Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Operating From Fear

For the past 4 years, I have volunteered as a faculty member for the Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute (UIFI), a week-long leadership experience created by the NIC.  The Institute is designed for students to learn about themselves and how to make their communities stronger.  As I was on a conference call in the beginning of May preparing for UIFI, I jotted down a quick note on a post-it.  That post-it has been moving around my desk for the past 9 weeks.  Its edges are bent, the writing is messy, but the message has forced me to keep it.

With full credit to my friends that developed the curriculum for UIFI, I began to wonder the same thing about the community that I work and live in.  Are our choices made from a place of fear?  Have our leaders (and our members) become so afraid that we are not being driven by our values and by doing what is right?

Fear comes in many forms: Greek Discipline Board and sanctions; upset alumni; loss of credibility in the community; loss of social capital/standing.  How does this fear hinder our organizations?  When we aren’t doing things that we know are the right thing to do, how are we being untrue to who we are supposed to be?  The reality is that our credibility is tarnished each time we operate from fear.  I want a sense of urgency to do the right thing.

What if…  for the next semester…  we only made decisions based on what is right?  Based on our values?  What if we didn’t fear being rejected by our group for taking a stand?  What if knowing we were doing the right thing by stopping our friend from using/fighting/hazing was enough?  What if?

That’s a community I’d like to work and live in.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Broken People

Thank you for those of you that have shared feedback on the 3 questions I posed.  I will keep you updated on how this information helps to inform our future - and all of our plans.  As we prepare for the new semester of "The Dan Plan", it is helpful to have student opinions.

I have been thinking a lot this past week about "Broken People".  "Broken People" are those (per my dictionary) that are in despair, having a break from tranquility, divided, disconnected.  We have a lot of people hurting in our community.  A lot.  More often than you would imagine, students are in our offices sharing that they just don't know if they can do it any longer - they can't keep up the facade, the Super Leader mode, the smile when they are dying inside.  In the context of organizations based on Brotherhood and Sisterhood, I continually wonder how we can do more to support those in our midst that are broken?  We have those among us, maybe you, that are carrying a load that is too much, too challenging, too hard to handle.  What do we, as a community, do with that reality?

The examples I share are over the course of the past 3 years - but, please know that there are many with these experiences.  Here are the ways that I experience your peers as feeling broken.  It is my privilege to accompany you (and your peers) as you face these things, but I only see about 10% of our community on a regular basis.  I am overwhelmed when I say that I have interacted with members of our community about all of these issues over the past 3 years?

  • Parents divorcing
  • Parent death
  • End of a significant relationship
  • Unable to pay for tuition
  • Lonely - even in the midst of a crowd
  • Parent with a substance abuse problem
  • Deceit in a trusted relationship
  • Sibling moving away and losing that support
  • Suicidal
  • Unplanned pregnancy
  • Arrest
  • Anxiety
  • Major illness: Family members or self
  • Poor grades
  • The drive for perfection - and not being able to attain it
Seem familiar - To you, your best friend, your roommate, your brother/sister?  Is anyone really asking the hard questions to allow us to  be a community that truly cares and supports?  Or, are students on their own -  not sure how to care for each other or develop true, authentic friendships?

How do we support each other?  How do we move to a place of asking more than "How are you?" and moving on?  How do we reach out to those that are feeling isolated?  How do we truly wait for an answer to hear how others are REALLY doing?

As I consider the idea of community, I ask you to consider:
Why does it matter if "we" are OK?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Closing My Chapter and The Last Question

Last month I had an experience that I never imagined would be mine...  I went back to the chapter house where I had lived for 3 of my 4 years as an undergraduate to collect all of the ritual equipment for Kappa Alpha Theta.  The decision had been made earlier in the month the revoke the charter of my chapter.  The chapter that taught me what sorority meant, was closed.  And, I was the volunteer that sorted through 60 years of history to determine what was shipped back to headquarters for storage until the chapter once again exists.  As I packed up the ritual materials, robes, President's gavel, etc. it occurred to me that I would never wish this upon anyone.

As I walked through the house - pausing at different rooms I had lived in, I was reminded how important my experience with Theta was to me as an undergraduate.  For me, it led to a vocation.  For me, it became so much more than something I did while in college.  (I attribute much of that perspective on my role as a Panhellenic officer - but that is a story for a different post.)  The fact is that we were a mess.  A big mess.  We had leadership that people didn't follow, risk management problems (read - kegs), members that didn't care and more.  We were selfish and self-focused.  And, it never occurred to me to ask the question - "What should we be doing?"  We were fun, we were popular, were pledged who we wanted, we had exchanges with an exclusive group and we were friends.  I will honestly say - we cared about each other and took care of each other.  But, we only cared about ourselves.  We didn't use our influence to look at the bigger picture.  Heck - I am not even sure we knew a bigger picture existed.  That was the early 90's. (yeah - I know, the years of your birth!)

I have not been involved with my chapter nor served as a volunteer for my organization for the past 4 years.  Exactly what happened to cause their closure isn't something I know a lot about.  I know that the group lost their way and weren't providing a good experience for their members.  I would venture a guess that the selfish and self-focused went from a focus on Theta (as opposed to the larger community) to each individual.  As I was asked to meet with women who were active members this past year, there was a sense of deep sadness among them.  The experience should have meant more.  The experience should have been better.  Someone should have asked - "What should we be doing?"

So, I am here with the 3rd question our Advisors Group grappled with last month at our meeting -
What are our "To Do" items?  What should we be doing?

Perhaps if we get some solid responses, I will dig out some good 90's hair photos of the SDSU Greek experience.  Until then, I appreciate your thoughts.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Question #2

Thanks for the feedback... Here's the 2nd question that was posed to our chapter advisors:
What Are Our Areas For Improvement?

Looking forward to hearing your responses.  Hope summer is bring each of you some rest!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Summer Questions

The USD Chapter Advisors group met last week.  During our meeting, we answered three questions.  I am planning on posting 1 a week to gather our community's feedback.  Thanks, in advance, for your thoughts!

Question #1:
What is working in Fraternity/Sorority Life at USD?