Moratorium Placed on Philanthropic Eating Contests by Patrick Ryan

As of October, Student Development has placed a moratorium on all on-campus philanthropic eating contests, which most directly affects Villanova Greek Life.

Phil O’Neill, the Assistant Student Development Director for Greek Life, is currently in discussion with Director of Student Development Thomas Mogan, Campus Ministry, several fraternities, and the Office of Risk Management about the development of stringent guidelines for eating contests.

“If there was a policy, it would limit the amount of food consumed, it would have a service component, an educational component, and would have to go through a stringent approval process,” Phil O’Neill said about the evolving guidelines. Mr. O’Neill went on to say that various offices have had some issues with eating contests for the past few years, and that it was time to have a conversation about bridging these competitions with the University’s tenets of Veritas, Caritas and Unitas. “We want to bring together all stakeholders,” he exclaimed.

Currently, the policy is still facing liability issues, as the Office of Risk Management wants to make sure that Villanova will not have to face lawsuits if a contestant chokes on a piece of food. The moratorium was a response to a proposal by one of the fraternities of a “Watermelon Bust,” a contest which involves watermelon tossing and seed spitting. Phil O’Neill decided to organize a forum in October earlier this year, involving several fraternities, Campus Ministry and Student Development.

Craig Durrant, former Philanthropy Chair of Lambda Chi Alpha, responded that “there was a meeting with me, a few other philanthropy chairs, Phil O’Neill, Tom Mogan, and some people from Campus Ministry.” Some stakeholders raised two complaints: safety hazards and the conflict with the mission of Villanova University. As Durrant wrote in an electronic interview, “for instance, someone may choke while trying to eat chicken wings[W6] [W7] too fast.”

The Office of Risk Management did not comment.

As for the second complaint, “on the one hand, a fraternity holds a fundraiser in which hundreds of Oreos are consumed, but at the same time, another group on campus is trying to raise money for children who are starving,” said the former philanthropy chair.

The eating contests aim to collect money for charitable organizations, such as Philabundance and Habitat for Humanity. Mr. Durrant explained that the fraternities argued that these “food-based events help people who are in need, so in a sense, their ends justify their means.”

Campus Ministry would like to see a development of the University’s tenets in relation to Greek events and on-campus competitions. Jenna Cucco, the Campus Ministry Associate Director of Weekly Service, said that she is “really excited about the conversation.” “For me, it’s the question of what is the identity and the mission and the ministry of the university, and how do we live that out in different practices of our lives?” explained Ms. Cucco. “It’s not about how we limit what people do, but it’s really a creative opportunity to say, ‘Who do we see ourselves as?’”

Campus Ministry would like to see a greater service and awareness component added to the conversation, in addition to the philanthropy aspect.

As Mr. O’Neill continues to develop the guidelines within Student Development, philanthropic eating contests will remain on hold. We will report on the final guidelines, which Phil O’Neill hopes to complete by the spring.




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