Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity

Your Greek advisor is not your enemy

Posted in Officers and Volunteers on February 24, 2014 by KEITH ELLIS, MEMPHIS '02

Keith EllisDuring my years as a fraternity and sorority life advisor, I met many a student who viewed me with distrust, anger and even hatred. It often led me to wonder – when I was an undergraduate officer, had I treated my Greek advisor with the same unfounded distrust? 

Whatever the reason, it seems too often to be the case. But it doesn’t have to be. 

Greek advisors hold a treasure trove of knowledge and experience that can help you and your chapter succeed. If you use them correctly, they can help you avoid problems, make major improvements, and leave a stronger legacy.

Here are just a few tips for starting things off right:

Visit their office regularly
Most Greek advisors have open door policies, and their days are often made better when students stop by and chat. Make it a point to come by regularly and be willing to discuss the challenges you are facing as a fraternity officer, as a student, or just in life. Most likely they were once there and are willing to help you resolve an issue you may be having.

Ask for advice and expect feedback
Most Greek advisors I know now were chapter presidents once. They know what you are going through and appreciate the challenges you face on a daily basis. They can help you avoid needless mistakes.

Challenge the process
I never understood all the policies and procedures our Office of Greek Life had in place for our fraternities and sororities. Instead of just complaining about them, ask questions. Sometimes there are laws and policies in place that define why the university does something a certain way. Occasionally you will identify some outdated policy or procedure that no one has bothered to question. You just might be able to impact a significant change on campus simply by asking a question.

Be honest
When something goes wrong in the chapter (and things can always go wrong), do not try to hide it. Greek advisors understand that not all chapter operations are going to go perfectly. This does not give you license to do things wrong on purpose, but when something does happen that was truly a mistake, come forward and talk to your Greek advisor about the problem at hand. You will get points for coming forward. But, if you lie and try to cover something up that the Greek advisor finds out about later, you will be in even more trouble.

Invite them over for a dinner/meeting/anything
The best time to get to know your Greek advisor is when your chapter is doing something positive. It is a relief to be invited to the good things you and your chapter do, so don’t be afraid to invite them out and get to know more people in your chapter than just you. If the first time they meet you is when your chapter was in trouble, it may set the course for how the rest of your relationship will go. If you have a previous relationship and they’re aware of the many good things your chapter is doing, they are much more likely to be lenient and allow the chapter to work through an issue on their own. 

Introduce them to your new executive committee
Once elections are complete, start the process of transition right by sitting down and introducing yourselves. Talk about your goals, and let them get to know the whole executive board. That is a great way to get their term started off on the right foot and to build that positive relationship from the beginning.

Share the good things you do 
Did your chapter win a Buchanan Cup or get recognized at your Carlson Leadership Academy? Did you set a record for philanthropy or recruitment? Did you have a member selected for the Quest for Greece, Ruck Leadership Institute, or as a regional director? Share that! We want to promote the good things you do to everyone else on campus, and we will help you promote those things to the rest of your community.

Be responsible and responsive
When they do call, email, text, or tweet, respond in a timely manner. Ignoring messages will not help you in the long run. Remember that your Greek advisor is not “out to get you.” In fact, they prefer to spend their time working on positive changes for your community. So call or email back, and they will work to improve the chapter.

Get to know them personally
Your Greek advisor is a person who enjoys having a good time just like you do. Do not be afraid to talk about non-work related items with them in meetings or just when stopping by. I was always happy to share little pieces of myself with chapter presidents and officers who were willing to engage in conversations. My most meaningful relationships with fraternity leaders were built over conversations about their lives and their interests. Feel free to engage in that conversation – it will make working together that much easier.

Keith Ellis is a former fraternity and sorority life advisor and a current chapter counselor for the South Carolina SEC. 

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