This post is the first in a series regarding my current involvement with Alpha Phi Omega, Chi Chapter at UCLA for the period beginning February 2012. I don’t know whether I should really post this up or not, but hey, this is just me speaking for myself, not for an official statement, so no liability here.
First ExComm meeting of the new term
We just had our first meeting for the new Executive Committee (ExComm for short) of Alpha Eta term (spring 2012). It was our preliminary meeting before our Chapter Planning Retreat, so we mainly went over expectations and a quick (actually, not-so-quick) review of the prior term, which just concluded the night before with our semi-annual banquet. The review was basically of what worked last term and any suggestions and ideas for the new term.
So this post really mainly deals with the stuff that pertained to me, since it really had me thinking, though it’s not to say the other parts of the meeting weren’t important.
The 237-dollar question
The reviews went according to position in our chapter’s order of succession, and everyone could give their input for the position being discussed. Since I was the Administrative Vice President for the last term and was re-elected this term (with a partner now), I was first right after the President, so people were discussing the issues and tasks that were completely relevant to me (both before and currently as an incumbent). When it came to the topic of the chapter newsletter, which has traditionally been done by my position (if so, then very sporadically over the years), I suggested having a mass weekly email sent out to the chapter instead of multiple messages sent out by the various positions, thus reducing the APO-related clutter in people’s inboxes and providing a one-stop source for getting in on the important chapter news each week/regular increment. This led to concerns about whether there was any point in doing announcements at meeting, and that it would otherwise be redundant or an effort in vain to have email announcements since some people may not read longer emails. My new co-VP, a cheery and easy-going yet knowledgeable gal, assured that such weekly emails could be formatted like an e-newsletter and not like a long, boring, laundry list of plain text announcements—the former of which is the same thing I had been suggesting for some time now, though that was during the previous term so I guess the new officers weren’t around to hear that.
After this point, it seems like I had an uphill battle and some convincing to do. I’m not doubtful of the good intentions of people, but sometimes I feel like a large part of the chapter is either jaded by the lack of enthusiasm on the part of others, or they’ve been stuck in the same routine and manner of doing things for so long that trying new things is a half-supported effort rather than a sought-after endeavor, a la Lewis-and-Clark adventure.
Anyway, in response to the question posed about the point of chapter meetings/utility of weekly emails, I had the seemingly novel, if unorthodox—perhaps even heretical—idea that chapter meetings shouldn’t be primarily about verbalizing updates and announcements to a passive audience for an hour. Maybe, they could include some kind of engaging and informative programming, similar to the way general meetings are conducted for several other student organizations. Perhaps, an activity like a ice breaker or a presentation about some aspect of APO such as a particular service project partner or chapter history could be in order, and the announcements could be cut short so as to not significantly increase the duration of these meetings from what they already are. I even gave a concrete example of an idea for a meeting theme/presentation: learning about happenings with our brother organization in the Philippines (about 200 chapters strong) or distant chapters in general.
This is where I a little fired up.
When one of my fellow ExComm officers gave his characteristically frank opinion (in his equally characteristic mellow/monotone voice that is usually soothing or entertaining) that he didn’t really care about what’s going on in the Philippines, I was…vexed. Raising my voice, I rhetorically asked if he was serious and said that it was disheartening to hear him say that. I proceeded to remind him and the rest of the group that this is an international, service-based fraternity and that we shouldn’t be so inward-looking as epitomized by my fellow Brother’s statement. Such an informative presentation as the one I suggested might increase awareness and understanding of the larger fraternity that we are, and may curb current attitudes of apathy and ignorance, especially since the Philippines was recently by a typhoon that left many people homeless in a region with no shortage of APO chapters—it would make for a great service to reach out and help provide relief for those in the affected areas.
Since we had other orders of business to discuss, the President helped to bring back this discussion by reminding us that even though she or others may express doubts about one another’s ideas, we shouldn’t take the criticisms personally and we should try our ideas if we really want to execute them and have a plan. From this, our Fellowship VPs readily took up the task of attempting to create an icebreaker as a pilot activity of the kind I suggested for one of our first chapter meetings, though it may be difficult due to other priorities at the first few meetings. At least I voiced something, and there’s a chance of a willingness to work with these ideas, I thought to myself. I was tense for another minute or so from my previous, almost preachy remarks but quickly came back mentally to the meeting. A lot of other stuff was discussed later, but I left that meeting wondering: what the Hell am I doing? I know I have school as a priority to attend to, and work coming up soon, but I don’t feel I’ve done enough in APO and there’s so many ideas I have that I want to articulate, divulge, and execute (or see done by somebody). Apart from my own limitations of time and technical skill, the primary external obstacle seems to be getting my fellow Brothers to think outside the box more often, though I think they can do it.
At least I can be thankful for my new partner.
So that is my dispatch of the moment for APO. Over and out