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Student Life

Philanthropy beats out partying for most USF ‘Greek’

Matthew Parker stood on the stage at the USF Oval Theater with 34 other contestants, spelling words such as “phosphorus” and “toboggan” until he was the last person standing. His final word: “religiously.”

Parker’s prize, however, was not simply bragging rights among the 10 different greek-life organizations that took part in the first Chi Phi Spelling Bee. The real winner was the Boys and Girls of America, which was given several hundred dollars from the proceeds of the event.

It was just one of the many philanthropic events that greek-life puts on its calendar every month in an effort to complete their duty to “self” and “community.”

“Fraternities and sororities aren’t just social organizations; we are values-based and are constantly working towards bettering our members, and our communities,” said Annalise Sinclair

Sinclair, who is the Philanthropy Chair for the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority, said greek-life at USF strives to raise money for worthwhile causes.

She wants people to know that most fraternities’ and sororities’ charities are chosen by their national organizations, which partner with different philanthropic organizations. Sometimes the money is sent to a local chapter of the charity, while others send their money up through their national organizations for distribution nationally.

USF Greek organizations raise a large amount of money annually for local and national charities. This philanthropy is engrained into their yearly plans but receive little publicity in comparison with fraternity or sorority missteps, such as hazing or other rules violations.

In fact, USF’s Greek life website acknowledges that charity is key.

“The Animal House stigma is one that fraternities strive to relinquish every day,” according to the website’s FAQ. “News articles and press releases so frequently will expose one slip of a fraternities drinking irresponsibly. However, all members of the Greek system participate in service activities to raise thousands of dollars to benefit cancer foundations, Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, Children’s Miracle Network, and several other charities.”

“Service” is, in fact, one of the handful of core values the Greek life organization lists.

Some specifics of Sinclaire’s organizations’ philanthropic events over the past year have included a kickball tournament which raised $6,000 and a stuffed panda drive called “Pandamonium,” which collected 320 pandas for the Juvenile Arthritis Foundation’s Teddy Bear Pain Clinic.

To bring this to a national level, according to the Alpha Omicron Pi raised $305,000 nationally last year for arthritis research and over $2 million since 1967.

Some of the charities that benefit from Greek organizations’ work are:

  • The Jimmy V Foundation, which benefits cancer research and is the philanthropy partner for Delta Chi Fraternity.
  • St. Judes Children’s Hospital, which supports childhood illness and is the philanthropy partner of the Delta Delta Delta sorority.
  • Prevent Child Abuse America, which is the philanthropy partner of the Sigma Delta Tau sorority.

While it’s not a requirement for Greek organizations to raise money for charity each year, it helps each group acquire many important standards to maintain its status as a Greek organization on campus. Each group is given a packet of roughly 20 pages with 50 to 60 standards which are requirements for an organization to be in good standing with the university.

While these packets do not have to be followed completely to maintain status as an organization, a good completion percentage surely helps.

While money is a big help to these organizations, the other aspect that makes those in Greek life want to compete in these events is also as simple as two words: It’s fun. Jason Bornstein, the Philanthropy chair for Chi Phi and organizer of their Spelling Bee, said it’s as simple as making the event as fun as possible.

The Greek life system is a group that can easily be misunderstood by those not involved in it. At the University of South Florida, the number of students in Greek life hovers around 5 percent. The organizations have a knack for attracting negative publicity for events gone wrong.

But these events show the bright side of Greek life and how it has an impact on the community as a whole. They also instill a sense of charity and service in eveloping young adults.

For alumni of an organization, a philanthropic cause that they learned about in college can sometimes become an organization they donate to for life. Eric Dixon, a recent graduate of the University of South Florida and a fraternity member said, “After my time working with the Boys and Girls Club locally, I plan to continue donating my time and money to the organization, even though I have no obligation but instead just because I love and support what the Boys and Girls Club stands for.”


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