By Luke Benfield
Throughout the week of November 14-18, we will be reading from a variety of authors for our inaugural Campus Administrator Week blog series. Much like our local volunteers, these professionals are ‘in the trenches’ with our undergraduate members every day. Their experience, wisdom, and passion for Fraternity/Sorority members are all important contributions that can easily be taken for granted, and they are seldom recognized for all they do. Therefore, Phi Delta Theta will be honoring our campus partners all this week and providing them with an opportunity to tell their story as well as giving them an open mic to offer their insight to our readers. We are excited to present posts from new/mid-level professionals, seasoned veterans, fellow Phis, as well as former campus administrators. We hope you enjoy all there is to learn from these partners of the Fraternity.
To begin the Campus Administrator Week blog series, I’d like to share my perspective as a former Fraternity/Sorority Advisor at a University. Back in April of this year, the “Fraternal Thoughts” blog posted a second piece in a mini-series titled ‘Greetings from Behind the Podium.’ This was a follow-up to the ‘Greetings from Back Row’ article posted earlier. These two pieces provided the perspectives of both Chapter leaders and the estranged member. After reading these, I thought it would be interesting to complete the series with a post from the viewpoint of the Campus Advisor. Although I am no longer a campus-based administrator, I empathize with these amazing professionals, and hopefully this post will provide insight into the life of a Greek Advisor.
Greetings from the Fraternity and Sorority Life Office,
I am the Fraternity and Sorority Advisor on campus. I have chosen to make Greek Life a professional endeavor, and to guide a campus Greek community towards success.
As an undergraduate, I was a very involved member. I held positions within my Chapter as well as numerous governing organizations and honor societies on campus. I spent more time working on student organization business than I did on my homework and often missed class for meetings.
I am the only professional on campus that specifically works with Greeks. I advise all three governing councils, honor societies, and all active chapters, in addition to other staff responsibilities and university committees. Any time something happens on campus that involves at least one Greek, my phone rings off the hook. I’ve even received a phone call at 7am on a Sunday morning because there was a car illegally parked on campus, and University police thought I might know who it is.
My desk is always covered with event registrations, roster updates and a plethora of other paperwork. My office walls are covered in Greek paraphernalia, chapter composites, certificates and conference nametags. I have several chairs and benches outside my office because there is always a line of students waiting for help.
While in meetings with other faculty and staff, negative comments and stereotypical assumptions about fraternities and sororities offend me as much as they bother you. Anytime a single member is suspected of less than favorable actions, I immediately get the phone calls and emails, regardless of what time it is. I’m actually on-call 24/7. Truth be told, I’m as accountable for your actions as you are. Have you ever thought about that?
I do not have a personal life. I work from 9am until 11 or 12 at night, Monday through Friday, and attend events, programs, trainings, and conferences on the weekends. The vast majority of my local friends all work at my University. I am married to the job with almost a thousand children, most which require more babysitting than advising. It seems that ¾ of my job is spent putting out fires and dealing with failing chapters, when I should be encouraging and challenging successful chapters to be even better. I keep a pillow, sleeping bag, and a change of clothes in my office during sorority recruitment for the rare chance of an hour of sleep after bid matching.
Professional and student conferences end up being my vacations, and I spend the summer volunteering as a facilitator for LeaderShape and the Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute.
Contrary to popular belief, I am actually a student and chapter advocate. I do my best to create new and exciting opportunities for Greeks, while also having regard for tradition and consistency. Unfortunately, sometimes I have to be disciplinarian and maybe even close a chapter. Even though it was the actions of the members that stripped the house of its letters, it’s still viewed as my fault. I am the fun killer, the party police, and apparently I am in the business of closing chapters, even though that would eventually put me out of a job. The truth is I know that the chapter is closing because of its own actions; however, it still breaks my heart. There are few things in this line of work that are more depressing and heart-wrenching than suspending a chapter. However, since it is my name on the bottom of the letter, I am the one responsible, not the members that chose to ignore the values and Ritual of their organization and created the situation in the first place…
The truth is: the long nights, lack of sleep, and relatively high-stress environment is worth it. It’s worth it because of what I believe. I believe that the fraternity and sorority experience provides undergraduates with the opportunity to pledge themselves to a higher purpose that will make men better men and women better women. I believe that by committing ourselves to a set of values and principles, we create an experience that will empower and inspire our members throughout college life and beyond. Through living out our oaths to each other, we devote our lives to the service and assistance of others, not because someone told us to, but because we have the ability and responsibility to do so. I believe in the lifelong connections we make with our members, and I would not trade my own Greek experience for anything in the world.
Next time you think your Greek Advisor is out to get you, take a closer look and realize that we would not be doing this job unless we believe in you and your organization. To see you and your chapter succeed is why we do what we do. Never forget that.
As the Director of Education, Brother Luke Benfield is the newest addition to the General Headquarters team. Luke is a member from the Georgia Gamma Chapter at Mercer University. He has a bachelor’s degree in English literature and economics, as well as a master’s degree in educational leadership. Before coming to GHQ, Luke was the Fraternity and Sorority Life Advisor at Coastal Carolina University, as well as the IFC advisor at Florida Gulf Coast University in graduate school.