I have focused the last few posts on the negatives or the harder parts of being an advisor. There is a lot of work and a lot of time that you dedicate to these young women. There will be times that you may feel that it is too much or that you are burned out. Believe me I have felt this way more than a few times. So why do I still put in all this work? Is it worth it? I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. This has made me a better person overall and that is the point of sorority life: The letters that we wear do not make us better than anyone else, they just make us better than ourselves!
There are times that I have so much pride for the chapter especially when they won the chapter of the year at their school and that same year they won an award at their national convention. I knew how much hard work they had done and how far they have grown, the sense of accomplishment that they experienced was wonderful to see.
Another wonderful moment to be a part of is when you can see the members have “lightbulb moments” about ideas and other chapter issues. Even though sometimes, as an advisor, you know the correct thing to do and you know the correct answer does not mean that you should tell them the answer or how to do something. It is better for them to come to these ideas on their own because they are more likely to follow through on the ideas. As an advisor, you can help them come to these realization through asking the correct questions that lead them to the answers that will help grow the chapter and the chapter members.
Finally, watching the members grow in confidence and their own leadership personalities is possibly the most gratifying experience. This whole experience has helped me become a better sister, a better advisor, a better role model, and a better person and that is what makes it all worthwhile.
There are some great ideas that my chapter has used to show appreciation and here is a great letter to show appreciation of his advisor. Thanks and have a great night!
There are many, many stereotypes in the media that I am sure that you have encountered more than you can count. Every time I see a headline about a fraternity or a sorority in the news in a negative way, my heart drops. Lately, there are more deaths due to hazing and there is a higher level of scrutiny that is being applied to fraternity and sorority life. When things go wrong, go extremely wrong, or in the worst case- when lives are destroyed, it is important to know what to do as the advisor. As an advisor, there should be a clear and easy to access guide or set of policies set forth by your national headquarters, school policies, and the insurance agency for your organization. Here are some great resources from National Panhellenic Council.
** You should follow your own organization, school’s, and state’s policies, laws, and rules**
Let’s get into some tough stuff!
What do you do in the case of vandalism or theft to chapter property?
In this case, vandalism or theft of chapter property should be reported to the school’s security office and your national headquarters. In some cases, contacting your insurance provider is also imperative to recoup any losses that the chapter has incurred. Thankfully, I have not had to experience this issue too many times.
What do you do if someone is assaulted, has alcohol poisoning, or some other medical emergency?
If someone is assaulted, sexually or otherwise, you MUST follow the rules that you are obligated to follow by your state laws and your school’s policies. For example, some advisors are mandated reporters and some are not. At my school, I am considered a mandated reporter and must tell the member that I am one before they open up to me. Most members that are in my organization and on the same campus have the feeling that it will never happen to them and that is a scary thought. The only thing that you can really do as an advisor is to prepare the members in risk management.
There are many other rules and regulations that I must follow, so check with your school and your organization about what you must do in this case!
What happens when a member dies while in college?
One Sunday morning I woke up to a frantic phone call from the president that they just found that one of the members got into a car accident and died that morning. This was possibly the hardest situation that I have had to deal with as an advisor. In this situation, there is nothing that can you as an advisor except to allow the members to cry and grieve. It is also important that when there are memorials and funerals that you are able to attend, that you and all your advisory board should go to show your solidarity and support. I have found that the family of deceased member and the current members are grateful for your presence. I have not encountered death of a member or a new member dying due to alcohol, drugs, or hazing, thankfully!
What happens when someone goes to the emergency room?
Going to the emergency room happens for a variety of reasons that range from alcohol poisoning, drug overdose, assault to medical issues such as sever panic attacks, appendicitis, and epileptic seizures. If someone’s life is in danger or you think that it is in danger CALL 911!! While this may seem to be common sense to us, I have found that fraternity and sorority members do not want that to happen for fear of getting into more trouble. Emphasizing their ability to save a life being so much more important than a sanction or disciplinary hearing. In the case where someone is dealing with another type of medical emergency, go with your gut. If you feel that you are in over your head in a situation call for help! (BOTTLE IMAGE)
Remember when you were 18-20 years old and the choices that you made when all of your friends were around. I can tell you that some of the choices that I made were not the most thoughtful nor were they the smartest choices. I am not saying this to excuse the choices that members will make or made, but more as a caution. Be aware that they may or do not realize that certain themes for theme parties or pictures that they post or videos that they share online can be inappropriate, hurtful, and offensive. When situations like these happen, what can you really do? Once content is online, it is very difficult or impossible to make that disappear and it can haunt you as you get older. This also solidifies the stereotypes like this:
and even though you know that it really is like this:
If something does get out that is damaging to your organization or the school or your members that is a public relations issue, most organizations have a clear set of policies that usually involve not talking to media and directing everything to national headquarters.
What can you do as the advisor?
1) Follow the policies that are set forth by your national headquarters and school.
2) If you are charged with approving themes for formals or events, this is a good infographic:
3) Be smart and proactive! Challenge the members to stay current on risk management workshops and that they follow all the rules.
What is the right amount of communication is correct between a chapter’s council and the advisors? At the very least, it is important to have a check in phone call or email once a week. Sometimes very little will need to be reported or discussed between a council member and their advisor and there will be times that more communication is needed. This of course depends what time of the year it is and what position the council member is. Having a weekly check in is important because it keeps the lines of communication open and allows the council member to talk through potential issues and bounce ideas off of someone else. Having this type of communication, I have found that a strong communication creates a foundation of trust that allows open and honest communication to develop. When a new council is elected and takes over, it is important to develop expectations of the council from the advisors and the expectation of the advisors from the council. These expectations can include how often the communication should be, when not to call or text an advisor, giving the council members the support they need, not telling the council members what to do and allow them to solve their own issues, go their fundraisers, etc. This is a good informational video from NACADA about advising.
Communication with the chapter is quite different than it was with the executive council. There will not be too many times that an advisor will have one on one communication with the chapter members. However, these chapter members may need some support too and an advisor should also be available to listen to those members as well. I have found that chapter members do sometimes complain about certain policies or rules that council has implemented and they want to not be included in those rules. In cases like this, emphasizing that you will support what council has decided will help chapter members understand that you are not there to undermine council decisions and that your main goal is for support. The times that you do communicate directly with the chapter, it is important that you are leading by example. Sorority Sugar on Tumblr has a blog post that you can use to help your council become better leaders.
This may be one of the most important relationships that you will have as an advisor. This is because you need to be on the same page and present a unified front to the entire chapter, as a board you can help each other out with the same issues that you are all dealing with, you have the same goals as the advisory board, and many other reasons. These advisory boards are composed of women who have different experiences than you do and thus have different ideas, you can support each other when you need it the most, and you develop the same experience that only you, as a board, can share! This can be a really special friendship and sisterhood that I fully encourage you to develop. The best way to communicate is monthly meetings, weekly emails, phone calls, and spending time together outside of “work” is a powerful way to become unified and strengthen your bond and in the end become the best advisory board that you can be.
Your number one resource on the policies of your organization and the best practices of your organization is your national headquarters. Depending on the national headquarters set up and structure, this will hopefully help and apply to you. In the organization that I belong to, there is one woman who is in charge of recruiting advisors and another woman who is in charge of the chapter activities. Developing a good relationship with these women are important because they are the best resources for you to have when you have questions or need clarification on certain issues. It is also important not to discount National Panhellenic and your own NPC representative to NPC. Communication is mostly in forms of email and phone calls.
Last, but certainly not least, is the institution that where your organization is. Your organization is there at the invitation on the institution and it is an important resource and is important to have a good relationship with them. This relationship is about doing the best that you can to support what the school asks of your organization and keeping the lines of communication open. I have found that meeting with the fraternity and sorority life advisor (FSL) at the beginning of each semester and once in the summer is the best to be on the same page, to know what is coming up that year in terms of events and other mandatory requirements for your organization to attend or complete. The school where my organization is has the president meets once a month with the FSL advisor and I have the president type of the notes from the meeting and then for her to share it with the advisor and with me, so that we are all on the same page and if there is some confusion it can be cleared up.
Some schools have manuals and resources for their advisors (academic and fraternity and sorority life) and some do not. Penn State has some tips on effective communication for academic advisors and they are pretty relevant to greek life advisors.
I have found some great blog entries at Phired Up. I have two of them here, but you should explore their library. This one is about the need for strong advisors and why. This blog explains that how advisors asking great questions will be better advisors.
We all have specific reasons for why we volunteer as a chapter advisor, just like why we all joined a sorority. Even though I do not get paid for this job and I do not always feel like I am making a difference, I volunteer as a chapter advisor because membership in my sorority is not just for four years, but for life. We all actively participate in our membership after graduation in different ways and this is how I participate. I was looking for a way to get involved at the same time that the national headquarters was seeking volunteers and the rest is history.
As a chapter advisor, I meet regularly with the Fraternity and Sorority Life advisor employed by the institution with the other sorority, fraternity, and NPHC advisors to talk about any changes in policy, issues that have arisen, or any other questions or concerns that we have. The relationships that I have made with the other advisors has taught me tips, tricks and hints, what not to do, and to appreciate more deeply my love for my sorority. I truly appreciate what the other fraternity and sororities have to offer and how we can all collaborate to meet the same goals. I have found that when PC, IFC, and NPHC advisors collaborate, we lead by example. Sometimes the chapters on our campus do not always work together well. When the advisors show them what it looks like to collaborate and work together towards a goal, then this helps to show the collegians how to do this. It is truly rewarding seeing the growth in individuals into strong, confident, and responsible leaders, I have to admit it is a pretty great feeling when they show appreciation for all that you and your fellow advisors do. If you want to see a lovely tribute video please click here.
It is great when the chapter plans and creates a rewarding alumnae event to learn from those women who went before them. I found this great idea on Pinterest that incorporates alumnae and the collegians.
What kind of boundaries are appropriate?
I will never forget one of the first questions that I was asked by the chapter when I began advising: “Can we call you ‘Mom’?” My answer was that since I was not there to be their mother, but their advisor (and because I was only about 8 years older than they were) they could call me by my first name. This was the first time that I had to define the boundaries. I find that it is helpful to go over these boundaries every year. Even though I have said this too many times to count and I always say at least 4 times a year that I work and cannot accept phone calls nor texts during my work day. So yes, I am their sister and I am also their mentor, advisor, and supporter.
Setting boundaries, such as time constraints, is important because it also allows them the time to solve their own problems or the time for events to unfold that may change their perspective. I have made it a personal rule that whenever I get a question from a council member about policy or how to do something to ask them if they already checked the officer’s overall manual or their officer’s position manual. Eight times out of ten they will say that they have not. Even if I know the answer to their questions, I will always tell them to check their manuals and to call me back in thirty minutes to update me on their progress. Most times they will call back and say that they found the answer! I think it is important that they learn how to find the answers on their own and not always ask someone else. I have found that at the beginning of a council member’s term they will call me about three-five times a week to ask questions such as what I just mentioned. By the end of their term, I talk to them about once a week with just a weekly update on how things are going. This practice empowers them to find the information on their own, builds their confidence, and prepares them for life outside college. They know that they can rely on themselves and to utilize their own resources.
There are different ways that advisors in my sorority behave when it comes to risk management issues. Specifically, I am talking about formals. At the end of the day these are social sororities and fraternities and they will have parties and dances. I do not attend as a chaperone, go to where they get on the buses or vans to make sure that everyone is sober, nor do I help to check IDs at the venue. There have been some really great events that venues have posted their thoughts on their social media on how wonderful the sisters behaved and some really not great events where dates were taken to the emergency room for alcohol poisoning and there was severe venue damage! I have found that chapter members want to be treated and respected like adults; however, when it comes to emergency room visits and property damage I have abandoned my “hands off” position. I will tell you what I told the chapter when this happened, “If you wanted to be treated as adults, then you have to act like adults!” At this point our insurance company, the college, and our national headquarters all took over the situation. We, as volunteers, give so much of our time and energy to our chapters and even though it might be “easy” to go and supervise the whole event, I do not believe that it is something that we should be doing.
So what is our role?
Our relationship/role as an alumnae chapter advisor is a slightly tricky one to have with the collegians. Ultimately, it is to help the chapter though challenging them and then supporting them to grow and thrive. (For more information on Sanford’s theory please Click here!) I also like to think that it is also to make sure that they do not do anything that is in conflict with state and federal laws, college rules, and national policies.
It is important to remember that even though you and the collegians are sisters, that is not the best way to view the relationship. You want to be relatable as a sister, but also be a mentor to them. You want to also be a role model and that means always putting your best face forward. Even if we are exhausted and really would rather be home and not at a ritual event, it is important to not show this to the collegians. If we show that it is okay for us to be in a poor mood, then the collegians will think it is okay to be in one too. It is also important to remember that even though you have the life experience and have probably already seen most of the issues that the collegians face, DO NOT solve the problem for them. It is important for them to solve their own problems and figure out their own solutions. Please see the infographic below for a cute way to understand what our role is.
Here are some great websites that have a variety of useful resources that can be utilized:
Missouri State’s Fraternity and Sorority Life Community resources.
This week I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute at Indiana University. At UIFI, I got to meet Greek Life leaders from all the country that want to improve their chapters and communities. It was the experience of a lifetime and I feel so blessed that Kappa Delta provided me with […]