Meeting the "Administration"

There is a building on your campus that houses the "administration."  It is probably near the center of campus, looks formal and foreboding, and is encircled by storm clouds. If one listens closely, the sounds of cackling can be heard emanating from it's halls.  It is in this building that the "administration" plots against you, tries to make life difficult for you, and holds endless meetings on how to kill the Greek system.  Portaits of Dean Wormer and Napoleon Bonaparte adorn the halls.

Of course, this is fiction.  But I feel as though this is how students instantly perceive the higher level leaders of their college or university, such as their President and Vice Presidents.  Their Greek Advisor is okay - because they have seen him or her in shorts running around smiling during Greek Week.  They've met that person and it seems like he/she is on our side.  But the administration is something distant, ominous, and uncaring.

The best chapters - the most proactive ones - understand a very important fact:  There is no such thing as the administration.  There are administrators.  With names.  With whom you can work to build relationships. 

New presidents should set up regular check-ins with their campus Greek advisor, with their chapter alumni advisor, their faculty advisor and any other advisor who works as closely with the chapter.  But really good presidents (and council presidents as well) find an hour to have an annual meeting with those at higher levels.  The spring semester may be a good time to do this.

Why?  Not only is it a good educational experience for you, but it's a great way to build a bridge that can be helpful later.  Be the president that's willing to make that meeting happen.  Here are some tips:

In preparation for the meeting:
  • Develop an agenda and then share that agenda with the administrator.  Not only does that ensure you have a purpose to the meeting, but it demonstrates your preparedness.
  • Be ready to look nice and to be on time.  
  • Make sure that those you bring along can properly represent the fraternity.
Here is what I recommend for the meeting agenda:
  • Offer thanks and appreciation.  Start the meeting my thanking the administrator for what they do, and for hosting your chapter on the campus.  If you don't understand all that they do in their role, give them a chance to share that with you.
  • Summarize the state of your fraternity.  Share with him/her your achievements over the last year.  Brag a little bit.  What are you doing that should make the administrator proud to have you on this campus?  If he/she were explaining the Greek system to a colleague, what stories can you share that they could pass along?  Think about academics, service, leadership, etc.
  • Their thoughts and vision for Greek life.  Invite them to share their perspective on how Greek life can improve on this campus.  Listen very intently, because next you should...
  • Express how you think your fraternity can contribute to that vision.
  • Provide your own thoughts and feedback.  Here is a chance for you to offer your own opinions for how the university can better support Greek life.  Don't be adversarial.  Frame it with the vision that they shared with you.  If the university did ______ , then our fraternity can more easily meet your vision for Greek life.
While you are in the meeting:
  • Listen actively.  Come into the meeting willing to learn something new or to hear a perspective you hadn't yet considered.
  • Be open and friendly.  In that moment, you are an ambassador for your organization and for all of Greek life on your campus.
After the meeting:
  • Deliver a handwritten thank you note to the administrator.
  • Invite them to attend a meal or other function that would positively showcase your fraternity. 
A particular note on college/university presidents.  I see many of them get criticized for not being student-friendly or student-focused.  Of all the administrators, they can often seem the most distant from you as a student.  You know what - that's okay.  If your president is doing his/her job, they are keeping the institution open so that you can achieve your degree.  They are bringing resources to the campus to improve life there, and they are focused on the priorities that their board of directors has laid out for them.  Because of this, they often cannot spend time attending every student event, or strolling around the campus shaking hands.  But that's why they have Student Affairs officers, such as a VP and/or a Dean of Students.  They should be ones focused most on your immediate issues.

It's not to say a President LIKES spending their time so distant from your experience.  If you talked to them, I'm sure they would say the good stuff about their job is when they can be with students.  That's why I am certain they would accept your invitation to meet, and would really enjoy the experience.

Spend time understanding the administrators on your campus, and striving to get to know them.  You will likely find that the formerly dark and dreadful administration building actually has a bright welcome mat at the front door.