In the midst of a gray period for Binghamton University’s Greek Life, where police raids on fraternity parties foreshadowed the closing of two chapters, all 54 remaining chartered Greek organizations collaborated to throw “Black & White,” a large, alcohol-free party to prove Greek life is about more than drinking.
The event, which took place on Friday night in the Old University Union, was advertised on its Facebook page as “the biggest frat party Binghamton has ever seen” and as “the best party of the year.”
Students began streaming into the Mandela Room at 9:30 p.m. — many wearing their best monochromatic outfits — and by 10 p.m. the party was underway.
Zach Stein, former Interfraternity Council president and a member of the recently de-chartered Alpha Chi Rho, organized the event and DJed for the evening, despite the status of his chapter.
“We want to show people that we’re responsible and that we’re men and women, not frat-boys and girls,” Stein said. “We want to show that we’re mature and what we can have a good time — the Greek world doesn’t revolve around alcohol.”
Stein, a senior majoring in anthropology, said the chapter’s closing did not affect his involvement with the party.
“I decided that myself and my fraternity was no more important than Greek Life as a whole,” Stein said. “That’s why I decided to continue with this event. It has nothing to do with the loss of the chapters. This has been in the works for a long time. We want to promote a good image in light of the things that happened last semester and, I guess, now this semester. We want to show that we’re a strong, united community.”
And other Greek-affiliated students praised the effort. Samantha Elmes, a member of Phi Sigma Sigma, said that the intention was good, but that the timing could have been better.
“I definitely understand it, and I think that we do need to come together and get together more often and create a better image for Greek Life,” said Elmes, a senior majoring in psychology. “But at the same time it’s kind of a bad time for us to have to be here on campus of all places. I mean, if this is our free time, I’m sure that right before finals campus isn’t the place that we want to be. And if it is, we should be studying.”
The party organizers were strict about their no-alcohol policy: bouncers at the door checked bags and purses for alcoholic beverages, and they sniffed the contents of juice and water bottles to make sure that nothing was smuggled in.
Daniel Richmond, a senior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, who worked as a bouncer for the event, said that he did not find a single person who tried to sneak in alcohol or who showed up intoxicated.
“It kind of surprised me,” Richmond said. “I thought more people would be trying to bring in liquor. I thought my job would be harder, but it was really pretty easy tonight … This shows that Greek life can do things without alcohol. We can have fun and throw things that don’t involve alcohol, especially because it’s been getting us into some problems lately. It’s like a fresh start that shows we’re striving for a different image.”
Morgan Appel, the Panhellenic Council adviser who supervised the event, said she was impressed by what she saw.
“I think I’m most excited because this is a student initiative,” Appel said. “It’s not something that the administration said should happen. This was a student-run initiative. They all planned it themselves and we said we’d support them however we can. And they really ran with it and owned it. I’m really glad that they did it.”
Appel stressed that students should know that parties can be fun even without alcohol.
“We really wanted to make it feel like a party and not like a prom or high school dance,” Appel said. “We’ve got the black lights going and we’ve got the punch and water pong. We want to make it feel like a good time, and hopefully students will buy into other events as the semester goes on.”
Students gave mixed reviews about the party itself. Michael Glisci, a senior majoring in psychology, felt that there was too little inter-organization interaction.
“I feel like the [problem] was that everyone went to their own group,” Glisci said. “There wasn’t any real mixing.”
He said the alcohol-free environment may have contributed to the subdued atmosphere.
“I think the [lack of alcohol] definitely had something to do with the atmosphere,” Glisci said. “I’m sure almost everyone came in thinking it was just going to be some lame, on-campus thing because of the lack of alcohol.”
Amy Ghattas, a member of Phi Sigma Sigma and a senior majoring in biology, was also underwhelmed by the party.
“If you’re going to throw a dance on campus, you should put more work into it,” Ghattas said. “Better decorations, more snacks, more stuff to do. Games and events and stuff would be good … It felt like a middle school dance, it was very awkward and boring. Late Nite was more fun than this.”
Molly Gendelman, a junior majoring in English, agreed.
“If you’re going to try and replace alcohol, you should do it with things people want,” she said.
Former IFC president Stein said he does not know what role he will play in the Greek community going forward.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said. “I’m hoping to stay involved. I’ve done a lot of work for this school and this community. I hope that they believe at this point that I’m a valuable member of the Greek community.”
However, he insisted that he remains committed to repairing the image of Greek Life on campus and to bringing safe, fun events to Binghamton University students.
“We’ll see what the feedback from this is,” Stein said. “If the people liked it then we’ll have more. If not, then we’re back to the drawing board and we’ll think of something else.”
Alex Liu, the IFC president-elect and a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, acknowledged that the party was at times lackluster, but said it was an important step for Greek Life moving forward.
“This is only a first attempt at Greek Life coming together,” Liu said. “It was a great event that ended earlier than it should have.”
Correction: Feb. 26, 2013
An earlier version of this article misstated Alex Liu’s year. He is a sophomore, not a junior.