By Bros. Isaac Thompson and Kelvin A. Moses
The role of Chapter Advisor is one of the most thankless jobs in Alpha, and among the most rewarding. In some ways, advisors get the least support, appreciation, and protection, while assuming the most risk, with the expectation of shouldering the most direct influence and responsibility for the growth and development of the fraternity. Along with those in charge of IMDP, they have the highest charge in Alpha: the initiation, development, and oversight of new brothers into our fraternity. Advisors have the added charge of guiding the chapter activities of 19-22 year old young men who protect the portals of Alpha. Advisors agree to be present at ALL functions of the chapter, making them vulnerable to blame for any issues or problems that arise. Neither Alpha or the universities offer any protective insurance, and advisors are the first line of the fraternity’s defense, and are subject to the same litigation as those he is charged to advise. But real Alphamen are never afraid to take on tough challenges, especially when the well-being of the fraternity is at stake. So rather than leave our portals unguarded, the Nashville Advisors Council (NAC) has chosen courage and proactivity over fear and reactivity.
“We can only talk so much, it’s time for action!”
With this bold declaration, Brothers Franklin Westbrook (Theta Tau ’78) and Isaac Thompson (Mu Iota ’80) began the design and construct of this important group. With the support of Tau Lambda and Kappa Zeta Lambda Chapters, and Area Chief Deans Aaron Powell (Beta Omicron ’89) and Sam Cox (Theta Pi ‘91), the NAC was established in 2016. The awesome responsibility of oversight for 5 undergraduate chapters is an honor that necessitated: a coming together of advisors for “best practices”; adequate city coverage; proper training and submission; and operational uniformity in regards to the relationship between undergraduate chapters and Tau Lambda. In short, to more effectively broaden our coverage…many hands make light work!
Under the leadership and direction of its co-founders, the collaborative efforts of Nashville & Clarksville area campus/chapter appointed advisors, as well as several brothers committed to this initiative, the NAC purposes to develop a better trained, more prepared group of Alpha Advisors—and perfect the mechanism to develop more.
The NAC takes seriously its role in the better making of not just men, but Alpha men, by taking an active interest in the development and efficient operation of the great chapters under its tutelage:
- Chi Chapter at Meharry Medical College
- Alpha Chi Chapter at Fisk University
- Beta Omicron Chapter at Tennessee State University
- Kappa Theta Chapter at Vanderbilt University
- Upsilon Tau Chapter at Belmont University
- Tau Phi Chapter at Austin Peay State University in collaboration with Kappa Zeta Lambda Chapter in Clarksville, TN
Adopting the motto “A more connected Alpha, for a more effective Alpha,” the goals of the NAC are:
- To protect the brand through communication and consistency amongst the chapters under our purview. We feel that the significant percentage of the state and national undergraduate chapters being under some degree of suspension is unacceptable on our watch! The NAC has done an excellent job of building real camaraderie with our undergraduate chapters. They know us, we know them, and we ALL feel comfortable being brothers. Their attendance at frat meetings and reporting has been better. NAC keeps Tau Lambda in the loop and the message from chapter-to-chapter stays consistent. Hopefully we are developing a higher level of accountability that will translate into a healthier Brother-to-Brother culture that will help minimize behavior that is detrimental to Alpha.
- To strive for a more effective intake through consistent teaching such that what is learned is the same, and the level of what is considered ”legit or made” becomes irrelevant because every Brother knows what every other Brother knows! Policing the process is much easier with more eyes at all levels. One of our first collective efforts was to recreate the original Initiation Banquet complete with “broiled lamb chops”! Brother Westbrook added, “We have completed three initiation banquets so far, with two graduate and six undergraduate chapters together in one hall. Establishing new members on the right foundation is extremely important. We do this with a focus on the importance of the initiation, hearing the toast, establish relationships between new initiates and seasoned brothers. Sharing a meal together, lowering the chapter boundaries, with the attitude that we all are ‘brothers’ first, sets the stage for a collaborative and cooperative relationship between the chapters going forward.”
- To enlist a committee approach to better chapter coverage, so that no one advisor has to cover EVERY activity for a chapter. Each chapter advisor has go-to brothers for an “Advisor by Committee” of sorts. The Graduate Appointees and On-Campus Advisors work well, but work even better with a few more “go to” brothers. NAC is intent on having brothers and chapters who are certified, unified and committed to a better Alpha.
- To unify the brotherhood citywide. For many of the same reasons as noted above, this group of willing mentors helps with the constructive development of each undergraduate brother, especially the neophytes. We collaborate on: National Initiatives/service projects; housing and travel accommodations on convention, retreat, & mandatory events; collective step performances between chapters. Knowing that someone from the NAC is on site at an away-conference minimizes the worry in the event of a scheduling conflict that prevents the official advisor from being there.
With chapters at five institutions, Nashville represents the highest concentration of Alpha undergraduate chapters under one graduate chapter in the nation. The NAC has overseen the establishment and/or re-establishment of chapters across middle Tennessee, including re-activating chapters at Tennessee State University and Vanderbilt University in the Spring of 2017.
Multiple initiatives have been completed in the previous year. First, Phase I of training process with Alpha Certified Advisors at each chapter seat was completed. As Bro. Westbrook notes, “Recent graduates who were leaders as undergraduates and have now successfully transitioned to active graduate levels make excellent linkages between the graduate and undergraduate ranks. We are remiss if we do not take advantage of the natural resource”. Second, we completed Extreme Risk Management Training with Brother Dr. Harold Brown (Zeta Tau ’11) of Vanderbilt University. This training focused on many situations that pose unintended risks to individuals, chapters, and the fraternity-at-large. Third, we have established working relationships with the Student Engagement personnel who are responsible for Greek activities at each University. Authorization and certification from the NAC allows interchangeable coverage at campus events when required by the lack of availability by the primary advisor.
We believe the NAC is a good start to address of issues that almost certainly challenge chapters across the nation. While we are proud of its initial successes, we realize that there are many improvements to be made, many problems to attack, and many areas in Alpha that it may offer some assistance. “The problems of strained graduate-undergraduate relations, chapter-to-chapter procedural inequities, and clear and consistent messaging across our great fraternity, made it obvious to us that we had a pressing need for a new approach…we think the Nashville Advisors Council is that approach,” said Brother Thompson. We drew some measure of confirmation of this approach when the NAC was awarded the Advisor of the Year award at the 2017 District Convention of the Association of Tennessee Alphamen (ATA).
Building off of the successes of the first full year, we are currently crafting an aggressive agenda for the 2018-19 fraternal year, and are excited for our prospects, remembering that Many hands make light work!!!
Members of the NAC, including Bro. Alvin Haney, Bro. Aaron A. Powell, Jr., Bro. Anthony Thomas, Bro. Ron Small, Bro. Isaac Thompson, Bro. Frank Westbrook, Bro. André Waller, Bro. Harold Brown, Bro. Kelvin A. Moses, Bro. Dennis Dickerson