January 21, 2011

Are You and Your Sisters Truly Practicing Watchcare?

Often times when we ask our chapter members about Watchcare or their chapter’s Watchcare program they immediately says something along the lines of, “We have a great sober sister program.” Although looking out for one another in social situations is an example of Watchcare, it shouldn’t be the only thing you or your chapter does in order to uphold this idea.

In writing the Purpose of Alpha Phi, our Founders employed a term that remains the cornerstone of our member development: Watchcare. Our Founders supported each other by offering “to aid each other through a constant watchcare shown by mutual criticism, sometimes perhaps severe, but always given in love.”

Today, for Alpha Phi members, Watchcare means sisters watching out for sisters. It is about keeping sisters from harm by either helping one who is in harm’s way or by confronting a sister with a problem she is not recognizing and helping that sister help herself.

Watchare has three components:
* The preservation of human dignity, integrity, self-respect and self-esteem
* Awareness of risks and willingness to reach out and protect each other from
* Development of solid values and ethics to help each member make appropriate

From the International perspective, Watchcare is about setting standards for all Alpha Phis based on the values Alpha Phi holds in high regard. These values include a belief in the dignity of every person.

If we, as Alpha Phis, strive to live and uphold Watchcare’s concepts of human dignity, protection, values, ethics, and appropriate decisions, then hazing should not occur.

A key factor in ensuring that our Watchcare practices protect our members against hazing is in recognizing it when we see it. Hazing has many faces, from something that seems minor to the extreme cases we read about in the media. It is sometimes hidden by the term “traditions,” and is often justified by seemingly good intentions (“We wanted our new members to bond by staying overnight together.”). We need to look past these excuses and recognize that having good intentions or practicing a "tradition” does not make any form of hazing justifiable. We also need to ensure that we practice Watchcare outside of our chapter’s activities and protect our sisters in any situation they encounter. Watchcare does not end when a chapter meeting or activity ends; we have all made a promise to each other that extends throughout our days and lives.

If you individually and your chapter collectively truly practice Watchcare at more than just Alpha Phi or other Greek social events, there should be no hazing –of any kind—in your chapter or every day life.

Practicing Watchcare means having a sister there to support, encourage, and build you up.

Stefania Rudd is the Manager of Resources and Training Initiatives at the Alpha Phi Executive Office. She can be reached at srudd@alphaphi.org.

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