The following is an opinion piece written by Eddie Francis, a public speaker who was initiated into Alpha Phi Alpha at Loyola University New Orleans in 1989.
A couple of years ago, I spoke with a high school classmate who had served as his fraternity’s state director. We talked about how we love our fraternities, but the grad level brought drama we didn’t expect. All I kept thinking was, “Nah, I’m good. I was a grad chapter president and that was enough for me.” To be clear, I have enjoyed my grad chapter experiences like thousands of other Black Greeks but grad chapter life is no joke.
A grad chapter is serious volunteer work that you almost need a Human Resources degree to navigate–sooo many personalities. Regardless of the fraternity or sorority, many financially active Black Greeks share frustrations about managing those personalities and brainstorming how to keep everyone engaged. With that said, I thought about issues I have either experienced or heard about consistently from my brothers and sisters about their grad chapter experiences.
But let me put this out there first. This is not to discourage anyone from joining a grad chapter. In fact, I wrote about the advantages of being initiated at the grad level. It’s all love. But as I tell undergrads when I present the Black Greek Success Program, we chose to be leaders when we pursued our letters. We grad chapter members should be aware of our interactions as they make or break how we carry out servant leadership.
So , don’t take this personally. Cool? Cool.
Harassing Reclaimed Brothers or Sorors Over Money…Now
Do I really need to expound on this? Chill your treasurer out, and treat the new face in the chapter like a person of value instead of an addition to your reclamation numbers
The Peter Pan Syndrome
Black Greek life is for life but youth isn’t. NO BRO, the young tenders at the club don’t see you the way the honeys saw you on campus back in the day. Yes sis, you are still sexy but 12 selfies in an hour in the freak ’em dress with the fly social media filters won’t make people see you the way you were 15 years ago. Our undergrads need us to show them how to age with dignity. And yes, that includes you, grad chapter initiates.
“You Should Know That.”
Has this ever happened to you? The chapter is discussing an event and you ask, “What’s the attire for the event?” Some crotchety voice shoots back, “You should know that.” Listen, we should know our organizational secrets and traditions, but I have seen what happens when someone is afraid to ask a question that they think they “should” know (the chapter of 33 members shows up in five different types of outfits). If you really want to bring your frat or sorors back into the fold, answer their silly questions as if it’s good to have them back home.
Disregard for Families
Never put a dedicated husband and father or wife and mother in the position of choosing between the chapter and their families. The chapter will lose. The Black Greek commitment can especially be a grind for those whose spouses are not in fraternities or sororities. Brothers and sorors with families already show incredible commitment by being actively engaged, so help them keep the peace at home.
Lack of Tolerance for Diversity
Grad chapters, especially in larger cities, can be more diverse than folks realize. Diversity clashes happen on several levels–state, regional, undergrad chapter (where “that’s not the way we did it”), ethnic, home town, home country, sexual orientation, professional, educational, generational, socioeconomic level, etc. Yet we get surprised when our chapters don’t grow in numbers or quality. It’s not the lack of understanding that hurts us, it’s allowing intolerance to be the dominant culture of the chapter that does.
Thoughtless Service Projects
In his “Reactivation Thoughts” Facebook post, Lawrence Ross wrote it best, “If I’m gonna do some bad community service, I’d rather stay inactive.” Stop doing meaningless community service projects just to say you did it. It is an abhorrent waste of everyone’s time, including that of the organization you pimped for a social media picture. And then folks have the nerve to vaingloriously proclaim, “We are a service organization” knowing they do projects just to check boxes. OK, I’m going to need another paragraph.
Be thoughtful about your service. Support your national service partners, figure out what your community needs, and put some “stank” on that service. Raise that money! Show your community that somebody is there for them! But don’t fall for the trap; your chapter can’t be all things to all people. Assess your membership’s bandwidth, set realistic service goals, and make it happen. With the help of my wife Halima, who is a member of Zeta Phi Beta and a charitable giving professional, I laid out seven tips for meaningful community service projects.
Lack of Damage Control
Here’s another one I owe to Lawrence. You know those frat or sorors who act like they played Spades with the founders? As Lawrence wrote, these folks “live, eat, breathe, and have no other organization other than their frat/sorority.” They damage the morale of the chapter by attacking every member who doesn’t view the fraternity or sorority their way. You also have loose cannons who find any reason to engage in platitudes every other meeting. There are the ones who are unsatisfied with everything–meeting procedures, reports, bylaws, constitution, free food–everything. You can’t stop these brothers or sorors from being who they are but you can maintain positive energy by keeping the attention on the brothers or sorors who bring something to the table.
Lack of Professionalism
So, you asked the soror who is a CPA to work with the treasury then blew her off when she gave feedback about how the chapter spends money. You asked the brother who is a lawyer to sit on the foundation’s board then treated him like a dream killer when made suggestions to keep the foundation compliant with state law. Members like these are valuable assets. When these folks provide feedback about decorum, presentation, operations, etc. and they give you evidence of their expertise, respect that they are using their time and energy to ensure the chapter is a reflection of your fraternity’s or sorority’s excellence.
Putting the Chapter Before the Fraternity or Sorority
Yeh, yeh, yeh, you’re one of the oldest chapters in the organization. You reminded me 12 times in the last chapter meeting. Oh, you’re the new hotness in the area? What do you want me to do, bow down? Nah. Brothers and sorors who truly care about the letters want to belong to chapters that put the organization before a reputation.
Lack of Brotherhood or Sisterhood
Some get so preoccupied with “doing the business of (insert organization here)” that they forget about that brotherhood or sisterhood part. Let’s not talk about disagreements or philosophical differences. Brotherhood or sisterhood can really go out of the window then. What about members with a beef so big it can feed a family? No, it’s not a 24/7 love fest, but a good dose of brotherhood or sisterhood can make the chapter whole when it seems things are falling apart. One more thing. As someone who has been Greek for nearly 30 years, remember that people die. Choose love over pride because life is short.
Effective leadership is largely built on emotionally intelligent interactions with our brothers or sorors. As grad members, we should model that leadership for undergrads. Grad chapters are also a valuable source of social capital for the communities we serve and we maintain the brands of our respective organizations. We owe it to our hard-working, conscientious brothers and sorors to give them grad chapter experiences they will always be proud of.
About the Author:
Eddie Francis is a speaker and talent acquisition professional who was initiated into Alpha Phi Alpha in 1989 at Loyola University New Orleans. He publishes the Black Greek Success blog and has written about Greek life for HBCU Lifestyle, the Huffington Post, LinkedIn, the H.O.P.E. Scholarship, and the Greek Ladders. He has also provided commentary about Greek life for the HBCU Nation Radio Show, the HBCU Lifestyle Podcast, Al Jazeera America, and College Summit. Eddie is active in the Rho Nu Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha where he is chair of the public relations committee, and he is pursuing his master’s degree in Strategic Leadership from Tennessee State University. Eddie is the proud husband of Halima Leak Francis, a member of Zeta Phi Beta, and the proud father of Stevie. You can learn more at EddieFrancis.com.
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