Recently, UMass Amherst and the surrounding town have begun a crackdown on student partying and under-age drinking. Fraternities typically exacerbate these problems and the community shows no signs of encouraging their growth, or so it was thought.
In the spring of 2012, the town and school came together to put an end to the “Zoomass” stigma. Efforts to thwart student partying ensued. The PVTA, the area’s transit authority, detoured certain routes to known party areas during the last weekends of the semester. In conjunction with bus detours, police would be out in full force.
The UMass Police Department, Amherst Police, and state police all worked together to prevent rowdy parties and under-age drinking. With so many officers roaming the streets, especially high traffic, off-campus areas, would help minimize the number of violations and incarcerations that come with rowdy students.
With strict policies on partying and under-age drinking, the town and school is keeping a closer eye on the growing Greek community on campus. With movies like Animal House creating negative connotations towards fraternities, it’s understandable why fraternities are targeted for rowdy parties and under-age drinking. This isn’t always the case, though.
Meagan Tracey, a senior English major at UMass, agreed that fraternities at UMass do come with a reputation of nonstop partying and drinking. While she is not in the Greek system, she was quick to point out that plenty of fraternities do give back through service projects. Tracey also hoped that the new UMass Chancellor, Dr. Kumble Subbaswamy, as well as the Town of Amherst, would reach out to the fraternities and sororities on campus to lessen the complaints made against UMass party goers.
An inside look at fraternities at UMass shows that they do make the effort to give back instead of partying all the time. Timothy Silvernail, President of Phi Gamma Delta at UMass, claims that people (students and community members alike) tend to focus more on the negative aspect of fraternities rather than embracing the more positive attributes. For example, Phi Gamma Delta, also known as FIJI, has logged a total of 104 community service hours since the start of the fall 2012 semester. Silvernail looks forward to changing the image his fraternity, like all others on campus, suffer from.
However negative the image for fraternities at UMass is, there is a silver lining. The lining lies with the town officials. On October 22, 2012, Amherst held its Select Board Coffee Hour, an event in which town leaders and student leaders meet with goals of progress in mind.
Maura Plante, assistant director of the Amherst Senior Center, thought very highly of fraternities after the event. Fraternities to her are just another resource that she can tap in to for volunteers on the various projects that need to be taken care of. For instance, Plante found a service ally in FIJI, as contact information was exchanged in order to have volunteers from FIJI rake leaves for Amherst’s senior citizen homes.
Robert Morra, Amherst’s Building Commissioner, expressed similar views of the fraternities and sororities at UMass. This being his first year as Building Commissioner, Morra thought it best to inspect the fraternity and sorority houses along with his team of inspectors. Surprisingly, he noted, all the houses were in proper working order, if not with a few minor issues to be found.
It seems like the days of “Zoomass”may be drawing to a close, with fraternities working towards bettering their image and the school doing the same. Looking ahead, a mutually beneficial program might be on the horizon, in which town officials and Greek leaders work to better the community encircling the UMass campus.