An Aleph recently complained to me that his advisor would not allow his chapter to hold events if they did not clear them at least a week an advance. Some of you reading this might say this is perfectly reasonable – the requirement ensures that there is plenty of time for the advisor to review the event for safety and policy concerns, and ensures that the planners have really thought out any issues ahead of time. Others might suggest this requirement is unreasonable – as it does not offer enough flexibility for members to deal with and resolve issues in cases where something goes wrong in the planning.
Both views are valid, but as you’ll see, one is more valid than the other.
First, let us be.. clear. Clearing an event a week or more ahead of time is a very good thing. Advance planning is one of the best things you can do to help an event succeed, and by clearing an event a week ahead of time you really do allow time to resolve any problems. Moreover, if the advisor does raise concerns, a week allows plenty of time to adjust the event to address those concerns. There really is no good reason for a competent chapter to not be able to consistently clear events a week ahead of time.
Moreover, there are some events that must be cleared, not just a week ahead of time but even earlier. Chapter trips or campouts, or large events where multiple chapter are invited, will often need to be cleared weeks (or even months) ahead of time. They involve issues such as making reservations, booking rooms, or finding staff that simply cannot be done at the last minute.
But what about routine events? Should there be an absolute fixed requirement on when they should be cleared?
Advisors know (or should know) that sometimes things happen – a planner gets sick or flakes, or there is a misunderstanding of responsibilities, or it just takes longer for chapter leaders to figure out what they want to do. Remember: it’s the advisor’s job to act in the best interest of the chapter. It’s a very rare case where the benefit of learning to clear an event a week ahead of time is more important than the benefit of actually holding an event.
Moreover, one of the reasons for having an advisor in the first place is to give chapters flexibility to adapt to circumstances. For example: there was once a case where everyone showed up to the event only to find that the planner had not been able to plan anything through no fault of his own. So the chapter leaders got together, planned an activity for the evening, and the advisor cleared it on the spot. The members had the chance to improvise and work together to solve a problem, and gained new skill and experience in doing so. What possible benefit could they have gained by having the event cancelled? None whatsoever.
Thus the ideal is a balance. The chapter should strive to clear events earlier, and the advisor should encourage this. At the same time, the advisor should be as flexible as possible in clearing an event even at the last minute. However, it is not the advisor’s responsibilty to protect the chapter from the consequences of last minute planning. If a problem is discovered at the last minute, the chapter is still obligated to solve the problem – even if it is much harder due to the lack of time. Many a program has not lived up to its potential because of simple problems that could have easily been solved ahead of time, but were not because of late clearance, and the lessons learned from this are just as good (or better) than those that might have been gained by cancelling the event.