If I Knew Then What I Know Now …

Never has there been a truer statement when I look back on my undergraduate years in the fraternity/sorority world. As a fraternity/sorority campus professional, who also serves on my sorority’s National Executive Board, there were a lot of things I missed that I shouldn’t have. So here is what I’ve learned in my experience:

Transition is everything. Members graduate and executive boards come and go, so make your chapter’s life easier by dedicating time to leadership transition planning. Passing off a binder or flash drive and passwords isn’t enough. Outgoing officers need to spend time with the incoming officers to make sure they have a clear understanding of their duties and responsibilities. Allowing incoming officers to shadow the outgoing ones is a beneficial transition component. Effective transition is especially important for our culturally-based fraternities and sororities (CBFOs) because, in many cases, new members are taking on these roles during their first semester. For these chapters, transition needs to be a priority. A poorly-done or ineffective transition can have a long-term negative impact on the chapter, so go the extra mile to ensure your chapter’s viability.

Transparency is a good thing. As a chapter, there needs to be a certain level of transparency with your members, campus, and headquarters. If there are chapter traditions that you don’t want your headquarters to know, then your chapter probably shouldn’t be engaging in those activities. Ask yourself if that specific tradition exemplifies what your organization’s founding principles. Clear communication also promotes transparency. Members need to be aware of expectations and held accountable when those expectations aren’t met.

Earning Letters = Pettiness. If you say IFC and College Panhellenic chapters pay for their letters and you “earned your letters,” I’m going to politely ask you to stop. You sound petty. We’re better than that. Earning one’s letters needs to stop meaning treating our prospective members like they’re less than. It doesn’t benefit them, and it doesn’t reflect the intention of your founding members. If you want your prospective members to become successful, positive members of your chapter, then try these things:

  • Make sure they pay their dues. Stop crossing members who haven’t paid dues. Those dues are there to support your chapter. If a prospective member can’t pay their dues, then they’re not ready. Keep them as friend but don’t make them a Sibling/Brother/Sister until they’re ready.
  • Have the prospective members plan a service project or philanthropic activity that the entire chapter can do with them. Give them the opportunity to grow and develop and put in work for your organization.
  • Hold prospective members accountable when they don’t meet the academic requirements. This should be done with all chapter members.

If you have a Fraternity/Sorority Life office, use it. Advising fraternity/sorority members is literally what I do for a living. There’s probably one of me on your campus too. Get to know these staff members. Utilize them. If you need help planning an event, they can advise you and give you tips. They can help you find resources and campus partners if that’s what you need. They can assist you during times of chapter transition and provide you with a great recommendation in the future. Invest in that relationship.

Stay on top of your paperwork. Mark all dates and deadlines for paperwork due to your headquarters and to your campus. These dates are important and there is no excuse for your chapter to be late in submitting these documents. Make a note and plan ahead. Don’t let procrastination stop your chapter (or delegation) from doing intake or other opportunities because of something so simple.

As an alumna of a multicultural sorority, I have witnessed the positive impact a chapter can have on the campus and local community. It is important for CBFOs to thrive and exist. We should be the ones leading the discussions of diversity and inclusion and demonstrate what it is to celebrate culture. Help your chapters thrive.

Tiffany Dennett is the Coordinator for Fraternity & Sorority Life at Bowling Green State University.


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