By Lori Hart, Ph.D.
I have a six year old. He is a great kid. But I already know he is not the tough kid in the pack. However, he is also not the mean one or the one that picks on others just to be spiteful. But, inevitably the nice kid is always worried about what the mean kid is going to do to him.
We have a neighbor. He is a year younger than my child. He is the tough kid…the one that might hit you or kick you just because he has the guts to do it. He is the one riding a bike before everyone else, the dare devil, the free spirit. His name is Hoagie…with a name like that you will be tough. I like him but I also know he is going to pick on my guy given the opportunity.
Recently we were at a neighborhood party. My son approached me and reported that he was certain that Hoagie was going to hit him. To be honest, based on what I had observed, I thought it would happen as well. However, I looked at him and said to him what I say to college fraternity leaders on a daily basis…”Focus on what you can control.” My son looked at me kind of funny but I went on to say “Can you control if Hoagie hits you?” He quickly replied “No.” So I said, “What can you control in this situation so you don’t get hit?” His eyes lit up and he quickly said “How fast I run…I have to run faster than Hoagie.” And my guy had the confidence to deal with the situation and he RAN.
I have had the great opportunity to work for Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity for the past 11 years. I was hired after an alcohol related death of a new member and soon after I came on staff we had another alcohol related death of a new member. At that time our National President challenged me, our staff and a committee of experts to “fix it.” To be honest, I was overwhelmed. However, through a strategic planning process created by the Higher Education Center and with the expertise of some wonderful professionals, Pi Kappa Phi created a plan and it was a plan that gave us the ability to focus on what we could control. Since 2003, we have reduced our claims from 11 to 0. From that plan, our insurance fee per man has gone from $250 a year to $163 if you pay early. Has our organization fixed the alcohol problems on American college campuses? Absolutely not; however, have we provided education, training and mature adult guidance and something is working. The only way we have seen these improvements is from our student members making safer choices and focusing on what they can control.
It is National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week: the time of the year when we educate and challenge college students on the topic of alcohol. You are fraternity men. It is no secret that every study states that fraternity men drink at higher rates than the average student. Don’t be offended by the statistic but don’t be proud of it either. This week we challenge you to think about “what you can control.”
So, here again, you are just a fraternity man…one guy. But, you are ONE GUY…what can you control? Some thoughts…you can control how much alcohol you consume in a given night. You can control if you are the member coordinating and providing alcohol to minors. You can control if you see a friend making a high risk or illegal decision and if you choose to intervene. You can control if you hand your little brother alcohol on big brother/little brother night (one of the most dangerous nights in a man’s new member period).
If you are an officer, you can’t control what every member does. And you can’t control what people do before / after an event; however, you do control the planning of the event and the behavior expectations during the event. Look around your chapter facility…are your members bringing alcohol into the house? You can’t make your members drink responsibly or prevent them from drinking underage, but you can provide them with a safe alcohol-free environment that encourages responsible behavior. Is the chapter using funds to purchase alcohol? If you are leader, take control and stop the practice.
You get the point…you can control more than you think. One person is not going to fix the alcohol challenges on American college campuses. But, focus on what you control. Simply, do your part.
Lori Hart is the Director of Alcohol Education for Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity and speaker for CAMPUSPEAK, Inc. In 2007, Lori was recognized by Campus Activities Magazine as “Speaker of the Year” and “Female Performer of the Year” for her contributions as an on-campus speaker in areas including relationships, alcohol and Fraternity and Sorority Life. She is the 2009 recipient of a “Distinguished Service Award” from the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors and the 2010 recipient of the “Dr. Karleem Riess Award” from the Southeastern Interfraternity Conference.