Fraternity Friday: Being a Canadian Member

For anyone who doesn’t know, many Greek organisations do actually have American and Canadian chapters. Yes, there are far less Canadian chapters, but we do exist! It’s an interesting situation, given that Greek Life is stereotypically American. In some ways, I think it works for us, and in other ways it works against us! 

What are the positives, you ask? One of the biggest (in my opinion) is (1) that we aren’t under a microscope. Given that Greek Life is pretty much unknown in Canada, we don’t have the same problems with “tiers”, and the general social drama that seems to accompany Greek Life in the US. Because Greek Life is such a minority of the student population here, you are exposed to other people, groups, and organisations.

(2) We get the chance to stand out from our peers. I have had many a professor and instructor ask about Greek Life when I was wearing letters or they would read my CV. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to explain just everything that we do and achieve when there aren’t any other student groups on campus who can even come close! Our five pillars diversify us more than we know, I think, and I have yet to see another student group who offers all of this in the same organised manner.

Now onto the negatives. (1) We don’t quite “fit” the American model. For example, Alpha Gam is planning a Week of Service this year, from February 14th to 20th. February 15th is a holiday in most Canadian provinces and territories, and that is Reading Week for the majority of schools across campus. Yes, the people who haven’t scheduled themselves to work 40+ hours or haven’t booked a trip somewhere could do something, but why didn’t anyone think to check before this was planned? Our terms don’t quite line up with the American term, and it feels like this is never considered; we are just supposed to adapt for ourselves.

(2) Greek Life isn’t known, and they don’t know how to approach that. I find that a lot of the suggestions for bringing girls out to recruitment and COR are centred on the PNMs at least knowing what Greek Life is. Every single time we speak to a young lady, we are starting our explanation at the beginning. Maybe one out of every hundred and fifty girls here has had exposure to a sorority, and that would be high. And not only are you having to do a massive selling job on the PNM, you typically also have to sell the parents. None of the materials provided to us cover the extensive amount of information needed, and once again, we are left to deal with it.

(3) We pay the same amount of dues, yet aren’t delivered the same amount of service. This is in no way IHQ’s fault, but we are being slaughtered by the exchange rate. Taking the exchange rate out of it, we pay the same monetary amount of dues per member as any American chapter, but we do not see anywhere close to the level of personalisation. It is left to the officers and advisors to try and figure out how we can tweak and fiddle with programs, events, and everything else to fit our chapter, while many US chapters that are well over two hundred members have personalised attention. Maybe we could grow and gain more prominence if we had the same support behind us.

What would I like to see done? (1) Have one employee at IHQ “assigned” to working with the Canadian chapters. It could even be a member of the Volunteer Service Team! It wouldn’t be full time, but if they could take even a little time to understand that we are coming from a different situation, it would go a long way to help members’ happiness, and chapter well-being. As the Campus Relations advisor, I would love to see Canadian specific material for Formal Recruitment, both from Alpha Gamma Delta and the NPC. [Extra points if this person could be Canadian, so that they have first hand experience.] We had a Volunteer Service Team member come and help with recruitment this year- she was from Calgary, and it made a world of difference not having to explain everything to her. I would have to say she is certainly the most helpful and thorough member of IHQ/VST that I have dealt with, and I hope I can work with her again!!

(2) A Canadian specific conference for the Fraternity. It doesn’t need to be every year, it could be every 3-5 years, but just something for Canadians to come together in one place, and meet with each other *and* representatives from IHQ to touch base and assess how the Canadian chapters are doing, and what support we need. Your dollar will go farther here, we won’t have to pay thousands of dollars for 2-4 days, and we could all actually make progress together.

(3) More information disseminated to the Fraternity as a whole about Canadian chapters. I think that there just needs to be more education about us. I’m not suggesting that every member do hours and hours and hours of training about Canadian chapters, but anyone working for IHQ or the Volunteer Service Team should have some working knowledge of the Canadian chapters. There are what, eight Canadian active chapters? It wouldn’t take too terribly long.

What are your thoughts?? Canadians, do you agree?? Americans, do you know much about Greek Life in Canada?

Until tomorrow,
The Historian!

 

6 thoughts on “Fraternity Friday: Being a Canadian Member

  1. Michelle February 5, 2016 / 7:10 am

    I’m from the Zeta Omega chapter at UOIT. This article is unbelivibly true. The exchange rate is killing our chapter. We are small around 30 members, less than 10 years old. We don’t have a huge bank account we are making it work. Convention this year the pres has to pay out of her own pocket her travel and lodging. We were lucky to have an LC who was from an non Panhellenic campus, which was super helpful. Previously we’ve had LC who could not understand not having Panhellenic for recruitment. We do all our foot work, pay for everything recruitment. There is 3 other sororities who follow no rules, they are hard to compete with. Thank you for writing this though. It makes myself feel better that we are not the only ones who are struggling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • anhistorianabouttown February 5, 2016 / 7:52 am

      At the University of Manitoba, our total is 28, and that exchange rate makes a massive difference. Even paying my alumnae dues, it was noticeable. It was $40 USD, and $53 CAD- how are collegians being expected to make up this “shortfall” completely out of everyone’s control??
      Thankfully, we do have Panhellenic Association here- I am Campus Relations advisor, so I work fairly closely with it. It makes a *huge* difference to have non-Panhellenic sororities, *especially* on a campus in Canada where there is no prior knowledge of Greek Life. We are the smallest chapters who don’t have the extra bodies to spare to do all of this work, and still we are just left to figure it out on our own 😦 I just find it disappointing because we contribute just as much to the Fraternity, and we want it to grow and flourish the same! Feel free to shoot me an email at anhistorianabouttown@gmail.com!

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  2. Joelle February 5, 2016 / 9:04 am

    I love your suggestions! I think a Canadian specific conference would be extremely beneficial, and a Canadian Chapter Relations Coordinator would be immensely helpful. As a third time returning executive member of AGD, I’ve seen first hand the opportunities for improvement. I thjnk our most effective way of implementing this is working from the bottom up – get collegians and chapter advisors to organize such event, and present it to IHQ. This way it would demonstrate initiative and that we are serious about this, and gain there support rather than waiting for them to do it for us. Another unexplored venue is Panhellenic council- if we have conference for the Canadian executives of panhellenic, we could get a much wider range of information, opinions and ideas. Such conferences you speak of would be individual sororities, so for us would only include 8 chapters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • anhistorianabouttown February 5, 2016 / 10:19 am

      I do think that we need to start presenting ideas to them, and perhaps meeting virtually to begin with! I would also love to work with the NPC, although there are only 14/26 sororities represented in Canada, and only 3 of those have more than 4 active chapters. If the NPC could develop some general materials for the Canadian audience (that assumes no prior knowledge), I think we could all be doing so much more!! It would be easier, I think, to start the ball rolling within the Fraternity and then approach other NPC groups in Canada!

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  3. Meryn February 5, 2016 / 9:46 am

    I think this is extremely true. Although Headquarters can’t control the exchange rate (that would be nice), I think they need to take it into consideration much more seriously. When I joined Alpha Eta Chapter my pledge class doubled the chapter size (my pledge class was 12- some of the active members had two sister-daughters because it was so small). we have grown in leaps and bounds since then but are only around 50 now. I love your idea of having someone at IHQ being responsible for only the Canadian Chapters, especially since AGD is expanding so much. If it’s a Canadian even better! I also think you should send these ideas to them and see what they think.

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    • anhistorianabouttown February 5, 2016 / 10:22 am

      I would love to work with IHQ on this! I don’t think that they are purposefully “leaving us out”; rather that it doesn’t occur to them. Perhaps if we spoke to them more on the subject, we would “be in their minds” to remember us!

      Like

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