New Member Education
As a result of their transition into fraternity or sorority life, new members should be able to demonstrate the following knowledge, skills, and attitudes:
- List expectations of the greater fraternal community
- Describe the organization’s structure
- Know where to get information, resources, and assistance
- Manage their behavior in accordance with their organization’s principles
- Identify and address problems related to the organization’s principles
- Aspire to higher standards of conduct and achievement
- Maintain openness to personal development experiences
- Feel pride in and affinity for the organization and the greater fraternal community
Adapted from Analysis Report completed by RISE Partnership, LLC.
Key Elements of a New Member Program
The list below articulates key elements that a strong New Member Education Program incorporates into its curriculum:
- Poses no mental or physical harm
- Describes the structure and activities of the program
- Articulates to the new members the philosophy and purpose of the new member experience
- Facilitates educational experiences
- Provides constructive feedback to members and new members
- Communicates expectations of membership
- Lists techniques for evaluating and improving new member activities
- Seeks advice on the program from chapter and campus advisors
- Provides an opportunity for new member educators to act as a good liaison between the new members and current members, maintaining a balance and keeping everyone on the same page with regard to expectations of knowledge and behavior
- Offers effective transitions and training
As a part of this process, current members should:
- Model sisterhood/brotherhood and exemplary conduct
- Feel responsibility and ownership for the learning of new members
- Be held accountable for any straying from the program that could be or become hazing
Adapted from Analysis Report completed by RISE Partnership, LLC and from Judge Mitch Crane, CAMPUSSPEAK Speaker.
Ways to Strengthen a New Member Education Program
The following are some things to keep in mind when designing an education program:
- Do not include alcohol in any new member activities
- Provide opportunities for existing members to participate in some activities alongside new members (this can reduce hazing and lets existing members model positive behavior)
- Identify the intended positive outcomes for all new-member activities—and if the activity does not have any, consider revising
- Anticipate the times and actions that lend themselves to hazing; activities like scavenger hunts, skits, and study hours are not hazing if they are conducted in the right way
Improving Your Current Program
Organizations can ask new members to participate in 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 a way to evaluate activities and ensure they are consistent with College policy and the Meliora Values.
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 the 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 also divided from members of the organization and put in a potentially harmful situation.
Example A would be a supported program aligned with the Meliora Values, while example B would be a violation of the University’s 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 (e.g., 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. Instead, 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 devalues respect.