Sigma Chi’s Good Ol’ Derby Days

Meg Savin

Derby Days. Love it or hate it, it’s that time of year again. Sigma Chi’s annual fundraiser will begin Friday, April 1 and run through Wednesday April 6. Groups comprised of 15-20 females will face off throughout the week in a variety of competitions from tug-o-war to karaoke at the Palace Theater to a football toss, as well as attend parties at the Sigma Chi house.”We will be having an opening party on Friday that will be catered to kick off the week. Saturday is the annual Field Day. Then on Wednesday Danger Boy will be performing at the House and we will announce the winner,” senior Sigma Chi Brother Pat Kosiek said. Each team member has pre-registered with the fraternity and contributed a $25. Kosiek explained that this year the money raised will be divided between the Duke University Medical Center in memory of Franklin Day, a Sigma Chi member from the class of 2001 who died of Leukemia, and the other half will go to the family of Jacob Lamb, a student at Hamilton High School who is currently undergoing treatment in New York City. “We like to give back to the local merchants because they sponsor many of our events. Last year $4,000 went to the Duke University Medical Center and two separate donations of $2,000 went to local single mother households,” Kosiek said.The history of this event dates all the way back to the spring of 1933. The Alpha Beta Chapter at the University of California-Berkley sponsored a series of humorous skits on campus and named the event the “Channingway Derby.” After hearing news of this the Beta Sigma Chapter at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville held the first-ever Derby Days where new member groups of nine sororities competed in track and field events on campus on November 1, 1935. As many as 1,000 spectators showed up to watch the games.Seventy years later, Colgate’s Sigma Chi Chapter is preparing for the start of the games. This year there have been rumors of major changes taking place. According to Director of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs Kelly Opipari, the administration wants to be sure that the chapter’s activities are in accordance with its mission statement. “Every year we always want to improve the program,” Opipari said. “We want to be sure that the event is in line with the values of the organization.” She explained that she has worked with the Chapter to implement the changes.Derby Days has recently received much negative attention. There have been complaints that the weeklong activities are a means of exploiting participants and that the events can easily turn into one which sexually objectifies women. The chapter has acknowledged this on a national level and Colgate is hoping that positive changes will put the focus back on the main purpose of the program, which is community service. Junior Meg Lyons, a member of Colgate’s Panhellenic Association, commented on the effects of the purposed changes for this spring. “Hopefully the changes taking place will spark an interest and there will be a greater focus on service,” Lyons said.Kosiek explained that the chapter worked with the Panhellenic Association to make the changes that they felt were necessary. “The biggest change is really in the scoring system,” Kosiek said. “Each event is worth a specific amount of points and we have clearly laid that out. At the start of each day scores will be posted and there will also be a web site posting. The biggest complaint in the past has been that the scoring system is ambiguous. We are working to make it clearer this year.” Kosiek further reiterated that most of the complaints have come from those who do not participate. “Participation has gone up over the past three years,” he said. “If people were unhappy with the event we wouldn’t see this trend.”With a slightly revised plan and hopes to focus on the event’s philanthropic cause, let the games begin!