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Greek philanthropists should get their hands dirty

Illustration by Holly Randall
By Matt Gray
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, March 21, 2005
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While some suggest that community service and philanthropy should be mandatory for all UA students, many choose to help out voluntarily. The greek system's efforts to help out the less fortunate are widely known, but it's time those efforts became a little more service and a little less party.

Philanthropy is one of the main goals of any fraternity or sorority. Greeks at the UA and across the country constantly battle stereotypes. One of the most effective ways for greeks to escape the reckless partyer image is by helping others. These activities not only support worthy causes, but are also designed to instill stronger characters in fraternity and sorority members. Unfortunately, this rarely involves fraternity and sorority members rolling up their sleeves and doing some hard work for those less fortunate. In fact, many of the events don't seem to involve sleeves at all.

Two weeks ago, Theta Nu Xi sponsored a fashion show to raise money for tsunami relief. At the beginning of the semester, several greek organizations also contributed to this noble cause by collecting donations on the way into parties. However, tsunami victims are not the only group receiving assistance. In February, the members of Alpha Epsilon Phi helped further AIDS research by chasing down and taking pictures of the absolute hottest guys on campus.

Matt Gray

Every one of these events is admirable because each encourages students to give money to worthy causes instead of spending it on frivolous activities. However, each one of these events is also discouraging because so much more good could be done if the members participated in actual community service. Tsunami victims desperately need every penny they can get in order to rebuild their homes and families, but they don't get much benefit from people wearing fancy clothes or partying hard a thousand miles away. Likewise, while scientists are still a long way away from finding a cure for AIDS, the last thing they need is access to hunky photos.

The current greek philanthropy system is exactly one-half of what it should be. The willingness of fraternities and sororities to donate money to help others is a shining example for all other UA students. Yet the picture won't be complete until they put their bodies where their money is.

Collecting money for tsunami victims while walking the catwalk is good, but collecting the same money while volunteering at the Primavera homeless shelter is better. Collecting donations for deciding who gets to go in the calendar is good, but collecting donations for who can volunteer the most hours reading with kids is better. There are countless opportunities to help those less fortunate in the Tucson area. These people don't just need money, they also need someone to help build a house, clean up a lot, prepare a meal or provide a companion.

Even better, greek organizations could partner with some of the many community service organizations already working at the university. These organizations, like Camp Wildcat or Habitat for Humanity, are fundamentally dedicated to the kind of hands-on community service that the greek system often lacks, and they are also always looking for more people to participate.

Of course, working hard isn't nearly as much fun as partying hard, but it is a much better way to accomplish the goals of the greek life system. Every fraternity and sorority wants its members to be known as leaders in the community, but fashion shows and hunky calendars don't create that image. Every once in a while fraternities and sororities should take a break from partying (whether for fun or philanthropy) and get their hands dirty. When greeks show they are willing to give both their money and their time to community service, they will truly set an example for all students to follow.

Matt Gray is a second-year law student. He can be reached at

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