Philanthropy fails to repair wrongdoings in Greek life

This is the second in a two-part series examining the harms of the supposed perks of Greek life: social connections and philanthropic work. Read the first part on social relations here.

Greek organizations say they exist to provide their members with opportunities for personal growth through the relationships they build and the acts of service they perform. This is very clear in the mission statements of various sororities and fraternities.

“Kappa Delta Sorority provides experiences that build women’s confidence and inspire action through the power of lifelong friendship,” KD’s website states. Likewise, Zeta Beta Tau values ​​”intellectual awareness, social responsibility, integrity, and brotherly love, in order to prepare his brethren for positions of leadership and service within their communities.”

On paper, the commitment to give is honourable. Yet community service, in Greek life and beyond, is not automatically ethical simply because it requires a privileged person to give up a small fraction of their time or money. In fact, community service is largely problematic because of how we constantly celebrate it as such a moral act.

“(Philanthropy) is always centered on the emotional experience of the volunteer, and on the experience of a volunteer and doing what they think is right, but there is never an accountability mechanism “said Professor Noelle Sullivan. .

In philanthropy, since the work is done for free and supposedly at the sole cost of the philanthropist, it is difficult for those who benefit from it to criticize the service because they are expected to believe that any help is better than no help, it added. In turn, this means that the real needs of the communities that philanthropists claim to support are rarely at the center of their efforts.

This is especially a problem with the recipient of Kappa Alpha Theta, National Court Appointed Special Advocates Guardians ad Litem Association for Children, which provides advocates for abused children as they navigate the justice system. It is not clear, however, that CASA/GAL volunteers, many of whom are white women, understand how to provide trauma-informed support. Moreover, when the court gives these volunteers the power to speak on behalf of the child, it assumes that the volunteers know what is best for the child than the child does.

As this an article from the City University of New York Law Review explains that the devolution of child and family advocacy power reinforces saviorism among volunteers and overrepresents the white voiceare. Ironically, this white saviorism is reflected in Greek philanthropy as a whole, for the very principle of philanthropy is to center the privileged in their efforts to help others.

While direct service may seem more meaningful than monetary donations, the experience is often only more meaningful to the volunteer, as it makes them feel like they have an impact. Therefore, fundraising efforts, even if they seem remote, allow the communities that philanthropies aim to serve to choose the most effective way to use resources. In some respects, the distance between the philanthropist and the recipient of the gift is a more authentic representation of the spaces occupied by the recipients since it does not comfort the philanthropist with an illusion of closeness.

But even some fundraising events have drawn backlash. In 2014, Kappa Kappa Gamma and ZBT planned a Jail N’ Bail Event, where participants disguised themselves as prisoners and increased the amount of their required “bail”. The event was designed to raise funds for Reading is Fundamental, an organization that seeks to increase children’s literacy rates. Yet, by treating incarceration as a game, this event shed light on the oppressive systems that plague the very communities the organization seeks to help.

Although monetary donations are often more valuable than donated time or goods, it goes without saying that philanthropy is an attempt to use privatized wealth to solve problems that arise from privatization itself. True, philanthropy provides short-term benefits through monetary support, but it fails to recognize that the roots of poverty and discrimination are rooted in capitalism. In this way, Greek philanthropy is a dull, performative attempt to redress the injustices that Greek institutions actively perpetuate.

Yet whether Greek philanthropy is performative or authentic is irrelevant, because the impact of their service is what matters. However, it is also important to recognize that participants in Greek Life could have an even greater impact if they simply donated their dues and the amount of money they spend on philanthropic events directly to charities. .

Additionally, many of the nonprofits that Greek organizations partner with do not address the systemic issues that Greek life perpetuates. KD supports Girl Scouts of the USA and Prevent Child Abuse America, Alpha Phi raises funds for women’s heart health, ZBT supports Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and Delta Gamma funds Service for Sight, which advocates for people who are blind or visually impaired.

All of these causes are undeniably reputable, but sororities and fraternities cannot use such philanthropy to justify their existence when their work does nothing to remedy the damage wrought by Greek life. Although their fundraising is generally innocuous, Greek Life attendees in no way waive their privilege of hosting these events. In fact, many of their fundraising events are just photo ops – a chance to wear a formal red dress to A Phi’s Red Dress Gala or stand on Sheridan Road in a costume. hot dog for Alpha Epsilon Pi’s Dog Days.

It is difficult to say that these efforts are causing harm; they often don’t. Yet it is clear that philanthropy does not solve the long-standing problems of Greek life. Thus, I do not believe that philanthropy is a strong enough justification to maintain the Greek system as a whole.

Lily Nevo is a second-year Weinberg student. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to publicly respond to this editorial, send a letter to the editor at [email protected]. The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of all Daily Northwestern staff.

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