Final Paper Ideas?

Throughout this semester, our class has discussed a wide range of topics which either directly or indirectly shape organizations. In Scott, we have briefly discussed open-systems, rational systems, and natural systems. We have seen how these perspectives evolved over time, and the various examples of how and when these perspectives tend to apply. Eventually the theory behind each of these perspectives has embedded itself within all organizations. Organizations both large and small seem to have a rationalized use of all of these perspectives.

With the amount of room we have been given for this project, I sat at my computer sifting through webpage after webpage, waiting for that lightning bolt to hit me. I was looking for a topic I am interested about, understand at least the general idea about it, and found that something in the organization has used all of the theories that we have studied in one way or another. I found myself thinking that the only thing that I could truly relate to was fraternity life at Bucknell.



In this past year, my involvement in my fraternity has dwindled to say the least. From initially becoming a lowly pledge, to now being closer to an old alumnus than an active brother, I have seen the structure that binds our fraternity change. Within each fraternity is an elaborate system that is constantly changing with each fresh-off-the-boat pledge, and each newly departed saggy old alumni. I have realized however, that this change happens throughout the fraternity by affecting different “divisions” if you will. From the almighty executive committee, to the powerless pledge, within an organization that is created through roughly 80 “men”, many of the theories and structures that we have discussed in organizations are relatively clear. A complete and distinct set of rules and guidelines are put in place to continue smooth operations. With each new-year, new executives are given power to run operations, dividing down responsibility to trusted people. However, with such a short turnover rate, the system lends itself to constant change and restructuring.

With this paper, I hope to look my fraternities (and others) and analyze it first as a static organization, one that is built on a credo, and inherent values. From this I will analyze this organization as a variable organization where different theories and perspectives live and change through the constantly changing bureaucratic system.

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7 Responses

  1. Awesome idea, Geoff. As a frat brother myself, it’s been a more interesting experience than I would have expected moving through the ranks of the fraternity–from pledge, to committee chair, to senior committee chair, to going abroad and being completely inactive, to being a senior without any formal position (or power) in the frat. From what I have seen frats, and for that matter sororities, are some of the most well-run organizations on campus in terms of organizational structure, division of power, and passing of power. They are some of the only organization on campus, I think, where a brother or sister are truly held accountable for their actions. As a former social chair, I have felt the wrath of other brothers after having botched a social event (forgot the tap to a keg once). It would be interesting to examine how frats legitimize power and the passing of power so well.

  2. I think this is a great idea, especially as fraternities have different goals at different times. Sometimes its parties, other times its a community service event or recruitment.

  3. I think it would be interesting to compare the structures of fraternities to sororities. Does the fact that the sororities on campus tend to have more members change their organizational structure? Do fraternities devote more time to risk assessment because they host parties on campus? Regrettably, I myself could not participate in Greek life because of sports so I am really curious to see how one within “frat life” interprets the complex organizational mechanisms involved.

  4. Very colorful descriptions! Those really make this post come alive.

    The high rate of turnvoer does seem essential for fraternities. What kinds of adaptations have they evolved to cope with it?

    The assignment calls for you to be explicit about types of research and audience for your research paper. What do you think? You are “in” a fraternity, so you need to think carefully about how to both use that knowledge, but also give yourself data to distance yourself and objectify the phenomenon.

  5. Ross, that was a great idea, and I had briefly thought of something similar while pondering. I decided to steer away from that idea because of the fact that Fraternities and Sororities here at Bucknell are very different. The areas for comparison range widely from the rules they follow, their organizational structure, to even just comparing goals based on gender roles. The room for analysis would be too big, at least for this project.

  6. Jordi, I found that to be a main reason for choosing this topic. As Dave mentioned, a lot of going through the fraternity process here at Bucknell involves different levels of involvement and given power. Seniors tend to stray away from holding defined power and position and tend to have other networks they might belong. For me it has to do with the ending of one chapter, and the beginning of another. It seems that other things are on my mind. I found this to be the case for many previous brothers, and brothers of other fraternities. I don’t want to make the generalization, but I think this will situate me well to analyze the organizations from the outside will also giving me valuable knowledge from my experiences.

  7. I think another thing that is interesting about Greek life here is how each organization functions in a very different way. We have different executive positions, ways of thinking, and members, yet we all work to achieve the same goal: the high esteem of the coveted gold star. I will also agree with Dave above, the efficiency that my 90 brothers and I function with and run our organization is unbelievable considering how I’ve been involved with much smalled organizations that have failed miserably.

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