Crisis Management Guidelines for Fraternity and Sorority Presidents

Note: These emergency procedures have been formulated for the Presidents of individual fraternity and sorority chapters in the event of a death or serious injury to a member of your chapter or any other emergency situation.

  1. 1. Be certain that every member and guest in your house knows that you, as President, are in charge in any emergency situation involving serious injury or death. In your absence, establish a ranking order of officers and be sure those officers know where to find your copy of these procedures. You should already have arranged with your chapter advisor how s/he is to be notified. Be sure, also, that your house mother/director is aware of the procedure.

  2. 2. If a tragedy has occurred within your house, close the house at once. You cannot give instructions if your members are leaving and strangers are entering. Permit only your members and University and/or city officials, including the police, to enter.

  3. 3. Your first call is to the SMU Police Department emergency number 911 for an ambulance or the University police. If the emergency situation is a fire, your alarm should automatically bring the fire truck, but always still call 911. DO NOT hesitate to call the SMU Police Department - either 911 or 768-3333.

    • The SMU Police Department has a crisis notification list and will automatically contact the appropriate University officials. The Dean of Student Life is chair of the University Crisis Management Team and will arrive on-site or go directly to the hospital, whichever is appropriate. If the Dean of Student Life goes directly to the hospital, she will assign an on-site coordinator, usually a Student Affairs staff member, who will assist on site.

  4. 4. Your second telephone call should be to your alumni advisor.

  5. 5. Assemble your members in a group. Explain to them that there is an emergency situation and the house is closed. Ask them to cooperate in halting outgoing telephone calls until the situation is under control. Do not discuss the situation until the Dean of Student Life (or other Student Affairs staff member) arrives. Instruct your members to make NO STATEMENTS to anyone other than University officials. You, as the President, will make any appropriate statements to the media after the situation is under control and University Public Affairs has discussed with you the content of any statement.

  6. 6. In the event of death, serious accident or illness, the Dean of Student Life or another Student Affairs staff member, police officer, or doctor will notify the family and advise them of the studentís condition. YOU ARE NOT TO CONTACT THE FAMILY UNTIL THE DEAN OF STUDENT LIFE ADVISES YOU THAT THEY HAVE BEEN CONTACTED BY THE UNIVERSITY.

  7. 7. While your chapter members are gathered, there are several things to be done. It is important that they remain calm. When the situation warrants, out-of-house members and pledges may need to be called. Work with the University staff member on-site to determine how to make those calls and contacts and to formulate statements to keep everyone informed. Your chapter advisor should be kept informed of all of the steps you are taking.

  8. 8. If the situation is a death outside of the house, do not announce it until the Dean of Student Life or a Student Affairs staff member has arrived to help. Be very careful about this information as the Office of Public Affairs will release a statement only after all of the members of the immediate family have been notified. If the member or pledge lived in the house, do not move any of his/her possessions. Since most of our students share a room, perhaps you will want to move the roommate somewhere temporarily. The University will assist with temporary housing upon request.

    • After University officials have notified the family of the death, you should call the family to offer sympathy on behalf of the chapter. During a later phone call, ask what their wishes are regarding their daughterís/sonís possessions. You may offer to pack them in boxes, but, parents usually will prefer to come to the house and do this themselves. Before the parents arrive, make sure that all borrowed items are returned to the studentís room and, if possible, lock the room. When the parents arrive, you may want to have empty boxes available and offer to help. This is a traumatic experience for the parents and they may or may not want to be with any of their sonís/daughterís friends. Normally, parents will be met by a Student Affairs member who will ask whether or not they would like to meet friends. The staff member will convey the response to you.

    • All necessary paperwork for withdrawing the student from the University will be handled by Student Affairs staff.

It is, of course, proper to send sympathy cards, notes, or flowers. If a funeral is in-state or nearby, it will mean a great deal to the parents if some members can attend. Most of your national organizations have a memorial ritual pertaining to the chapter. Check your own individual procedures and offer it to the parents in advance of the final arrangements.

The University Chaplain and the Dean of Student Life staff are available to assist in the planning and implementation of an on-campus memorial service. It is recommended that the service be held in the week following the death at a time convenient for the family to attend if possible.


The Office of the Dean of Student Life is a department in the Division of Student Affairs.