WPA reinstates support of Sigma Chi Derby Days philanthropy (UPDATED)

Fraternity cancels brotherhood auction, hat exchange after complaints

Student Life Staff

Update Friday, April 22, 4:30 p.m.: 

After pulling support for fraternity Sigma Chi’s “Derby Days” on Thursday, the Women’s Panhellenic Association is now encouraging sororities to participate in the philanthropy week. The reversal, outlined in a joint statement on Friday, follows the fraternity’s cancellation of events deemed inconsistent with Greek values.

“[Women’s Panhellenic Association (WPA)] is pleased that Sigma Chi took swift action to address concerns raised by members of the Panhellenic community that were highlighted in WPA’s original statement. Sigma Chi immediately changed much of their philanthropy week,” the statement reads.

In addition to canceling the brotherhood auction and eliminating the hat exchange, Sigma Chi will now allow all members of the Washington University community to attend its Friday barbecue and will reorganize its flag football event so that fraternities, as well as sororities, may also compete.

With these changes, the WPA will continue to work with Sigma Chi and other Greek organizations in improving inclusivity for future philanthropic events.

“Sigma Chi and WPA would like to take this as an opportunity to open up further channels of dialogue about philanthropy on campus,” the statement reads. “Together moving forward, we hope to encourage inclusive and responsible philanthropic efforts on campus.”

Update Thursday, April 21, 9:30 p.m.: “Sigma Chi has approached Women’s Panhellenic Association to address the concerns with their philanthropy week. Moving forward, the organizations are working together to restructure the week,” WPA Vice President of Philanthropy and Community Service Jackie Feldman and Sigma Chi President Matt Kollada told Student Life in an official joint statement issued by WPA and Sigma Chi.

Original story:

Changes are coming to the latter half of the ongoing Derby Days philanthropy week, after the Women’s Panhellenic Association announced that it was condemning certain activities associated with the week.

Derby Days is a national, annual event hosted by Sigma Chi fraternity, with proceeds from the Washington University chapter this year being earmarked for the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Sororities generally participate in the week by competing to earn “votes,” or points, from the fraternity through activities such as signing a Sigma Chi brother’s T-shirt and playing in a Powder Puff football game.

But in a statement released Thursday, Panhel declared that it considers certain aspects of the week sexist and exclusionary, and it encouraged its nine member organizations to cease participation with the rest of the Derby Days activities. In response, Sigma Chi leaders decided to cancel the activities Panhel had deemed questionable.

“Derby Days does not align with our community values, and we therefore ask that sorority chapters evaluate their participation in the event,” the Panhel statement reads.

Panhel specifically took issue with the Derby Days brotherhood auction event—in which attendees could purchase dates with Sigma Chi brothers, and which was originally scheduled for Thursday evening—and the exchange of special hats throughout the week, for which sorority members could earn points for their chapters.

“Philanthropy events should either raise money or raise awareness, and many of the activities of Derby Days do neither,” the Panhel statement reads. “We do not believe that doing laundry and buying brothers food in exchange for a hat, or auctioning off brothers are events that support raising awareness for the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

“We also believe that these events are sexist, as the competition of getting points throughout the week forces sorority women to compete with one another, and certain methods to earn points encourage traditional gender roles that assume women are responsible for things like feeding men or doing their laundry.”

Other Greek philanthropy weeks at the University typically involve both fraternity and sorority participants, with some reaching out to non-Greek students, as well. Because Derby Days only involves sororities, Panhel wrote, it does not fit with the group’s belief that “programming must be responsible and inclusive for our whole community.”

Panhel also wrote that for any sorority chapter that chose to cease participation with Derby Days, the sorority organizing body would donate $100 directly to the Huntsman institute.

In response, Sigma Chi leadership noted in a statement on the event’s Facebook page that the group would be canceling the auction and the hat exchange in light of student concerns.

“While these two components of Derby Days were merely intended to foster excitement and raise money for our philanthropy…we understand that these two aspects of Derby Days are problematic,” the statement reads.

“Disrespecting others is not a part of our value system nor what our chapter stands for,” junior Matt Kollada, president of Sigma Chi, wrote in a post on the event page.

More details to come as the story continues to develop.

With contributions by Zach Kram, Aaron Brezel and Sam Seekings.

Editor’s Note: Editor-in-Chief Noa Yadidi is a member of Delta Gamma and Associate Editor Wesley Jenkins is a candidate of Beta Theta Pi. They were not involved in the reporting or editing of this story.