By Brian Baudoin
This year I celebrated Mardi Gras in the swampy lands of Gainesville, Florida. We’ve been experiencing some bipolar weather in Fort Worth, so it was certainly a treat to get to Florida at this time of year. The sun was shining and the palm trees provided a beautiful background for a chapter visit. I enjoyed my time with the UF Chapter, especially since this time around I was not caught on camera doing the dreaded gator chomp like the last time I came in town.
Before I get into the details of my visit, I would like to relay the message that I was given by the UF officer corps to the rest of the BYX nation. The message is that Goldberg is happy in the Florida sunshine and would not like to reside anywhere else this year. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Goldberg, the story is that he is one of two light-up wise men lawn ornaments that are given to the winners of our annual battle of the brethren at National Officer Training. The men of Florida and the men of their brother chapter at TCU (who are in possession of the other ornament named “Murray”) were victorious and are the current owners of what has become known as the most prized possession that a chapter can attain.
To other chapters who desire to steal Goldberg from Florida: please don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just telling you what he said.
Upon arriving in the state of Florida, I was picked up by Secretary Larry Davis for the ride back from Jacksonville. Larry is a freshman who pledged BYX last semester, but from this car trip and my one-on-one meeting with him, I was very impressed with his passion and understanding for BYX as well as his spiritual maturity for a guy as young as him. We also got a healthy amount of SEC football discussion in there as well.
After arriving at the hotel, I was transported to the unofficial BYX house the men acquired last semester (which has now been deemed “BYXingham palace.”) At the house, I visited with some current and former officer before heading to pledge meeting with Pledge Captain Jacob Goetz. The chapter pulled in eight pledges this semester which in addition to last semester’s class means that they recruited 16 men this academic year. This is certainly an accomplishment for the young chapter. These past two semesters have also seen an overhauling of the pledgeship process which is better preparing these men to be enthusiastic and contributing actives members.
I attended the weekly chapter meeting, which has been becoming progressively better planned and more formal this year. I enjoyed my time at chapter meeting and Goldberg did as well (sorry, last Goldberg plug I promise.) After chapter about half of the chapter came out with me to a local Steak ‘n Shake. If we have any of these places near where I live, I would rather not know about them. If I did, I’d probably undo every health initiative I’ve done so far this year in a month.
On Tuesday, I began my series of officer one-on-one meetings. The day kicked off with the traditional collegiate breakfast (or 4 A.M. finals weeks study dinner) of champions: IHOP. Pledge Captain Jacob Goetz and I sat down and discussed the chapter’s plans for pledgeship this semester. Jacob has laid a good foundation for the program, but we had a healthy discussion about the need for a pledge team and delegation to improve the efficiency of the pledgeship.
Next up I continued to carry out my plan of eating as unhealthy as humanly possible on Mardi Gras by taking down the famed “Freshman 15” at The Swamp with former president Dean Tzobanakis (try pronouncing that.) I enjoyed catching up with Dean, as it’s always good to have former officers prospective on the chapter.
My next meeting was with Vice President Carrington Price. Carrington was also a member of the fall pledge class and has jumped right into the role of vice president. He’s an ambitious guy who has put everything he has into the job so far, which has resulted in impressive results. The next step in the maturation of a young chapter socially is stepping out of the established comfort zone to put on new and exciting events for the chapter. We discussed this in length.
For my next meeting, I once again ventured back to the storied BYXingham palace to meet with Chaplain Billy Thomas. Billy has an incredible heart for the spirituality of this chapter and is serving the men well. The next initiative for the chapter spiritually is to make Christ famous at UF through BYX and truly make the chapter a light on the hill for all to see.
That night I was fortunate enough to participate in a service event with the men. The lovely ladies of Sigma Phi Lambda came over to the palace and made PB and J sandwiches with us. Some of the girls also made Valentine’s Day cards (which was an excellent idea, as anyone who’s seen my handwriting knows.) We went out with the girls to a spot in the city where many homeless congregate. We handed out the food and visited with the people which, was a great experience. I was blessed to be able to serve with these men and see their heart for the community.
My final two meetings were with Treasurer Brennan Schneider and President Dylan Cronk. We had productive meetings and were able to come up with some practical ideas for advancing the chapter in its administrative functions. In both of their meetings, I learned a lot about how this officer corps has been gelling and I have been pleased with the officer corps unity that has been established so far.
Subsequently, I left my visit optimistic about the leadership that is in place in this chapter. They are young and with that comes some growing pains, but they are learning fast. The passion and the ideas are there for this chapter without a doubt. The challenge will be moving forward as an entire chapter to expand BYX’s reach on campus. The men have begun the process by being highly active in various sorority philanthropy events, including placing second in the DZ Turtle Tug. They must now continue looking for ways to establish themselves further on this campus. I am convinced that if the campus sees these men the way I have, they will soon see Christ as well.