When you think of a USC fraternity or sorority, what’s your first reaction? Most perceptions of Greek life involve excessive alcohol consumption, money spent on gratuitous partying, hazing of members and other negative stereotypes.
Last weekend I affirmed that these perceptions are often hyperbolic truths that can be attributed to any campus group but unfairly shadow the Greek system. In reality, Greek organizations might do more to benefit the community than the rest of us.
I attended a party at a fraternity house Saturday that showed me how truly generous and caring the Greek community can be. In a matter of weeks, the fraternity — Sigma Alpha Mu — jumped on the bandwagon and co-sponsored an event to help victims of genocide in Sudan.
For two and a half months, the USC Fight On for Darfur organization struggled to put on its “Dance for Darfur” event. Its goal was to raise donations for the people in refugee camps in Darfur by charging students an entry fee for the party. The only problem was it could not find a venue to host the event.
Sigma Alpha Mu stepped in and allowed the Darfur organization to use its house as the venue. In addition to this already kind gesture, the fraternity used its own funds to rent portable outhouses and security guards for the night. With the fraternity’s help, USC Fight On for Darfur raised more than $1,000 to donate to the Jewish World Watch Solar Cooker Project, which provides women in refugee camps a means to prepare their food without requiring them to leave the camp for firewood, which would put them in danger.
By participating in these charitable events, fraternity and sorority members shine. They are allowed to do what they love — such as organize concerts, work with children or play sports — all for the betterment of the community.
In addition to smaller in-house events such as “Dance for Darfur” and house-specific philanthropies, every year several fraternities and sororities participate in Relay for Life, a 24-hour walk to raise money for cancer research, and Songfest, a performing arts show that donates its proceeds to Troy Camp. These types of events not only help those in need but give USC a positive reputation within the community.
The Greek system is not all about drinking and partying, and The Row should not be labeled or stereotyped for engaging in typical college social activities. Its philanthropic events alone display a sophistication and class among the Greek community and the creativity and effort it utilizes to help others.
Every semester, Greek students pay membership dues to their respective fraternities and sororities. So where does the money go? The organizations break up their finances to pay for social events, recruitment, philanthropies and other activities.
According to Tyler Vanstory, the philanthropy chair of USC’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, the fraternity spent between $10,000 and $12,000 of membership dues on philanthropic events in 2009.
So the next time you think how awful it is that so much money is wasted on alcohol and music for parties, think of it this way: If fraternities are spending “x” amount on booze — which we know to be a lot of funds — then they must be spending at least a fraction of that on commendable and noteworthy events, which turns out to be a sizable amount of money. And what’s more, they use those funds to raise more money for deserving and noteworthy causes.
Rather than dwelling on the reckless “frat-tastic” image they sometimes send out, give them a break and join in on the fun every once in a while.
With all the good they partake in, it’s time we start associating the Greek system with some positive qualities such as generosity and hard work.
Despite the preconceived notions many have, the Greek community is doing its part to help make a difference.
Danielle Nisimov is a sophomore majoring in public relations. Her column “On the SCene” runs Thursdays.