What Else Could Be Done?
Some of the activities listed below may seem more relevant to all-male groups than all-female groups. Similarly, some more relevant to fraternities and sororities than other organizations.
Divide the new members into two groups with current members as team leaders and conduct a Collegetown clean-up on a Saturday morning (hint: contact your Common Council representatives to let them know about your good work).
Serve meals once a week to homeless community members at Loaves and Fishes, or distribute food through the local food pantry.
Require new members to perform a set amount of community service hours in support of community agencies. Have the new members appoint leaders within their group develop a plan through On Site Volunteer Services.
New members collect money on Ho Plaza to give to the International Red Cross' disaster relief efforts.
New members and selected current members spend spring break working in a southern inner-city or rural community building a home with Habitat for Humanity. Use the first half of the spring semester to plan the trip and learn about the community you will be serving. Have current members with construction skills conduct workshops for new members to enhance their abilities.
Set up a "big brother/big sister" mentoring program. Assign the mentor responsibility for teaching about the values of the organization and monitoring the new member's participation and academic performance (to ensure minimal expectations are met).
Have mentor take new member out to dinner or to an athletic or cultural event at least three times.
Put on a talent show. Include categories such as karaoke singing, instrumental music, skits, impersonations, and magic tricks. Since it is not the new members' responsibility to entertain the members, have willing members from each year participate and entertain each other.
Hold a movie night for news.
Have new members join members for meals 2-3 times a week. Have new members sit by themselves and talk freely with each other. As initiation day approaches, invite them to sit with current members once a week symbolizing their gradual entry into full membership.
Have new members sit comfortably in a circle for two hours in a dark room with only a single candle for light in the center of the circle. Provide the group with discussion questions that they are expected to talk about. Start with non-threatening questions or incomplete statements (e.g., "If I had a billion dollars, I would . . .") and end with more probing ones (e.g., "I'm afraid that . . . " or "If I could live my life over I would . . . " Option: have each member write a question on a card and put it in a question box. Select one question at a time and discuss it.
Hold study hours in which new members are expected to be present and studying with current members. At the end of a study period, order pizzas.
Divide new members into two teams. Give them each a box full of miscellaneous materials. Give them one hour to devise a competitive game using all of the items (only rules: everyone must plan and no one can get hurt). Have the two teams compete against each other.
Have members go with new members to Lake Placid for a weekend of skiing (and a ride on the Olympic bobsled run) or travel to New York for a networking meeting with alumni. Rent a bus for the trip.
Hold formal initiation rites that have a quality of solemnity. Formal attire, candlelight, and symbolic actions (e.g., taking an oath or signing a document) may be integrated into the ritual.
Invite alumni to address the new member group as part of the initiation.
Have representatives from the new member group speak about the meaning of their experience and hopes for the future.
Have each new member meet with his or her mentor weekly to review the new member's knowledge of the group and its members.
Provide written guidelines for new members outlining the expectations of the group.
Hold new member review panels periodically in which a small group of members discusses the new member's progress with him or her. If deficiencies or a lack of commitment is noted, the panel places the new member on probation.
In serious situations, the organization determines whether or not to terminate the relationship with the new member.
Have Cornell Outdoor Education (COE) staff lead new members through exercises at the University's state-of-the-art challenge course (or indoors at the climbing wall).
Take new members winter camping. Have teams of new members build snow caves to sleep in. Plan the event with guidance and equipment from COE to ensure safety.
On a snowy weekend divide new members into teams and provide them with cross country skis from COE. Give each team a set of clues to find containers hidden throughout the Cornell golf course. Each container contains a piece of paper with a word on it. The teams must collect all the words and determine the phrase that they form (which is a statement reflecting the underlying values of the group).
Have new members compete in basketball, volleyball or softball against current members or other groups.
Have new members compete against current members in bowling at Ides Lanes or Helen Newman Hall (catch: everyone must use the opposite of their dominant hand).
Have new members compete against members in laser tag or paint ball.
Have new members learn about the history underlying values of the organization. Divide them into groups and have them prepare Powerpoint presentations about the organization. Make the presentations preparation for the work world: have current members dress formally. Invite alumni to attend.
Have new members conduct 20 minute interviews with subsets of current members to learn about their backgrounds and beliefs. Hold new member meetings in which each new member delivers a report on his/her interviews in order to “introduce” the members who have been interviewed.
Have current members and alumni speak to current members about the values of the group and what they hope the new members will contribute and receive as part their experience.