(NOTE: Family Matters magazine contributor Stephanie Mayo sent me questions via email for an article re parents concerns’ on student organizations and fraternities. Her story appeared in the December 2014 issue of the magazine. I am sharing with you here my answers to her questions, in essay form.)
I am not a stranger to student organizations. When I was in high school, I was president of the Philatelic Club and was also a member of the school’s Red Cross Youth.
As a journalism undergrad at the University of the Philippines Diliman, I was affiliated with the UP Broadcasters’ Guild, eventually serving as its vice president during my senior year. On top of that, I was also a news writer for the Philippine Collegian (the university’s official school publication).
For me, the main purpose of school organizations is to serve as a venue for students to explore their chosen disciplines and/or personal interests. If they choose the good ones, there can be a lot of benefits.
For instance, some organizations offer free workshops as well as networking opportunities with org alumnus. We don’t have to mention here the fact that joining student orgs also allows you to have more friends from other courses and year levels.
As a college professor, I will highly encourage my students to join school orgs. However, I will suggest them to ask the following:
*Is the organization active, in the sense that it has a vibrant membership and is frequently involved in various activities, either by itself or in partnership with other orgs.
*What is the organization’s reputation in your college/university? If it’s been involved in undesirable activities like violence and defiance of school policies, you might want to stay away from it.
*Is the org officially recognized by the school? School administrators usually set minimum requirements for org recognition (e.g. paper works to be filled out, attendance in certain seminars, etc.), so if an org is not recognized by your school, then it’s probably a sign of leadership incompetence.
*What are the benefits that the org will bring to its members? As noted above, it can be through workshops, network-building, etc.
*What are the application requirements? Some orgs only need a certain membership fee, while others require wannabe members to go through a lengthy application process.
*Is the membership fee reasonable? Any amount beyond P200 can be questioned. Also, what are the activities involved in the application process? When I was in college, for instance, one mass communication org gained notoriety for requiring its applicants to go engage in fundraising activities (is it fair to raise money for an org you are not yet sure of being a part of?).
*Lastly, what responsibilities are expected from each org member? Although it is a given that being affiliated with a school org really requires time, your studies should remain your utmost priority.
Now, as regards frats:
*First of all, I am making these comments as a non-member. Frats widen their ranks usually through personal invitations (e.g. a member of the frat approaches you and asks you to join them). Now, if you are not really keen on joining any frats, say no from the start or as early as you can.
Trouble comes in when you decide to back out midway or toward the end of the application process, at a time when the frat has already invested much time efforts on you.
(Tips for parents: Please encourage your kids to be as transparent as they can regarding which school organizations they are interested in joining. Do some research and make the necessary advice when needed. Keep an open mind all the time!)