Derby Days features more emphasis on philanthropy

This year's annual Derby Days fundraiser, organized by the Sigma Chi fraternity, placed a greater emphasis on the philanthropic value of the event than in previous years.

The changes came in response to concerns that last year's Derby Days fueled competitive conduct among the Inter-Sorority Council chapters and the sororities' desire to ensure compliance with national regulations.

ISC President Christina Valencia said the changes included switching the scavenger hunt and Mr. Derby Days pageant to a trivia night and a lip sync competition.

The event's tone also was impacted by its increased focus on philanthropy.

"Overall, the biggest changes were in the activities in that they were focused on the philanthropy aspect so that the houses could focus on coming together for a cause," Sigma Kappa President Katie Leavitt said.

Sigma Chi has made steps toward decreasing the atmosphere of rivalry by emphasizing entire chapter involvement as opposed to participation from the pledge class, according to Valencia.

"Hazing can be broadly defined as doing something as a group that others do not have to do, so scavenger hunts go against national policies," Valencia said. "We did not want any sororities to feel the pressure to partake in this activity."

She also cited the fact that sororities could no longer win points by buying Derby Days cups.

"If a house has a lot of money, this lends itself to the possibility that sisters with more money could spend more on things like that," Valencia said.

Other well-received changes included a change to the criteria for judging the final event, a dance competition among sororities.

"Sigma Chi provided an information packet so girls were more aware of the judging rubric for the dance routines," Leavitt said.

More emphasis was placed on creative costume and props as well as the judging criteria, which included categories such as choreography, entertainment value, costume and enthusiasm, said Brendan Flynn, philanthropy and Derby Days chair for Sigma Chi.

"We encouraged more choreographed routines in a Broadway style that would be more appropriate for everyone to enjoy," Flynn said.

Last year, the judges consisted of a variety of University students, but this year, Commerce School Dean Carl Zeithaml was invited for his impartiality.

Zeithaml said people at Saturday's event were having a good time and there was a lot of creativity and enthusiasm.

"Overall it was not that different from what you would see the Dance Team do at a basketball game, although some moments were PG-13," Zeithaml said.

Jill Raney, Allies of Women Attaining Knowledge and Enrichment president, said the event seemed like a lot of fun.

"I think that people expect feminists to decry these dances, but as long as it is not exploitative, most of us do not have a problem with it," Raney said.

Derby Days organizers said the event was a great success this year and they hope they will continue to receive input from the sororities to improve it in the future.

"We were overwhelmed by the participation and enthusiasm of every ISC sorority," Flynn said.

Although the amount of money raised for Derby Days has not yet been calculated, Flynn said he estimates his chapter came close to reaching its $10,000 goal.

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