Across the country, college fraternities and sororities are staging unusual events. Instead of attracting attention to themselves, they're attracting dollars -- for African famine relief. When University of Arizona senior Steve McCarley and a few fraternity friends hit on the idea of using campus Greek organizations to raise money, they were venturing into uncharted territory. For the past several weeks, a coordinated nationwide effort has sparked interest among a segment of the population known more for social activity than for social activism.
``We expected more difficulty than we've had,'' notes Mr. McCarley, who is majoring in communications and a member of Sigma Nu. ``It's going surprisingly well; people are giving it 100 percent. It's exciting!''
McCarley says that $10,000 was raised at an Arizona campus talent show. In addition, individual fraternity houses did their own projects. One fraternity contracted with a large trucking company, washed their trucks, and donated the proceeds.
At the start of the 1984-85 school year, 83 fraternities and sororities and their nearly 7,600 chapters launched the United Fraternities and Sororities Against Famine (UFSAF). The group represents approximately half a million students on 650 United States campuses.
``I have a delegate from every fraternity house,'' boasts Erik Stroman, a member of San Diego State's Delta Upsilon fraternity.
DePauw University's Carol Pontius, president of the Panhellenic Council, observes that the Indiana university has a tradition of supporting missionary work in Africa and Central America. ``Most of our students are already keyed in mentally to helping other people.''
Delta Zeta member Diane Rooney, at the University of Rochester, helped pull together a loose-change door-to-door solicitation, as well as a campus-wide can-and-bottle recycling drive. She comments, ``I think it will happen again next year because people were very excited about it.''
McCarley and his associate Jeff Rovner have catalogued: dances; car, boat, and plane washes; recycling drives; and other activities in the steady stream of responses to their request for participation.
Making changes in how people think about fraternities and sororities is an added benefit to helping ease the famine, McCarley points out. Philanthropy among Greek organizations on the local level is common, ``but most of what people hear about us is negative -- you never hear about the fraternity that raises $10,000'' for medical research.
``I think it [famine relief] will become a permanent thing for us,'' McCarley adds, pointing out the growing interest the project has generated. ``How can I tell? The excitement level shows it.''