In a full Bondurant auditorium Tuesday, Sept. 21 Dr. Lori Ebert addressed Radford University’s reputation as a “party school,” beginning with Greek life.
Recognized as Speaker of the Year and Female Performer of the Year by Campus Activities Magazine in 2007, Ebert had high hopes to inspire students to promote healthy relationships as well as healthy environments at Radford. One of her biggest challenges in this event was “to win the heads and hearts” of the students that were prisoners in the audience, because unlike the vacationers and the scorers, the prisoners were the ones who didn’t want to be there.
“I’m feeling like I’m ready to leave,” prisoner and sophomore Da’mon Brown said reluctantly at first arriving to her speech.
Through honestly representing herself to the audience, Ebert was able to state her purpose and win over the prisoners. She was ambitious to “make Greek life better” through targeting men. In this manner, she hoped to make a change in ill-accepted perspectives about Greek life, especially since men have proved to be some of the most influential figures in this society, especially in fraternities.
“You will hear me tell you this over and over again; ‘an accurate description of a problem is 90 percent of the solution,’” Ebert said.
The problems and realities of fraternities and sororities are seen differently through various sources of information. On school websites Greek life is not often depicted in a flattering light. Little to no problems are mentioned, and students who are academically driven or leaders in their communities are considered “ideal members.” Social networks like Facebook also have the issue of promoting only Greek social life, which may include scandalous attires and attitudes, alcohol and the apparent loss of motivation. Finally, the worst members in an organization are believed to be individuals who don’t pay dues or care for academics.
“These are all stereotypes,” Ebert said, “which in some ways, seem to be the only things some members know.”
Ebert’s solution to addressing this problem was to contradict norms. Starting with the students themselves, they must learn how to divert their interests. One step she mentioned was to aspire to be the “best ‘me,’” rather than the “best chapter.”
She related this perspective to a quote by Henry David Thoreau: “Things do not change, we change.”
Ebert started the rebuilding and change conversation with relationships. The Greek community should strive to improve the relationships of its members and the relationship it has with the outside world.
“I believe that we can all agree that we are all about friendships and healthy relationships in Greek life,” she said. “We are the ones who are responsible for defining what friendships mean to us.”
Another step was to recognize success, not perfection, but rather personal accomplishments. This may include doing the best that you are capable of. It is also important to know that “you cannot solve everyone’s problems, but you can pay attention to their problems.”
“Leaders ask two questions when helping others: ‘What is your problem?’ and ‘What are you going to do to solve that problem?’” Ebert said.
Non-officers should identify problems and learn how to solve them. Officers should foster personal growth and support members. Ebert concluded that you will soon realize that you won in the end because you gained a new, better you.
For 18 years, Ebert has assisted Alpha Omicron Pi Fraternity along with many other notable projects, including regional director, chairman of the education and training committee and delegate for the National Panhellenic Conference. She serviced popular figures like the southern vice president for the Association of Fraternity Advisors, chairman for the NIC’s Alcohol/Recruitment Report and a senior leader and keynote speaker at the National Conference on Ethics at the United States Military Academy.
Ebert used to believe that her job was to tell Greek life what they were doing was wrong. Later, she decided that she must have a plan when addressing issues. Now she knows the best solution is to ask questions.
“I’m really feeling inspired by that speech,” junior Matt Bracey said. “She really made me think about my position in Greek life.”