In an effort to highlight the professionals who are in charge of Fraternity and Sorority Life at colleges and universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Michigan State University’s Assistant Director of Fraternity & Sorority Life, Guillermo Flores, to get his perspective on greek life in 2019 and his thoughts of what the future of fraternities and sororities will look like over the next decade nationally.
Flores is a Fall 2007 initiate of Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity at Southern Illinois University- Carbondale and has worked in the field of advising Fraternity and Sorority Life for 6 years.
We interviewed him about his campus, his position and his thoughts on future of fraternities and sororities on college campuses nationally over the next 50 years.
Read the full interview below.
What does your job as a Fraternity and Sorority Life Professional entail?
The main purpose of my job is to advise the fraternity & sorority councils at Michigan State. Planning and creating events with students to make sure they follow policy and have a risk management plan. Meetings with various stakeholders that include the City of East Lansing, National Headquarters, alumni, and more. Advocating for students in meetings with fellow offices and administrators.
I say to students and administrators, “what can we do to mobilize this large student population (Greeks) with access to various amounts of resources for good?” I want students to do more and think differently.
I stay in the back and make sure the students I work with shine.
Why did you decide to go into a job as an advisor of fraternity sorority life?
Being a child of immigrants from Mexico. I had to navigate registering for school at a very young. I helped my parents register me into classes when I was a kid because they did not know English. They gave me everything I needed to succeed. From my Power Rangers lunch boxes to unconditional support in extracurricular activities. From there, teachers and school administrators looked out for me and made me believe I could do great things in life. I wanted to be that person for students.
When I joined my fraternity, it opened up a whole world of experiences and people. I look at my guidance counselors, Fraternity & Sorority Advisor, Orientation Supervisor, Chapter Advisors, and they shared resources and experiences I never thought I would have. I am now doing that for students. Especially students of color.
Why do you think NPHC and Multicultural fraternities and sororities are important on your campus?
They are homes to students and support systems so they make it to graduation and beyond. It keeps the tradition, of so many before them, alive and I read the history of NPHC and Multicultural Greeks and we have to keep it alive. These groups were created at a time when people of color did not have support systems on campus. I talk about the founders of chapters a lot when I work with students. This is because It is a place where students, faculty, staff can come together and be themselves.
What I love about the NPHC and Multicultural Greeks is that they not just keep their programming internal. They are putting on events for students of colors and making sure they feel welcome on college campuses.
With the prevalence of stories about sexual, assault, hazing and substance abuse, why do you think NPHC and MGC greek life should continue to be supported by colleges and universities?
These stories have always been there. These issues are a part of our society. We get to work with students who get to be the change and we challenge them to do better. When students say the media is against them, I ask what they are doing to prove them wrong. The Fraternity & Sorority experience is a crucial part of the college experience for many students. It teaches students the importance of giving back to the community, networking, and advocating for others and themselves. Many administrators are alumni of organizations and it helped them get to where they are now.
Looking at the future from a campus administrative perspective, where do you see greek life 10 years from now?
In my own opinion, there will be regulations made to make sure we keep students safe. The Chapter Advisor and Faculty/Staff Advisor is a big part of a chapter’s success. Being transparent with parents and guardians is crucial. The Community Cards we create to be transparent about chapters on campus will get more detailed. Michigan State NPHC Fall 2018 Community Card
What is something undergrads need to do to ensure that undergraduate greek life on college campuses will survive and be around 50 years from now?
Be strategic on the members who join the chapters. Students who already perform well academically, will keep that trend going. Ask for help from university administrators. There are resources on campus that will only make the Greek community stronger.
Work with your alumni and learn from their mistakes. The same old, same old cannot continue. If you or your chapter is doing something wrong, ask for help. Call your Chapter Advisor or Regional Director and get that help. Talk to someone on campus you trust. Hopefully that is your Fraternity/Sorority Advisor!
How do you see individuals who join NPHC/MGC orgs benefit personally from going greek?
It helps students connect to a whole network of people who will help them succeed. It provides lifelong friendships that matter a lot years after college. They join organizations who positively benefit their communities. It gives students a platform on campus and beyond to use their voice.
Also, the regional and national conferences for each organization are second to none. I love working with students to get funding for these experiences and implementing how they can bring it back to campus.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think undergraduate chapters across all orgs need to do to represent themselves online in 2019?
They need to showcase the amazing things they are doing for the university and local communities. It can’t just be a Greek Flex-Off competition on Instagram. I share with the students I work with: go and meet city officials in person and see how you can partner. Tag your local city in the posts you do. Companies are ALWAYS looking for content, so why not provide them what NPHC chapters are doing?
Follow official university accounts as well and ask to partner on campaigns with them. At Michigan State, we partner with local business and it is a mutually beneficial relationship. We showcase the business and our chapters.
Very important: fill out every survey you can when you are asked about your student experience at your university. As an administrator, I read every single piece of feedback and create a plan on how we can improve. For students of color, this is crucial because your voice matters and you need to make sure you attend the events you get invited to from your Fraternity & Sorority Advisor so you can advocate for your community.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important?
It is a newsource. Every time there is a new post, I get excited and share it with colleagues and students. Or they send me content they connect to. Seeing Watch The Yard grow from the start to now…? It has been inspiring. Watch The Yard is an institution.
It is a platform for not only NPHC culture but Black Culture. The stories Watch The Yard shares are not fluff, they tell stories of history and highlight HBCUs and more. Of course there are great pictures but what makes Watch The Yard stand out is that it is an advocate for the Black Greek community. I am proud to be an ally of NPHC and Watch The Yard.
What are some initiatives you see the greeks on your campus doing that make you proud?
Michigan State NPHC Presents: Let’s Talk About It
After the ‘Surviving R. Kelly’ docuseries premiered on Lifetime in January 2019, Black Twitter at Michigan State blew up. Jordan Claxton, NPHC President, called me and said NPHC needed to do something. We worked together so NPHC could host an event on sexual assault and relationship violence. NPHC collaborated with Michigan State’s Prevention, Outreach, and Education department and provided a space for Black students to discuss and learn more about how to process the docuseries and sexual abuse in the Black community. In NPHC’s Instagram post where they promoted the event they shared: “Too many things are responded to with silence: stigmas behind sexual violence, counseling, how and when to report sexual misconduct and so more much.” The culture on a campus changes when the students are behind the move.
Sandra Bland Birthday Celebration
It was July 2015 when I was sitting at my desk in my new office at the University of Houston. I saw on my Facebook feed that people were saying ‘RIP Sandy’ and ‘What Happened to Sandy?’. Immediately, I messaged a childhood friend. She said Sandy had passed away and they did not know what happened.
Sandra Bland and her family lived down the house from me. Her sister Sierra is my age. We were both headed to the Houston area from the Chicago suburbs to work with college students. Much of the work I put into NPHC is to keep Sandy’s memory alive. With the University of Houston NPHC, we wanted to honor her life and created the ‘Sandra Bland Birthday Celebration’. The event has occurred since 2016 and Michigan State NPHC also honored Sandra this year. Sandra’s birthday is February 7th. I challenge the NPHC on your campus to take on this initiative for 2020.
Education Abroad Trip: Fraternity Men in Italy
Every spring there is a Education Abroad course where fraternity men go to Italy for spring break in order to do a quick study abroad trip. The purpose of the trip is to see how masculinity looks like in the fraternity world, American society, and Italian culture. This year, there were three members of Kappa Alpha Psi, One of Omega Psi Phi, and one of Phi Beta Sigma. The fellow members were fraternity members of the Interfraternity Council. We made sure to have a diverse pool of people on the trip and it was exciting to see the men engage in Italian culture, art, religion, politics, and fashion. If you would like to have your org represented next year. Contact me!
Michigan State is still recovering from the abuse of a convicted serial child molester who was a USA gymnastic team doctor and worked at Michigan State. I do not say his name because I am sick of hearing it and will not give him more power.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the City of East Lansing partnered with Parents of Sister Survivors Engage to sign 505 flags for the known survivors of the child molester. The prayer flags are based on the Tibetan tradition.
Time was running out before the dedication ceremony and the last 200 flags needed to be signed. Parents of Sister Survivors Engaged reached out to Michigan State Fraternity & Sorority Life and students from all four councils signed encouraging messages on the flags for the survivors. All of this was done in under three hours.
The next task was to #ProtectTealFlags during the NCAA Final Four weekend, were Michigan State was playing. Fraternity & Sorority Life made a photo campaign to share with the city and university community to share what they meant and that they should not be tampered with during weekend celebrations. Students all came together for this common cause. Conversations and action plans were shared during this process on how students can combat sexual violence.
Michigan State NPHC and MGC Presenting at the Association of Fraternal Leadership Values Central Conference (AFLV Central)
Yamani Vinson (Spring 2019 NPHC Internal Vice President and member of Sigma Gamma Rho), Lee Ann Viera (MGC President and member of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc.), and myself presented “Illusions of Inclusion- The Partnership Between NPHC & Multicultural Fraternities/Sororities” to a full room of culturally based Greeks in February 2019.
Here was the program proposal: “Within the last decade, there has been a resurgence of civil rights movements highlighting issues plaguing marginalized communities. Although civil injustices have acted as a catalyst for conversations around inclusiveness within one’s community, the same has yet to happen to improve inclusiveness of neighboring communities. How can NPHC and Multiculturally based fraternities/sororities work together?
Black and Brown communities may face similar injustices, it is rare those communities come together to dismantle shared concerns. This creates a culture where the communities are not supporting each other. Essentially, creating an “Illusion of Inclusion”.
The councils can work to enhance the quality of the experience for all minority students. The goal of the session is to bring this opportunity to Greek leadership, cultivate a sense of “ally-hood” for differing marginalized groups (race/ethnicity, LGBTQ+ people, low income students) and share some events/efforts that worked well for the Michigan State University.”
What is your favorite thing about your job?
It is when I see students who have graduated and are still heavily involved with their local chapter or another chapter of their org. NPHC taught me how important it is to be a lifelong member. I will never say ‘I was a member of my fraternity’. I joined for life and keep my commitment to my org.
Also, when students bring me their graduation pictures so I can hang them in my office. Means the world to me.
What is it about the NPHC and MGC greek community at your college/university that makes it unique/special?
Michigan State is the only school in the Big 10 that has all nine chapters. We love that. All of our chapters are thriving.
Delta Sigma Theta, Epsilon Epsilon chapter crossed 48 women into their sisterhood– the largest in the history of the Midwest for Delta Sigma Theta.
Sigma Gamma Rho, Gamma Omega chapter started the “No Service, No Strolling” Initiative. Gamma Omega vowed not to step or stroll until each member completed 22 hours of community service.
Kasey Coleman, International Second Vice President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. was the Undergraduate Commencement Speaker for the Michigan State College of Engineering. Her speech was titled ‘Engineer Your Future: Designing a Path Towards Servant Leadership’.
We at Watch The Yard would like to thank Guillermo Flores for taking time to speak on these important issues.