Philanthropy, not partying, sustains Greek Life

When you hear the words “sorority” and “fraternity,” what comes to mind? Many people would associate these words with parties, alcohol and exclusiveness, but what lies behind the mask of Greek Life is something much more profound: philanthropy.

As a new member of Greek Life myself, I have had the opportunity and pleasure to socialize with other members of Greek Life, and now we share a common bond.

Going back through the archives of The Campus’ Opinion section, I came across an opinion piece titled ‘Greek Life hurts, rather than helps, campus community,’ Lee Swaydis’, ’14, Letter to the Editor in the April 21, 2011 issue of The Campus, in which he states that “there is no reason that students should continue to tolerate the disease that is Greek.” Although I may be a new member of a sorority, I find this statement disrespectful to all members of Greek Life, past and present.

At the heart of every sorority and fraternity is a proudly represented national philanthropy, a group or an organization that is represented by a sorority or a fraternity, for which their goal is to raise money for that organization; each philanthropy is represented by the same sorority or fraternity nationwide. I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with some of the philanthropy chairs here at Allegheny, and came to realize that there is much, much more to Greek Life than meets the eye.

Ever wonder where all those flyers advertising fun events such as dance parties, pancake breakfasts, and cookouts come from? The majority of them come from your Greek Life representatives right here at Allegheny College. When it comes to our respective philanthropies, we don’t just aim to raise money for them, but to unite the college community, as well as the Meadville community in a fun and exciting kind of way.

Many people fail to realize is that a vast portion of our philanthropic efforts directly benefit our community right here in Meadville.

Larry Hailsham, ’15, philanthropy chair for Delta Tau Delta, shared with me their efforts to benefit Meadville’s Community Improvement Center. The brothers of Delta Tau Delta will be hosting a chicken and waffles dinner to benefit the Community Improvement Center on March 1, 2013.

“We wanted to make sure we were supporting the Meadville community,” Hailsham said. “We always press toward our national philanthropy, the National Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund, but we wanted to push more for Meadville this year. We want to show we’re concerned and that we care. After all, it is our home!”

While the brothers of Delta Tau Delta are amplifying their efforts this year to reach out to the Meadville community, the philanthropic efforts of the sisters of Alpha Chi Omega have always been felt right here in Meadville.

Bri Guarino, ’15, philanthropy chair for Alpha Chi Omega explained to me just how deeply their national philanthropy affects the sisters of Alpha Chi Omega. The national philanthropy of Alpha Chi Omega, Domestic Violence Awareness, directly benefits the local Women’s Services in Meadville.

The candlelight vigil held in Ford Chapel every October serves as a reminder that domestic violence is still very much a problem, even within Meadville. Along with their on campus efforts to raise money supporting Domestic Violence Awareness, the sisters of Alpha Chi Omega volunteer during “Service Saturday’s” at the local women’s shelter.

“We get the whole chapter involved,” Guarino stated. “We split our time between the shelter, the Humane Society, the Crawford County R.E.A.D program and local soup kitchens.”

Why is this so important? “You get to see the side of Meadville other than Allegheny,” mentioned Guarino. “You get to see where your money is going. Doing something bigger than yourself is something to be proud of, and we take pride in our philanthropy. It’s the cornerstone of our sorority.” The effects of Alpha Chi Omega’s philanthropic efforts are definitely felt throughout the community, but just how far are we able to reach out?

The brothers of Phi Delta Theta are rallying themselves for quite a show this coming semester. Jim Heaton, ’14, the Phi Delta Theta philanthropy chair, shared his fraternity’s efforts to expand their efforts to raise money for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

“We’re doing a lot more this semester to raise money for ALS,” Heaton said. “We’ve been selling origami roses for Valentine’s Day in the Campus Center and we are all working on putting together a potential bowling event for the campus. We’re also working with the sisters of Kappa Kappa Gamma for this semester’s talent show.”

Heaton stated that he hopes to get his entire fraternity involved with “Iron Phi,” a marathon in Pittsburgh in which all proceeds would benefit ALS.

“Aside from the big things, like Iron Phi, we wanted to focus on the little things to involve the whole campus, too,” Heaton said.

If one thing is clear, it is that there is no lack of motivation on the fraternities’ and sororities’ parts to involve the campus and community with something bigger than themselves. The efforts in part of all fraternities and sororities on behalf of their philanthropies here at Allegheny are widely felt by not only the students, but also the members of the Meadville community. After my day of interviewing philanthropy chairs, I learned one thing: not one sorority of fraternity here at Allegheny College wants to be known for parties, but rather for the work they put towards their philanthropy.

Dominic Raggi and Patrick Miley, ’14, philanthropy chairs for Sigma Alpha Epsilon summed it up perfectly: “Half the matter is self-betterment. The other half is bettering your campus and your community,” Raggi said.

“Fraternities aren’t just about the night life,” Miley said. “It’s about coming together as a brotherhood. […] Even more than the money, it’s the time that counts. You can’t put a price on that.”

Although I’ve only been in Delta Delta Delta since January, I have learned that there is no stronger support system than that of Greek Life. Whether it is a sister or a brother helping me with homework or lending me his or her shoulder to cry on, I am constantly reminded that I will be supported in my endeavors, not just during my next four years here at Allegheny but throughout the rest of my life as well.

What Lee calls a “disease,” we call giving back. We call this self-betterment, community service, and selflessness. We call this Greek Life, and we are all proud to be a part of it.