We all have them. Sometimes they are real and other times they are imaginary. But for some reason they are there. We perceive them differently. They hold us back or prevent us from doing things. At the end of the day, they do exist.
AFA’s most recent bylaw proposal has further highlighted this point of view. This post is not about the details of the bylaw proposal or what it means for the organization. It is about the barriers that exist that preclude people from feeling comfortable enough to voice their opinion.
I will openly admit that I do not consider AFA to be my professional development organization of choice. I find much, much more value in my affiliation with ACPA. To me, AFA is a necessary evil of the work that I do. I am a member because I work with fraternity & sorority students, and not the other way around.
What I find most interesting about AFA (and this is my perception) is that there seems to be more barriers with this organization than with ACPA. AFA has 1478 registered members (as reported at the 2012 Annual Business Meeting). ACPA has 7460 members (2010-2011 Annual Report). That is 5x the amount of members than AFA, yet I feel less connected in AFA and that there are more barriers.
Last year, I ran for a governance board position with ACPA as the Member-at-Large, Entry Level. I was vetted through ACPA’s process and was ultimately slated for the position. I will probably never apply for a position within AFA. For some reason, there is a different level of intimidation that comes along with AFA. If you are not in the “inner circle,” then it doesn’t matter who you are, what you are doing, or what you are capable of contributing.
A lot of chatter has come up about the business meeting and the bylaw discussion. People have alluded to why didn’t more people stand up to speak. I say it is because of the barriers that exist, perceived or real. The people who did speak have years in the profession or were former board members. They are respected in the fraternity/sorority realm.
I know that I would never stand up in that type of forum to voice my opinion. In addition, to criticize people for not feeling comfortable to stand up in that environment is unfair.
Even in the region meetings, it was intimidating to provide feedback in that environment. Region II is huge. Of the well over 100 people in the room, one had something to say about the bylaw change. Just one. Plenty of people had thoughts and opinions. But that barrier popped up again.
Barriers exist people. Sometimes they are physical. Sometimes they are mental. At the end of the day, they are there. AFA is no exception.