House corporation members find themselves in conflicting roles. As landlords of the chapter house, there is the obligation to enforce rent payments and proper maintenance of the facilities. As a Sigma Chi brother, there is an obligation to mentor and advise and be a “strong arm to lean on”. Doing both well at the same time can be difficult.
As a landlord, there are ongoing challenges: rent revenue is usually inadequate to pay for all the usual operating costs of insurance, maintenance and major renovation. Those issues is exacerbated by high level of wear and tear on the facilities.
The landlord role puts house corporations in the unwelcome role of rule enforcers and collection agents. While some do the job begrudgingly, others avoid conflict which allows collections to mount and maintenance to mushroom (literally!). Those that landlord chapter houses well are definitely made of “sterner stuff”.
But the active brothers need much more than a kick in the rear. They need the perspective of mature and experienced Sigma Chis who can point them the way to go as men and brothers. It’s one of the true strengths of the fraternity that allows older and younger men to enjoy a common bond.
So how can house corporation members take advantage of this conflicted relationship of landlord and brother? Let’s name the ways:
Get Acquainted. Knowing the active brothers on a personal level will produce enormous dividends. When there is a personal connection, there is a higher degree of accountability, responsiveness and
Get It in Writing. The criteria for living in the chapter house should be clearly defined in plain English and in writing. (See the sample “Live In Agreement” at the end of the newsletter). While the Live In Agreement is essentially a rental agreement, it reinforces the fraternal obligation aspect as well. Having such a document establishes the expectations and consequences for non-compliance from the get-go and helps eliminate disputes.
Encourage Communication. While actives like to be self sufficient, most 18 to 21 year olds lack the life experience to deal with complex maintenance, relational and organizational issues. The smart ones will welcome constructive input, especially when it’s not done in a condescending or paternal way.
Identify & Promote Leaders. Within each active chapter, there are individuals that bear the traits of leadership (academics, enthusiasm, confidence, command respect, etc.) It’s important to identify who these men are as early as possible and encourage them to run for office.
While it’s often said that the cream rises to the top, this isn’t necessarily the case at active chapter. Encouragement from a mature brother can make the difference whether the candidates are the best or the worst picks.
Problem Solving. From time to time, Active Chapter is faced with difficult situations involving individual members who are struggling with personal or academic issues that impact the well being of the entire chapter. Undergraduate brothers often have difficulty with confrontation or can under estimate the ramification of these problems.
House corporations can help by assisting in the confrontation and getting specific plans and commitments for change. These “defining moments” will demonstrate the power in partnering with older brothers in problem solving. More importantly, this course correction may make all the difference whether a Sigma Chi survives college or even life. We owe it to our brothers to do what we can to help.
Make Regular House Calls. Visiting the chapter house several times each month both during the week and on weekends keeps you informed about activity both good and bad. Try to catch them doing the right thing like cleaning up, studying, mowing the lawn, etc. Praising specific actions is extremely meaningful to those who receive them and reinforces the positive things active chapter is doing. In an age where focus often falls on fraternity troubles, this will be a welcome balance.
Consider holding your house corporation and alumni chapter meetings at the chapter house. If the actives know you’re coming, they will often make an extra effort to tidy up. That’s a good thing for them and for house corporation.
Regular visits to the chapter house will also give you a chance to spot repair or maintenance issues. Generally, the sooner these problems are identified, the cheaper they are to fix.
In the Final Analysis. Even if you wear the two hats of landlord and mentor, both can be successful. Protecting the viability of the chapter house will ensure it’s there for many future Sigma Chis. Mentoring the active brothers will benefit their experience in the chapter house and life as Sigma Chis. This is a win-win that works!