Soc1030 Term Paper Final


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Soc1030 Term Paper Final

  1. 1. From Hazing to Praising: An Organizational Analysis of Brown University’s Delta Tau Fraternity SOC1030: Fall 2008 Professor Mark Suchman Caroline Sholem (Seoul) Cynthia Pollack (Crystal) Andrew Rapp (Crystal) 1
  2. 2. From Hazing to Praising: An Organizational Analysis of Brown University’s Delta Tau Fraternity American fraternities and sororities have historically been recognized for their membership exclusivity, reckless behavior, and extreme hazing practices. These destructive procedures have been glorified through a myriad of facets in American pop culture including popular films such as National Lampoon’s Animal House and Old School. However, Brown University’s fraternity Delta Tau (D Tau) attempts to deviate from the social norms typically associated with Greek life through its history and its unique set of customs. D Tau represents the Organic Model of organizational analysis predominately in that its history displays its necessity for survival; furthermore, the organization has struggled to maintain a unique identity within the Brown University community through its rituals, brotherhood, and attitude, thus representing the Cultural Model as well. Delta Tau originated at Brown as a chapter of the Delta Tau Delta national fraternal organization on January 1, 1896. According to Steve Dunn, a 1974 alumnus of Brown University and member of Delta Tau Delta from 1972 to 1974, the organization followed the typical norms associated with fraternities by organizing and hosting both social and philanthropic events. These activities allowed the fraternity to maintain its semi-permeable membrane within its open system by interacting with its environment, whether with other Brown University students or charitable organizations within the Providence, Rhode Island community. The chapter also fit into the mold of the stereotypical fraternity by practicing hazing rituals on new members, thereby constituting a cultural system through its use of customs and traditions. Dunn recalls once “being blind-folded and dropped off in the middle of the Newport Bridge in the middle of the night” among other hazardous activities as a part of the hazing and initiation 2
  3. 3. process. Dunn also recollects that “it was not looked upon very favorably to miss a ‘house meeting’” as the rules in the house were fairly strict and attendance at meetings and fraternity sponsored events was strongly encouraged, if not explicitly required. As the fraternity continued its active role in the Greek community throughout the upcoming years, many of the traditions within Delta Tau Delta remained the same, including its decision to host parties at which alcoholic beverages were served. The national chapter historically required that each of its chapter bases remain “dry”, meaning that no alcohol was to be present within the fraternity, especially at parties. This requirement greatly contradicted the habits at Delta Tau Delta at Brown, and the house believed its cultural practices which included the regular consumption of alcohol took precedence over the national chapters’ rules. This difference of opinion was a major factor leading to the separation of the Brown fraternity house from the national chapter on November 7th, 1991. This severing of ties caused the fraternity to shorten its name to Delta Tau, or as it is commonly known, D Tau. This separation displayed that the Brown chapter recognized the three elements of culture: symbols, ethos, and worldview. After analyzing which elements were most important to its members, the D Tau brothers clearly chose to value their ethos, by continuing to serve and consume alcohol, more than their worldview, which included social values and rules banning alcohol which were imposed by members high in the hierarchal chain on the national level. In cultural organizations, there must be a balance between the three elements, but as seen with D Tau, at times certain elements take priority over others. The fraternity continued to evolve and, in contrast to a house predominantly composed of football and hockey players as existed in Dunn’s era, by the late 1990’s Delta Tau transitioned to a membership largely consisting of football players and wrestlers. During this period, D Tau 3
  4. 4. became especially rambunctious and destructive. From a variety of widely publicized incidents, the fraternity built a bad reputation for itself around the Brown campus. Examples of the house’s offensive behavior included members throwing couches through windows, hosting “weigh-in parties” in which there were sliding admission fees based on the attractiveness of female entrants, and throwing the wildest alcoholic parties on campus. The wrestling coaches noticed the negative attention D Tau was attracting, and banned their players from joining any Brown fraternities. Once the wrestlers were no longer a part of D Tau, the football players slowly shifted membership to the Theta Delta Chi fraternity, where a large number of Brown football players still reside. After the wrestlers and football players left Delta Tau, membership plummeted and the fraternity dropped to an all time low with a mere four members during the 2004 to 2005 school year. The fraternity’s fight for continued existence, especially throughout these trying times, exemplified the organic system’s main goal of survival. In 2005, the remaining fraternity members saw that the existence of D Tau was in great danger and reacted as organic systems do, by desperately struggling to survive. The four members resorted to drastic measures to save Delta Tau by distributing flyers across campus asking if any students were interested in “taking over a frat.” A group of thirty freshmen friends responded and moved into the house the following fall, thus instituting a new era of D Tau. The students who took over the fraternity formed the structure with a view that was unique from the other fraternities on campus. The students felt that the rigid structure, exclusivity, and hazing practices which were all traditionally associated with the house were not necessary in the formation of the “new” Delta Tau. They strove to create a fraternity house on campus with a much more lax attitude, where friends could live together without the social constraints of intense hierarchy and demeaning pledging. 4
  5. 5. The fraternity experienced definite organizational change in 2005 in the eyes of Organizational Ecologists, who define organizational change as a shift in the core. The organization’s mission statement was previously more focused on exclusivity and the maintenance of reckless traditional stereotypes which have typically been associated with fraternities. Since D Tau now focuses on stressing its willingness to accept new members into its laid-back culture, the core has definitely shifted, therefore supporting the conclusion that organizational change has indeed occurred. This phenomenon can also be construed as Organizational Learning. The Organizational Learning model prompts modification of goals, practices, and technologies through the acquisition of knowledge and the analysis of prior events. The newer members of Delta Tau looked back upon the history of the fraternity and chose to develop a different, less obstreperous reputation, which is safer in terms of survival. Without change of some sort, D Tau may have “died out” completely. The more relaxed attitude adopted by the fraternity after its shift in control also displays that D Tau is a cultural system. Some of the goals in cultural systems are to serve the members within the organization while maintaining various customs, which coincided with the fraternity’s new outlook. Culture can be defined as “a set of understandings or meaning shared by a group of people. The meanings are largely tacit among the members, are clearly relevant to a particular group, and are distinctive to the group.” While D Tau’s customs are not necessarily tacit since its members publicly pride themselves on their uniqueness from other fraternities on campus, they are definitely distinct in being the only house on campus to stress its openness toward new members and informal style. The students reforming the fraternity felt that as a part of their novel culture, new member hazing was unnecessary and that the brothers would bond together even more strongly if 5
  6. 6. they eliminated hazing altogether and allowed entrance into the fraternity to anyone who wished to join. They replaced the original culture of hazing with one of friendship and respect. The brothers still share this view today and, as was revealed through various interviews, an attitude of general acceptance and tolerance is actually what initially enticed many of the brothers to join. Today, Delta Tau members are more interested in creating a diverse and accepting community, rather than forming an exclusive society. Will Baumann, a sophomore in the fraternity who currently serves as Social Chair, stated that one of the reasons he chose to rush and pledge at D Tau was that he could “join and be a part of the house without having to deal with any of the other pledge stuff that the other fraternities have, such as Hell Week.” Another brother, Matt Kahn, current junior and treasurer of Delta Tau, claimed his reasons for joining were that he “liked the mix of traditional frat activities minus the elitism and harsh pledging. [He] also liked that it was still re-forming and [that he] could influence where D Tau was going.” Organizational change takes time to fully occur within an establishment and Kahn recognizes that, while the initial shift in leadership and mission statement occurred a few years ago, development and the effects of organizational change are still taking place. Decisions greatly affecting the future of the fraternity are still being made in 2008, three years after the fundamental change was adopted at the fraternity house. Kahn’s recognition that he, or any other individual who chooses to join, could help structure the fraternity demonstrates Delta Tau’s horizontal structure. Each individual member has the ability to affect the fraternity’s culture and its procedures. Most fraternities follow a strict chain-of-command. Within such systems, it takes time for members to gain the status within the organization required to implement change. This, however, is not the case in Delta Tau. While there is a hierarchy in place, with Mike Mochizuki currently serving as president 6
  7. 7. and various other members holding officer and chair positions, a strict echelon complex is not closely followed. Each member with a specific position in the fraternity has his own responsibilities, but it would be hard to differentiate elected officials from other brothers in the fraternity by merely observing a regular meeting. Meetings, called and theoretically led by the president, are held every Monday night at nine o’clock in the house lounge. Formal meetings serve as a means for the brothers to congregate and express their opinions to others within the fraternity more efficiently than would transpire if the organization relied strictly on private conversations. Though there are currently eighty-three members of D Tau, only twenty members on average attend any given meeting. Because of the lax cultural stigmas in place, every member is not expected to attend each meeting. This expectation generally leaves only the brothers who truly care about improving the fraternity to make decisions each week. The members who do choose to attend participate in informal discussions that review past events and plan the details of future events. Brothers wait their turn to speak, and each can voice his opinion when the previous person has stopped talking, regardless of rank, further emphasizing the horizontal structure of the organization. In analyzing past events and evaluating its strengths and weaknesses, the fraternity acts as an organic system by implementing smaller-scale experiential organizational learning as a means of enhancing its chances of survival. During meetings, members gain feedback from each other on which aspects of the events were successful and which were not, and use this information to make informative decisions regarding future activities for the group. Though the brothers generally tend to agree on most decisions facing the fraternity, compromises can typically be reached between brothers with differing opinions. They vote and the majority rules on larger issues that cannot be resolved through simple discussion and 7
  8. 8. concession. The problem-solving solutions practiced further demonstrate the organization’s horizontal, organic structure. While a hierarchy is technically in place, power is distributed among all members – though chiefly to those who regularly choose to attend meetings, where voting actually takes place. Although only approximately one fourth of the members attend the weekly meetings at which minor decisions are made, attendance is much higher at annual meetings when elections are held for the coming year’s officers. These elected officers include such positions as President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Social, Rush, Pledge, Community Service, and Alumni Relations Chairs. Although the organization’s structure has proven to be horizontal, and lacks a real chain-of- command, each officer is given specific responsibilities and duties. However, those employed within organic systems, such as the officers of D Tau, are recognized to have unique thoughts and personalities. They are believed to be affected by both their intra- and extra-organizational environments. If their cumulative needs are not met, they could become unmotivated and the institution may prove unsuccessful. Under the organismic theory, if a company desires to function and survive, individual jobholders must be driven by task completion and feelings that they are useful and responsible, as well as satisfaction through recognition and rewards. The casual and open auras associated with the organization mesh well with these principles. Constituents who attend meetings are generally understanding of those members who have other obligations, so long as they fulfill at least some responsibilities, such as party attendance or cleaning. Delta Tau maintains recognition of task completion among its members and, especially, officers through its cultural system of brotherhood. The instilled feeling of brotherhood provides officers and constituents both a sense of responsibility to and respect for others that motivates them to fulfill their assigned tasks. 8
  9. 9. While this sense of brotherhood instills feelings of responsibility in most brothers and therefore should in theory leads them to fulfill their duties, this is not the case with all members of Delta Tau. Since the fraternity has laid-back and does not reprimand mild misbehavior, some members are allowed to live in the house and call themselves D Tau brothers, yet never assist in D Tau events or fulfill their responsibilities. This has created problems within the fraternity. Recently, a group of members who reside in a suite at Delta Tau have been in conflict with other brothers who live in the fraternity. Many members feel that not all of the “suite kids” contribute to the institution, which has caused tension and troubles. It has been suggested in meetings that the “suite kids” be denied housing if they do not show more allegiance to Delta Tau or pull their weight in some way. Although this matter is still pending, a cultural analysis of D Tau would predict that punitive actions are not likely to be imposed. Sub-cultures are very easily formed in a social organization such as a fraternity. In Delta Tau, the underlying custom of tolerance does not lend itself well to confrontations or punishment, and sub-cultures can thrive freely. The members therefore are much more likely to embrace a “live and let live” attitude when an actual vote on this issue takes place, if history and cultural ties are accurate indicators. Members of Delta Tau, because of their organization’s structure and organic and cultural makeup, are more willing to overlook certain inefficiencies to preserve their beliefs and ways of life. Although there is a definite sense of openness and understanding within the fraternity, the goals of the organization should in specific contexts take certain precedence over those of its individual constituents. According to organizational analysts W. Scott and G. Davis, “Goals [in natural systems] serve as a source of identification and motivation for participants.” A natural, or organic, system such as Delta Tau needs both general and explicit objectives in order to link together its members and serve as an impetus for cathexis, as well as define the institution 9
  10. 10. as a whole. Without a sense of personal investment instilled in existing members, or a reputation that can attract new students, the fraternity could not have survived in the past, nor would it have hope for success in the future. D Tau’s long-term goals and goal attainment strategies exemplify how the fraternity has been able to survive and gain its current reputation. One of Delta Tau’s most vital objectives is membership maintenance. This objective reflects the organic metaphor in that it is a “natural” goal; without adequate enrollment, the fraternity could not exist. This point was especially salient during Delta Tau’s 2004 to 2005 membership crisis. The goal of survival, at that pivotal time, became vital, and finding new recruits to “inherit” the fraternity overrode all other long and short term goals. Although not always the primary focus, sustained membership is always on the fraternity’s agenda. The importance of generating new membership can be witnessed through annual rush and pledging periods. Every spring semester, students considering joining Greek life choose to rush houses of interest (i.e. visit them during formal gatherings to gain information about the individual institutions and glean some sense of fraternities’ cultures). Delta Tau’s rush process is reflective of its particular views and lifestyle. Prospective members are wined and dined. Events such as movie nights and “show time” talent parties are held, which reflect Delta Tau’s distinctive emphasis on easygoing living and having a good time with friends. This lifestyle completed the prior abolishment of intense pledging rituals, attracts members who fit in with the fraternity’s present culture, and will perpetuate it for the foreseeable future. The organization’s long term goal of membership maintenance therefore is used both organically and culturally. Without constituents who are both sufficient in number and consistent in attitude, the fraternity could neither survive nor preserve its current system of beliefs and behaviors. 10
  11. 11. Once students are committed to the fraternity, they must be provided with reason to remain in the organization. Sergiovanni and Corbally define culture as “the system of values, symbols, and shared meanings of a group including the embodiment of these values, symbols, and meanings into material objects and ritualized practices…” The essence of fraternal spirit relies heavily on the concept of brotherhood and the feeling of happiness that this bond creates. By hosting intimate affairs such as Hookah Night and brothers-only events including Secret Santa, members of D Tau feel connected to each other through both socialization and planning activities involving collaborative responsibilities. Meetings also reflect Sergiovanni and Corbally’s description of organizational culture. It is routine on a normative level for members across different levels of the hierarchy to talk and joke, producing an overall ethos of unity and joviality. Delta Tau must set goals that reinforce its principal themes of friendship and informality to give meaning to the fraternity and continue to motivate its members and potential pledges. This manifestation of an informal organizational culture can, however, lead to possible inefficiencies. For example, D Tau’s Rush Chair, Dylan Nelson, seems to take advantage of the current casually run system. When asked whether there were any repercussions for not completely fulfilling his Board duties, Nelson replied, “My friends will be upset with me. D Tau will be hurt as an organization, but this is not very important to me.” The fraternity’s balance between social accord and institutional allegiance is tipped heavily towards the former, creating a distinct set of values and behaviors. As is evident from the current inter-clique, sub- culture struggle, brothers can at times shirk off their responsibilities, choosing obligatory action (utilizing their pre-existing roles of “house slackers”) over consequential action, which ultimately hurts the fraternity. If members transgress, there is little the establishment can do, 11
  12. 12. and peer-motivation is not invariably reliable. Nevertheless, this aspect of the culture emphasizes Delta Tau’s ideals and post-2005 core values. In an organization so culturally based, some productivity will always be sacrificed. Without personal satisfaction, there would be little incentive to join groups such as Greek houses. Not only must Delta Tau garner support from contented affiliates, but it must also have purpose. The fraternity is distinguished from a group of friends living together by its set of goals, which are met through environmental interaction. One such involvement is “customer satisfaction” – or the pleasing of its partygoers. The fraternity’s view on this process is reflective of the tenet of Total Quality Management (TQM). TQM is a method adopted by an organization in an attempt to improve overall caliber and performance. Total Quality Management is accomplished by targeting the customers’ wants and needs, and adjusting the institution accordingly. To produce a valuable service for the Brown community, and thus endow some meaning upon the entire organization, Delta Tau must hold parties that students will appreciate and enjoy. For example, in hosting theme parties such as the “Boo’s Fest” Halloween bash and “BlackOut III”, which was held this year as an alternative event to SexPowerGod, D Tau recognizes the community’s demand, and responds accordingly by fulfilling its varying needs. This organically based strategy allows Delta Tau to maintain its overall mission and meet its goals. By doing so, the fraternity is able to bolster survival by guaranteeing consumer satisfaction and perpetuation. Fraternities and sororities also provide a means for students to give back to the Brown and greater communities through philanthropy. The exogenous environment is constantly changing and reforming its necessities; to be charitable in a requisite fashion, D Tau must take advantage of its open system setup and semi-permeable membrane. One way it does so is by 12
  13. 13. building bridges with other organizations. One tactic of organizational bridging is the formation of associations. Associations are links between two or more connected institutions for the purpose of pursuing and facilitating intersecting or similar goals. Delta Tau, for instance, is a member of Brown University’s Greek Council. Some of Greek Council’s missions include: “[serving] as the governing and supervisory body of the Greek System, [serving] as the liaison between the Brown Community and the Greek System, [serving] as a regulatory body for the Greek System and to discipline Greek Houses as necessary, [and organizing] social and community service on behalf of the entire Brown Community.” D Tau’s connection to the Greek Council provides greater opportunity to help with both inter-group based philanthropic projects, such as Relay for Life, to link the different Greek houses. This process enables programs such as Trick-or-Treat at Wriston Quad to succeed because all Brown University fraternities and sororities can work together for a common good. Besides the long term goals of membership and purpose, Delta Tau also pursues a plethora of short term goals. For example, the long term goal of pleasing students who attend its parties also has a short-run objective. D Tau’s parties have the reputation in the Brown community of being both animated and alcoholic, especially after the fraternity’s cultural separation from the Delta Tau Delta national chapter. To ensure the preservation of this repute, members decide which events to hold during their meetings and assign roles to each member. Certain brothers buy alcohol, others bartend or act as monitors, and all are expected to attend and invite friends to make the parties successful even in their early hours. These goals not only reinforce the fraternity’s “wet”, fun image and culture, but also add to the feeling of brotherly cooperation and shared responsibilities. Short term goals also include the control of normal accidents. Perrow’s view on normal 13
  14. 14. accidents is that they “emerge from the characteristics of the systems themselves.” Problems such as overcrowding, running out of alcohol, and clashing with the Greek Council could be considered unavoidable but, at times, are unexpected. One such example is an event sponsored by the fraternity, which was held early this school year. At the event, the sponsors ran out of alcohol early in the evening, ending the party before its natural peak. Fraternity-hosted parties occasionally fall victim to such complications, due to the inherent nature of their parties, which attract large numbers of students and must be thrown using as little cash outlay as possible. To attempt to prevent this problem, however, the brothers could have considered Perrow’s four characteristics of a normal accident and tried to prevent them although even Perrow admits that foresight in these situations is extremely difficult. If a signal such as high building occupancy had been noticed earlier, perhaps an alcohol run could have been made, or entry could have been controlled to reduce alcohol requirements. Human inaccuracy in bartending, such as over- pouring shots or spilling, may also have been a contributing factor. Equipment error may also have added to the problem, if low-quality plastic cups used. Cheap cups could have cracked or ripped, resulted in alcohol spillage, and therefore required students to get replacement drinks. Mostly however, negative synergy – or the combination of these multiple elements – caused this normal accident and made this situation nearly unavoidable. Thus, in the short term, Delta Tau must attempt to avoid, and unfortunately sometimes cope with, the incidence of normal accidents. Delta Tau has been able to overcome adversity and survive while preserving its unique image and cultural habits. The house’s continual survive is largely due to its structural makeup and emphasis on the attainment of its goals. While its goals, hierarchy, and overall image have shifted throughout the course of its existence, D Tau has always used both the cultural and 14
  15. 15. organic models of organizational metatheory to survive and flourish within the Brown University community. Bibliography 15
  16. 16. Baumann, William. Interviewed by Pollack, Cynthia. Personal interview. December 8, 2008. Email interview. Dunn, Steve. Interviewed by Sholem, Caroline. Personal interview. December 12, 2008. Email interview. Kahn, Matt. Interviewed by Sholem, Caroline. Personal Interview. December 7, 2008. Email interview. Kroll, Adam. Interviewed by Sholem, Caroline. Personal interview. December 8, 2008. Email interview. Mochizuki, Mike. Interviewed by Pollack, Cynthia. Personal interview. November 17, 2008. Location of Delta Tau House Lounge. Nelson, Dylan. Interviewed by Cynthia, Pollack. Personal interview. December 10, 2008. Email interview. Perrow, Charles. "Normal Accident at Three Mile Island." Society (1981): 17-26. Scott, W. R., and Gerald F. Davis. Organizations and Organizing : Rational, Natural and Open Systems Perspectives. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2006. Sergiovanni, Thomas, and John E. Corbally, eds. Leadership and Organizational Culture : New Perspectives on Administrative Theory and Practice. New York: University of Illinois P, 1986. 16