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4 Questions with Chapter Advisor of the Year Bob Linden (Cornell)


“Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do” is the mantra Bob Linden instills at Gamma Theta Chapter. Here the 2015 Chapter Advisor of the Year shares wisdom on turning around struggling chapter and how fraternities can be the antidote to the rising rates of mental health problems among today’s college students. 

Why do you think fraternities are vital for a well-rounded college experience? 

I feel fraternities are so important on the Cornell campus because they serve as fantastic safety nets. We had a very dark year in 2009 with six student suicides in one year. All were engineers, none were Greek. It’s important to note that the Cornell campus was founded on European system: study on campus, live off campus, with no dorms. Which makes fraternity houses so much more important as vital learning and development communities. The fraternity is a place to come back to when you’re having a rough time.

What was your biggest challenge after taking over the Chapter Advisor Role? 

Getting alumni on board. They were scared of students, scared of being sued. They felt too exposed. Students have to understand that they can’t feel invincible. They have to understand that their behavior exposes alumni volunteers to lawsuits. We worked with the dean of students to reassure the alumni how their impact would improve the chapter operations.  

We had our work cut out for us. The finances were in disarray and we hadn’t filed paperwork in years. The house had been mismanaged for years. Alumni are now getting back on board after feeling alienated for the past decade. Working with kids keeps you young. 

How would you describe the chapter at the time?

They were really upset with alumni leadership and anything associated with property management. The officers, and the treasurer in particular, weren’t getting much out of the experience because the alumni officers were doing all the work. Part of the reason for becoming an officer was to learn, but they barely had anything to do with regards to chapter finances. 

Fast forward a few years and alumni are now paying for officers to attend Cornell Greek leadership conference. The chapter is getting involved with a suicide prevention program and they’ve appointed a new officer position to monitor and improve the health and well-being of all brothers. 

We send a letter to parents explaining the governance structure of the chapter and national organization. Then we invite them to join a conference call with officers and alumni volunteers. We take discipline seriously. We’re a safety net for the students. Our chapter is now emerging as respected leaders on campus. 

What advice would you offer to collegiate members at other chapters? 

I give a talk to students every year and emphasize three key messages: One, be your own person. Try to be a leader, not a follower. But it’s okay to be a follower. Two, say no to risky behavior. Speak up and say what you think. Third, I tell them to do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. Surround yourself with people like you. We need to think before we act.

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9 North Lewis Street, P.O. Box 1869, Lexington, Virginia 24450
Phone: (540) 463-1869 | Fax: (540) 463-1669 | Email: headquarters@sigmanu.org

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