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The Ultimate Guide to Fraternity Risk Management

By / 03.20.13

That said, Fraternities have a tendency to fuck up. A lot.

Part of this is collateral damage–the result of getting a large group of alpha-males together in one room, inevitably making their triumphs evermore spectacular, but their failures mind-boggingly sensationalistic. Many times, we're talking about relatively harmless fails–getting too drunk, punching a hole in the wall, etc. But with a relatively disturbing frequency, we've seen our fellow Brothers make the national spotlight for reasons that end up putting the Greek system on the defensive. They're a small sample of fuck-ups, but these “exceptions” seem to be happening at least a few times a year.

Having been on both sides of the spectrum 1.) By experiencing this shit as fraternity members in the not-so-distant past, and 2.) interpreting and covering these stories from a more “media”-based standpoint, we feel we could speak to a lot of these issues. So, we've put together a comprehensive guide consisting of the sorts of things that often vault fraternities into the nationally recognized-negative attention carousel, and we've offered our own expert analysis on how to best avoid the sorts of situations no person or chapter EVER wants to find themselves in.

You'll notice that a lot of these are interconnected, and a lot of them have relatively similar themes. Point is, fucking up minorly can often lead to fucking up majorly. Follow this guide. We've crafted it in a way that allows Greek Organizations to remain as vigilant and careful as possible WITHOUT necessarily compromising the general greatness that comes with the privilege of being in a fraternity. 

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A. Drugs

Overview: Anything pertaining to consuming, selling, and/or any other general activity regarding illegal substances, conducted in a manner that is directly tied to the fraternal organization.

Recent Notable Example: In February 2013, Tulane’s Kappa Sigma Chapter was busted with a large amount of basically every drug you could think of (marijuana, psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, MDMA, powdered cocaine, DMT, and OPIUM, FUCKING OPIUM).

What They Did Wrong: Got caught.

When It Comes To General Drug Activity in Your Fraternity, You Should:

A. Listen to what your D.A.R.E officer said during the only 2 hours they themselves weren’t consuming DRUGS 
B. Operate all dealings/activities in a satellite house
C. Convince yourself that this busting shit is just gonna happen to some other chapter
D. Confine drug usage to a designated area in the house

Overall, this is one of the tougher issues to tackle–you can’t just ban drugs from your frat because then you’d just be a fuckin’ pussy, Bro. Though at the same time, it’s CLEARLY something that poses one of the more serious risks to both your frat and that whole “having a future” thing. With that in mind:

  • Understand your frat’s drug culture. If you’re in charge and you don’t know what’s going on in your house, someone else should be in charge.
  • At all times, you HAVE to relate to others. You know that 19-22 year olds love to get drunk, smoke weed, and don’t necessarily care who sees.
  • But if you are in a fraternity house, this is of course a major problem. You don’t necessarily want to compromise your culture, but obviously you REALLY don’t want to compromise your life.

Solution: If people want to do drugs, fine and good. Weed is sort of unavoidable, so confine usage and amount (nothing that would constitute a felony, look up your state laws) to a designated area in the house, one that is hardly detectable from the public eye. When administrators visit (IFC or otherwise), designate a code-name alertish thing that could be sent to the list-serve.

For hard drugs and/or any drug distribution, make sure all that shit goes down in a satellite house. Rule number one for frat risk is that all rules you set will inevitably be abused, so ensure that if your frat’s gonna get fucked with drugs, only those selling/consuming are the ones that get fucked.

Answer: B

B. Misogyny/Racism

Overview: Being racist or crudely objectifying women in a way that is taken WAY TOO FAR.

Recent Notable Examples: In March 2013, SAE at Washington University fell under fire for yelling racial slurs directed at African American students. In March 2011, a member of USC’s Kappa Sigma chapter wrote the now-infamous “Gullet Report” (How to Be a Cocksmen), which many a person got very mad about. 

What They Did Wrong: Thought they were being awesome, but in reality were not. 

When It Comes To Racism/Misogyny in Your Fraternity, You Should:

A. Turn a blind eye and laugh along uncomfortably
B. Send the violator on a women’s retreat
C. Stop being a shitty person
D. Not do it In a manner that is tied to the fraternity

Solution: Sociology says that most people will choose option A. But. if you are the the person in charge and/or a decent human, you should confront the violator and be like “That’s not cool,” but do it in a way that commands respect and/or is possibly intimidating. A lot of the times people do that sort of shit as a plea to look cool, gain superiority over others, or to simply fit in–if you’re in a position where you could establish and influence what’s cool and what isn’t, the moral impetus is on you.

Answer: The real answer is C, but people find brilliant ways to constantly be horrible to each other, so D is more realistic. Good rule is to NOT TO SAY BAD SHIT ON THE LISTSERV EVER. (this will be elaborated upon further in section G)

C. Hazing 

Overview: Abusing people (often via alcohol) to the point where their livelihood, and possibly their life, is legitimately in danger.

Recent Notable Examples:  Northern Illinois Pledge Death (November 2012), Tennessee “Butt-Chugging” Incident (September 2012)

What They Did Wrong: In the Tennessee incident, potentially something extremely, extremely dumb. In the Northern Illinois Incident, made all this shit not even close to worth it.

When It Comes to Drinking Related Hazing, You Should:

A. Be as vigilant as humanly possible
B. Seriously examine and reconsider your more dangerous pledge events
C. Have multiple people monitor/track pledges alcohol intake during events
D. In the event of a crisis, put personal safety as a priority over any and all other consequences

Solution: To keep it brief, this is the thing that has to be taken the most seriously. Endangering people’s lives should of never happen under ANY circumstances, but it sadly does–particularly given all that goes down when you get 50+ males all in one room trying to outdo each other’s masculinity. As a species, we are a victim of our primal and competitive instincts. 

It’s best to get to know each pledge pretty in-depth, and target in on the ones who are at risk (those who have low tolerance, or those who think they’re untouchable). You really can’t fuck around here. Don’t do any crazy events early on, and always figure out how to make events more manageable. If people are going to the hospital from the shit you do, that’s a clear fucking sign that you should not be doing that.

Answer: All of them. Most importantly, NEVER put “we might get in trouble” over someone’s well being.

Click through to continue reading about formals, strippers, emails and more

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D. Strippers

Overview: Getting caught doing something that a lot of other males over 18 do, only they don't get in trouble because they aren’t associated with fraternities

Recent Notable Examples: In September 2011, UT’s Kappa Alpha was suspended for making pledges do a lot of pushups AND hiring performers for live sex shows.

What They Did Wrong: Allowed the words hazing and strippers to be in the same sentence, thus making it seem like they are soulless heathens.

When It Comes to Strippers in Your Fraternity, You Should:

A. Send flyers to the entire school
B. Go to a strip club
C. Instagram shit
D. Buy society at large a chill pill

Solution: People will go crazy over stuff like this, because when the words “fraternity,” “pledging,” and “strippers” combine, websites on the internet get to use bold font, and feminists get to write articles likening males with sexual urges and desires as swine-creatures. Unless you’re subjecting strippers or pledges to do things they’re completely uncomfortable with, any bad press is simply a result of fraternities being stereotyped. Unfair perhaps given that trailer park dwellers arguably do far worse things with strippers, but if you consider how much fraternities tend to fuck up, it’s not exactly underserved.

Answer: B

E. Big Events (Formals/Retreats)

Overview: There aren’t many things in this world more stressful than being responsible for dozens of fratstars hell-bent on going somewhere that isn’t a college campus and getting as fucked up as possible. The sheer number of people also makes responsibility deflection much worse—the general thought process is “I’m just one dude and one of the other 100 people here will totally take care of that situation.”

Recent Notable Examples: In Spring of 2010 two different Miami University sororities (nice!), caused quite a bit of damage at their formals.

What They Did Wrong: Invited Frat Bros, forgot that the rest of the world doesn’t react nicely to large groups of people currently in college looking to enjoy themselves.

When It Comes to Large Events, You Should:

A. Blame your blackout alter ego, possibly named Sven
B. Fail to give one, two, or even three fucks
C. Have sex in public
D. Close your eyes and hope for the best

Solution: The key to these things is to go to places where you know you could somewhat get away with the shenanigans that will inevitably ensue. Study your frat's past formals and retreats, figure out what worked and what didn’t, and plan accordingly. The same stuff happens everywhere, it’s generally a location blunder that gets people into trouble. i.e., if you’re in the proximity of something that will break, it probably will.

Answer: D. Though if you want to achieve weird internet fame that ultimately warp you into a permanent state of depression, perhaps C. 

F. Brand Promotions

Overview:  Anything that attempts to enhance or strengthen the fraternity's image to the campus community or the general public, but goes awry.

Recent Notable Examples: University of Michigan's Pi Kappa Alpha’s Semi-Nude Photos sent to promote/hype up their “America 2013” Party

What They Did Wrong: Nothing.

When It Comes to Fraternity Brand Promotions, You Should:

A. Have fun with it, within reason
B. Flyer the campus with dick jokes and your frat name
C. Find the nearest 58 year-old feminist completely detached from college culture, and show them what you are doing without any background whatsoever
D. Brag about it to an IFC head, or someone who wants to make your life miserable.

Solution: I find it hard to believe that any punishment would’ve been given to these kids if this was for say, an all-male a capella group. The Michigan Pikes sent those pictures to us because they thought they would be funny, but most of all because they are completely HARMLESS. The lesson to be learned from their suspension is this: The world is increasingly humorless.

Answer: A

G. Emails

Overview: Writing and/or publishing dumb shit on a medium that with a few simple clicks, could be read by millions of people.

Recent Notabale Examples: In December 2011, the Sigma Phi Epsilon Chapter at the University of Vermont was suspended after a member initiated a survey that asked “If you could rape someone, who would it be.” Also, the previously mentioned gullet report. (And the Karen Owen incident, if we can step outside of fraternities for a minute.)

What They Did Wrong: Lacked human decency. But on a more “what kind of person would do this” level, a general failure to realize that those outside the fraternity world would not take kindly to A LOT of what is said, the overwhelming majority of which is of course, significantly less glaring than this.

When It Comes to List-Serv Protocol, You Should:

A. Type whatever the fuck you want, cause trust and brotherhood
B. Be yourself, completely
C. Try really hard to be accepted by people by being as over the top as possible
D. DON’T SEND STUPID SHIT TO 100+ PEOPLE

Solution: Feel like this is rather obvious. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself—if this happened to go viral, could it possibly be a national news story? If you’re unsure, you shouldn’t publish.

If you must send horrible shit to others via email, do it on an email chain that isn’t your official fraternity list-serv. Under no circumstances should you completely be yourself–if you followed this logic for other facets of life, things such as sustaining a relationship with another female would likely never occur.

Also: if you’re in charge of your frat’s list-serv, have everyone get Gmail. Colleges can snoop on your university emails at any time.

Answer:  D

H. Parties and Other Shenanigans

Overview: Events that are supposed to be totally sick, but become so sick that they end up pretty unsick for your chapter at large

Recent Violations: In August 2012, an inter-fraternity fireworks battle at Miami University led to police intervention, drug busts

What They Did Wrong: Were too cool to cooperate with police (led to warrants, led to drug busts), exhibited general #idiocy

When It Comes to Parties and Other Shenanigans, You Should:

A. Totally do illegal shit in a way that can easily alert law enforcement
B. Continue to exhibit no traces of altruism when it comes to your distribution of fucks
C. Get fucked up and have a great time without having to make a national spectacle of it
D. Live out the lyrics to “Like a Boss”

Solution: Is it really that hard?

Answer: C

Again, this is merely a loose guide, which, due to you not wanting to spend four weeks reading this, was unable to address every single possible issue. The harsh truth is that a lot of this stuff happens out of nowhere, no matter how well you may be “prepared” for it. Through taking adequate measures and commanding respect, you'll go a long way in substantially decreasing the chances of bad shit happening to your chapter. 

If this stuff fascinates you to no end, best check out Jameson Galey's “The Best House on the Row.” As a recent past-President of USC's Sigma Alpha Epsilon Chapter, Galey is one of the few that paints a real picture on the inner-workings of the Greek system, in the sense of how risk–and permanent fucking up–is a very real thing. And of course, be sure to keep up with the general ongoings from the folks over at Total Frat Move, who generally offer pretty solid insight on Fraternity issues, such as this excellent takedown of a WSJ columnist ripping on “frat humor.”

Frat hard, frat responsibly, and frat on. 


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