Although fun often accompanies groups of college students huddled by a blazing bonfire on a weekend night, the importance of this night was not held lightly in the minds of the students gathered outside of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house Friday, Feb. 22.
While the house loomed in the background as an oasis of warmth against the dark, chilly night air, the nearly 50 members of the University of Maine’s oldest fraternity remained determined to promote the cause of rape prevention and counseling while trying to also shift the stereotypes that often come on the heels of the word fraternity.
“People give frats a bad rap,” said Blake Hotchkiss, the public relations and philanthropy chair for the fraternity. “A fraternity is really an organization of men working towards a common goal.”
Beta Theta Pi’s goal this weekend was to raise money and awareness for the Rape Response Services of Bangor by hosting the annual Beta Sleepout. According to Hotchkiss, Rape Response works on a tight budget and is always very grateful for the men’s help.
“We began planning [for this sleep out] back in September, but it is worth the effort when we get to present the check to Rape Response Services,” Justin Vincent, a fourth year business major, said.
All of Beta’s active members, both those living in the house and those who do not, were locked out of house and home from 6 p.m. Friday until 6 a.m. Saturday, and were not allowed to leave the fraternity’s property during that time.
The brothers also decided to forgo tents, instead spending the whole night “bear to the wind” with only cardboard box shelters, Hotchkiss, a second year nursing major, said.
“Having the sleepout now makes it a more symbolic event,” Hotchkiss said. “We could do it in the summer and sleep on beach blankets, but [holding it in the winter] makes it more challenging. More risqu�.”
The brothers were not left to freeze by themselves. The whole community was invited to attend the event, and many of UMaine’s sororities showed up to show their support and make donations to Rape Response. People leaving the hockey game at nearby Alfond Arena were also encouraged to stop by the house.
“[The sleepout] is held on the night of a hockey game to try and get passerbys to check it out,” Hotchkiss said. “In the past that has helped us raise a lot of money.”
Last year Beta raised $1,276 for Rape Response Services and the brothers hoped to double that amount this year. The money is raised through donations, selling raffle tickets and soliciting businesses for donations of money and prizes.
This was Beta’s eighth sleep out in 10 years and the brothers are happy about the tradition they are building.
“Rape Response is something we caught onto because they have a really tight budget and we want to do something to better the local community,” Hotchkiss said. “We like supporting a cause that most people think a fraternity would not usually support.”