I wanted to take this opportunity to share some thoughts with you all about the chapter and the incredible journey they are on with the Chapter House. In particular, I want to comment on the roles, rights and responsibilities of the individuals involved; both for the actives and their parents.
I’ll start with an analogy which I find very helpful. The men of the chapter are like a young couple renting their first home together with the hopes of one day owning it, raising a family and passing it down to the next generation. This is a scary time for all involved, and each Brother has a responsibility to help make it happen, and do so within their role in the family. While this may be scary for the parents of the young couple, they have no role in this process. Good parents will be helpful. They will offer support, and wise council when asked. They will smile when the young couple chooses excellent professional support teams to assist them in the difficult processes where they have no expertise. They will be there with kind words when mistakes are made and the young family needs to band together to get through difficult times, and rectify their own problems. Parents will try, but sometimes fail, to keep their distance to avoid being helicopter parents, and not meddle with the young family’s process. If my father-in-law were to vigilantly ask questions about the safety of his daughter when my family was buying a house and getting it ready, I would consider this to be an intrusion into my marriage I would probably spend my time figuring out how to make him back off, or reconsidering whether it was all really worth it. My father-in-law kindly helping with the payments wouldn’t change any of this.
The analogy continues to work as the young couple has children. A large family is a source of pride when it does well. Especially, as the young grow older and take their places as adults and make a positive impact on the family, and the world beyond them. Again, one hopes the grandparents will be wise and supportive, and not meddle in the affairs of the family. Of course, while a larger family means more people to lean on for support, it means more risk and more potential heartache as the probability for mistakes goes up. Especially when young parents are involved. As a man with children and grandchildren, I understand how scary it is and how hard it is to hold my tongue. But, when my young, vibrant granddaughter comes for a visit, and climbs into my lap for a hug and I can see how well she’s doing, I smile with pride, and find a way to quietly slip my son a twenty.
Unfortunately, the analogy breaks down as the family extends to a group of fraternity men, all equals. Indeed, it is a great thing to have every man shoulder the burden and do their part. This also means more men to choose from to help take the most difficult roles that require the largest effort and the greatest wisdom. However, it is equally true that the probability of things going wrong goes way up as the number of family members goes up. It is scary for us all. It is the time when we hope the institutions they are part of, the local chapter and the national organization, can be there with the guidance that has helped scores of other families through their difficult times. This men of the Gamma Kappa chapter have already shown their greatness at the national level; their parents weren’t needed, but they were surely a central part of the success. I have great confidence the men will continue to thrive in the future.
I also want to comment on the roles of the men inside the chapter. As a large organization of people, they have elected and appointed representatives who are delegated rights and responsibilities as they carry out their duties in an unpaid, part-time job. We don’t need 60 men to write the checks, so we elect one man to do it. We don’t need 60 men to communicate with the national chapter or run meetings so we elect one man to do it. The list goes on for all the important roles. These men do not have the authority to make decisions according to their own wishes. As representatives of the group, they must understand the wants and needs of the many and faithfully execute their wishes when it is clear what needs to be done, and go to larger groups (the council) for some decisions, and the entire chapter for major ones (like taking on a chapter house). We honor them for their service, and sometimes defer to their wisdom because they have a broader picture of what’s going on. We also have built in checks and balances. Members have a right to ask questions, but good family members do not set up cliques of opposition or difficulty when they don’t like the answers. It is unconscionable to dump on leaders or make demands on them as they are just equal members of the family, same as the rest of us. They are not full-time paid service providers who are there to keep us up-to-date on all developments. They are our friends and family. We need to thank them, and ask how we can help play our role (or extend it) to be of most benefit to all.
Dave Toback, Faculty Advisor