“By a round of applause, how many of you have an idiot in their chapter?” motivational speaker TJ Sullivan asked Saturday night to a crowd of about 350 GW fraternity and sorority members at Marvin Center Grand Ballroom.
The response was loud.
Sullivan’s presentation, “Confronting the Idiot in Your Chapter,” sponsored by Alpha Delta Pi as part of Greek Week, dealt with recognizing and responding to problematic or “idiot” behavior within Greek-letter chapters.
“I’ve been in Greek life for 20 years. I love being a Greek,” said Sullivan, a founding father of the Indiana University chapter of Pi Kappa Phi. “But there’s two things I don’t like – that we put up with behavior from our members that we wouldn’t put up with from other people and that we don’t have a problem with a brother’s or sister’s behavior until it affects the reputation of our chapter.”
Sullivan, the vice president and CEO of CampusSpeak, an agency that represents college speakers, peppered his speech with funny stories to illustrate his point, but there were some serious detours.
“When other people are around you, the responsibility to act is diffused – it’s just human nature,” he said. “The question is, when do you stop thinking like a sorority or a fraternity and start acting like a sister or a brother?”
The speech also looked at the practical side of confronting idiotic behavior. Sullivan offered advice in deciding who would be the right person in the chapter to speak and the best time and place to confront the person, as well as preparing for any possible response.
“Have just one tiny thing to demand, one thing that can influence positive behavior before you confront someone,” he said. “If you’re not sure what to say, think of what you could tell your idiot in 60 seconds how what they do affects you.”
After the speech, he said he was happy to answer Facebook messages from anyone who wanted advice about a specific situation, although he added jokingly, “I know I’m too old to be on Facebook.”
Senior Jacqueline Hackett, president of Alpha Delta Phi, said her sorority chose Sullivan to speak because of his reputation from presenting at national conventions and recommendations from other schools.
“He approached a serious topic in a lighthearted way,” she said. “He definitely lived up to the reviews.”
Other sorority and fraternity members agreed.
“We have a unique Greek community here,” said senior John Galmiche, president of Pi Kappa Alpha said. “There’s smaller chapters and some chapters that don’t have houses, but a lot of what he was saying still resonates for our community.”
The event was focused on the newest members of GW’s Greek-letter community but was open to all fraternity and sorority members.
“I had no idea he was going to be funny,” said junior Elena Tafoya, a new member of Pi Beta Phi. “I was dreading coming, but when he started out with the jokes, it was great to listen to him.”
She added, “A lot of people have to think about these problems. If you didn’t need it to help in your chapter, it would help with your friends and roommates as well.”