Following a slew of student deaths and harmful hazing practices, many colleges across the nation have been questioning what benefits Greek life organizations bring to their communities over the past several years.
Binghamton University is no different. This time last year, a “Fake Parade Day” celebration ended tragically when student Conor Donnelly, 18, lost his life at a fraternity party on Binghamton’s West Side. In memory of Donnelly, the Panhellenic and Interfraternity councils committed to making a positive impact in the Binghamton community this year by organizing a day of service for all social sororities and fraternities on campus.
Students gathered in Lecture Hall on Saturday at 9 a.m. and were divided into groups that visited sites around the city and areas on campus to give back. Off-campus sites included the Broome County Humane Society, Willow Point Rehabilitation and Nursing Center and public parks. Students on campus wrote letters to sick children, veterans and soldiers, made emergency kits for the homeless and crafted dog toys for local animal shelters.
Yitzhak Maurer, the president of the Interfraternity Council, a member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity and a junior double-majoring in classical and Near Eastern studies and anthropology, said there is a need for alternative events to Parade Day, and this is an important opportunity for Greek life to better its relationship with the University and the community.
“It didn’t just start last year,” Maurer said. “Any time people talk about Parade Day in years past, it was always this hype around the idea that people wake up crazy early in the morning, start drinking heavily and then all go Downtown to fraternity houses before going to the bars. And that put a longtime strain on everything, whether it be between the city and the University or the city and Greek life.”
According to Maurer, he and Ashley Rottkamp, president of the Panhellenic Council, a member of Phi Mu sorority and a junior double-majoring in accounting and psychology, brought the idea of a day of service to their respective councils. Brett Dowler, the vice president of service for the Interfraternity Council, a member of the Tau Alpha Upsilon fraternity and a sophomore majoring in integrative neuroscience, said the event was met with great support from members of both councils.
“Basically, after all [Interfraternity Council] and Panhellenic presidents voted to do it, they told their chapters that and we had a lot more people sign up than we were expecting,” Dowler said. “Over 800 signed up — we were expecting 500.”
Victoria Roldan, a sophomore majoring in human development and a member of the Sigma Delta Tau sorority, said she volunteered on campus and was happy to give back to the community.
“It’s early in the morning, but once I was up, I realized these people need help,” Roland said. “It made me feel better knowing that I’m helping people who need help.”
Rottkamp said she felt the event helped showcase what makes Greek life important at BU.
“We want to show that we are so much more than just people who have mixers,” Rottkamp said. “We do so many amazing community service things, we raise so much money for such amazing organizations and we really do put so much time and effort into our sisterhood as Panhellenic [Council] and I think that we really show that there is so much more to us than just being a sorority and hanging out.”