Q&A Roundtable with Undergraduate Supreme Councilors

The Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity Supreme Council is fortunate to have several undergraduates who serve as full voting members of the board representing the voices of more than 5,500 undergraduate brothers.  Perhaps one of the most prestigious role an undergraduate can play in the operations of ZBT, these brothers are chosen because of their track record of leadership and their desire to make ZBT a better and bigger Fraternity.

The Digital Deltan team had an opportunity to spend some time with a few of these brothers to get to know them better. The Undergraduate Supreme Councilors interviewed include:

  • Jason K. Peiser, Omega (University of Missouri) 2018
  • Perry L. Gordon, Alpha Xi (Washington University – St. Louis) 2019
  • Jacob M. Pardo, Theta (University of Pennsylvania) 2018

1) From the perspective of an undergraduate leader, what should every ZBT brother experience as part of a true “Brotherhood for a Lifetime”?

(Peiser) Every undergraduate brother should experience building a relationship with an alumnus, one who is much older. Personally, I have become quite close with an alumnus of my chapter who was in the class of 1965. The wisdom that older brothers can share with you is incredible. After all, they have nothing to hide, they aren’t your parents or grandparents and they’ll tell you exactly how things were for them. To build this relationship you may need to go out of your way to reach out to some older alumni, but it’s worth it.

(Pardo) I’m lucky to be in a chapter with an over 100-year history on campus, so some of my most meaningful interactions in ZBT are with chapter brothers who graduated in the 1940s and 50s. It is incredibly powerful to meet someone three times my age and share stories about the same chapter house. I once met a Theta brother who graduated in 1948 in the grocery store in Los Angeles. Sometimes these random, positive interactions solidify the idea that ZBT is more than a 4-year experience.

(Gordon) Whether you know it or not, there are many opportunities that are provided to you as a brother of ZBT. Whether it’s our abundance of powerful and well connected alumni, our top-of-the-line staff or the numerus organizations we are partnered with, there are an ample amount of opportunities for every brother to explore. Take advantage of every opportunity now because you don’t know when else in your life you will be able to.

2) What challenges as undergraduate leaders do you experience, and how can alumni help?

(Peiser) As a leader within the chapter, we face issues pertaining to the academic success of brothers, accountability within the chapter and senior involvement. These are some of the common issues that we face and alumni can help us mitigate them to some extent. By showing an active interest in the lives and livelihoods of the current undergraduates, you’ll be showing them that brothers continue to care upon graduation, which will cause undergrads to care more and even look forward to helping others in the same way they’ve been helped. Alumni can also provide mentorship to seniors as they prepare to transition into the real world. There is no better mentor than someone who has shared experiences and has already made it.

(Pardo) I think many of our chapters have a small group of leaders who “get it” — they understand what the experience means and what their chapters should be doing. They know ZBTs should be leaders in every facet of campus life, and they push toward that goal. Sometimes the success or failure of a chapter is predicated on how large this group of leaders is. If the group is too small, they become outnumbered by those who think that fraternity is nothing more than a social vehicle. What brothers need to realize is you can be both a powerhouse of campus leadership and a great social atmosphere. Your chapter can have the best parties and be a leader in sexual assault prevention. Our chapter leaders understand greatness is not just a social quality, but alumni need to instill this value in their chapter.

(Gordon) At the end of the day, we’re just kids. We feel old because we’re living on our own, but we’re not. All undergraduates, myself included, make many mistakes during our time in college. With that being said, the best thing alumni can do is let us make mistakes and be there to pick us up when we fall. We’re going to mess up and, to be honest, we need to. You only truly learn from failure, and I do not regret any of my mistakes but have always appreciated when alumni have been there for me to help me get through it.

3) When you take a step back and look at the issues plaguing both your campus and Greek community, what are you a) particularly proud of that ZBT is doing to address these issues, and b) what else can ZBT do to be even more effective in addressing these issues?

(Peiser) It seems every couple of months another person dies as a result of hazing or alcohol poisoning at a fraternity function. And even more frequently are chapters getting reprimanded for hazing and causing physical harm to their pledges. At my own school, University of Missouri, chapters are getting kicked off campus left and right. Two chapters have been kicked off this semester already, and three more are in the conduct process now and may be looking at the same outcome. The war shouldn’t be between schools and fraternities. The war should be between fraternities and their very cultures that encourage hazing and alcohol abuse. I am beyond proud that ZBT has abolished pledging and hazing. The Omega chapter at Mizzou proves it is possible for a large ZBT chapter with a chapter house can successfully thrive on a campus with a rich Greek culture, and one that has a huge history of hazing. After all, Mizzou used to take all the freshman to the quad and paddle them, and that had nothing to do with Greek life. If ZBT can get the message out to all the chapters that if they continue to haze and pledge, it’s only a matter of time until they end up in the headlines or kicked off campus. It may be 1 year and it may be 10, but one way or another, those are not sustainable fraternal practices anymore.

(Pardo) I’m proud that ZBT took a significant step by implementing educational programming requirements, but I’m especially proud we did it in a way that was sensible, not reactionary. The national infrastructure should be a support system for our chapters, rather than a penal system. On the other hand, there are real, systemic issues in the Greek community that need to be addressed. I think our directive did a good job of toeing the line between supporting our chapters and stressing needed change.

(Gordon) It’s undoubtedly a difficult time for all fraternities. ZBT has stayed true to our values, following the Credo in every legislation that is passed. Alumni are constantly seeking out information from undergraduates to ensure they are addressing the proper issues in a realistic manner. I am very proud of the actions ZBT has taken and, as always, it’s great to be a ZBT! ZBT has done an outstanding job of not implementing impulsive legislation, like other organizations, but I do feel we could offer more initiatives that are tailored specifically for individual chapters.

4) What advice do you have for undergraduates and alumni looking to get more out of their ZBT experience?

(Peiser) If you want to get more out of your ZBT experience, all you must do is take on a leadership role. Whether a chair position, an e-board position or just volunteering to run some sort of program, it’ll make your experience infinitely more meaningful. For alumni, just reach out to your chapters and offer to mentor some undergraduates.

(Pardo) This is probably a bit cliché, but hold a position. Literally any position. There’s no better feeling than dealing with adversity, handling it and succeeding, and ZBT has so many opportunities for you to do that within your chapter. The issues you will tackle and then personalities you will manage will make any leadership role you hold for the rest of your life seem easy by comparison.

(Gordon) Whatever you’re looking for, just ask someone. Even if you’re not looking for anything, still ask. Brothers are always willing to help. The ZBT brotherhood is powerful. Use it.

We’re proud of these undergraduate brothers’ leadership and willingness to serve as Undergraduate Supreme Councilors. Regardless of what position you hold in the Fraternity, you will always be a brother and have the responsibility to live up to the brotherhood!