By Ben Putano, Leadership Consultant
Some of you may find a message directed to seniors a little odd. Seniors are typically put out to the big Greek pasture and many only return for formal. After three years of activity in the Fraternity, grades and internships take precedence, and the chapter is left to the sophomores and juniors who have yet to “do their time.” Often jaded and preoccupied, seniors tend to fade away into the post-grad sunset.
And I will admit, as a Fraternity we need to focus more on our seniors. We hold conferences for Emerging Leaders and Presidents, and build connections with alumni and universities. But seniors are left to themselves to skip chapter or, when they do attend, many times give the “back in my day” rant. At this point, little is expected of the seniors at all.
So why am I writing to our seniors? Because everything that we think about senior involvement is wrong.
When seniors go “Inactive”* or stop coming around, we lose our most valuable asset in the Fraternity, the experience and perspective of our oldest members. Seniors who “check out” rob the chapter of a vision and direction. More importantly, we lose our role models. For good and bad, seniors dictate the chapter’s attitude and behavior.
A great example comes not from the Fraternity world, but from college athletics. Although in this case, the two overlap. Our Virginia Gamma Chapter at Randolph-Macon College has many members on the R-MC football team. Each year, the seniors on the team choose that season’s theme, which is always in response to a shortcoming from the year before. This year’s theme was, “It’s Not About Me.” INAM was posted in lockers, on bedroom walls and on practice helmets. It was literally the first and last thing said that season. INAM bonded the team around one mission; it became their motivation and battle cry. The seniors at R-MC led the team with their attitudes and their actions.
A chapter’s attitude is more often referred to as its ‘culture.’ Seniors—how they treat chapter obligations or how they prioritize—dictate a chapter’s culture. And as a senior, you cannot escape this responsibility, for even your absence speaks volumes. Equally important are a senior’s actions. Seniors who do not put their own words into action will not only lose the respect of their brothers, but they will also cultivate a culture of glorified ineptitude in the chapter. We need seniors who are ready to own up to the responsibility of their role, ready to lead with their actions, not just their words.
Seniors, I challenge you to stay engaged. Hold a position (alumni secretary, Phikeia educator, awards chairman), attend chapter and fulfill your obligations to the Fraternity. Most importantly, help dictate the attitude and direction of the chapter, but please don’t forget to act upon your own words.
At General Headquarters, we have been working diligently to reengage our seniors and prepare them for alumni life. Phi Delt Weekends are networking events where you can interact with alumni and undergraduates from the region. Our Biennial Convention is this summer (June 19-22) in Las Vegas, where over 1,500 Phi Delts are expected to congregate. Both of these events are fantastic opportunities as you near graduation.
Seniors, we need you to lead. Will you answer the call?
*”Inactive” is not an official status. Refer to Article 147 in The Code for official membership standards.