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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Stopping Bad Behavior; a Lesson from Cigarettes

Unfortunately, many fraternity and sorority chapters are plagued with destructive behavior that threatens not only their existence, but the survival of their (inter)national organization, their campus fraternity and sorority community, and the entire fraternal movement. This behavior often violates the risk management policies that are in place to keep the chapter and it’s members safe. Yet, certain customs, traditions, and ritual are so ingrained within the culture of the chapter that it seems impossible to eradicate such behavior.

Luckily, there are many examples of massive shifts in societal norms that we can learn from. I happen to think that our fraternities and sororities have a lot to learn from the longstanding relationship our country has had with cigarettes.  Feel free to substitute and destructive behavior as binge drinking, hazing, homophobia, racism, sexism, sexual abuse, drugs, etc. as you read this post.

Acceptance

– During the period during and after World War 2, roughly 44-47% of all Americans smoked cigarettes. It was an accepted behavior, and was even glorified and directly marketed by our doctors. Our favorite television and radio shows were sponsored by the likes of Laramie and Lucky Strike. After all, tobacco has been America’s number one cash crop for hundreds of years. Cigarette use was celebrated as a part of our society. (source)

"Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life." -Dean Wormer

– Likewise, within our fraternities and sororities, many of our negative behaviors have been glorified in our popular culture, and celebrated by our members who were more than willing to live up to these stereotypes. Unfortunately, these behaviors are sometimes labeled as “boys being boys” and “girls being girls”, swept under the rug, and/or completely ignored, hoping they would go away on their own. These negative behaviors defined the fraternity and sorority experience in years past, and to a lesser extent, define our organizations today.

 

Addiction

– Cigarettes hurt and kill people. If you choose to regularly smoke cigarettes, there’s a pretty good chance they will kill you. Cigarettes are an addiction that is very difficult to quit. In fact, smoking cessation has become a billion dollar industry (source). The million dollar question then becomes, “Why do people choose to start in the first place?”.

– Our negative behaviors hurt and kill people. If you do not follow your fraternity or sorority’s risk management policy, there’s a pretty good chance somebody is going to get hurt, or even worse. In fact, many companies make a healthy profit off of teaching our members about making better decisions, and our headquarters and host institutions spend a lot of money on these efforts. The million dollar question then becomes, “Why do these behaviors still exist?”.

 

Education

– In 1950, the first major research studies were brought forth linking smoking to lung cancer (source). For the first time, the American public was being educated on the dangers of smoking, and the negative repercussions thereof. Over the years, more and more research was done to highlight negative effects such as second hand smoke, nicotine addiction, and chemicals within the cigarettes themselves. People began to realized that this behavior can harm or even kill themselves and the ones that they love.

– There are an immeasurable amount of individuals, and organizations dedicated to educating our fraternity and sorority communities on the dangers of our negative behaviors. The research has been, and continues to be done, the message is being delivered, and the support mechanisms are in place. So why do we still have so many problems related to bad behavior amongst fraternity and sorority members?

 

The Silent Majority with a Healthy Intolerance

– Even before the public was educated on the dangers of smoking, the majority of Americans chose not to smoke. However, it wasn’t until they had the facts on their side, that these individuals chose to stand up to the cigarette industry. Over the past sixty years or so, Americans have developed a healthy intolerance for cigarettes. The number of Americans who smoke dropped from 47% to  21% (source). It is because this once silent majority decided to stand up and be heard that we now enjoy such pleasures as smoke free restaurants, bars, offices, parks, and airplanes.

– The majority of our fraternity and sorority members know that hazing, alcohol abuse, drugs and the like are a danger to our organizations. Yet, very few individuals possess the will to speak up against such behaviors. Knowing the facts, should these individuals choose to ban together an develop a healthy intolerance for idiotic behavior within our chapters, there is no doubt that great change would follow.

 

No Mercy

The cigarette companies are on the ropes. Their once strong and faithful consumer base has turned against them. Backroom lobbying and sweetheart deals are being exposed, citizens are taking to the streets against these corporate giants, victims are winning battles in court, and even our government is taking measures to prevent tobacco use (sometimes in dramatic fashion). An all out battle is being waged against the cigarette companies from all directions. In sixty years, these companies have gone from providers of a healthy, hip product, to merchants of death. With the education being provided, and the support systems in place to stop this negative behavior, all excuses have been removed. If you choose to smoke, you are doing so knowing full well that it will hurt or kill you.

– We should carry this same no mercy attitude within our fraternities and sororities. Our chapter members, headquarters, host institutions, advisors, alumni, parents, and all of our other constituents must remain focus on eleminating these behaviors through education, a healthy intolerance, and by providing a support system that encourages alternative behavior. With the education being provided, and the support systems in place to stop this negative behavior, all excuses have been removed. If you choose to engage in destructive behavior, you are doing so knowing full well that it will hurt or kill you or your members.

Have a comment? Leave it here.

 

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Preparing Your Facebook for Panhellenic Recruitment – A Guide for Recruitment Counselors

The use of social media in Panhellenic recruitment seems to be a hot topic of conversation every year prior to the start of the formal Panhellenic recruitment process, specifically as it relates to our disaffiliated Recruitment Counselors. Despite the inescapable social influence of Facebook, many Panhellenic communities are leery of this tool in fear that it can be used to reveal the affiliation of these women. I find it unfortunate that rather than trying to come up with a viable solution to allow for recruitment counselors to use Facebook to connect with potential new members, many communities simply ban the use of Facebook by requiring all disaffiliated women to deactivate their account during the process.

Through Facebook communication, Recruitment Counselors have the ability to communicate with potential new members prior to the semester in which recruitment begins. They can communicate, answer questions, or even create a Facebook group just for their recruitment group, and start to form friendships and relationships both with and between members of their recruitment group. I hypothesize that this connectedness, which should foster greater relationship development, will make the formal recruitment process much easier for our potential new members, thus increasing retention through the process.

I have created this resource, intended as a guide for Recruitment Counselors to utilize the privacy options within Facebook to keep their affiliation private, while still utilizing the power of Facebook to enhance the Panhellenic recruitment experience. The ultimate goal is to create a Facebook account that does not reveal a recruitment counselors affiliation to potential new members, yet still allows them to communicate with the friends they already have on Facebook.

I am making this step-by-step guide, Preparing Your Facebook for Panhellenic Recruitment, a Guide for Panhellenic Recruitment Counselors, available to download free of cost.

Download this guide here. Or find it in my new resources section.

Did I forget to add anything? Will this guide help your community? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

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The Go Green Challenge

In light of yesterday’s Earth Day awareness and celebration activities, I decided to put yet another one of my “crazy ideas” in print. I’ve had this idea rattling around in my head for about three months now. It’s part fundraiser, part cost savings, and part sustainability. The idea I’m referring to is a fraternity or sorority Go Green Challenge. If you’re looking to implement some sustainable initiatives within your chapter house while raising some additional funding, this challenge may be a solution.

The Concept:
During the next academic year, your chapter adopts strategies aimed at conserving resources within your chapter house. By reducing the amount of gas, water, electricity and other resources used by members within the chapter house, the cost of operating the house will undoubtedly be reduced.

Additionally, you seek out the support of your housing corporation, landlord, host institution, or whomever happens to serve in the “landlord” role of your chapter house. Ask your landlord to assess the utility usage over the past three years to put together an average operating cost of these services.

Here’s where the challenge comes in. By reducing their impact, the chapter will be saving the landlord money in utility fees. By benefiting their landlord, the chapter is well within their rights to ask for a favor in return. That favor is the heart of the Go Green Challenge.

After a years worth of intentional conservation, the chapter would be given 50% of their total savings back, while the landlord keeps the other 50%. The Go Green Challenge is a mutually beneficial, collaborative agreement between your chapter and your landlord.

Let’s assume that by implementing a variety of resource and energy saving initiatives, the chapter is able to reduce their utility bills by $1,000 over the course of the year. They would then be given $500 as a reward to be reinvested back into the chapter. Despite giving the chapter $500, the landlord would still walk away with $500 that they were not anticipating.

The Go Green Challenge creates incentive for conservation; the more resources the chapter saves, the larger their payout will be at the end of the year. Does your chapter need a new lawnmower, TV, or washing machine? This might be a unique fundraising solution.

That’s the Go Green Challenge concept. It makes a whole lot of sense to me. Do you think your chapter is ready to try it?

If your chapter is looking to reduce their impact on the environment and save money at the same time, you’re not alone. Many fraternity and sorority communities across the country have implemented green initiatives. Here are some of my favorites that will provide your chapter with real solutions for obtaining your conservation goals:

Looking for even more ideas? Check out this comprehensive list from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Like this idea? Do you think it would work? Leave your opinions in the comments section!

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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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Greek Tech – The Google Monster (Part Two)

In my past post on The Google Monster, I explained how you can utilize the powers of Gmail and Google Calendar to improve your chapter’s operations. This post will focus solely on the awesome free resources at your fingertips with the Google Documents Suite.

It wasn’t until relatively recently that I discovered just how simple, powerful and convenient Google Docs could be. Now, I use it is some form or fashion every day.

According to Wikipedia, Google Docs is “a free, Web-based word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, form, and data storage service offered by Google. It allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating in real-time with other users.”

Here’s the important things to remember from that definition; free, online, and collaborating in real-time with other users. These services give you the ability to host a document online so that anyone with access can edit the document. Google Docs will save you from a constant barrage of e-mail exchanges with attachments with titles like “agenda FINAL”, “agenda FINAL UPDATE”, and “agenda THIS TIME FOR REAL”. So allow me to break down exactly how your chapter or council can use some of these services.

Documents (word processing)
Comparable to
: Microsoft Word
Ideal for: Agenda’s, Headquarters Reports, Scholarship/Award Applications, Constitution/Bylaw Revisions, etc.
In a layout reminiscent to Microsoft Word, Documents allows you to upload and share any text document. The best example I’ve seen utilizing Documents is in the creation of meeting agenda’s. Instead of collecting everyone’s reports via e-mail, and compiling them yourself, simply send everyone a link to an agenda template and have them fill it out themselves.

Spreadsheets
Comparable to
: Microsoft Excel
Ideal for: Rosters, Constituents Contact Lists, Recruitment Names List, Chapter Budget, Community Service Hours Tracking Sheet, T-shirt orders, etc.
In my opinion, Spreadsheets is the powerhouse of the Google Docs Suite. It is such an easy way to manage your chapters operations. Spreadsheets is great for sharing these types of documents, and using the collective power of the contributors to manage and update the information.

Forms
Comparable to: Survey Monkey, Zoomerang
Ideal for: surveys, polls, event registrations, etc.
If you already use either the free or paid versions of Survey Monkey or Zoomerang, then you’re already getting the same services as Google Forms. However, if you’re looking for a quick and simple way to get chapter feedback, Google Forms will do the job. You create the form, e-mail the link out to participants, and Google Forms will create charts and graphs to help you analyze the results.

How to Manage Privacy and Sharing
You can set any Google Doc to one of three basic privacy settings; private, public on the web, or anyone with the link. Before you go ahead and convert your entire chapters files to Google Docs, ensure that you have a full understanding of what these privacy levels mean.

The most powerful part of Google Docs is the ability to share your documents with other chapter members. The is done by allowing contributors to have access to either view, or edit the document. Giving someone the powers to edit the document allows them to update the file as they see fit, so be cautious of who you give this privilege to. Luckily, even if someone screws up royally, Google Docs allows you to see the entire revision history and restore your file to a previous version.

It Doesn’t Sound All That Great
It really is hard to understand just how cool this resource is until you’ve tried it, and shared it with others. So if you’re not using Google Docs, I’d suggest giving it a try. Start slow with something like your weekly agenda’s, or your chapter officers contact sheet. If you’re anything like me, pretty soon you’ll be relying on Google Docs for a great deal of what you do.

What do you use Google Docs for? Have a suggestion? Leave it in the comments.


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