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Neighbors 3: How Off-Campus Chapters Can Engage and Make Neighborhood Friends, Not Enemies

     

You’re definitely not moving in next to Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne. If that were true, it would imply that your sorority or fraternity house was situated in a neighborhood full of Hollywood mansions, and that Seth and Rose live together. It isn’t, and they don’t, folks.

Your chapter is free spirited, throws socials known across the hills, but come on. This isn’t Neighbors or Neighbors 2. You’re not that free spirited. You aren’t blowing stuff up and running out in front of cars. However, the films help you see why Greek organizations get a bad rap. And honestly, for some chapters out there, the reputation may be accurate. Maybe. But you know your chapter doesn’t fit this bill. It does its best to engage with the community and make connections, not burn bridges (or anything else).

So you’re moving in to an off-campus house. The alumni and nationals have okayed everything, the green light has been lit, and move-in day is fast approaching. Awesome sauce, right? Well, kind of. The house is great, but why do the neighbors give anyone in letters the nastiest scowl you’ve ever seen when they pass by walking their dogs? Seth and Rose were more forgiving than these jerks.

Perhaps it’s best to think of things from their perspective, a practice known in some circles as “human empathy.” Say you have a newborn and have trouble sleeping at night. Or you’re retired and finally enjoying life, playing dominoes or bridge or getting in deep with your mobster horse racing bookie--whatever gets you going in those bucket-list years. You used to live next to Dracula, or some recluse along those lines of introversion, and it was nice. But that person bought some property in London . . . for some normal reason, you’re sure, and some God-forsaken sorority or fraternity moved in, making all kinds of noise through the night, leaving trash all over the place, never mowing their yard, having a bunch of people over who park in front of your driveway, and they’ve never even introduced themselves.

How would you feel? Probably pissed off, right? Right. That’s why as an organization moving into a neighborhood, you may have to work extra hard to flip the script, and write a new movie that involves positive community engagement, getting to know your neighbors, and being respectful. Brought to you by OmegaFi studios, this is Neighbors 3: How Off-Campus Chapters Can Engage and Make Neighborhood Friends, Not Enemies.

Act I: Getting to Know the Characters

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Before any great action sequence, there’s usually some character building scenes to make us care about what happens to people. That’s exactly what you’ll be doing when you first move in. Be proactive in exploring your setting. Be the first to knock on your neighbors’ doors (during regular daytime hours) or stop and say hello when they’re out for a weekend stroll. Invite them over for a meal your chapter prepares for them, and figure out where they’re from, what they do for a living, their hobbies, if they have any kids, and if they’re Yankees or Red Sox fans, or if they can’t stand baseball. If you’ve got any babysitters among your chapter ranks, offer up their services.

Is there a neighborhood association? Maybe join up. Go to neighborhood pot lucks or holiday parties--and, we hope this goes without saying, behave like an adult during these interactions. If you find any like interests, maybe go on a fishing trip together or carpool to that spin class downtown on Saturdays. But also there’s a fine line you’re treading, where you don’t want to intrude on the personal lives of reclusive neighbors (remember Dracula?). If your neighbors simply aren’t interested in buddying up to your chapter, or are too busy with work and family life, leave them be. You can still smile and wave when they pass down the street or are mowing the lawn.

Act 2: The Action Rises

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Now comes the real rising action of our story. Your chapter is on a first-name basis with Doris and Bill the retired couple. Then there’s Jane the single mom of the cutest twin four-year-old girls you ever saw, Betsy and Lisa. And finally, John the bachelor truck driver who keeps hinting at joining the fraternity, mistakenly believing your chapter’s off-campus status allows him to throw on your letters even though he doesn’t go to your school and is about ten years too late. Come on, guys, I bring over pizza and beer to play Mario Kart at least once a week! Putting up with John is not what we mean by action. We mean digging in to your local community’s goings on. Join the neighborhood watch. If you see anything strange going on around neighbors’ houses or vehicles, people potentially staking out the joint, let them know about it. Vote in local elections, or if you have any time to do so, you might even attend a local city council meeting or two. Try to upkeep the property and not leave cans or other trash around. Mow, or hire a landscaper to take care of it. Pay attention to city rules like parking, trash collection, and water usage. Subscribe to the local paper. There are a million ways to integrate into the community, and a lot of them take little to no effort. It’ll show your neighborhood you care.

Act 3: The Action Peaks

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It all comes together here. You know your neighbors, have shown you respect their lifestyles and sleep schedules, their property, and their peace of mind. You’ve become full-fledged members of the neighborhood and community at large. Now’s the time to really give back. Call it a huge thank you for somehow learning to accept you young rapscallion ladies or gentlemen. Planning a philanthropy event? Why not donate to a local revitalization project, or spend time in a local homeless shelter/soup kitchen, or if you’re holding a big philanthropic event that might involve some “sportsing,” why not have it at the park down the road? Invite the neighbors and their kids to play some kickball or Frisbee golf, to paddle some canoes, have a hotdog and a soda.

The bottom line is this: respect. You don’t have to do all the things listed here, or you may find other ways to engage in your community when you go off-campus mode. Whatever your chapter can possibly do to Engage and Make Neighborhood Friends, Not Enemies, do that.

Has your chapter found ways to keep the peace in your off-campus neighborhood? By all means, let us know what works in the comments below, so those packing their boxes can avoid that feud with the Radners. Or Andersons. Or whomever.

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