Thursday, February 7, 2013

Why? It is the right thing to do.

Last month I made a difficult decision. For the past 5 years, I have been closely monitoring the safety and wellness of our members. I have found it to be most at-risk at our overnight, out-of-town formals. There is a significant risk to our members' health with the environment that we cultivate. As we prepare to begin a new semester, we need to do something different. What has happened is, in my heart and mind, the right thing to do.

The desire to be more, be bigger, to push yourself is what can create outstanding leaders that bring phenomenal change. When that desire translates into your experience at social events, some of the worst scenarios possible emerge. What does it mean to be more, be bigger, to push yourself on a weekend away? We are more than our social events. We are friendship. We are brotherhood and sisterhood. We are a family. We are leadership. We are service to the community and one another. We are outstanding. We care. We want each other to be safe and healthy. And, so, a new University policy was proposed.

The new proposed policy that would limit overnight events (and, essentially, end out of town fraternity formals) has made me consider how I would have viewed this from my 20 year old self. My 40 year old self feels that I am doing the right thing. My 40 year old self has also been zinged by many. The zing has ranged - anger, frustration, arguing and one person essentially calling me a bad Student Affairs professional that doesn't care. Bold. I mean, really bold. Each of these interactions has caused me to think and consider more. And, for that, I am appreciative. These thoughts have led me to this piece.

Dear Twenty Year Old Self,
The world is at your fingertips. You are smart, you are strong, you are powerful beyond measure. But, I am worried about you. And, I wish there was a way that I could convey to you now all that I know twenty years down the road.

Over the next year, you are going to encounter a lot of things. I want you to be braver than I was... I want you to do the right thing.
  • When you walk by that fraternity house with the the windows covered with plastic bags, do something. Don't just walk by and think, "That doesn't seem right", call someone or tell your advisor. You may be able to save that chapter, or at least the harm inflicted on those inside that facility.
  • When you fall off the lifeguard tower in the backyard of a fraternity house, don't refuse to go the hospital. Your friends don't deserve the stress and pressure of sitting with you all night to be sure you aren't concussed.
  • You don't have the social media outlets we do today... But, mind what you say. People will remember your snarky attitude. Being hurtful to others isn't going to get you anywhere that you will be proud of in the end.
  • Watch those around you. When you go out of town for events, when you go down the street to parties - watch out for them and help, if needed.
  • Tell your friends when their significant other is cheating on them. You do those you love no favor by turning a blind eye. Be courageous enough to have the tough conversation. It is better now, before marriages and children are involved.
  • It is not normal or healthy for someone to only eat popcorn and mustard. Care enough about yourself to not get caught up in the "how funny" moment of that kind of thing and get help.
The above points are all "moments", but there is also the boldness by which you live. I know, you don't like rules and think that you know best. Sometimes, others will try to care for you in a way that you don't enjoy. When that happens, try to expand yourself to see it from another side. When others tell you that they care for you and want what's best for your life, believe them - even if you don't agree with what's happening. Know that they are feeling a responsibility far greater than you are in this moment.

And, sweet Twenty Year Old Self, know that those of us on the "other side" understand. We are here and ready to welcome you back into community when you are ready. It is never too late to call and fix relationships. It is never too late to apologize. It is never too late to say, "I understand now." I wish all of the best for you as you navigate toward the completion of your college career. 

Your Forty Year Old Self

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