Forgetting the ladies: How the SGA and IFC tailgate system disenfranchised half the student body

By Alicia McElhaney

Photo by Lillian Braun

Photo by Lillian Braun

When the Student Government Association and Interfraternity Council started brainstorming ways make game day tailgates safer and less disruptive to College Park residents last year, the solution seemed simple—to move the tailgates on campus.

Residents of College Park and surrounding areas responded well—less tailgates meant less 8 a.m. mayhem every Saturday, and even less after-game partying.

“This year we’ve found there’s been a real diminishment in noise,” John Rigg, president of the Calvert Hill Citizen’s Association said. “The university has found a way that we can live together with students in harmony.”

Despite the initiative finding success in College Park residents, the SGA and IFC forgot to include one vital group in their tailgates – the women.

The current tailgating system supplies fraternities with wristbands—two per brother, one for themselves and one for a guest—they can distribute to sorority members or even friends. For most fraternities, if there are extra wristbands, they share with their sister sorority.

“Ultimately, fraternities are responsible for anyone wearing the wristbands,” Zach Cohen, junior finance major and president of ZBT said.

Unfortunately for women, they are unable to attend tailgates without the help of a male. That isn’t, though, just by design. Thanks to the national Panhellenic Association, no sorority is allowed to sponsor an event that has alcohol, tailgates included.

“The Panhellenic Association won’t put their name on and sponsor an event that has alcohol,” junior journalism major and sorority member Jess Stein said. “That’s why we’re not allowed to have our own wristbands. To a degree, it makes sense.”

Despite national Greek association rules, there is no doubt that the current tailgate system is disenfranchising women, and not just those outside of Greek life.

Senior environmental science major, Lauren Kemper, a former sorority member who disaffiliated, said she thought the current system was disgusting.

Access to wristbands is low even inside the Greek system, Stein said.

“I haven’t received a wristband from a fraternity this semester, so I’ve had to scrounge around for them,” Stein said. She added that her sorority has 145 members, making it much larger than many fraternities on campus, and thus making it more difficult to find wristbands.

Senior government major TJ Freedberg, philanthropy chair of her sorority, said she has also had trouble finding wristbands.

“I think it’s terrible,” Freedberg said. “Girls have to go seek out a guy that they know, or go through boyfriend’s friends to get a wristband. “

She added the women in her sorority have not been attending tailgates as often since the SGA and IFC’s initiative.

While unpacking the gender inclusiveness – or lack thereof – of the current Greek life system could take days, it’s clear that the tailgate system is at the forefront of these problems. Promoting social reliance on men to sorority members and to those outside of Greek life is, to use Stein’s words, “very anti-feminist.”

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Both Cohen and Freedberg suggested distributing the wristbands to sororities as well as fraternities, though both struggled to find a logistical way around the PHA rules.

PHA would not be able to sponsor the event. However, if the IFC distributed the wristbands directly to sororities, women in sororities would still be able to participate fairly without relying on men.

Freedberg added that the wristbands should not include the name of which fraternity distributed them, as to take away some of the specific affiliation that goes on at the tailgates.

Kemper said she thought the IFC and SGA should consider holding tailgates for students in the same way they do for adults —for a certain fee, students could tailgate on their own, without being affiliated to an organization.

“I’m sure they’re not just giving male alumni wristbands to give to their wives and children,” Kemper said.

Taking it a step further, the SGA and IFC should consider hosting tailgates that are not limited to those in Greek life, especially because Greek life can force gender binary values at a school where many students identify outside of these standards.

“It needs to be more accessible to everyone,” Stein said. “My freshman year I got to go to tailgates. Now it’s almost impossible for freshman and people outside of Greek life to go.”

“The frustrating part of the current system is that it’s not only guys, but frat guys,” she said. “You have to have a connection to Greek life to be a part of the tailgate.”

Cohen agreed, though added that the Greek life tailgate could be separate from the other student ones, as to promote friendship between fraternities and sororities.

“It’s a great opportunity to have everyone together in a big place and to make it to the game,” Cohen said. “If they opened up big student tailgates, that would be fun.”

Correction: This story listed TJ Freedberg as social chair of her sorority. She is the philanthropy chair.

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4 responses to “Forgetting the ladies: How the SGA and IFC tailgate system disenfranchised half the student body

  1. A few clarifications:
    1. There have been non greek specific tailgates in the works for months, the greek tailgates were created in part to test what would be necessary for a much larger student tailgate.
    2. The powers that be would not allow a fraternity to overtly hand over a stack of wristbands to a sorority because national PHA would step in and punish the women who attend
    3. The rational behind giving each fraternity different wristbands is to allow them to hold their members and guests accountable. Self policing is much more effective (and desirable) than having the police come in and start citing people.

    I understand the frustration but this article does a very poor job of actually explaining why the tailgates are the way they are. Outside of John Rigg, the only people who are quoted in the article are members of greek life. All that would have been necessary is to talk to someone from SGA, University Athletics, and UMPD.

  2. I could really rip into this article, but will refuse to. Quite frankly, if you want to tailgate and can’t get into the ifc tailgate maybe you should join Greek life. If you are in a sorority amd xant get in, stop relying on men to provide you with alcohol and takr the risk of supplying for you. You want feminism, hold your own damn tailgate in lot 11 and encounter the struggles associated.

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