Commentary in The Mu of Monmouth College
July 2009 Issue - Volume 2, Issue 2
There is a long time tradition at colleges and universities requiring student organizations to have an advisor who is a member of the faculty or administration. The responsibilities of this person vary widely from institution to institution, and indeed from organization to organization. Generally, the advisor’s job was to be aware of the activities of the organization, keep them from getting into trouble, and utter the occasional nugget of wisdom.
This arrangement may suffice for a simple, small campus organization, but complex groups such as activities boards, governing organizations, major community service groups, and men’s and women’s fraternities have greater advisory needs.
Such organizations have concerns many orders of magnitude greater than the average student club. Men’s and women’s fraternities, for instance, exist perpetually on a campus for decades. They have an affiliation with a national organization comprising thousands of members. These groups often have physical facilities to maintain, significant liability risks to manage, and financial ledgers which make my wallet look like its full of Monopoly money. All the while, they are expected to provide solid academic support, teach fundamental and advanced skills of leadership, conduct regular and significant philanthropic and service events, and maybe have a safe, entertaining, and—let’s face it—non-lame party in the process.
This is a lot to do. It is much like running a full time business (have to keep that bottom line!) while at the same time balancing an entire extended family, complete with the obligatory family reunions (read: homecoming weekend).
Many readers of this publication are parents, and all of them are career professionals in education. However, we are all specialized: I am trained in student affairs, computer science, and music. Each reader’s background and experience will be different, and this qualifies us to advise student groups in different ways. While I might be proficient in helping an organization set up a good annual plan, Colonel Bloomer is probably a better person to advise in the area of developing relationships with chapter alumni.
Given the complexity of these large organizations, with their many facets, why do we only insist they have one advisor?
Two of our chapters have thought they could do better: Phi Delta Theta has a Chapter Advisory Board. Alpha Tau Omega created a Board of Trustees. In both instances, they engage about a half dozen college administrators, faculty members, and alumni to advise them in different aspects of their chapters’ operation.
This arrangement has many benefits. First and foremost, it reduces the load on any one of these volunteer advisors. The other benefits are also significant. Chapter officers can arrange for dedicated one-on-one mentoring about their operational area. The variety of volunteers gives a deeper diversity opinion and advice. The organization’s advising is not endangered if an advisor retires.
Why not extend these benefits to our other Greek organizations? They contribute greatly to our campus, providing educational programs, practical leadership opportunities, and frankly, they help our retention statistics.
As educational professionals, I encourage you to consider joining one of these advisory teams. No previous Greek experience required. Just bring your smarts and your love of students. I promise, you’ll enjoy the ride.
Daniel M. Reck, M.S.Ed., is Assistant Director of Greek Life, Leadership, and Involvement at Monmouth College. He is affiliated with Sigma Nu Fraternity.