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  #1  
Old 10-18-2011, 06:35 PM
WTH WTH is offline
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Does a shorter associate program lead to more drop-outs?

As an advisor of many years both to my own chapter and the local chapter of my fraternity, I've noticed a phenomenon that is troubling me, and I'm hoping to get some input from others.

Back in my days as an active (mid to late 70s), it was implicitly understood in our chapter that membership was a lifetime commitment. Dropping out as an active was almost unheard of. Accordingly, we had a long pledge program (or associate membership program, to use the modern term), with initiation taking place in the first week after Christmas break. In my mind, this was good from two points of view: (1) we had the fall grades in hand, and (2) the Christmas break gave some of the pledges a chance to think over if they -really- wanted to make that commitment. Some guys came back from break and decided to drop, and in my mind that was a good thing. Not everyone was cut out to take a lifetime oath, and it was better for them to go their own way.

However, today our national HQ is strongly pushing a six-week associate membership program for all chapters, with initiation taking place before Thanksgiving. I've seen this program applied at the local chapter, and I've also noticed that the initiated brothers seem to think nothing of turning in their pins and dropping out whenever it suits them. The local chapter has lost maybe a dozen brothers over the past year and a half, mostly with excuses of "I don't have time" or "It's too expensive". I can't help but think that this behavior is strongly correlated with the abbreviated associate member program; the percentage of guys that drop seems to be equivalent to the percentage that used to drop at the start of spring semester back in my day, except that today these guys have paid the initiation fee and gone through the ritual. My concern is that this "brotherhood is no big deal" behavior is affecting the entire chapter as a consequence. When brothers see members walk out the door without shame or concern, it undermines the entire concept of "a lifetime of brotherhood".

For years my own chapter resisted this trend of an abbreviated associate member program, but now our national office has threatened to pull our insurance unless we comply. My concern is that my own chapter will now begin to see the same trend of drop-outs after initiation that the local chapter is dealing with. I've talked to the BOG chairman for my home chapter, and he says that our national officers have noticed this trend in many chapters, and that they are concerned about it. On the other hand, the push for a 6 to 8 week program coupled with fall semester initiation is, as I understand, an idea that many other national fraternities are pursuing with equal fervor.

My personal opinion is that our national HQ pushed for this change because they noticed how fewer men paid the initiation fee than the association fee. They wanted that extra money, and forcing a quick initiation was the best way to improve the percentage. On the other hand, it seems that two years later you've lost just as many members, but (in my mind) in a manner that is much more demoralizing to the chapter. The whole point of the pledge program was for everyone to figure out who was, or was not, a good fit for the chapter. Now it seems the entire process is being short-circuited for the sake of short-term financial gain.

So my question is this: has anyone else noticed a similar trend of "quitting the brotherhood is no big deal" in correlation with a shortened associate membership program? Or has this always been an issue in other fraternity chapters? Any thoughts on ways to turn this trend around?
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  #2  
Old 10-18-2011, 06:44 PM
33girl 33girl is offline
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Men and women are different, but back when I pledged in the 1980s, we also had a 6 week pledge program. We had a 100% initiation rate and very few self-terminations.

We also had +/- 40 sisters and a smallish campus. To my knowledge, most of the guys initiated their members within the semester (no holdovers over break) as well.

If 6 weeks is not enough FOR YOUR CHAPTER to impart the following information:
-all pledges to know (at least in passing) all brothers;
-basic history, symbols, etc;
-familiarity with what each office does;
-familiarity (name and gender) with ALL the other Greek groups on campus;

THEN 6 weeks is too short.

However, if your only reason for wanting to keep it a semester long is the "back in the day, WE did it this way" reason, that really doesn't fly, and really never flew.

6 weeks is not too short of a time for pledges to understand a lifetime commitment, IF the program is effective and IF the current brothers are showing THEY are committed as well. If the current brothers are big sacks of poo, a semester long program isn't going to help.
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  #3  
Old 10-18-2011, 07:06 PM
ThetaPrincess24 ThetaPrincess24 is offline
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Another reason that more groups are moving to shorter new member periods is to help lessen the risk for hazing. Having said that, it is possible with some groups that shorter new member periods can be the result of the fraternity's own insurance policy they must follow in order to be covered.
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  #4  
Old 10-18-2011, 07:11 PM
33girl 33girl is offline
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Originally Posted by ThetaPrincess24 View Post
Another reason that more groups are moving to shorter new member periods is to help lessen the risk for hazing.
See, I don't think this is a legitimate reason.

The "new brothers/sisters" can be hazed just as easily after they're initiated. If a chapter wants to haze that badly, it's going to do so. We always heard about the locals at a local church sponsored college hazing like crazy, and their pledging was only 2 weeks long.
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  #5  
Old 10-18-2011, 07:21 PM
Leslie Anne Leslie Anne is offline
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When I pledged in the 1980s we had a three month pledge period. I thought it worked quite well. We might have a couple members drop out over the semester for various reasons. Once initiated though, dropping out was pretty much unheard of.

Of course since then most of the NPC sororities have moved to a shortened (6 to 8 week) new member period.

About 8 years ago I was on House Corp for another chapter of KD and I noticed a very high rate of drop outs both before and after initiation. I thought it might be a different campus/chapter culture. I also thought it could be the shortened new member program. I had an opportunity to speak very briefly with KD's National President about the drop out rate and the shortened program. She told me that since the pledge program had been shortened the drop out rate of initiated members had gone up astronomically. (I wish I could remember the exact percentage she mentioned.) She added that it wasn't just with KD but pretty much NPC-wide. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to talk more about the issue. I certainly had several more questions to ask.

We're all still producing outstanding members so I suppose a longer pledge period isn't an absolute necessity but I'm troubled by the number of drop outs especially since they are dropping out after having been initiated. I tend to believe that the importance of the commitment isn't coming across as well anymore.

Just my 2 cents.
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  #6  
Old 10-18-2011, 07:25 PM
knight_shadow knight_shadow is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 33girl View Post
See, I don't think this is a legitimate reason.

The "new brothers/sisters" can be hazed just as easily after they're initiated. If a chapter wants to haze that badly, it's going to do so. We always heard about the locals at a local church sponsored college hazing like crazy, and their pledging was only 2 weeks long.
Yea, I was going to say the same thing.

Going from a semester down to 6 weeks can just mean "get more hazing bang for your buck" to the ones that want to do it.
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  #7  
Old 10-18-2011, 07:31 PM
WTH WTH is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leslie Anne View Post
I had an opportunity to speak very briefly with KD's National President about the drop out rate and the shortened program. She told me that since the pledge program had been shortened the drop out rate of initiated members had gone up astronomically. (I wish I could remember the exact percentage she mentioned.) She added that it wasn't just with KD but pretty much NPC-wide. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to talk more about the issue. I certainly had several more questions to ask.
Very interesting, and not surprising given my own experience. What puzzles me is this: if this phenomenon is so common, then why the insistence on maintaining the shortened associate membership program? Why not move back to a longer program to alleviate this problem?

I have seen no evidence that the shorter program has led to any increase in numbers or quality of overall membership; quite the contrary. I really wish I understood the rationale of doing this besides "everyone else is doing it", which seems to be the only reason I've heard so far.
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  #8  
Old 10-18-2011, 07:41 PM
Mevara Mevara is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leslie Anne View Post
When I pledged in the 1980s we had a three month pledge period. I thought it worked quite well. We might have a couple members drop out over the semester for various reasons. Once initiated though, dropping out was pretty much unheard of.

Of course since then most of the NPC sororities have moved to a shortened (6 to 8 week) new member period.

About 8 years ago I was on House Corp for another chapter of KD and I noticed a very high rate of drop outs both before and after initiation. I thought it might be a different campus/chapter culture. I also thought it could be the shortened new member program. I had an opportunity to speak very briefly with KD's National President about the drop out rate and the shortened program. She told me that since the pledge program had been shortened the drop out rate of initiated members had gone up astronomically. (I wish I could remember the exact percentage she mentioned.) She added that it wasn't just with KD but pretty much NPC-wide. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to talk more about the issue. I certainly had several more questions to ask.

We're all still producing outstanding members so I suppose a longer pledge period isn't an absolute necessity but I'm troubled by the number of drop outs especially since they are dropping out after having been initiated. I tend to believe that the importance of the commitment isn't coming across as well anymore.

Just my 2 cents.
I wonder if the shorten program just happened to coincide with the higher drop out rate. Do you suppose it could be a generational problem?
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  #9  
Old 10-18-2011, 07:48 PM
Leslie Anne Leslie Anne is offline
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I wish I had had the opportunity to discuss the matter further with her. I certainly would have asked why we continue with the shorter pledge period and what else may be causing the drop outs. Personally, I have no idea.

As for whether or not it could be generational, I'll leave that up to the GC intelligentsia.
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Old 10-18-2011, 08:15 PM
KSUViolet06 KSUViolet06 is offline
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To be honest, it's easy to get NMs initiated.

The real retention issue is that critical first year after initiation (the period from after initiation to about fall of sophomore year.) That's where I find that sororities have the biggest issues retention-wise.

I don't know how it is for fraternities though.
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  #11  
Old 10-18-2011, 08:40 PM
33girl 33girl is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leslie Anne View Post
I wish I had had the opportunity to discuss the matter further with her. I certainly would have asked why we continue with the shorter pledge period and what else may be causing the drop outs. Personally, I have no idea.

As for whether or not it could be generational, I'll leave that up to the GC intelligentsia.
If it is a generational issue, the problem is not the shorter pledge period in and of itself...the problem is that once members are initiated, they don't feel they are getting a good value for their money. And no, I'm not being like that dick from Campuspeak who says if you drop out because of money you don't love your GLO. I'm talking about the people who are completely able to pay for it and say "well, here I am...I'm a member...my life is still pretty much the same as it was before I joined. Why did I bother?"

We are social Greek organizations. If you aren't getting an improved social life from your membership (and by that, I mean friendships with your brothers or sisters and social interaction with other Greek groups) you'll probably quit. Social life in Greek organizations isn't what it used to be.

If we aren't going to be social - as in, what the average college student defines as social - we should stop defining ourselves as such. If we want to be purely philanthropic groups, we need to follow that path and jettison the chapters that don't agree. You can't have it both ways, and GLOs have been trying to do that for quite a while now.
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Old 10-18-2011, 08:58 PM
33girl 33girl is offline
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Very interesting, and not surprising given my own experience. What puzzles me is this: if this phenomenon is so common, then why the insistence on maintaining the shortened associate membership program? Why not move back to a longer program to alleviate this problem?

I have seen no evidence that the shorter program has led to any increase in numbers or quality of overall membership; quite the contrary. I really wish I understood the rationale of doing this besides "everyone else is doing it", which seems to be the only reason I've heard so far.
Many schools erroneously think a shorter pledge program cuts down on hazing. Since they are our host institutions, we have to play their game, whether we like it or not.

I don't think that it's the shortness of the program, but the content. We had a very simple (nationally produced) book that all pledges were issued...but it also had a list of all our chapters, all the NPC and IFC chapters, and everything else I mentioned in my response to you above. It was a super handy reference and I still use it. Our current NM manuals (which are actually part of a lifetime membership program) are probably 5 times bigger and more full of "exercises" than information, IMO. Naturally some people are going to memorize more quickly than others...and some groups are going to have more history than others...and some chapters are going to have bigger Greek communities with which to familiarize themselves than others...which means that each GLO AND each chapter should be able to pick the amount of time that works for them.

The insistence on not setting apart pledges and trying to fully integrate them into the chapter more quickly really doesn't help, either. It's like kids don't have Driver's Ed or practicing anymore, they just are supposed to hop in the car when they turn 16 and know what to do.
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Last edited by 33girl; 10-18-2011 at 09:23 PM.
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  #13  
Old 10-18-2011, 09:09 PM
AnchorAlumna AnchorAlumna is offline
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I would certainly support a move to lengthen the new member period. I have not seen that the dropout rate has increased, but I am discouraged by how many girls don't know a good bit of basic information.
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  #14  
Old 10-18-2011, 09:24 PM
33girl 33girl is offline
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I would certainly support a move to lengthen the new member period. I have not seen that the dropout rate has increased, but I am discouraged by how many girls don't know a good bit of basic information.
Because they don't have to. There is no consequence if they don't learn it. That has nothing to do with a pledge period being 2 weeks long or 20 weeks long.
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Old 10-18-2011, 10:07 PM
KSUViolet06 KSUViolet06 is offline
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^^^This is why I was SUPER happy that when we launched Essential Sigma (switching from just NM ed to total member ed) that we kept our New Member Test as a component of the NM sequence of the program. I feel like it impresses important info into your brain because you have to pass to initiate.

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Last edited by KSUViolet06; 10-18-2011 at 10:09 PM.
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