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Are Greek philanthropy events acts of selflessness?

Erin Mosley

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I should preface my thoughts by stating that I am not currently and have never been affiliated with any Greek organization at The University of Alabama or any other institution for that matter. Therefore, I can only write from the perspective of an interested observer. To invoke the analogy of a play in a theatre, I have not been involved with any of the Greek’s scenes whether they are considered comedies or tragedies; I have only been a spectator of various acts. Plays, like any other work of art, leave the spectator or viewer to interpret what he or she has seen performed. Because of this fact, I acknowledge that only the person who performs any act, whether as an art form or as a part of daily life, knows the true meaning or intention behind that act.

Disclaimers aside, the subject of Greek philanthropy is difficult to analyze and discuss. Philanthropy’s Greek roots etymologically mean ‘love to mankind.” But what does this love look like in practice and on a daily basis? What does this feel like to the recipient or giver of that love? Are Greek students the only students on campus to value philanthropy and engage in it? Do non-Greek independent students also participate in philanthropy? To lay this question to rest, my answer is “Yes, of course non-Greek students who are independent or who are members of other organizations participate in philanthropy.” Whether other students publicize their acts of love at the same magnitude or with the same desire for visibility is another question.

The recent reclassification for SLPro’s “volunteerism” suggests that certain philanthropic events have been historically abused or used by Greek organizations for self-benefit rather than to assist those who are truly in need (e.g., classifying crawfish boils as philanthropic events in order to get organized student seating at football games).

“In addition, the projects must involve students spending time benefitting the community rather than making a donation to attend a philanthropic event. We understand that your members participate in service to the benefit of philanthropic organizations; therefore, members who actively participate in service will be able to log the time spent with these projects. However, those who contribute via donations or merely attend the event should not log hours in SL Pro.” –The Source

The discrepancy here seems to be not one of Greek students performing philanthropy to benefit children with cancer or the local food bank so that the hungry and homeless can have access to food. It appears to be one a mischaracterizing a fundraiser to send a little money to their national philanthropy and to secure block seating for themselves as an act of love toward mankind when it may more appropriately be labeled as an act of love of self. And that’s not a bad thing either because who doesn’t act in their own self-interest?

The issue of mislabeling an act of charity for block seating is unfortunate, though I’m certainly not saying that’s the case with every event or every organization. But, in order to claim credit for selflessly giving of oneself for the benefit of those less fortunate, students whether Greek or independent, must know the difference between acting for others and acting for self.

As a service-minded student, I do acknowledge and appreciate those organizations who have shifted their focus from the “cookout for service” model to creating and volunteering at more events that do qualify for SLPro hours, such as 5k runs, Relay for Life, and UA Dance Marathon. 

I don’t think fraternities and sororities are being asked to stop organizing events where they ask each other to donate money. They are being asked to not call such events “volunteerism” when they are not. And, from the cited source, the statement by SLPro appears to merely ask Greek student members not to log hours for donating to these kinds of events (it remains to be seen whether organizers may qualify for hours) as true service to others less fortunate in their system.

Maybe the next time fraternities and sororities hold a crawfish boil, hopefully, each one of them will reserve a seat next to them for a homeless man or woman or a cancer patient or anyone who doesn’t have the privilege of attending one of the most exciting events anyone could come to on a Saturday in the fall.

If this is the outcome of those crawfish boils, then they can log their hours and donations in SLPro and everyone will be happy! 

Erin Mosley is a junior majoring in studio art. Her column runs biweekly on Fridays.

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Are Greek philanthropy events acts of selflessness?