From the Daily: The Mud Bowl must go on

Sunday, October 4, 2015 - 2:43pm

The annual Mud Bowl is a time-honored tradition valued by the University's Greek life community. However, this year’s tournament is in peril after the Interfraternity Council threatened sanctions to any fraternity that participates, as doing so would violate a policy that prohibits IFC fraternities from participating in events with so-called "rogue fraternities."

Sigma Alpha Epsilon — the host of the game for more than 80 years — is considered to be "rogue" after being de-recognized by the IFC four years ago and for having its charter revoked by its national organization over the summer for repeated unruly behavior, such as a stabbing at a Halloween party in 2013 and numerous other health and safety issues. Given this reputation, students should understand the risks of participating, but the recent decision by the Office of Greek Life and the IFC to effectively attempt to end the event is an overreach into private student affairs.

Now organizing under the “Flying Eagles,” the former members of SAE have planned for the charity event to continue, and it should. The Mud Bowl is a cornerstone of philanthropic events on this campus, having generated over $100,000 for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital over the past five years alone. It would be a shame to lose that contribution.

It is beyond any doubt that the Mud Bowl has been, and always will be, associated with the University’s chapter of SAE — a new, avian-inspired name can’t change that. However, if the members of the defunct chapter organize the event independently, then the tournament’s nominal and official connection to Greek life is broken. As long as there is absolutely no mention of the event using the name “SAE,” then there can be no official connection drawn by the Office of Greek Life and the IFC. If the participating teams, most likely other fraternities, also avoid participating under the names of their respective organizations, then the event effectively becomes one that isn’t part of Greek life at all. That should render any sanctions by the IFC ineffective, since it obviously has no jurisdiction over non-Greek groups. An attempt to overstep this jurisdiction to forestall the Mud Bowl is a clear violation of students' individual rights, since the University has no control over the philanthropic events of private individual parties.

Beginning with the mass Greek life meeting in September, there has been a host of publicity devoted to the administration’s mission to tame troubling trends within Greek community, such as high rates of sexual assault and binge drinking. Therefore, it is concerning that of all things, the Mud Bowl — a relatively harmless, extensively planned charity event — would lead to the University’s first tangible action this semester against Greek life’s behavior.

This isn’t to say, though, the “Flying Eagles” can be lax regarding safety. Since this event will now be held with no University affiliation at all, it is imperative that the “Flying Eagles” be as transparent as possible when it comes to details and policies to ensure the community’s trust. Thus far they have been, having made clear that safety measures will be put in place, including a risk management policy, insurance and hired security.

Furthermore, the group occupying SAE’s former chapter house should consider opening the event to teams made up of non-Greek members. Not only would this potentially increase donations, but it would also help unite the student body around a football tournament that was previously reserved for one-fifth of the school. Ultimately, assuming the interest is there, it is events like these that can potentially start bridging the gap between the Greek and non-Greek communities. Efforts like that should be endorsed, not threatened by sanctions.