Putting the “Fun” in “Funding Financial Obligations”

A Fraternity Brother stuffs himself with pie in an effort to help his Fraternity (Sigma Phi Epsilon) win Greek Week. These fun activities allowed for a healthy sense of competition between fraternities. The word healthy being used lightly in this Pie Eating Contest.

A Fraternity Brother stuffs himself with pie in an effort to help his Fraternity (Sigma Phi Epsilon) win Greek Week. These fun activities allowed for a healthy sense of competition between fraternities. The word healthy being used lightly in this Pie Eating Contest.

Fraternities and Sororities represent centuries of a respected tradition of unity and honor. But don’t think for a second that means that Fraternities didn’t know how to have a good time. Based on the enormous number of articles from the 1970-1979 issues of The Breeze, frats had multiple priorities. “Fun” generally was one of the top priorities for nearly all of the fraternities.

Advertisements, articles, and announcements suggest that each of the respective fraternities and sororities made substantial efforts to create a fun, safe, and  memorable college environment for fellow members and non-greeks alike. These activities ranged from partying to playing sports to pie eating contests.

Notably, the creativity and magnitude of the events sponsored by individual fraternities and/or sororities improve rapidly within the 1970’s. Arguably, as Madison College began to grow, the influx of students (most significantly the arrival of males) altered the standards for the Greek organizations.

Competition to gain members increased as the number of fraternities went from six in 1970 with approximately 118 members total, to nine in 1979 with an impressive number exceeding 400 members. With a larger student body, Fraternities have a much larger market potential. The higher number of enrollment equals more potential greeks. The more potential fraternity members, the more potential revenue for the organization. Every member of a fraternity is a valuable resource to the organizations. Not only does every member contribute a predetermined set of dues and fees, but every member is capable of providing a labor in one way or another.

Fraternities utilize these fit young men; not only to do well in sporting events or Greek Week activities as seen above, but they were vital in a variety of well organized philanthropic events such as telethons, blood drives, “bike-a-thons” and many more.

However, these events were much more than purely philanthropic; they were self serving as well. Often, Fraternities would host events that were quite profitable for their own frat. In cases such as that, the members were working for the monetary benefit of their own fraternity.

The fact is, every Brother or Sister is a vital resource. Fraternities and Sororities are unique organizations in that they have an eager workforce at hand for almost any occasion, except this workforce is free to use. In fact, technically the workforce itself even pays the organization for the opportunity to provide labor through various fees and dues.

So the question becomes how can one Fraternity or sorority stand out from the rest in order to obtain a larger free workforce? The solution is for the fraternity to be as entertaining as possible. Having fun is a critical aspect in this equation. If the greek life wasn’t appealing, then nobody would participate in it (let alone pay the expenses for it!)

Therefore: throwing parties and cookouts, (and basically anything enjoyable), becomes an unofficial requirement in the success of most fraternities. This is evident in nearly every issue of The Breeze as more and more fraternities post an increasingly larger number of announcements with progressively better quality fun activities.

However, let it be clear that many fraternities are strictly nonprofit. But even the nonprofit fraternities abide by the simple logic presented above. All fraternities have financial obligations, therefore they must still raise money for themselves.

Although the above analysis may make it appear that fraternities are capable of being somewhat money-hungry workcamps, they are often never viewed in that light. That is simply because the members are able to truly enjoy themselves. Working all night at a telethon or blood drive suddenly becomes so much more appealing when the organization you are in provides you with 4 years worth of entertainment and a lifetime of memories. A sense of brotherhood comes directly from the fun activities that the members of the fraternity experience together. So as long as fraternities maintain an enjoyable environment, the organizations will continue to have volunteer workers in order to keep their fraternity running. As Debbie Crocker and Terri Follini state it in the November 25, 1975 issues of The Breeze, “Brotherhood makes the fraternity what it is, but no one will accept Brotherhood as a downpayment for a house.”