For those who may not have heard, the “deadliest” Frat in the US is shutting down pledging. It is a rather historic thing seeing as Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) is currently the second largest fraternity in the US, but it is not unheard of. Sigma Phi Epsilon shifted to their Balanced Man Program in the 90’s which was the same idea. NPHC banned pledging in the early 90’s as well following a number of deaths occurring due to the process.
The idea behind these shifts is that as soon as a member joins, they are a member, not a pledge or associate member or anything else. In turn, they have educational requirements that are required of them over the next few years. Ideally, this is an excellent idea. One of my personal pushes when I served as the VP of Membership Education for my chapter was that education does not stop just because you have taken your oath. Just the same and perhaps more importantly, it does not stop just because you have graduated or have become president…to be honest, education never stops.
So how have these organizations handled their shifts? There are mixed feelings from the NPHC end. Not being a member of NPHC myself, I do not know everything and am not speaking as an expert, but I have heard cases and people passionate about the issue on both sides. People state that, and dissonance theory would agree, if you have to go through a more difficult process to join, you place higher value on the organization. There are, however, other ways to create that buy in and effort. People have told me that they feel going through the physical punishment does not prove anything either way. Personally, I connect with this point. In my mind, if I want you to be my brother, I don’t need to do any “tearing down to build you up” for that. You are already a man worthy of my letters (hence we give you an associate member pin with the letters on it) and my goal is to help you grow just as much as I expect you to require the same of me.
This idea is getting mixed responses. I understand that. We, as members of fraternities, are creatures of habit and often times must be dragged kicking and screaming into the future. Whether this is the right choice, only time will tell, but can the idea of a continual education process really be a bad thing?