You know the scene: It’s game day, and you’re at a tailgate on campus. Between the tailgates and the crowds, people wander around looking for fresh recyclables. You finish off a beer and hand it with a nod to a person with a large black trash bag.
For some USC students, this is the most exposure they get to poverty in the community.
The community surrounding USC is in the lower end of the income bracket, but that doesn’t mean students don’t try to help. Every once in a while, individuals and organizations combine partying with a noble cause: charity. It’s a fun and easy way to have a good time and to feel like you’re doing something positive for the community.
But who is really benefitting from these parties? Their effectiveness is questionable.
The hypocrisy behind a party for charity is not what happens at the events, but what happens on other weekends. Every weekend, thousands of USC students consume thousands of dollars of alcohol. USC has around 17,000 undergraduates. If only a quarter of USC students drink every weekend and spend $5 on alcohol each weekend, that’s more than $20,000 spent on alcohol.
A large charity party would have a difficult time raising anywhere close to that amount.
Timo Yates, a junior majoring in fine arts, and his roommates throw several parties a semester. The parties regularly bring in more than 150 people, but not everyone pays to drink. Despite buying off-brand soda and the cheapest liquor and beer available, the initial cost rises above $300. Yates’ house usually pulls in about $450. But after factoring in the cost of paper towels, cups, ice and buckets, a decent revenue suddenly becomes a slim profit.
“Even after charging everyone who drinks for entry, we didn’t even break even on our first party,” Yates said.
Most of these kind of charity benefits charge $5 for unlimited alcohol. On one hand, the hosts could raise the entry fee to $10. On the other hand, they could cut alcohol out of the question — but could a charity party survive as a dry party? Alcohol might indeed be the only reason some people show up to parties.
But even though more people means more fundraising, the profit isn’t always worth it.
One aspect of college life becomes painfully obvious when examining these parties: We rely on alcohol. For many people, getting drunk is what the weekend is for.
But it’s time to try a new type of fundraiser. Enforce a dry weekend on The Row and donate all the money that would have been spent on alcohol to a worthy cause. This kind of program could easily be spearheaded by fraternities and sororities, both of which control a significant portion of social life on campus. Entertainment value could bring people to these parties, and many talented USC artists are willing to perform at parties for free.
Many students like to say we’re helping the community, but can’t we do more? Truly meaningful works of charity involve a sacrifice.
Tim Clayton is a junior majoring in narrative studies. His column “HypocriSC” runs every other Tuesday.