Lessons From UIFI

Last week, I had the pleasure to facilitate a session of the Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute (UIFI), hosted  by the North-American Interfraternity Conference. This was my second year serving as a facilitator, which allowed me more opportunity to reflect on the experience, rather than being overwhelmed by the intensity of it all. Accordingly, I had several “ah ha” moments during the Institute which I’d like to share:

1. Doing Nothing is Always Easier
Change is hard. You are asked to try new things, think in a different way, and make yourself vulnerable to failure. Our chapters, councils, and communities resist change because the status quo is comfortable and easy.

2. You’re Not Special
Whatever problems you are having in your organization, someone has already dealt with it, and figured out a solution. Having the humility to seek these people out and ask for help is what will make a leader great. Don’t reinvent the wheel, just ask your neighbor in the cave over how he made that sweet ride.

3. It’s Getting Better
Thanks to the hard work of all those involved in the fraternity and sorority movement, things are getting better. Of course, we still have major problems to deal with, and as a whole, we’re far from excelling in the pursuit of living up to the ideals of our founders. Through educational opportunities provided by campuses, headquarters, the NIC, AFLV, and a bevy of other collaborators, we have started to have the right conversations, and encouraged thoughtful action on the parts of undergraduate students seeking to improve their organizations.

4. It’s Getting Better… Way too Slowly
The harsh reality is that we are still hurting people. Many of our chapters are still hazing, leading to physical pain, psychological trauma, injuries, and death. Many fraternity and sorority members still celebrate our stereotypes, and do their best to live a TFM and TSM lifestyle. Many fraternity houses are bastions for hyper-masculinity which leads to alcohol abuse, homophobic behavior, and the objectification, mistreatment, and abuse of women. When they place the highest regard on the physical appearance of prospective members, attend parties with themes that denigrate women, and tolerate the male chauvinistic behavior of our men’s groups, our women’s organizations fail to follow the path of their founders. Until we own these issues, and develop a healthy intolerance of this behavior, nothing will change.

5. Prove Us Right
Millions of dollars every year are spent on the improvement of our fraternities and sororities. Thousands of leadership conferences are held every year exclusively for fraternity and sorority members, and tens of thousands of students attend, many on scholarships provided by alumni, campuses, and headquarters. Over a thousand professionals from hundreds of campuses and headquarters have dedicated their careers to the advancement of the fraternal movement. We give up nights, weekends, time with family, our personal lives, and much of our sanity, all because we believe that fraternities and sororities have a unique ability to have a an overwhelmingly positive impact on our members and our communities. So all we ask of our students is to prove us right.

If you have yet to experience UIFI for yourself, I highly encourage you to do so. If you are a student, make plans to attend next year. If you are a fraternity/sorority professional, apply to facilitate. If you are a supporter of the fraternal movement, consider encouraging undergraduates to attend, and/or sponsor a scholarship to do so through your University or headquarters.

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