ADR for Greek Life?

Earlier this month, I received an email from the National HQ of my college sorority, Alpha Chi Omega (yes, it is painful to admit that I pledged a sorority in college), notifying me of the new “Claims and Dispute Resolution Program” the national organization had adopted “to ensure a timely and productive process to resolve issues which could arise during membership with the organization.”   Only after a few “click throughs” of the email does one realize that the so-called “program” imposes mandatory arbitration of all disputes on all current members and alumnae.  The email concludes: “Your decision to continue as a member in Alpha Chi Omega Fraternity after August 1st, 2012 means you have agreed to the program as it is written, and are bound by the terms of it.”

While I am no longer active in the organization, don’t even have to pay annual dues to be considered an alum, and don’t anticipate any disputes arising between us, I was taken aback at how pervasive the push to mandatory arbitration has become in all spheres of life.   Mandatory arbitration of sorority disputes?  Really? 

Seriously, however, when pondering the types of disputes that the national organization must encounter, I thought of disputes over non-payment of dues (collection matters), discrimination claims by college girls denied membership, and organizational liability for alcohol-related incidents.   These are the typical kinds of disputes that commercial entities like to divert out of the court system and into private dispute resolution.  The plus side:  my quick review of the program did not reveal any class action waivers. 

To see the dispute system design for yourself, click here.

4 thoughts on “ADR for Greek Life?”

  1. I too am shocked but not surprised. Thinking particularly at Black Greek Letter Organizations (I am a fairly active member of one), I can understand why this attempt would be made. Perhaps the biggest problem for black Greeks is hazing, which results in injuries and occasionally deaths (two potential members of my fraternity dies a couple of years ago by senseless hazing). These resultant lawsuits are threatening the survival of the organizations and I am sure some see mandatory arbitration as a route to reel in costs and eliminate juries (the lawsuit involving my fraternity I think was the reason President Clinton has paused on accepting the honarary membership he originally accepted).

    There seems to be little that can be done to control these collegiate problems short of eliminating them from existence. Since this seems unlikely, it does not surprise me to see mandatory arbitration on the horizon.

  2. I agree with Kendall. When thinking about places where mandatory arbitration would be used, Greek Life seems to be a natural fit, albeit not a place one would think of first. I think this is a very interesting development that could aid many Greek organizations (including my own). I remember my own experience in Greek Life and especially the difficulties with collection of membership dues and other financial obligations that each member agrees to through their signature of the financial contract. After reflection of the difficulties for the chapter and for the national organization, I am actually now surprised I haven’t heard of mandatory arbitration for more organizations in Greek Life.

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