Forced attendance undermines Relay’s charitability

Another year, another wildly successful Relay for Life. This year, the Geneseo community managed to raise over $126,000, shattering the set goal of $100,000. Knowing that Greek organizations are forced to participate, however, it is hard to take that figure at face value. Geneseo’s Inter-Greek Council requires at least 50 percent of each Greek organization to attend Relay. If the organization fails to achieve 50 percent attendance, it is fined the cost of registration for each member under the mark. Consequently, Greek organizations are highly visible at Relay and their mandatory registration fees comprise a hearty amount of the event’s total take. Clearly, this system has been effective in raising a significant amount of money during Relay. But does it come at the expense of the integrity of the event?

Relay for Life’s mission – beyond raising money – is to show solidarity for anyone who has been affected by cancer. If that solidarity is coming substantially from organizations that face a financial penalty for not attending, how legitimate is their support?

The forced attendance of Greeks reveals the event’s highest priority – raising money. It is surely a benevolent cause and you would be hard-pressed to find someone who is against raising money for cancer research.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to simply ask for a donation from each organization and allow them to get involved with the event itself at their own discretion? There are several Greek organizations that do go above and beyond at Relay for Life. Their contributions are not mandated by the school, but rather are organic gestures of kindness and goodwill. The attendance requirement presupposes absenteeism from Greek organizations, many of which exist at least in part to undertake community service projects.

As for the organizations that are only there to avoid financial penalty, what exactly is the benefit of their presence – registration fees aside? Forcing hundreds of students to be somewhere they do not want to be on the weekend is a recipe for disaster no matter how you look at it.

As soon as you force community service on someone, it stops being service and becomes a punishment – ask anyone who has ever completed court-mandated community service. In this case, it is a preemptive punishment in that it assumes Greek organizations will not participate unless forced to.

As long as Relay’s fundraising totals continue to rise, however, the system will be deemed successful and nothing will change. Ultimately, that’s what the policy exists to serve – Relay for Life’s bottom line.