The sun set over Langdon as an energetic group of young men gathered in the front yard of Tau Kappa Epsilon. From afar, the dimming daylight reflecting on their matching blue shirts resembled a themed party.
It was indeed a party, but not the kind with vibrating speakers or sugar-loaded alcoholic punch.
“Do you guys want to come pet puppies? We take Venmo, too,” a member of the fraternity urged passing pedestrians, as another caressed a small golden dog.
Members of Tau Kappa Epsilon gathered for Paws for a Cause, a puppy-petting event in its third year running. It is the first of a series of philanthropy events the fraternity hosts to raise donations for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Last year, they raised about $14,000.
Tau Kappa Epsilon is not alone in its philanthropic endeavors. Ten fraternities and eight sororities affiliated with the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Association raised a total of more than $300,000 for their designated charities last year.
Despite high donation numbers, the campus community also sees a high prevalence of policy violations from Greek life. Of the 36 incidents reported to the Committee of Students Organizations last year, 22 involved a fraternity or sorority, said Eric Knueve, assistant dean and director of the Center for Leadership and Involvement. Headlines also tell of incidents in which Greek-letter organizations are involved with sexual assault, hazing and racial bias.
Considering the various negative incidents involving the Greek community — and that there are more than 250 non-Greek, service-oriented student organizations on campus, according to the WIN Involvement Network — some students question others’ decision to participate in Greek life based on philanthropy.
UW junior Emily Dynis, who will volunteer at Meriter Hospital as a pre-nursing major, said if a student wanted to volunteer or fundraise, they could choose another student organization.
“A lot of times people try to justify joining Greek life for philanthropy,” Dynis said. “In reality, they can just join other student organizations for that. At the end of the day, they pick sororities or fraternities based on status and money.”
Greek community structure enables opportunities, challenges for service efforts
More than 14 percent of UW students are affiliated with Greek Life, Knueve said. Mandatory service requirements imposed by many fraternities and sororities push about 4,000 undergraduate students to volunteer each year….