Lessons From UIFI

Last week, I had the pleasure to facilitate a session of the Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute (UIFI), hosted  by the North-American Interfraternity Conference. This was my second year serving as a facilitator, which allowed me more opportunity to reflect on the experience, rather than being overwhelmed by the intensity of it all. Accordingly, I had several “ah ha” moments during the Institute which I’d like to share:

1. Doing Nothing is Always Easier
Change is hard. You are asked to try new things, think in a different way, and make yourself vulnerable to failure. Our chapters, councils, and communities resist change because the status quo is comfortable and easy.

2. You’re Not Special
Whatever problems you are having in your organization, someone has already dealt with it, and figured out a solution. Having the humility to seek these people out and ask for help is what will make a leader great. Don’t reinvent the wheel, just ask your neighbor in the cave over how he made that sweet ride.

3. It’s Getting Better
Thanks to the hard work of all those involved in the fraternity and sorority movement, things are getting better. Of course, we still have major problems to deal with, and as a whole, we’re far from excelling in the pursuit of living up to the ideals of our founders. Through educational opportunities provided by campuses, headquarters, the NIC, AFLV, and a bevy of other collaborators, we have started to have the right conversations, and encouraged thoughtful action on the parts of undergraduate students seeking to improve their organizations.

4. It’s Getting Better… Way too Slowly
The harsh reality is that we are still hurting people. Many of our chapters are still hazing, leading to physical pain, psychological trauma, injuries, and death. Many fraternity and sorority members still celebrate our stereotypes, and do their best to live a TFM and TSM lifestyle. Many fraternity houses are bastions for hyper-masculinity which leads to alcohol abuse, homophobic behavior, and the objectification, mistreatment, and abuse of women. When they place the highest regard on the physical appearance of prospective members, attend parties with themes that denigrate women, and tolerate the male chauvinistic behavior of our men’s groups, our women’s organizations fail to follow the path of their founders. Until we own these issues, and develop a healthy intolerance of this behavior, nothing will change.

5. Prove Us Right
Millions of dollars every year are spent on the improvement of our fraternities and sororities. Thousands of leadership conferences are held every year exclusively for fraternity and sorority members, and tens of thousands of students attend, many on scholarships provided by alumni, campuses, and headquarters. Over a thousand professionals from hundreds of campuses and headquarters have dedicated their careers to the advancement of the fraternal movement. We give up nights, weekends, time with family, our personal lives, and much of our sanity, all because we believe that fraternities and sororities have a unique ability to have a an overwhelmingly positive impact on our members and our communities. So all we ask of our students is to prove us right.

If you have yet to experience UIFI for yourself, I highly encourage you to do so. If you are a student, make plans to attend next year. If you are a fraternity/sorority professional, apply to facilitate. If you are a supporter of the fraternal movement, consider encouraging undergraduates to attend, and/or sponsor a scholarship to do so through your University or headquarters.

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Your Summer Final Exam

Depending on your college or university, you’re most likely somewhere between three to six weeks away from returning to campus. With summer coming to a close, it’s time to review your progress so far. Please take a moment to answer the following questions in essay format.

1. What have you done this summer to make your chapter better?

2. Please provide your strategic plans for the work that needs to be accomplished within your chapter during the first two weeks and the first two months of the fall semester.

3. Describe an event or activity that you participated in this summer that perpetuated the founding values of your organization.

If you can’t readily answer these questions, now is the perfect time to reevaluate your summer plans. Three months off from school, does not mean months off from your fraternity or sorority. Far too often, the summer months are lost to work, travel, and relaxation. This free time is the perfect opportunity for you to make plans to better your chapter, and show everyone back at home exactly what your fraternity and sorority is all about.

Plan a new event. Improve an existing initiative. Start recruiting. Plan a reunion. Do service in your community. Read a book on organization leadership. Whatever you decide to do, don’t let your summer go to waste.

Have a comment? Leave it here.

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“No Report”

I have a huge pet peeve when it comes to chapter meetings. I can tolerate leniency in Robert’s Rules,  improper attire, and even phones going off inadvertently. My chapter meeting ‘nails on the chalkboard’ moment is when an officer or committee chairperson utters the two words, “No report”.

As a chapter leader, you are either elected or appointed because the chapter values the work you do for the organization, and trusts you to work diligently to advance the causes of the organization. Chapter members take time out of their busy schedule to gather for chapter meetings. They get dressed up, proudly place their badge over their heart, travel to your meeting location, sit through dozens of reports, and take notes (sometimes).

They do all of this to gain a full understanding of current chapter operations as well as the short-term and long-term objectives of the chapter’s leadership. They want to hear your ideas, get a better understanding of your plans, and find ways to support your initiatives.

Yet, when a chapter leader addresses the general assembly, and decries, “No report.”, they are telling the chapter one or more of the following:

– I have done absolutely nothing with my position since the last time we met. Despite the fact that I hold this important position in the chapter, I do not value my position enough to put forth consistent work output. You trust me to continuously work to make this aspect of our chapter better, and I have let you down.

– What I’m doing in my position is best left behind the scenes. I’m committed to getting the job done… under my terms. I don’t want, nor do I need your input; my way is the best way, and asking for your help or input is futile. When I finally reveal my plan, I expect you to do exactly what I tell you to do.

– My position is irrelevant!! Sure, my title looks great on a resume, and I get to sit in the front of the room, but there is nothing more that I can do with my position. Why do we have a Director of Recruitment T-Shirts anyway?

– I’m lazy. The bare minimum is just fine by me. I’ve already done everything that my predecessor did last year, and I’m fulfilling the written obligations of my position. Innovation and progress isn’t something I need to worry about, that just means more work for me.

"My Bad"

– I don’t value your time. Sure, I have plenty to talk about; we actually have a big event coming up that I could use some help with. The thing is, I got caught up in a “Clarissa Explains It All” marathon before our meeting, and I didn’t take the time to collect my thoughts or prepare a report. Sorry you went out of your way to come to this meeting to hear what I have to say; I’ll just e-mail everything to you tomorrow.

So the next time your sitting in a chapter meeting, executive meeting, committee meeting, or even a council meeting, and somebody stands up and declares they have nothing to report, feel free to ask them why they have nothing new to tell the chapter.

Thoughts? Feel free to leave a comment.

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Get the Most Out of Your Leadership Consultant’s Visit

This post is a guest post from Pat Daley aka The Fraternity Advisor.
Pat Daley was a two year chapter president and was his university’s IFC president. He also was recognized as his university, chapter and national fraternity man of the year.  He is the author of thefraternityadvisor.com – a website dedicated to fraternity leadership.

We all know the drill.  The leadership consultant is coming from the fraternity’s national headquarters.  The fraternity president tells all the brothers to lay low for a few days until the consultant leaves.  When the consultant arrives, the chapter house is a ghost town, which is believed to be the safest way to handle the visit.

This is such an unbelievable waste.  The leadership consultant is not a spy from nationals.  He is a brother who is probably fresh out of school, but wanted to stick around for a year or two because he really believes in what fraternity life is all about.  He is there because he wants to help you, not because he wants to get you in trouble.

So, how do you get the most out of his visit?  First off, you need to be coordinating things with the consultant before he ever steps foot on campus.  You need to help him schedule any meetings he may request – such as a meeting with the Greek Life advisor or the chapter advisor.  You need to find out the purpose of the visit.  You need to find out what skills he has, and what he can do for the brotherhood.  This ensures you can adequately be prepared to get the most out of the visit.

Then, you need to be a good host.  Chances are, this guy spends most of his time on the road bouncing from chapter house to chapter house.  The least you can do is attempt to be as accommodating as possible.

When he finally arrives, treat him like a brother – because he is one!  Be sure he interacts with the brothers and gets to see what your chapter is all about.  Let the brothers know that they are expected to ask questions, and hopefully the consultant’s answers will help to improve the chapter.

Also, be sure to show the consultant a good time.  All work and no play is not fun.  Take the time to show the consultant some of spots that makes your school and your area great.

Finally, be sure to agree that you will stay in touch.  Hopefully, you will have formed a relationship with the consultant where you can contact him in the future for advice.

Having a leadership consultant visit is a fantastic opportunity for the fraternity.  Be sure to take advantage of it to make your chapter stronger.

Have a comment? Leave it here.

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Are You Ready for Some Football?!

Your chapter is a collection of like-minded individuals with a shared goal, full of challenges as well as support mechanisms… Just like an NFL team!

So let’s break this down…

Your Team:
Your team has plenty of unique individuals, with many different roles to play. Allow me to elaborate, and try to see where you fit in.

  • The quarterback is the leader of your team, calling plays, and making the important mid-play decisions to guide your team towards it’s ultimate goal.
  • The running backs and receivers are the faithful players that your quarterback trusts to give the ball to in order to move forward. The QB knows they can’t do it all by themselves, and thus, this delegation is necessary.
  • The defense works to ensure the team stays on top. They are always on alert for dangerous plays that can harm the team. Recognizing dangerous situations, they work to rectify the issue and get the team back on track. This protection doesn’t get the glory, but it is absolutely essential to a successful team.
  • The special teams players are great at what they do; they are, by name, specialists. Although they only get on the field a handful of plays a game, they have mastered their techniques to ensure a successful play every time. These are the players that are often being groomed to take over on the first string offense and defense.
  • Despite all of the amazing players you have on offense, defense, and special teams, sometimes you’ll get a diva, who is all about themselves. This player could care less about the success of the team, they just like to wear the uniform and get their time in the spotlight.

The Coaches:
Luckily, your players aren’t all on their own when it comes to deciding which plays to run. You have some experienced elders to help train your team and advise them to make the best decisions for the betterment of the team. These “advisors” are usually former players who have experienced the trials and tribulations of being in the spotlight. Learning from their personal successes and failures of the past, combined with experience gained through years working with generations of players, these coaches are an amazing resource for the players, and a absolutely essential part of the team.

The NFLPA:
This one I love! The NFL Players Association is the governing body for all players. Their mission statement reads, “We, The National Football League Players Association … Pay homage to our predecessors for their courage, sacrifice, and vision; … Pledge to preserve and enhance the democratic involvement of our members; … Confirm our willingness to do whatever is necessary for the betterment of our membership – To preserve our gains and achieve those goals not yet attained.”

Seriously, HOW GREAT IS THAT??!!

This governing body, or “council” of players, selects deserving individuals to represent the entire community of players in order to “do whatever is necessary for the betterment of [their] membership.” The players, recognizing the importance and value in this representative body, pay annual dues in order to allow for the association to work collectively to improve the experience of every single player.

The Commissioner:
The NFL Commissioner, as head of the league, is entrusted with the duties of protecting the NFL brand, ensuring the leagues success, serving as the spokesman for the league, and disciplining teams and players who violate the rules of the league. Players and teams who receive admonishment can sometimes harbor ill feelings towards the Commissioner. Meanwhile, most players and teams respect the tremendous, and complex duties of the commissioner. Though the Commissioner may sometimes have to serve as the heavy, he or she is always looking out for the best interest of the league. Through small tweaks to the rules, and implementation of new policies and programs, the Commissioner hopes to create the best possible environment for shared success for all involved.

Just in case you haven’t figured it all out, here is your cheat sheet:
The Team = Your Chapter
The Coaches = Your Chapter Advisors, and National Staff Members
The Players Association = Your Governing Council (IFC, NPHC, MGC, Panhellenic, etc.)
The Commissioner = Your Campus Fraternity and Sorority Advisor

I hope this post was thought provoking and enlightening for you. Feel free to leave a comment, and as always, Go Steelers!

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What if Seniors Stuck Around?

Last night, T.J. Sullivan, a friend, fellow fraternity and sorority life blogger, and founder of CAMPUSPEAK, sent out the following tweet:

In his tweet, T.J. was talking about his experience working with fellow fraternity and sorority professionals and volunteers; having the same conversations without seeing any major changes.

T.J.’s question led me to thinking about why it is that we are also having similarly cyclical conversations with undergraduate fraternity and sorority members, and why it is that truly measurable, positive change is so hard to create.

My reaction? I feel that what we are unfortunately seeing is a lack of continuity over time within our undergraduate chapters. In my experience, students assume their first leadership role during their sophomore year (think committee chairperson), then progress to a more heavily involved leadership position during their junior year (think e-board in the chapter or governing council), then by the time senior year comes around, the undergraduate wants nothing more than to wipe their hands of any form of leadership commitment.

What this means is that the leaders within our fraternity and sorority communities typically only have two years to implement change; not only within their chapter, but amongst the entire community. It seems as if students are hearing the message, getting pumped up to create change, then simply getting burned-out before any true change takes place. Hence, senior year comes around and it’s all too easy to pass the ball to the next guy or girl, and forget about their dreams of a better chapter and/or fraternity and sorority community.

The motivation gets sucked out of our members, and the message goes with it. This may be one of the reasons that fraternity and sorority professionals are constantly repeating the same messages, and seeing unsatisfactory results.

So what if seniors stuck around?
That extra year of involvement could go an incredibly long way in the continuance of the message you’ve been preaching for the past year or two. Your chapter may be in desperate need of a steady, consistent voice advocating for the kind of changes and ideas you picked up at AFLV, UIFI, summer convention, or another leadership conference. Staying involved means the you are fulfilling your commitment to be an active member of your chapter for the entirety of your time as an undergraduate.

What if your chapter was able to utilize the knowledge, vision, and experience of your senior class to shape the direction of your organization? What if some of your seniors stayed in the house instead of moving off campus so they didn’t have to be bothered with day to day operations? What if they all showed up to meetings, didn’t request to be granted early alumni status, and actually worked to develop and transition the younger leaders in your chapter?

So how can this actually happen?
Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet for this problem. Naturally, our older members will get burned-out, need to focus on graduation and job hunting, or may even be interning or studying abroad. Despite these issues, the paradigm can be shifted through small, yet consistent nudging. It is my hope that a determined group of seniors within your chapter may still have some gas left in their tank; these are the brothers and sisters who can start the process.

The more that these senior members can help out the younger leaders within the chapter, provide advice, and alleviate stress, the better the experience will be for the younger leaders. Accordingly, reaping the benefits of committed seniors remaining active within the chapter, those younger members will be more apt to sticking around themselves when senioritis comes calling.

As an underclassmen, you can help too. Recognize that holding a leadership position within your organization is a grind, and often times of little reward to the individual. Your job as a member is simple; don’t make life suck for the leaders within the chapter.

As simple as it is to say, this task seems to be difficult for a lot of members. Do your due diligence to hold true to the values of your organization that you agreed to when you took an oath to be a lifelong member. Be a willing and active participant in chapter activities by serving on committees and running for leadership positions yourself. Lastly, by all means recognize the experience that these older members are bringing to the table, and seek to utilize this resource.

If you find that this article is a fairly accurate depiction of the seniors in your chapters, why not make a commitment to bringing these members back into the fold? It’s as simple as asking for their help. “Hey Casey, I’m trying to plan this event next semester, and am having a hard time getting it off the ground. I know you have a ton of experience doing stuff like this, and I really value your opinion, do you think you can help me?”

You may be surprised at the simultaneous look of shock and gratitude that will wash across the seniors face with a comment like this.

So what’s your opinion on seniors exiting early? Do you have some solutions yourself? Make sure to share your ideas in the comments section.

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