Make sure you have your ballot ready folks! It is election time for thousands of fraternity and sorority students across the nation. Or at least it is for the fraternity for which I am a Residence Director.
The other night I was getting dinner with one of the members of this fraternity and I asked how things with the chapter are, casually making conversation. He mentioned elections are around the corner and he is planning to run for President and Vice President after that if he doesn’t earn the first position. His chapter is in a pivotal time where they need leadership with a strong vision for the future to inspire change. Currently, the fraternity has sanctions they are working to complete. The membership is divided between individuals who are completing the sanctions for the sake of completing the sanctions and those who are honestly looking to improve their fraternity. The brother I was eating with would be great; he understands the necessity of proactivity and holds his brothers accountable. So I provided a little guidance from the conversation and told him if he wants help preparing his platform to let me know.
I live with the fraternity; it’s impossible not to be immersed in their organization and invested in their future. I serve as an informal advisor, guiding members when they ask for help or providing perspective when I find it imperative.
This relationship of informal advisor is one I have carefully crafted over the past year, balancing friend, someone with relevant life experience, and authority figure. Many of the fraternity men I live with are only one to two years younger than me; there is not clearly defined relationship. Therefore many of the instances in which I advise are based upon the personal relationship with the member and the value they see in my input. I have several members who have reached out for guidance, clarity, or understanding of chapter issues from my personal relationship building.
I’m careful not to overstep my boundaries and assert my opinions too much. This isn’t my fraternity experience, I had four years in an organization and I am not looking to recreate that time in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated my fraternity more than any other involvement from undergraduate—without a doubt it positively developed and challenged me. And I was definitely ready to interact with my fraternity and the larger fraternity and sorority community in a different capacity once I graduated. So I’m not looking to relive my time or tell these men I live with now how to best lead their organization.
I try not to tell anyone what positions to run for, instead focusing on supporting individuals who decide to run. This means occasionally helping two opponents each develop their platform or helping a member on how to create a stronger argument against a bylaw change. I do my best to help each person perform to the best of their ability; regardless of my opinion of who is the best person for the position because the chapter will elect who they feel are the best men to lead them. If I spend my energy trying to manipulate elections I risk compromising relationships and creating distrust between chapter leadership and myself. I risk having a president begin his term having removed me as a potential resource.
The challenge isn’t to cleverly manipulate who runs for a position or is elected, the challenge is to work and develop the executive board that is elected into one that will lead and inspire their brothers.
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