Razorbacks show strength during pandemic

By Elizabeth Muscari, University of Arkansas News

The University of Arkansas is home to one of the nation’s largest Greek communities, and throughout its time on campus, it has continued to dominate as one of the main epicenters for diverse philanthropic and scholastic programming.

Parice Bowser, director of Greek Life, is proud of her Greeks. “We have always been a resilient community with a passion for bettering our members and Fayetteville,” she stated.

This year, that resilience was certainly tested.

Normally, a fall semester for the Greek community is jam-packed with activity. The community hosts events such as annual recruitment weeks, National Hazing Prevention Week, It’s On Us Week, which spreads awareness for sexual assault, and countless philanthropy projects.

When COVID-19 hit, Bowser knew fall 2020 would look different than years past. Nonetheless, she felt confident the Greek community would continue to thrive and impact the U of A.  

With all hands-on deck, the Greek Life staff along with its student leaders continued planning this summer to offer a vibrant fraternity and sorority life experience — in person, hybrid, or virtual. 

 “Our staff knew there would be challenges, so our main goal has been to develop safe and impactful educational programs and service opportunities that could have a positive impact on our campus and community,” Assistant Director Zachary Littrell added.

U of A Greek Life did exactly that.  

Since August 3, the entire U of A Greek Life staff has worked in office to show a presence beyond the screen, as well as ensure programs/events went well.  

Greek Life has welcomed an unprecedented number of 2,144 new members from all four councils. Today, Greek Life has over 7,400 students which is their largest membership number to date.

Additionally, they hosted a whopping total of 1,000 events, including signature programs in safe virtual capacities. This included the annual risk management program “Keeping It Real,” that attracted nearly 1,694 new member participants. Greek Life and its chapters also hosted 229 in person events on and off campus.

Councils also had both new and annual events in virtual settings. National Pan-Hellenic hosted a Mental Health forum to help members navigate pandemic and school stress. The Panhellenic Council led an Instagram campaign featuring voter registration resources and deadline reminders to aid members in preparing for the election. To discuss cultural appropriation in preparation for Halloween, United Greek Council facilitated their annual Culture Not a Costume program with a variety of speakers from campus offices. Finally, the Interfraternity Council & Panhellenic Council launched an implicit bias programming series for their members.

Perhaps one of the community’s biggest challenges, however, was finding safe and creative ways to maintain an important Greek tradition: service.

“Community service and philanthropy is such a big part of Greek Life. We go out into the community to make a difference and our organizations certainly have the influence to do that,” said Khalil Buckmire, president of National Pan-Hellenic Council.

Chapters and councils alike organized events to assist a wide array of philanthropies and service opportunities. The Panhellenic Council’s chapters hosted service events such as Delta Gamma’s braille workshop to write holiday cards for the visually impaired. From the National Pan-Hellenic Council, brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. collected can goods which supported Life Source International. From the United Greek Council, Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha Inc. coordinated a raffle giveaway to assist their philanthropy, One Heartland. Finally, the Interfraternity Council’s Pi Kappa Alpha brotherhood partnered with Fayetteville’s Evergreen Cemetery to help clean up the property and plant new trees.

Many chapters planned in person sisterhood and brotherhood events which included drive in move nights, pumpkin carving, miniature golf, game night, initiation, etc. These events were designed to accommodate small groups and held in multiple shifts to allow more member participation.

“These events have made a big difference,” said John Wilson, president of Interfraternity Council. “The fact that we have been able to achieve new feats in a semester that has been so difficult just proves how influential our community is!”

This fall, chapters raised well over $50,000 collectively for various philanthropies including but not limited to breast cancer awareness and research, literacy, and sponsorships for children fighting critical illness.

U of A Greek Life often uses the phrase “Four Councils, One Community” to describe their mission. Bowser saw this saying in motion throughout this semester. She explained, “It’s more important than ever that we band together as one community to provide programs and service that leave a legacy. This year has been challenging for everyone, but we have made the most of it and persevered because that is just who we are as Razorbacks and Greeks!”

For more information on University of Arkansas Greek Life, visit https://uagreeks.uark.edu.