The Chapter Advisor

As a Chapter Advisor to a Tau Kappa Epsilon chapter, you will be making a major commitment to the leaders of tomorrow. No one is going to tell you that being a Chapter Advisor is an easy job. But, you are about to develop a solid relationship with the men in your chapter, one that allows individuals to flourish while upholding the values of the Fraternity. Remember that the many of these men you are working with are away from home for the very first time. They are learning to manage things in their lives that may have been taken care of for them by their parents. Sometimes your advice will make sense to them right away. Other times you may need to repeat it. And still other times your points will have to be made with considerable authority.

After you gain some experience, you will find that problems do not just crop up overnight. They appear when you are out of touch with your chapter. Use warning signs, your meetings with chapter officers, your one-on-one talks, and the Fraternity's resources to make things run smoothly with your chapter.
 

It is not just a coincidence that those TKE chapters that are most successful have the most effective, involved Chapter Advisors. Those advisors did not come into this job knowing all that there is to know. They grew into it. Many of them are still learning today. Like them, you can make a big difference between a chapter that is just merely getting by and one that makes its university, its community and Tau Kappa Epsilon proud.
The ideal Chapter Advisor should:
 

  1. Be caring.
     
  2. Be mature.
     
  3. Be goal-oriented.
     
  4. Have management, time, organizational, and communication skills.
     
  5. Be respected.
     
  6. Be a good role model.
     
  7. Hold the chapter accountable for its actions.
     
  8. Provide guidance and counsel to the chapter in all its endeavors.
     
  9. Attend officer and chapter meetings often.
     

The Chapter Advisor must establish and maintain a close relationship with the chapter, and be seen as a mentor, and friend. Being a friend of the chapter is the basis for success as Chapter Advisor. Friend here means one who has gained the respect and confidence of the undergraduate chapter. Fraters should feel free to approach you for guidance in any matter, personal or fraternal.
 

Without respect and friendship, your relationship with the chapter may become strained and unproductive. Remember, friendship is more than simply being liked. Occasionally, you may have to act or take a stand on a particular issue that t he chapter won't like. Strive to be liked by the chapter, but it's more important to be respected.
 

A Chapter Advisor does not operate the chapter, but rather helps the chapter become self-sufficient. To be truly helpful to the chapter, you must void doing things that they should be doing for themselves. The Fraters will learn more when they take your suggestions and act on them for themselves. This will also nurture a positive Advisor-Chapter relationship.
 

Chapter leadership changes annually, so the Chapter Advisor is the key individual who provides the continuity that keeps the chapter on the road to success. You will know of the past pitfalls and blunders made in chapter projects, and can draw on these experiences to avoid repeating past mistakes. In this sense, the Chapter Advisor is the stabilizing force in the progression toward chapter goals.
 

 

Qualifications of a Chapter Advisor

Who can be a Chapter Advisor?
It is recommended that a Chapter Advisor be an alumnus or honorary alumnus of any TKE chapter. It is not necessary, however, to be an initiated member of TKE to be an advisor. If the advisor is not a member of another national/international fraternity, we recommend that the advisor be initiated.

Does the Chapter Advisor have to be an alumnus of the chapter he works with?
No. In fact, many times it is better if he is not a member of that chapter. Many successful and well respected Chapter Advisors provide guidance to chapters other than their home chapter.
 

Does the Chapter Advisor have to be a man?
No. Some chapters have found that women make excellent Chapter Advisors.
 

Do the Chapter Advisor and a Faculty Advisor (or Campus Advisor) have the same responsibilities?
No. The Faculty Advisor is a liaison between the chapter and the university administration. He or she is more concerned with the scholastic area of the chapter, campus service projects, and public relations projects. The Chapter Advisor, on the other hand, provides guidance and counsel on a day-to-day basis regarding overall chapter operations.
 

What is the age requirement to be a Chapter Advisor?
We do recommend that the Chapter Advisor has graduated at least three years prior to assuming this leadership role and is at least 25 years of age.
 

 

Selection of the Chapter Advisor

The steps a chapter takes to obtaining a Chapter Advisor are as follows:
  1. Chapter identifies a candidate. Advisors typically are:
    • Well-respected members of the host institution.
       
    • Well-respected members of the local community.
       
    • Recruited with the help of the Offices of the Grand Chapter (the Offices of the Grand Chapter can compile a list of all alumni within close geographical proximity to the chapter).
       
  2. Chapter selects their Chapter Advisor and notifies the TKE Chief Executive Officer of their choice. The Black Book requires approval of the Chief Executive Officer.
     

The fraternity system has changed drastically over the past few years, and so has the role of the Chapter Advisor. Since the collegiate members had a significant role in your selection, you have a great deal of responsibility to them. Some chapters will expect you to be a participant; others will expect you to be exactly what the title implies ...an advisor, not a participant. Somewhere along the line you will find that happy medium that will enable you to work toward chapter success in all areas of fraternity life.
 

 

Responsibilities of the Chapter Advisor

Conduct a Chapter Retreat
A chapter needs to periodically review its position and role, both on the campus and within the Fraternity. This is the basis of a Chapter Retreat. As the Chapter Advisor, you need to coordinate this process to ensure openness as members assess their performance. The Chapter Retreat Guide will help you focus on the following areas:
  1. Chapter strengths and how to build on them.
     
  2. Chapter weaknesses and how to turn them into strengths.
     
  3. Short- and Long-Term goals.
     
  4. Strategies to achieve these goals.
     

Supervise Initiations and Rituals (if you are an initiated member of TKE)
Your supervision of the ritual of the Fraternity will insure its positive effect on the new members. All members of the Fraternity should be well informed in the aspects of our ritual and should be able to conduct a ritual meeting with confidence and professionalism.
 

The ritual of our Fraternity encapsulates and presents in a meaningful format that which we hold sacred as Tekes. Ideally, all parts should be memorized and presented with honor and respect. Indeed, the ritual is a most serious, reverent occasion. By helping the chapter in ritual instruction and rehearsals, you will ensure its lasting effectiveness. If you are not a Teke, you should still make sure the officers instruct the new members in the secret works of the Fraternity and rehearse the ritual so they always appear polished.
 

Interview New Officers
Upon the election of new officers, you should hold an interview with each chapter officer, explaining to them their new role. You need to assess each officer's preparedness for the task ahead and determine if he needs any help to get started.
 

Participate in Regional Leadership Conferences and Conclave
Your attendance at these official Fraternity functions also sets a good example for he men you are helping to become leaders. Also, because of your role as the link between the chapter and the Offices of the Grand Chapter, your knowledge and involvement with the Offices of the Grand Chapter is vital to your effectiveness.
 

Attend Officer and Chapter Meetings Frequently
You should attend a meeting of the chapter at least once a month. You however, may want to attend more often. This will allow you to be well-informed and be present for your input n important issues.
 

Make it a practice to give a report of any new policies or issues that may affect the chapter. You should also make sure that all correspondence that is received by the chapter is read at the chapter meetings and later posted for all to read. Having a working knowledge of parliamentary procedure to provide assistance in the smooth running of a chapter meeting is essential.
 

Your presence for advice and support is particularly crucial during times of rush, new member installation, officer installations, and for the planning of events like Homecoming, Greek Week, and Parent's day, etc. An informal drop-by is also a good way to gather information on the chapter's direction by just talking with Fraters. Your presence for informal, as well as formal, events is equally important.
 

Disciplinary Matters
You must be thoroughly aware of the requirements of The Black Book concerning disciplinary matters. Discretion is the better part of valor. Keeping confidences and treating every situation with respect for all concerned, with the ultimate welfare of the chapter in mind, must be your major concern. Be slow to react to rumors and use your best common sense before making any decision.
 

If a major disciplinary issue should surface, first gather all of the facts, discuss your options with the officers, and make a decision. If in doubt, you may always refer to the Black Book, Risk Management Guidelines, or a member off the TKE Regional Servicing Team.
 

Membership Recruitment
You will want to attend a few recruitment functions, especially if your campus in involved in formal recruitment. Your adult presence says lot about the chapter to a prospective new member, and you can be on hand to answer questions and concerns. Encourage other members of the Board of Advisors and Alumni Association to attend these functions, too.
 

Work with the membership recruitment committee to ensure they understand the basics of membership recruitment. You may also need to provide occasional pep talks to keep them going forward with full energy. Stressing of the importance of large numbers of qualified new members is always helpful.
 

Assist and Guide Chapter Operations
The areas where you will want to be knowledgeable in order to aid the officers are:
 

  • Financial Matters - You must ensure that a budget is prepared to guide the chapter for the ensuing year. Remind the chapter that the Board of Advisors needs to approve the budget. You will want to make sure the chapter remains current in its obligations to the International Fraternity: Candidate Fees, Initiation Fees, Annual Membership Fees, Risk Management Fees, and Conclave Savings Plan. Be certain too that the corporation, however it is organized, files the appropriate state and federal reports.
     
  • Campus Involvement - You will need to be aware of "who's who" on the campus, especially the Fraternity and Sorority officials. A good professional relationship with them is essential to effective guidance of the chapter. Encourage active participation by the chapter officers and members in all campus life.
     
  • Social Programming - You can do a great deal to assure a successful chapter by insisting on a social calendar that complies with current Risk Management guidelines. To avoid overemphasis on the social aspects of membership, Fraters must realize that a social program complements other programs of the chapter.
     
  • Scholarship - You will want to be sure to encourage the chapter to maintain a good scholarship record, one that is equal to the All Men's Average and preferably better. The chapter should consistently strive individually and collectively to achieve the best possible record. Work with the Faculty Advisor (or Campus Advisor) in strengthening the scholastic program of the chapter.
     
  • Public Relations - The public relations program of the chapter must be an ongoing activity. The chapter has many publics to which it has a responsibility, and those publics can make or break the chapter's momentum toward excellence.
     
  • House Management - Periodic visits, many of them unannounced, are useful in determining the state of the chapter and the climate that exists for chapter success. Chapter accommodations must be similar to a satisfactory home environment. The image of the chapter is reflected by a well-appointed home. Make sure the chapter house is properly maintained. The mechanical systems must be checked, with inspections and repairs on a timely basis. Caring for the grounds and exterior of the house reflects not only on how the community views the chapter but on how the membership views itself. Neighbor relations are greatly hampered when your property is a mess.
     
  • Risk Management - The attitude of the chapter Prytanis towards Risk Management is invariably reflected in the attitude of the members of the chapter. Help them understand why the Risk Management Guidelines are important. Knowing the answers to these frequently asked questions will help. Any chapter, large or small, that attempts to stop incidents without a definite guiding policy--one that is planned, publicized, and monitored--will find itself continuously reacting to situations rather than being in a position to prevent them before they have a chance to occur.
     

 

Sample Situations and Responses

Situation #1:
The chapter you advise is unmotivated and unorganized. Apathy is obvious at during periods of membership recruitment and the chapter is having a hard time recruiting new members. The Prytanis is looking to you for guidance. You have decided to talk to the entire chapter at this week's chapter meeting.

The following is an example of an unproductive Chapter Advisor response:
"If I had not seen it, I would have never believed it. Only 40% of you guys showed up for the event. And there wasn't even a quorum at the last meeting. And you haven't even started the New Member Education program. I hate to tell you this, but you are an embarrassment to the Fraternity. If you don't get off the stick, this chapter is going to fall down around you. You had better come up with something to save your butts."
 

Now here is a more productive Chapter Advisor response:
"This chapter has always been known as one of the best on campus. We have got to work to keep it that way. So, let's set some goals that will help us to remain one of the best fraternities."
 

Situation #2:
It has come to your attention that the chapter has a little sister program even though that is clearly against Fraternity policy. No one in the chapter will come forward "officially," so you need to confront the officers and, later, the entire chapter.
 

This is how not to deal with that problem:
"Listen guys. I know it is pretty unrealistic to expect you not to have a little sister program when everyone else on campus does. But, it is a rule."
 

There are all sorts of problems with that kind of response. Fist, and foremost, you must always represent the International Constitution and Bylaws of Tau Kappa Epsilon as fair and just. Second, even though you should be a friend of the chapter, you cannot establish a "them" versus "us" situation by referring to TKE policy as unrealistic. Third, and this is a crucial point, you must never disregard the potential legal problems in a situation.
 

Let's take a look at a more appropriate way to address that issue:
"I know you have heard it before, but let me read you the Fraternity's policy on little sister groups. Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity does not recognize or approve the existence of little sister groups, Order of Diana, or similar chapter programs or organizations. Nor do they approve chapter affiliation with similar organizations. No organization, unless authorized in writing by the Grand Council, shall use the words, letters, logos or symbols of Tau Kappa Epsilon or otherwise represent affiliation with the Fraternity."
 

One of your goals should be to generate enough respect among the Fraters so that you can reprimand them, when necessary, without alienating them. You will have to express yourself forcefully and feel confident doing so. But, you have to know when it is necessary to reprimand them and when it is not. If you come down on the Fraters all of the time, they are going to ignore you all of the time. And, you can't afford to be ignored when you are dealing with situations that involve legal liability.
 

The main thing to remember regarding legal liability is that as long as you and your chapter obey Fraternity, Province, State and Local laws, you will be covered by the Tau Kappa Epsilon insurance policies. But, if the Risk Management Guidelines are not followed, the chapter may longer be protected. If you, as Chapter Advisor, knew beforehand that a violation was about to occur, you may not be covered either. Now you know why it is so important for you to be sure your chapter is following the Risk Management Guidelines. You cannot allow a few people to jeopardize the entire Fraternity.
 

You can't possibly be there to see everything that goes on at the chapter, but you should be keenly aware of your chapter's plans. Work with the individuals to make sure they understand the dangers involved, especially with events that involve alcohol or when hazing could be involved. These are two of the most emotional and critical issues among Fraternities today.
 

Situation #3:
Some of the members have made comments about Hell Week, Scavenger Hunts, and the like. You think there may be some sort of hazing happening behind "closed doors." No one is willing to come forward, nor should you be asking them to. You need to reaffirm the Fraternity's position on hazing. A typical response from the chapter might be: "Come on. We have always had hazing." "Yea, other fraternities have hell week."
 

Here is the wrong way to react to a statement like that:
"Ok. Ok. You all have to do what you have to do. Just don't let me hear about it."
 

And here is the right way:
"If that is the way you feel about it, then you have to understand that you are putting the whole chapter in jeopardy, as well as yourselves, and the International Fraternity. It is that kind of attitude that land people in court. So, if you have to have Hell Week, then you no longer have the privilege of membership in this Fraternity."
 

You should not be afraid to talk to your chapter like this. Some situations cry out for confrontation, especially those where lawsuits are waiting to happen.
 

Situation #4:
One of the Fraters has come to you. He said that an open party with alcohol is being planned by four of the chapter's more rambunctious fraters.
 

This is how you should not approach the problem:
Upon finding the names of the Fraters planning the party, you go to one of their rooms to confront them. "Hey guys, listen. Joe tells me that you are planning an open party and there are going to be kegs present. I don't have time to talk now because I am late for a meeting, but all I can say is that you had better not do it. See ya!"
 

First of all, you never want to betray a Frater's confidence. Telling the guys that Joe says you are planning a party is going to make them upset with Joe. Don't divide the chapter into factions. You have to be very careful to preserve the Fraters' trust in you. Second, you must always take the time to explain why the chapter can't do something. If you don't have time to talk now, set up a meeting when you do. Using vague threat like "all I can say is that you had better not do it" is ineffective. Use facts, not threats.
 

Here is an appropriate way to respond to the situation:
"I have come to you guys because you are leaders in this chapter and the other Fraters tend to follow your example. I know there is talk about an open party with alcohol. I have to remind you of the legal consequences of doing something like that. If you have a party and let anyone come, and believe me everyone and their brother will come, you lose all ability to control that event. And yet you are going to remain responsible for whatever happens to any one of those people.
 

Your insurance will not cover you because you are breaking University, Fraternity and possibly even State/Province laws. So, if someone decides to sue because their underage child drank beer here, got dunk, got hurt, you are going to pay out of your own pockets."
 

A typical response would be:
"But we will lose popularity if we don't have open parties."
 

Your response should be along the following lines:
"There are a lot of other ways to become popular without having open parties."
 

Members:
"Well, what do you suggest we should do to keep visibility on campus?"
 

You:
"I suggest we get really involved in campus intramural athletics, chapter scholarship, and other campus activities. Lets have social events for Fraters and their guests that revolve around something other than alcohol. Let's challenge our social committee to come up with a list of functions that this chapter could sponsor without alcohol."
 

Finally, when all else fails, remind them one last time of the seriousness of their actions. Of course, you won't always have to deal with such difficult situations, but it is important to know what to do should they arise. You don't have to handle them alone. You can always turn to the Offices of the Grand Chapter for advice and support.
 

 

Warning Signs

To help you identify the early signs of possible problems, we have listed some of the more obvious clues.
  • Elections that are not contested and are more of a popularity contest than anything else.
     
  • Chapter meetings lasting more than one hour.
     
  • Lack of communications between fraters or between the chapter and the Board of Advisors.
     
  • Accounts receivable that are high.
     
  • Record keeping is improper or disorganized. Copies of the minutes not being submitted to the Offices of the Grand Chapter.
     
  • A poorly maintained chapter house. So much can be accomplished with a little hard work. Never let an area of the house look like or be referred to as "the Pit."
     
  • Relations with local alumni that are strained or non-existent.
     
  • Social activities that rely on alcohol.
     
  • A poor new member class retention rate.
     
  • These are some of the more obvious signs of a faltering chapter. Many of you will also be able to notice other telltale signs of a chapter in trouble. If you spot any one of these signs, discuss it with the Executive Committee to determine the cause. Feel free to contact the Offices of the Grand Chapter to receive assistance.
     

 

The Chapter's Member Education Program

Since the 1970s, Fraternity leaders have seen a dramatic shift in the collegiate environment. Lawsuits have become more widespread as society has become increasingly intolerant of alcohol and substance abuse. Scores of hazing injuries and deaths have promoted a majority of state legislatures to institute anti-hazing statutes. The number of tragic incidents at campuses across the country is on the rise. Nearly all Fraternities have experienced an insurance crisis and a wave of negative publicity.

Because of these sweeping changes in the environment, some campus administrators and faculty members have chosen to ban Fraternities. There is a growing trend to restrict or eliminate Fraternities at many more institutions. Local civic officials have joined in the trend by enacting various zoning barriers and restrictions. The Center for the Study of College Fraternity reported during the 1980s, the average Fraternity man earned poorer grades than the average student. For the first time in more than 200 years, Fraternity men were longer academically superior.
 

Beginning in 1987, Fraternity leaders met to discuss these vital problems and opportunities for the future. They re-examined basic assumptions and concluded that college Fraternities could, and should, restructure themselves to better serve their members and regain widespread confidence and support. In December 1988, the NIC voted to ask all member Fraternities to study these opportunities in depth and report back to the House of Delegates. Tau Kappa Epsilon established the Membership Structure Task Force to study these issues in the summer of 1988. For more than a year, that body conducted meetings, distributed surveys, and participated in widespread discussions throughout the Fraternity. The Membership Development Program, was the result of their extensive and thorough efforts.
 

The Membership Development Program strengthens the collegiate experience in a variety of ways. It provides better methods for the recruitment of top quality men. It includes an education program to train new members. It includes a standards program to encourage excellence and involvement by every chapter member. And, it includes ceremonies for the three Levels of Fraternal Achievement to recognize those Fraters who live up to the ideals of our Founders.
 

Membership Quality Board
As part of that program, each chapter established its own Membership Quality Board (MQB) consisting of the Prytanis, Hegemon, Recruitment Chairman, Chapter Advisor, a representative from the Board of Advisors, and two members selected at large. The MQB is responsible for interviewing prospective members to certify that they meet the Recruitment Standards of the chapter. It's important to note that the chapter still has the primary responsibility to recruit and select members. The Membership Quality Board interview process is designed as an additional quality control step in the screening process.
 

Standards
Each chapter also established its own Recruitment Standards for screening potential candidates for membership, and also established specific written Member Standards to ensure that all Fraters meet their obligations and actively participate in chapter events. The standards are monitored by the MQB. Each term, the MQB meets to determine if any Fraters have not met the Member Standards. Those Fraters who don't are given a warning or placed on probation. While on probation, they may lose privileges such as voting rights, the right to participate in social or athletic programs, the right to serve as a Big Brother, or the right to hold office, but will be expected to meet their financial obligations to the chapter and the International Fraternity. If a Frater does not improve his performance, the Membership Quality Board may refer the matter to the Judicial Board and/or Board of Advisors for further action which may result in charges to remove his membership in the Fraternity. In this way, the Member Standards program provides for quality control within the chapter.
 

New Member Education
The Hegemon's Manual contains the new member education program of the Fraternity, which is a six-week program that includes sample lesson plans to be utilized by the Hegemon to properly educate the new members about their life in TKE. The new member education program includes a Big Brother program with activities designed to foster a closer relationship between Big and Little Brothers.
 

Recognition: Levels of Fraternal Achievement
As part of the Membership Development Program, three Levels of Fraternal Achievement were established to encourage participation and recognize those Fraters who have achieved various milestones during their fraternal involvement. These include: The Order of the Founders, The Knights of Classic Lore, and The Fraternity for Life. New fraters commitment themselves to the principles of the Fraternity. They are then recognized with the Order of the Founders certificate after completion of the New Member Education Program. At the start of their senior year, those Fraters who have remained in good standing are recognized as Knights of Classic Lore and, prior to graduation, they re-commit themselves to participation as alumni.
 

 

The Chapters Advisors and Member Education

Membership development is an integral part of the unique personality of TKE. The Chapter Advisor plays a specific role in this vital program:
  • He participates on the Membership Quality Board and therefore interviews candidates for initiation into the Fraternity, as well as evaluates annual participation of all members.
     
  • He actively participates in chapter retreats.
     
  • He provides continuity in assuring the success of the Membership Development Program. He makes sure it is consistently run each year, consulting closely with the Hegemon and Prytanis.
     

One part of the Candidate Education programming deals exclusively with TKE's concept of the "Fraternity for Life." The "Fraternity for Life" means that TKE involvement does not end with graduation from college. It continues with alumni support and active participation. The Chapter Advisor should be present during this session to explain the role and responsibilities of the Chapter Advisor to the chapter, as well as to share feelings about the responsibilities of collegiate members.
 

You will be helping the chapter establish and periodically evaluate their Chapter and Recruitment Standards, conduct interviews of prospective members, and make recommendations to the chapter. You will want to be well-versed on the operations of all phases of educational programming for your own benefit and, ultimately, for the benefit of the chapter. Here, again, the continuity your position provides will go a long way to foster chapter success.