Keeping it Real: Challenging the Status Quo
Working with high powered and determined college students is like riding any roller coaster in the amusement park. We have theories or ideas from others of how it’s “supposed to work” or feel like, but we never quite know what will happens until it happens. One day we may be talking about how to better implement academic support, and the next day we are doing a hazing investigation. One day is never the same as the last.
However, perhaps the second neverending variable is motivating students to challenge their own self taught status quos. Raise your hand if you have ever heard, “I mean that’s just how we’ve always done it.” If you don’t have your hand up right now, you will soon. This the classic answer to any question that event hints at the idea of change in policy, procedure, or program. I’m here to tell you that the status quo has to be challenged.
I want to share a few questions, ideas, and steps that can be taken to better evaluate current practices or traditions in order to keep it real in your chapter, your council, or your office serving fraternities or sororities:
1. Ask why? Now, this question doesn’t always yield the happiest of responses. As leaders (even administrative leaders) we do not enjoy being questioned, especially if we are not sure of the answer ourselves. However, asking why constantly is what reminds us to stay curious and creative. Why are we still doing this event? Why haven’t we tried something new? Sometimes asking why can change the face of how your chapter, council, or office impacts the community around them.
2. Research, research, and more research. In other words, creep on other college/university websites and social media, or on other chapter websites and social media. This is actually one of my favorite things to do. I get a lot of ideas for marketing, programming, and assessment. Another way to effectively research would be to talk to others in your community or at other colleges/universities. You don’t need a lab coat or a list of 20 questions. Just have a conversation with another human about what they love about their community.
3. Gather together. Get your members or team together and talk about what legacy you want to leave behind. Warning: don’t get crazy! Be mindful of the time you have left in your term, your role, or what time of the year it is. Don’t try to plan a polar plunge for January if you won’t be the community service chair at that time. Also, remember that fraternity/sorority life is not a one person show. None of us would be where we are without someone’s encouragement or help along the way. Use your mentors, your close friends, and your support systems to run ideas by or ask that why question.
4. Execute. All the questions, research, and collaboration is worth putting into action. The action doesn’t have to be big. You do not need to create a whole new event for your new members to get to know them better. Start small. Go to get ice cream after meeting every week. Start a small tradition and see what happens.
At the end of the day, if you don’t like what you see in your experience, change it. Our fraternal organizations began because students were not satisfied with their experiences on campus. They wanted to see and make change happen. It is a drive and motivation that has lost it’s zeal over the last couple of decades. My hope is that as you read this short article you realize that change does not have to be complicated, require a vote, or any sort of bylaw or policy change. It takes one thing, you. It takes one person to see a need and try to fill that need.
Katie Brady is a student affairs professional with a special interest in program and curriculum development. She enjoys being a wellness advocate on her campus and supporting students in on a holistic level. Katie is a proud sorority alum and currently works in higher education as the Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life at Emporia State University.