Story by Connor Jaschen, Features Editor
The Interfraternity Council, or IFC, has been taking a hard look at the lack of participation between fraternities and how involvement can be improved.
On the heels of Alpha Tau Omega canceling their scheduled philanthropic dodgeball tournament, Keegan Cameron, president of ATO, said the plans fell through because of a lack of participation.
“It was partly on us,” Cameron said. “We didn’t give people enough time to plan to be there and with it being dodgeball, I guess it was a little more fraternity-related than sorority-related.”
The marketing of the event toward fraternities marked a change of pace compared to what is considered the norm for philanthropies at Murray State.
From Sigma Pi’s Fall Festival to Pi Kappa Alpha’s Peak Week, fraternities have traditionally only allowed for sorority participation, leaving fraternity-on-fraternity cooperation by the wayside. ATO was positioned to be the first fraternity to successfully garner such widespread cooperation in recent years.
Evan Ditty, coordinator of Greek life and student leadership, said the heart of this inter-organizational disconnect lies not only with the organizations, but the on-campus rivalries and competition that develop between them.
“I do think that the root of the problem is that fraternities are so used to competing with each other,” Ditty said. “Whether it’s for grades or members or for the sorority events, that they feel like they have to compete in terms of their philanthropy as well.”
Ditty said the theme of competition, while positive and healthy, is also carried forth in the very essence of some philanthropic events held on the other end of the spectrum by sororities. He said fraternities are routinely pitted against each other over a week to see who can win competitions or raise the most money, with the inclusion of events like “spirit point” competitions or change wars.
Michael Mann, president of IFC, said the competition aspect is not only a role in philanthropy, but imperative in the IFC’s goals of furthering inter-fraternity participation.
“If we can somehow swing that [competitiveness] to make that the new competition for fraternity events, […] I think that would be great,” Mann said. “However, I think that may be tough to do.”
While the competition is there, the same divisive gap hasn’t been observed as often in sorority philanthropies, with high participation and teams routinely being assembled between sororities, no matter which organization actually hosts the event.
“I think that [sororities] focus more on the sisterhood of the event,” Ditty said. “There is a sense of rivalry, but I think women – when it comes down to those rivalries coming down to a head – are not as physical about it, which is the big difference.”
While the separation between fraternities is one issue, Ditty said he would like to see the divide between Greeks and non-Greeks narrowed in philanthropic work.
“There’s kind of like this exclusivity idea when it comes to philanthropy events that we need to start moving away from,” Ditty said. “Things like cancer, mental health awareness – things like that are not exclusive to Greek organizations.”
As for reaching out to non-Greeks, Cameron said his organization had in fact considered also taking that first step of outreach onto the residential side of campus, but plans never came through.
“I think, personally, that it is a good idea to get them involved, because you build relations with non-Greek people, potentially and that would just get people more involved in Greek life,” Cameron said.
However, Mann said that divide was a bit harder to bridge, as many philanthropy events tend to edge the line between regular and social event. The differentiation matters; because of the special courses Greeks must take to participate that non-Greeks do not, a liability dilemma is brought forth. How does an organization enact risk management policies on members of the public they have no control over?
“These risk management and social policies are a way for the Greek system to protect itself,” Mann said. “Now, if other non-Greek organizations decide that they want to start doing that, then I think that will help them out.”
Mann said no matter what changes do or do not take place, it will have to be cultural before it is systematic.
“There is only so much that the leadership can do,” Mann said. “It takes, you know, a collaborative effort from everyone in Greek life if we want these philanthropies to be successful, because that’s why we joined.”