believe that this represents the majority. This could absolutely be dangerous because an advisor could unknowingly develop underlying agendas instead of doing the right thing such as taking swift action in a risk management incident. I also agree that there should be an open door policy. By not allowing a new chapter on campus because you are too busy dealing with the daily issues of current chapters, you are hindering possible positive effects. A great fraternity that comes on campus, and hosts philanthropic events and respects women would set a great example for other destructive organizations.
I thought this article was very interesting. It was informative and I agreed with the concepts but was essentially common sense material. There wasn’t anything that was a breakthrough. It was great to see the different perspectives. Nonetheless, it was a pleasant reminder of why fraternities and sororities are unique organizations. As mentioned in the very beginning, hope is not a strategy. It leads to a path of mediocrity and bad habits develop—habits that are often difficult to change, which is why, unfortunately, we should be closing more chapters.