Election Time – Advice for Presidents

By Moe Stephens, General Council Member-at-Large

In case you haven’t heard, the United States just finished a pretty significant process.  Election time for me always comes with mixed emotions of excitement for potential change or fear of the same.  As a university administrator, all of the election coverage also got me to think about the election process for fraternities and sororities across North America.  Many of you are electing new executive boards and might be feeling many of the same emotions I described above.

If you are running for, or have recently been elected, president of your chapter, the task before you is likely intimidating, exciting and full of the unknown.

I must preface the following with the realization that I am by no means an expert in fraternity and sorority life.  I am well versed and have many experiences in this area, but it is such a dynamic environment that I believe you are the experts because you are living it.

That being said, I often meet with new presidents and I provide the following advice:

Communicate authentically – There are so many different constituent groups a chapter president must communicate with, it can be hard to remember whom you have brought into the loop.  If you are practicing what I call authentic communication, it shouldn’t matter.  Everyone you are bringing to the table will have the same information.  It will require you to be honest with both yourself and your chapter.  Authentic communication is not always the easiest course of action but, I guarantee you, it will only help.  When the fecal matter hits the oscillating device, the more trust you have developed with your various constituent groups, the easier it will be to work through the challenge before you.

You are now living in the fishbowl –  The Phi Delta Theta Chapter at the University of Washington has a large glassed in dining area they call the fishbowl.  The sidewalk and street right outside are well travelled with students and community members passing by.  The chapter eats there, holds social events there, and often has special meetings in the fishbowl.  I have always thought it was great that the public could see into the daily life of a Phi Delt at UW.  However, I have also thought about how difficult that might be at times.  Everything the chapter does in that room is visible and anyone passing by will draw their own conclusions about what is happening.  As a chapter president, you are now living in that fishbowl.  Your actions and words are being seen and heard; often by people you are not even aware are watching and listening.  You are setting an example for your brothers and broadcasting a message to the rest of your community.  Make sure it is the right example.  Be certain it is the right message.

Make good choices – I often end meetings with the phrase, “Make good choices.”  Outside of the context of sorority and fraternity life, this simple phrase is much more difficult and open to interpretation.  As a member of a fraternity or sorority, it is actually very simple.  Learn and live the ritual of your organization.  Within your ritual are values that are relevant and have withstood the changing times.  As Dr. Ed King stated in his classic piece, The Secret Thoughts of Ritual, “Because I am a system of values, I am therefore, an instrument of self evaluation. My values are clear and absolute and yet difficult to emulate. To state a few, I am honor, courage, integrity, fidelity, courtesy and I demand self control as well as ambition and humility. What your Founders did is take the idea of friendship and move it a significant step forward to the concept of commitment.”  As a fraternity and sorority advisor, I do not think you are going to be perfect.  However, I do expect that you and your chapter members think about the values of your organization and use them to guide your decisions.  Imagine how much easier it would be to make decisions as an executive board if you consistently asked the simple question, “How does this align with Friendship, Sound Learning or Rectitude?”

Own it – You must be willing to accept responsibility for the actions of your chapter, both past and present.  Noted entrepreneur and author Jim Rohn once said, “You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself.”  Once you decide it is time to own it, you can begin the process of creating positive change.

Enjoy the ride – Being a chapter president is arguably the most difficult leadership position on a college campus.  You are a role model, a counselor, a mentor, an administrator, an advisor and a spokesperson.  Expectations for chapter presidents are high, and they should be.  However, many chapter presidents get so caught up in being all things to all people that they forget to simply be a sister or a brother.  Along with the rest of the responsibilities you have as a chapter president, it is important for you to remember to have fun, take care of yourself and enjoy the ride.

My preference for this blog entry would be for this to be a conversation, and not just me giving advice.  Of course, this is not an extensive list of advice for new presidents; I am not sure one could even be compiled.  I am interested in hearing from all of you, mainly because your voice is the one that truly matters.

Moe has many years of progressive leadership and success in Greek Affairs. He has  traveled the country working for Phi Delta Theta as both a Leadership Consultant and  as the Director of Expansion. Moe and his wife, Allison, and their daughter Maya are enjoying the Pacific Northwest where Moe is the Assistant Director of Student  Activities at the University of Puget Sound. Moe was the AFLV West’s Greek Advisor of the Year in 2005. Moe has a passion for the outdoors and enjoys rock climbing, cycling and golf. He also never passes up the opportunity to play ultimate frisbee. Previously, Moe served the Fraternity as the Pi North Province President, Awards Committee and Survey Commissioner.  Moe is currently serving the Fraternity as the  General Council Member-at-Large.

Welcome to the 79th Biennial General Convention Where Customs and Traditions Link Us to the Past

By Scott Mietchen – General Council President

In just a few weeks, Phis from across North America will gather in our nation’s capital for the Fraternity’s 79th Biennial Convention.  This will be the fourth time that we have met in the capital city for such a meeting, the other times being in 1906, 1970 and 1992. In gathering this summer we are continuing a tradition of meeting on a regular interval, as a Fraternity, since our founding 164 years ago.

The First Convention

The first Convention was held just three short years after the founding of Phi Delta Theta when seven Phis met on December 30, 1851 at the Woodruff House in Cincinnati.  At the time there were only four chapters in the Fraternity. While that first Convention was very different in size and scope from the one we will soon experience, its purpose was the same; to discuss the state of our brotherhood and chart its future.

From Walter B. Palmer’s authoritative account, “The History of Phi Delta Theta”, we know that the first Convention was conceived in early 1851 when Founder John McMillan Wilson (Miami ‘49) wrote to Founder Robert Morrison (Miami ‘49); “What can be done as to holding a meeting at say Cincinnati, next Christmas holidays, or what do you advise on the matter?”  The suggestion was carried out when, in November, 1851, Wilson wrote to Morrison, who was in Tennessee at the time; “The Convention will be held between Christmas and New-year’s day at Cincinnati.” The minutes of Ohio Alpha for December 2, 1851 report: “In order to transact some business of a general nature, a motion carried, by unanimous voice, to call a Convention, to be represented by the graduate and undergraduate members of the several colleges of the Order, to meet on Tuesday morning, Dec. 30, 1851.  Messrs. Anderson, Ross and Harrison were appointed to report to the Convention the feasibility of establishing other chapters of ΦΔΘ.”  The Convention, meeting on December 31st, first organized itself by electing I.S. Lane (Miami ‘52), President, and Benjamin Harrison (Miami ‘52), Secretary. Following the Convention Benjamin Harrison, John McMillan Wilson and L.W. Ross were appointed to communicate the proceedings of the Convention to the existing chapters.

In 1851, at the first Convention, seven undergraduate and alumni Phis gathered to discuss the state of Phi Delta Theta, chart its future and growth, determine policies and procedures, and celebrate the bonds of brotherhood. In just a few weeks, more than 600 undergraduate and alumni Phis will gather for the 79th time in our history, for very similar purposes.

While every Phi Delta Theta General Convention has its own unique characteristics, and while no two Conventions are the same, there are customs and traditions that have developed through the years that create common experiences for Phis in attendance.  This will be my 16th General Convention, having been present at every one since 1982 when I attended my first Convention in St. Louis as an undergraduate Phi. I am pleased to tell you about some customs and traditions that I hope you will experience when we gather in Washington, D.C. which tie you to the experiences of previous Convention attendees.  These are listed in no particular order or priority.

Customs and Traditions Which Link Us to the Past

Convention Ladders

Many decades ago, members who attended the General Convention started the practice of wearing small silver bars to designate the number of conventions they had attended.  These bars, when linked together, resemble ladders. As Phis attend more conventions, the ladders lengthen, and provide striking evidence of a Phis devotion to the Fraternity. Each bar indicates the city and year in which the Convention took place.  The Phi who has attended the most General Conventions, and has the longest ladder in Fraternity history, is Executive Vice President Emeritus Robert J. Miller (New Mexico ’50). Brother Miller served as the Fraternity’s chief executive for 36 years before retiring as Executive Vice President in 1991. In Washington, D.C. Brother Miller will secure his 33rd ladder, since he has attended every Convention since the Fraternity’s Centennial Convention in 1948.  While at the Convention, be sure to take a close look at Brother Miller’s ladder. If asked, I bet he may even share a story or two about past Conventions.

(L-R) William Morrison (Embry-Riddle ’99), great grandson of Robert Morrison, and Robert Morrison (Westminster ’44), grandson of Robert Morrison, visit with Robert J. Miller (New Mexico ’50), who is displaying the longest Convention Ladder in Phi Delta Theta history at the 2010 Convention in Orlando.

Opening Business Session Roll Call

Think of this as a chapter meeting roll call – but larger and more impressive.  During the first business session on Friday morning the meeting will begin with the traditional roll call of chapters, alumni clubs, and General Officers of the Fraternity.  The roll call is conducted by Executive Vice President Robert A. Biggs (Georgia Southern ’76) and it is always impressive to hear how widespread the Fraternity is across North America. It is especially moving for many when Brother Biggs introduces a new Phi Delta Theta Chapter to the Convention with the introduction; “Please welcome to their first Biennial Convention (name of chapter),” or a reinstalled chapter with the introduction; “Please welcome back to the fold (name of chapter).”  These introductions are always special for those undergraduates and alumni who worked especially hard during the biennium to be assist with chartering a new chapter – and are usually acknowledged with enthusiastic applause.

Executive Vice President Robert A. Biggs (Georgia Southern ’76), conducts the Roll Call during the first business session of the 2010 Convention in Orlando.

Memorial Ceremony

One of the most solemn events, which takes place during the General Convention, is the conducting of the Fraternity’s ritualistic Memorial Ceremony. The Ceremony, which is open to non-Phis as well and attended by many family members and surviving spouses, acknowledges those Phis who have entered the Chapter Grand since the last Convention and pays special notice to those alumni who have previously served the General Fraternity in a position.

Mark H. Ochsenbein (Eastern Kentucky ’77), 2008-10 General Council President, presents the wreath during the 2010 Convention Memorial Ceremony.

Committee Reports and Convention Voting

Since 1880, the General Convention has held all supreme and legislative powers of the Fraternity. The Convention has three main responsibilities and powers. They include:

    1. Electing the General Council
    2. Consideration of judicial matters
    3. Enacting laws for the regulation of the Fraternity, since only the General Convention may amend the Ritual, Constitution, and General Statutes of the Fraternity.

There will be approximately 250 voting delegates in attendance, with undergraduate chapter delegates holding about 2/3 of the voting power of the Convention. Imagine a big chapter room with 250 voting members. Phi Delta Theta is a democratic fraternity, and in order to efficiently conduct the business of the Fraternity, a number of committees are appointed by the General Council to consider issues being presented to the Convention. These committees are composed of both undergraduate and alumni voting delegates and discuss issues for the Convention in committee meetings prior to bringing them to the floor for discussion and voting.  Committees include: Code Committee; Chaplain’s Committee; Credentials Committee; Procedure Committee; Nominating Committee, Appeals Committee; Resolutions Committee; and Wardens Committee. Once a committee has reviewed an item under its jurisdiction, than it can be brought to the Convention floor – where it will be discussed and, if necessary, voted upon – just like in a chapter meeting.

An undergraduate member of the Code Committee presents proposed legislation to the Convention floor during the 2010 Convention in Orlando.

Meet the Candidates

One of the most important responsibilities of the General Convention is to elect the five men who will lead the Fraternity for the next two years as members of the General Council.  The men elected to the General Council are charged to “be the legal representative of the Fraternity and custodian of the property of the Fraternity. The General Council shall interpret and administer all laws of the Fraternity and make such policies and appointments as may be necessary to promote the general welfare of the Fraternity.”  Living within the regulations of the Constitution and General Statutes of the Fraternity, the men elected to the General Council chart the course, priorities, initiatives and direction of Phi Delta Theta for the biennium and beyond. During the Convention, delegates have the chance to meet with each of the candidates for the General Council in the “Meet the Candidates” forum. In this format each candidate rotates through small groups of voting delegates to discuss their ideas and thoughts for the future of the Fraternity and answer questions from Convention delegates. Elections matter, and the ‘Meet the Candidates’ sessions allow delegates to have questions answered, learn about the ideas and priorities of the individual candidates who are running for election, and determine whom to vote for in this secret-ballot election.  The decisions and actions of the General Council affect many areas of the Fraternity and this is the time when delegates help determine the future of Phi Delta Theta.

General Council Reporter Richard E. Fabritius (Kent State ’94), meets with a group of delegates during the 2010 General Convention ‘Meet the Candidates’ session to answer questions about the future of the Fraternity from Convention delegates. Brother Fabritius went on to win re-election during the Convention’s General Council election.

Model Initiation

Imagine being initiated in a large room, in front of hundreds of Phis serving as the chapter, with the initiation being conducted by the Fraternity’s General Council.  For a few men, this is precisely what will happen to them in Washington, D.C.  During every Convention a model initiation is conducted and several new brothers are admitted into the Fraternity. What an honor and privilege for these ‘soon-to-be’ brothers to share their initiation experience with Phis from across North America.

Several men will sign The Bond of Phi Delta Theta and become members during the Convention, much like Lou Gehrig (Columbia ’25), signed this Bond of the New York Delta Chapter on April 10, 1922. The “Gehrig” Bond will be on display during the Convention.

Changing of the Guard

During every General Convention there is a changing of the guard from one General Council to the next. As the General Council is charged with overseeing the Fraternity between Conventions, this biennial change represents an important orderly transfer of leadership and authority. The formal transition will take place during the Convention’s final business session on Saturday afternoon. Once the newly-elected General Council is sworn into office by the Convention Warden, I will have the honor, as Phi Delta Theta’s 63rd President, of pinning the General Council President’s pin on Phi Delta Theta’s 64th President.  However, the leadership transition doesn’t end with the pinning.  At this point, since I will be a Past President of the General Council (PPGC), the other PPGC’s, sitting on the Convention’s front row, will somehow find it necessary to help escort me to my new “retirement” seat with the other past presidents.  Sometimes this is done with careful attention to providing a new PPGC with balance by carefully holding a new PPGCs elbow, providing a cane or perhaps even a walker.

(L-R) 2008-10 General Council President Mark H. Ochsenbein (Eastern Kentucky ’77) is presented with a special plaque after pinning 2010-12 General Council President M. Scott Mietchen (Utah ’84) with the General Council President’s badge.  Shortly thereafter, Brother Ochsenbein was escorted to his new seat with the other Past Presidents.

Recognition of Outstanding Chapters

The best and the brightest are acknowledged in many ways during the Convention.  Awards are presented recognizing many aspects of chapter life, with the awarding of the most prestigious awards reserved for the Grand Banquet on the final night.  The outstanding work and traits of our chapters is on full display during the several different award ceremonies.

The George E. Housser Trophy, recognizing the most outstanding Canadian chapter, was presented to the Phis of Nova Scotia Alpha at Dalhousie University during the 2008 Convention in Paradise Valley, Arizona. The trophy is a Canadian Inuit soapstone carving called the Bird Man.

Memorabilia from the Fraternity Archives

The Fraternity has quite an important collection of Fraternity and alumni memorabilia on display at General Headquarters in Oxford, Ohio.  Unfortunately it’s hard for many to see these items unless they travel to GHQ.  However, during the Convention, the Fraternity brings some of the items and displays them for attendees.  In addition to historic Phi Delta Theta badges and publications, items of interest which are also on display include the Gehrig Bond; Neil Armstrong’s Phi Delta Theta badge that he took to the moon; and the Academy Award won by Francis D. Lyon (UCLA ’28). You’ll definitely want to have a camera with you when you take a look at the collection.

On display during the Convention will be the Oscar won by Francis Lyon and later presented by Brother Lyon to the General Fraternity.

These represent just a few of the many customs and traditions attendees will experience next month. I look forward to seeing many of you from our Phi Delt Nation in Washington, D.C. as we celebrate all of the great things taking place in Phi Delta Theta, and take part in many of the same traditions and customs that tie us to those whom came before us. Please travel safely and let’s have another great Convention.

Brother Mietchen is the General Council President. Scott is a 1984 graduate of the University of Utah where he earned both his B.S. and MPA. He has served the Fraternity as a chapter consultant, chapter adviser, house corporation president, province president, delegate to the NIC and member of the General Council from 1994-2000 and 2004-Present. Scott became an Iron Phi in 2010. Professionally Scott is President and Managing Partner of Fund Raising Counsel, Inc. (FRCI), the oldest fundraising consulting firm in the Intermountain West. He was recognized as Fund Raiser of the Year in 2006 by the Utah Society of Fund Raisers. Prior to joining FRCI, he served as Vice President for University Advancement at Utah State University. Scott, his wife Lisa, and their children, Abby and Alex live in Salt Lake City.

To Love Your Home Chapter While Serving An International Brotherhood

By Rich Fabritius, General Council

My Phi Delt experience has been filled by the presence of so many tremendous volunteers.  Many of them have never gotten a mention in The Scroll or during a convention; but they work hard for our undergraduate men and alumni brothers day after day.  I’ve been asked to write about a Fraternity volunteer who’s enriched my experience – and my life in general.  My variety of great experiences with many a Phi Delt volunteer makes it difficult to comment on one brother.

My first contact with the General Fraternity was through my province president when I was an undergraduate, Brother George Porosky. With his Mercedes Benz parked in the street across from the chapter house – parking lights on – he was a consistent, positive presence in our chapter.  Patient and ever in control, George steered us when we needed it and let us go when we needed to learn a lesson.  He hated our chapter meetings.  He thought they were too long. He’s an engineer so I think some of our ridiculousness was in firm contrast to George’s constitution. Those meetings were long, very long.  He was right of course.  But they were fun and I remember thinking there was no other place on the planet I’d rather be than down in the chapter room on Sunday nights.  George is a main figure in my mind’s memory of those days.

But, the volunteer who taught me perhaps my most treasured lesson about Phi Delta Theta is Brother Jim Warner.  Jim succeeded George as province president of Sigma South and prowls the sidelines of Northeast Ohio for us to this day.  Jim was an adviser at Akron with Ohio Epsilon – his alma mater just like George – when I first met him.  I was an undergraduate and remember meeting him at a Kent State homecoming.  Now, there is a rivalry between Akron and Kent; both institutionally and between our chapters.  So I was a tad perplexed by the presence of an ‘Akron Phi’ at a Kent homecoming.  But, when I met Jim I realized quickly that he didn’t care about what chapter you were from, he cared about you and he cared about Phi Delta Theta.  I learned from Jim a lesson that has led me to this position today on the General Council.  I learned that Phi Delt isn’t just about your home chapter and school.  It’s a whole lot more than that.  I learned that Phi Delt is an International brotherhood – not a chapter.  I learned that you can love your home chapter while serving an international brotherhood.  I learned that Phi Delt is a whole lot bigger than Kent State University.  And, make no mistake about it; I love Kent State and Ohio Lambda.

I’ll never be able to repay Jim for the gift he gave me.  He planted in me a curiosity about the larger organization.  I developed a thirst to know our brotherhood beyond the buildings of Kent, Ohio.  This curiosity lead me to intern at the General Headquarters, which lead to employment on the GHQ staff.  While working for GHQ I met my wife.  To this day, Jim’s gift returns to me ten-fold daily.  I can’t imagine my life without Phi Delta Theta.   I can’t imagine my Fraternity experience without the deep, gratifying experiences I’ve had serving the General Fraternity.  And, I can’t imagine being a Phi without Jim as my brother, mentor and friend.

Thanks Jim!

Brother Fabritius is the General Council Reporter. His other volunteer service to Phi Delt has included Education Commissioner and Province President. Rich lives in Atlanta with his wife, Heather, and their daughters, Austin and Reese. A past consultant and Director of Chapter Services for the General Headquarters Staff, he is a graduate of Kent State University and a member of the Ohio Lambda Chapter. Rich is Vice President, Managing Director of Brunner, an advertising and marketing agency. His hobbies include travel, golf, and boating.

How Do I Know When A Chapter Is Living The Ritual? A Mom Tells Me

By Scott Mietchen

As Phi Delta Theta helps observe National Ritual Celebration Week I was asked to share some thoughts on what it means to “Live The Ritual.”  I realize that, from time to time, I am asked by university administrators, parents, alumni, and undergraduate members to give a definitive definition of how I know when a chapter is “living the ritual” of Phi Delta Theta.  And when I think about this question I’ve come to the conclusion that I know when a chapter is living the ritual when a mom tells me it’s so.  Now, I’m going to come back to this “mom as judge” concept a little bit later, but let me first share some thoughts on being a Fraternity man – with a capital ‘F.”

It would be easy and completely appropriate for me to define ‘living the ritual’ as achieving the highest grades on campus; providing a tremendous amount of community service hours and raising a lot of money for charity; holding a lot of campus leadership positions; and using the ritual in all chapter meetings and functions.  And while each of these specific acts are visible, public and measurable – and all are good activities that I certainly encourage – for me they don’t define this idea of ‘living the ritual.’

As I think about the three cardinal principles of Friendship, Sound Learning and Rectitude laid out by our Founders 164 years ago in The Bond of Phi Delta Theta, and supported in the ritualistic ceremonies that are the backbone of our Fraternity, they describe to me the characteristics of my concept of a Fraternity man.

I want to return for a minute to the original view and perception of Fraternity men by the broader society. I have always been struck by a visual representation of a Fraternity man which appeared over a century ago.  This cartoonist’s drawing coincided with a gathering of Phi Delts, 112 years ago in Louisville, Kentucky, at the Fraternity’s 1900 General Convention. This illustration was printed in the Louisville Courier-Journal and was the first editorial cartoon about any fraternity convention ever published.  If you look closely at the cartoon, you’ll see that it characterizes the Phi Delt as standing somewhat larger, broader and with more presence than the man he is walking next to.  This cartoon didn’t represent him as a drunk — or slob — or “Frat Guy” – but as “Phi Man” – as a man of character – a leader of men.  This Phi Delt wouldn’t have been featured on TFM (Total Frat Move).

The Founders of Phi Delta Theta were respected leaders of their time and outlined for all of us a set of simple beliefs and principles which, if followed, lead to a life of honor, respect and fulfillment.

To me, living the ritual becomes instinctive, internalized and results in the creation of lifelong habits.  And it begins at initiation.  As President of Phi Delta Theta, I have had the opportunity of initiating and installing many of our newest chapters.  And to each new chapter at the installation banquet I offer the following charge.

When you were initiated and all signed The Bond of Phi Delta Theta, you agreed to live your lives by three simple principles – Friendship —- Sound Learning — and Moral Rectitude. I charge each of you here to remember and honor those commitments to each other. I charge the men of Phi Delta Theta to:

  • To excel in the classroom to the best of your abilities.
  • To sit in the front of class, engage with your professors and add to the academic discussion.
  • To excel on the athletic field or performance venue– always giving your best performance and exhibiting exemplary sportsmanship and creativity.
  • To engage on the campus – get involved in student government and other student organizations.  To lead, not just follow.
  • To engage in the local community and serve those in need.
  • To not abuse alcohol, women or each other.
  • Last, but not least, to act in such a manner – both collectively and individually – that all of your mothers, fathers, alumni and friends will take pride in you as a Fraternity man.

If you do that, you will have met the obligations you made when you signed The Bond.”

So, back to the “mom as judge” concept.  I know a chapter is “living the ritual” when I hear from the parent of a Phi, which usually turns out to be the mother, who calls or writes to tell me about her son’s experience in the Fraternity.  These messages sound like this:

“Having never been involved in a fraternity before, both my husband and I were both VERY impressed and proud to see these young men filled with enthusiasm and dedication. The fraternity has been a wonderful experience for him and I know there will be a void once he graduates this year!” 

“The brothers (Missouri Eta – Missouri Western) were going to plunge anyway, but they went beyond a philanthropy project and made it VERY personal for my family. Tanner (who has a disability) is almost 18. We are trying to accept that he will never be married, he will never drive a car and may never attend college. He will never have the opportunity to be a Phi Delta Theta. These men have embraced my family and me and for that I am eternally grateful. Missouri Eta Chapter, from the bottom of my heart, I love each and every one of you. You are compassionate and caring and will ALWAYS be a blessing in my life.”

“I was admittedly apprehensive when he expressed an interest in becoming involved with a fraternity. Our family had no experience with fraternities or sororities and I had some of the typical misconceptions regarding the Greek system. His father and I gave our approval with the caveat that he must maintain a high grade point average and not jeopardize his scholarship, since he wishes to attend law school after graduation. I am proud to say that he is beginning his senior year and has retained his scholarship for all four years in large part due to the scholastic emphasis and support of the Fraternity. I have been very impressed with the level of involvement of the alumni with the undergraduates in Phi Delta Theta. They are truly committed to fostering the development of these young men and certainly stress the virtues that we all wish to instill in our sons: honor, loyalty and responsibility. Personally, I can attest to new levels of leadership and maturity in my son that I believe are directly attributable to his involvement in Phi Delta Theta.”

With time I have become less concerned with “seeing it” in terms of formal activities and more interested in understanding that the process of “living the ritual” is taking place within our chapters. When I hear from a parent with a testimonial like these – I know the chapter is “living the ritual.”

So in closing, here are a few things I believe members of Phi Delta Theta do every day to “live the ritual.”

  • We care for one another and lift each other up
  • We challenge ourselves, individually, to be better men every day
  • We challenge each other to rise to a higher standard
  • We call a brother out when he is going down the wrong path
  • We don’t turn our backs on a brother in need
  • We celebrate each other’s successes
  • We believe in words like fraternity, honor, duty, loyalty, leadership, brotherhood, love, and compassion
  • We’re not fair-weathered friends
  • We take pride in identifying ourselves as Fraternity men
  • We believe in the lifetime commitments we made to each other when we signed The Bond

My hope is that all of our brothers do these things – that we each strive to live the ritual to the best of our abilities – because we’re members of Phi Delta Theta – because that’s what Phi Delts do.

Brother Mietchen is the General Council President. Scott is a 1984 graduate of the University of Utah where he earned both his B.S. and MPA. He has served the Fraternity as a chapter consultant, chapter adviser, house corporation president, province president, delegate to the NIC and member of the General Council from 1994-2000 and 2004-Present. Scott became an Iron Phi in 2010. Professionally Scott is President and Managing Partner of Fund Raising Counsel, Inc. (FRCI), the oldest fundraising consulting firm in the Intermountain West. He was recognized as Fund Raiser of the Year in 2006 by the Utah Society of Fund Raisers. Prior to joining FRCI, he served as Vice President for University Advancement at Utah State University. Scott, his wife Lisa, and their children, Abby and Alex live in Salt Lake City.

Being Your Reputation’s Keeper

By Rich Fabritius

When I was asked to blog about PR for this month’s post my immediate thoughts went to exploring an experience from my professional life.  As an advertising guy I work alongside our PR professionals all the time, as well as practitioners from other agencies.  It’s fun to work with them in building a client’s business – building their reputation.

While there are certainly lessons and observations I can draw upon to inform this post, in the end I find them a little weightless in the context of being a Phi.

Instead, I got to thinking about reputations within our Fraternity and the fraternity world.  We are very lucky to be Phi Delts.  We’ve got one of the best – if not the best – reputation in the fraternity world today.  Other fraternities envy our organization for a variety of reasons.  Our educational programming is among the best out there; providing our undergrads and alumni volunteers with tremendous opportunities for growth and development.  Our undergraduates are among the best men walking the hills of college campuses across  North America.  Our alumni are engaged and give tremendous amounts of time, talent and treasure to Phi Delt.  And most importantly, we are always willing to make hard decisions for the betterment of the organization in order to honor and perpetuate the objectives of The Immortal Six.  Other groups envy us because we make hard decisions.

I personally find strength in the notion that I am a member of an organization who is willing to do the right thing. Which leads me to reputation management.  We owe each other, and ourselves, the effort to be the best we can be.  To manage our reputations individually and as an organization.

Do you like what you see when you look in the mirror?  Do you feel like you’re living up to the challenges of The Bond?

I’d argue that the best reputation management that can be done is making sure you can look yourself in the eye.  Being a Phi means being better than common and challenging ourselves and our brothers to be better than ordinary.

The great thing about Phi Delt is the expectations are clear and easy to understand.  And we know when we’ve lived up to the challenge and when we’ve fallen short.  Falling short is OK. Falling short means you recognize the need for improvement and perhaps some help from your brothers in the process.  That’s what they’re there for!

I was given a book call The Edge when I went off to Kent State.  It was a compilation of inspirational quotes and stories.  The book’s author was a Cleveland area high school wrestling coach.  With the exception of my badge, it was my most prized possession in college.  (Many an eye rolled when I quoted The Edge at a chapter meeting.)  During my last chapter meeting before graduating I bequeathed The Edge to one of my favorite brothers.  I miss that book.  But I learned years later that Collin Boetger still has it in his home –  years since I gave it to him that spring night in 1994.

My favorite passage from The Edge is a poem entitles The Man In The Glass.

I’ll end this post with it.  I hope you challenge yourself to manage your reputation by challenging yourself to be the best you can be.  To live a satisfied life. Knowing that you are accepting the challenge of our Founders to be more than ordinary, more than average.  In the end, the only one who will know if you’ve truly succeeded is you!

The Man In The Glass

By David Winbrow

When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day,
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
And see what that man has to say.

For it isn’t your father or mother or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass.
The fellow whose verdict counts most in you life
Is the one staring back from the glass.

You may be like Jack Horner and chisel a plum
And think you’re a wonderful guy.
But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum
If you can’t look him straight in the eye.

He’s the fellow to please-never mind all the rest,
For he’s with you clear to the end.
And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the man in the glass is your friend.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass.
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.

Brother Fabritius is the General Council Reporter. His other volunteer service to Phi Delt has included Education Commissioner and Province President. Rich lives in Atlanta with his wife, Heather, and their daughters, Austin and Reese. A past consultant and Director of Chapter Services for the General Headquarters Staff, he is a graduate of Kent State University and a member of the Ohio Lambda Chapter. Rich is Vice President, Managing Director of Brunner, an advertising and marketing agency. His hobbies include travel, golf, and boating.

Building Your Career Through Our Values

By Chris Brussalis – General Council Member-at-Large

My years in college were some of the most enjoyable of my life.  It was where I gained my independence by living on my own, developed lifelong bonds of friendship and brotherhood through the Fraternity, developed leadership skills through intercollegiate athletics and involvement in campus life, and gained a love and appreciation for learning.  In college, I laid the foundation for my career by working my tail off, but also by playing just as hard.

A healthy balance of hard work and play was important to my success.  Those years of extraordinary personal growth and development of my mind, soul, and friendships prepared me for the next phase of my life.  Phi Delta Theta’s values of friendship, sound learning, and rectitude were the building blocks to my success.

You need others to develop and grow your career.  You can’t pull this off alone.  The ability to develop and grow your network of friends will provide you with multitudes of people who might help or add value to your career development.  The mastery of the Fraternity’s value of friendship has the ability to make you wildly successful in the development and growth of your career.

There is one thing that successful people have more than the average—they have greater networks.  The secret to success in any contact-dependent profession (i.e., any career where you have to deal with people – almost every career) is the ability to initiate contacts with prospective buyers on a consistent basis.  This simply means that if you are developing your career, looking for a job, applying to graduate programs, the more contacts that you initiate with prospective buyers of your talents (employers), the more opportunities that you will have before you.  This also applies to making contacts or making yourself visible to others who have networks of friends who could help you.  For example, let your chapter brothers know that you are looking for a job or an opportunity.  You never know, one of them may have a father, mother, aunt, uncle, or a family friend who might be looking for your talents or willing to help you grow your career.

Being a member of a fraternity, especially Phi Delta Theta, provides an incredible advantage.  Building friendships, both in quantity and quality, will expand your networks and opportunities as you develop and grow your career.  Whether you are cultivating friendships within the chapter or learning how to recruit prospective members, you are initiating contacts with others and building your personal network.  While the Fraternity provides a strong foundation for your professional network, it is very important to expand your contacts beyond Phi Delta Theta.  This not only helps your chapter in recruitment and enhancing the chapter’s visibility on campus, but it expands your friendship base and personal network to realms that may become valuable to you in the future as you grow and develop your career.

Many of the best employment opportunities are identified and pursued through relationships.  The more people you know, the more opportunities tend to come your way.  Relationships are at the core of business in any sector (for profit, nonprofit, or government).  People hire or do business with people.  Your first step in any job hunt is to make contact with prospective employers.  Your network can help open those doors.

Sound Learning
Learning is the primary reason that you and your family are investing time, money, and resources into four or more years of higher education.  As you transition into a career in a global marketplace, the competition is fierce.  If you aren’t technically prepared with a good foundation of knowledge in your discipline, you are already at a disadvantage.  You certainly don’t have to be a 4.00 student to be a successful in your transition to a career, but you do have to be competent.

Employers and better graduate school programs look for candidates who are technically competent; however, there is a differentiator that will significantly enhance your chances of landing that pivotal first job or getting into a top graduate school.  That differentiator is the ability to communicate, in writing and verbally, and the ability to convey a sincere love of learning.

Poor writing skills are the easiest way to eliminate a candidate in a competitive marketplace.  Most employers will assess writing skills in your resume or through writing samples.  One of the most important courses that you can take as you prepare for your career is a technical writing course.  The ability to write in a cogent, concise manner will serve you well to not only land a good job, but to propel you through a successful career.

Employers invest in people in order to develop their talent and to hopefully yield a return on investment.  This means that employers, as well as graduate and professional schools, look for candidates who have a love of learning and who will be self-motivated to continually improve and reinvent themselves.  My business is very different today than it was five, fifteen, and twenty years ago.  My employees and I have had to learn new techniques, technologies, and processes to remain relevant in the market.  As an employer, I love to invest in people who have the ability and desire to learn and grow because their innovation “innovates” our business, allowing our firm to succeed and thrive in a competitive market.  The easiest way to develop this desire and love of learning is to find a career path or profession that you love.  If you become passionate about something, you will love to learn about it.

Once you have made contact with prospective employers or individuals who can help progress your career, you must have something of value to offer.  Sound learning should take care of this requirement.  However, one more critical element will make or break your career growth and development – that is your integrity.  People hire and invest in individuals that they like and trust.  Simply put: you are only as valuable as your reputation.

Your judgment and actions shape your character and reputation.  Decisions that you make now will stick with you for some time.  The Internet and social media often memorialize and make very public both good and bad decisions.  Make good decisions; do the right thing; always treat everyone with respect; and guard your reputation.  Unimpeachable rectitude will make you an attractive candidate for future employers or business associates.

Chris W. Brussalis is Member-at-Large of the General Council.  Chris is President & CEO of The Hill Group, Inc., a national management consulting firm and Adjunct Professor of Management and Policy at the Heinz College of Carnegie Mellon University.

In Defense of Hazing

By Scott Mietchen – President of the General Council

As many readers of the Phi Delta Theta Blog have discovered, this week is National Hazing Prevention Week and Phi Delta Theta is doing all it can to raise awareness about the issue.  In the past I have written about my own experiences of being hazed, hazing others and stopping hazing in my own chapter.  Over the years I have sat on both sides of many discussions debating the pros and cons of hazing, definitions of hazing and hazing activities, and the appropriateness and desirability of having a culture of hazing within a chapter.  I hope that when others take the time to share their thoughts on hazing in these blogs that our undergraduate brothers give real thought to the ideas expressed. But I know that isn’t always the case.  I know that in too many chapters across North America there are a certain number of our brothers who simply roll their eyes and make some disparaging comment about yet another “lecture” on hazing.  I know that when leaders in some chapters stand up in a meeting and propose the need to end hazing, that there can often be loud and vigorous push-back to the concept of change from some in the chapter.

And sometimes I wonder why this continues to be an issue in the Greek movement and why some members feel the need to continue hazing to this day.

So, you’re not going to here a lecture from me today about why hazing is bad.   Today I am writing to extend a sincere and honest challenge to those who believe hazing makes Phi Delta Theta a better fraternity.

The Challenge

My challenge today isn’t directed at those undergraduate brothers who either don’t like hazing or have worked to end hazing in their chapter. My challenge today is to those brothers who rolled their eyes when they thought this was going to be one more anti-hazing lecture – another chance for the General Council President to yammer on about hazing one more time.  My challenge is to those who fight vigorously, and effectively, to keep hazing traditions in place.

Here is my challenge, and offer, to those brothers.

The Phi Delta Theta Blog has become a very effective communication tool not only for Phi Delts, but for the larger Greek community.  Blog posts are distributed over the Fraternity’s Facebook fan page to nearly 20,000 Phis.  The blog posts are also read by other fraternity, sorority and higher education leaders across North America.  Many blog entries are re-posted, re-tweeted and shared through email distribution lists.  Phi Delta Theta’s Blog has become a key source for some of the leading thought in, and about, the Greek community.

I am offering access to the Phi Delta Theta Blog to one undergraduate member who can write a powerful, thoughtful and well reasoned defense of hazing.  But there are some parameters and rules.

The Rules and Parameters

1.  This is a real offer.

2.  This offer is limited to current Phi Delta Theta undergraduate initiated members.  It is not open to alumni or non-Phi Delts.

3.  The author must write an appropriate-length essay defending hazing which the Fraternity will run on the Phi Delta Theta Blog next month.  Writers can read other blog posts to determine an appropriate length.

4.  The essay does not need to deal with the legality or illegality of hazing.

5.  The essay must discuss, at a minimum, the following issues.

6.  Why hazing should be allowed in Phi Delta Theta.

  • Why hazing helps create stronger chapters.
  • Why hazing helps us live up to the principles outlined in The Bond.
  • Why hazing is philosophically, morally and ethically right.
  • Why hazing helps build better men.
  • Analyze and defend the risk/reward ratio of hazing given that some hazing activities have lead to harm, injury or even death in some cases to those seeking to join Greek organizations.

7.  The essay cannot use the following excuses:

  • The military does it (they are professionally trained).
  • Others do it (c’mon, that’s the “Why can’t I mom, Johnny’s mom lets him). Just defend why it is good for the betterment of Phi Delta Theta.

8.    In the essay, you can’t parse words or hazing activities. This is not a defense of whether or not doing interviews to meet the older brothers or having house chores, etc. is hazing.  This needs to be written as a full-throated defense of the benefits of hazing and defend the positive nature of things such as, but not limited to:

  • Line-ups (night time or any other time)
  • Big Brother night with liquor shots
  • Pressure to consume alcohol
  • Wall sits, calisthenics, push-ups, etc.
  • Wearing funny clothes and pranks and eating gross or bad tasting food concoctions
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Kangaroo Courts or other mental games
  • Late night runs, swims, etc.
  • Servitude activities for older actives
  • You get the picture.  In other words, don’t use your essay to debate and argue for whether or not getting signatures is a good or bad thing.  Keep it intellectually honest and focused on the items that everyone would understand as hazing.

9.    It must be understood that your essay, if selected, will be published under your name. Anonymity won’t be accepted – we all need to be willing to publically stand by our words.

How It Will Be Judged?

I will reach out to others in the Fraternity for their input, but I will take responsibility for choosing the winner.

Is a Winner Guaranteed?

In short, the answer is no.  If no essay is submitted that follows the rules and parameters, or doesn’t follow the common rules of logic, then there will be no winning entry.  However, if a thoughtful, well-reasoned essay is submitted then yes, there will be a winner.  I don’t have to agree with what the brother writes, it just needs to be well written, argued and reasoned.

Neither You or Your Chapter Will be Disciplined for Submitting an Essay

As General Council President I offer my word that no brother who submits an entry will be subject to discipline by the General Council or General Headquarters.  I also offer my word that any entry will not result in an investigation into activities in your chapter as a result of an essay submission.  For those who know me, you know that I stand by my word.  This is not a trick or trap.  This is a sincere offer.

Only True Believers in the Benefits of Hazing Need Submit

The purpose of this challenge is not to encourage a brother to write an essay defending a point of view they may not believe it – this isn’t looking for someone to be a devil’s advocate.  This is a challenge to those who believe that the Fraternity’s long-term effort to eradicate hazing is simply wrong and that hazing should be allowed to take place in Phi Delta Theta.

If You Win – I’ll Hand You the Fraternity Megaphone

A winning essay will have two significant opportunities to publicly make the case about the benefits of hazing.

  1. The winning essay will run on the Phi Delta Theta Blog, that reaches well over 20,000 people, in October, 2011.
  2. The writer of the winning essay will receive an all-expenses paid trip to St. Louis in January, 2012 as my guest at the President’s Leadership Conference.  At PLC I will yield my primetime speaking spot to the brother to present his essay and make the case for why Phi Delta Theta should allow hazing.
  3. The winner, however, must also willing to engage in discussion and debate with responders to the blog post, and with their peers and faculty at PLC in a public debate format.
  4. So, you’ll have access to the Phi Delta Theta megaphone – but you need to be prepared to take part in a two-way discussion about the subject with your peers across North America.

How to Submit an Entry

Essays can be submitted directly to me through my personal email account. My email account can be found on the Phi Delta Theta website under the “Contact Us” section.  The deadline for submissions is October 1, 2011.  Please include your name, chapter, and contact phone number in your submission so I can contact you with any questions.  The winning essay will appear on the Phi Delta Theta Blog not long after the deadline.

Why This Challenge?

In some ways, this challenge harkens back to the early days of the Fraternity when a great deal of time was spent in chapter meetings debating the significant issues of the day.  This was how the early members of Phi Delta Theta developed their minds, analytical skills and persuasive debating talents. This is where Phis learned to take a position, defend an idea and become a leader.

Phi Delta Theta has taken an active stance against hazing for decades – and yet it continues in far too many places.  I can only conclude that it continues because there remain active believers in its practice as well as defenders of its continuing use.  There must be Phis who simply believe Phi Delta Theta’s efforts to end hazing are wrong.  If Phi Delta Theta is wrong in working to eradicate hazing than it would be much better to bring the debate out in the public light and let it face the scrutiny of active discussion.

Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas once wrote; “The way to combat noxious ideas is with other ideas.  The way to combat falsehoods is with truth.”

This is an opportunity for defenders of hazing to make their case to the Phi Delt Nation that Phi Delta Theta should reconsider our position on the subject.

I encourage Phis, who have brothers in their chapters who defend and protect hazing practices, to share this challenge with those brothers and encourage them to submit an essay.  It shouldn’t be acceptable to defend hazing behind closed doors, but not be willing to make a public defense for its use in our Phikeia education programs.

I think it is clear where I, and the entire General Council, stand now and have stood for many years.  Personally, I believe our vigorous effort to end hazing is the right decision for Phi Delta Theta.  However, I also understand that not all brothers may not agree with this position.  It is those brothers I challenge today with this genuine offer of challenging the Fraternity’s current position. The microphone is yours.

Brother Mietchen is the General Council President. Scott is a 1984 graduate of the University of Utah where he earned both his B.S. and MPA. He has served the Fraternity as a chapter consultant, chapter adviser, house corporation president, province president, delegate to the NIC and member of the General Council from 1994-2000 and 2004-Present. Scott became an Iron Phi in 2010. Professionally Scott is President and Managing Partner of Fund Raising Counsel, Inc. (FRCI), the oldest fundraising consulting firm in the Intermountain West. He was recognized as Fund Raiser of the Year in 2006 by the Utah Society of Fund Raisers. Prior to joining FRCI, he served as Vice President for University Advancement at Utah State University. Scott, his wife Lisa, and their children, Abby (17) and Alex (14) live in Salt Lake City.