Improving New Member Education
It is understood that new members will have mandatory activities as part of their New Member Education. Just because something is mandatory does not mean it is inappropriate, and there are ways to improve mandatory events to make them more impactful educational experiences.
The two case studies below provide additional information for evaluating activities and ensuring they are consistent with College policy and the Communal Principles.
Case Study #1: Scavenger Hunt
A scavenger hunt is a typical activity conducted during new member education. Depending on how it is organized, it could either be a useful bonding and educational tool or socially isolate the new members while exposing them to physical and emotional harm.
Example A: New members complete a scavenger hunt where they visit locations that are important to the organization and/or university. At each location, members share important history of that space and why it is important. At the end of the scavenger hunt, there is a discussion of the importance of each location. If the new members could not find a location, they discuss why they had difficulty finding that space and how they could work differently to be more successful in the future.
Example B: New members are given a list of items they need to find that have no connection to fraternal history or ritual. Items are intentionally difficult or impossible to find. At the end of the activity, they are ridiculed by existing members for not completing each task. In some cases they are punished by having to drink alcohol or do calisthenics for every item they could not find.
In example A, the organization provides experiential learning in a fun, supportive environment. The context of the activities is explained to the new members, and they are given the opportunity to debrief their experience and talk through areas they might have struggled.
In example B, the new members do not gain any beneficial skills or information; they are further divided from members of the organization and put in a potentially harmful situation.
Example A would be a supported program aligned with the Communal Principles, while Example B would be a violation of the University hazing policy.
Case Study #2: New Member Quizzes
Most organizations require new members to take an examination to join the organization. While this is appropriate, it should be done in a way that reflects proven educational methods and puts new members in a position to be successful.
Example A: New members have weekly education meetings where they discuss the organization’s values, traditions, and history. The new member educator takes the time to discuss why the information is important and debrief with the new members. Written quizzes are given at the end of these sessions to assess knowledge retention. When a new member has difficulty learning the information, the new member educator tries using different educational paradigms to convey the information and connects the new member to resources at the institution that assist with learning, writing, and academic success.
Example B: New members are given a list of information to memorize that does not enhance their knowledge of the organization (ex. members’ hometowns, favorite foods, etc.). They are put on the spot by members to answer information, sometimes being lined up and quizzed in front of the entire membership. With each incorrect answer they are mocked by the members and given some sort of punishment (such as repeating information until it is correct, cleaning duties or consuming alcohol).
In example A, the organization provides an educational experience that supports students with different learning styles. It connects new members with academic resources and provides support when they have difficulty grasping concepts. In example B, new members do not understand the value of the information they are learning; they are put in a situation that is not conducive to success and that can be harmful to their development.
Example A is an effective method for educating the new members, while Example B does not follow sound educational practices in an atmosphere that de-values respect.