Sunday street cleanup promotes relationship between fraternities and Amherst

By Sorelle Mbakop

(Kerry O'Connor/Daily Collegian)
(Kerry O’Connor/Daily Collegian)

In order to bridge the fraternities of the University of Massachusetts and the town of Amherst together, the Interfraternity Council sparked an initiative to clean up the streets of Amherst every Sunday last spring.

“(There’s) lot of misunderstanding between the town and the fraternities,” said Steven McCarthy, president of the Interfraternity Council and a member of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. He added the council saw the Sunday street cleanup could “show that (fraternities and sororities) cared about the community and wanted to give back.”

McCarthy said he also believes the cleanup could help break the stereotype that fraternities are, “negative influences that just go out and break things and do not contribute to the community.”

The fraternities have been actively trying to break these stereotypes for a year now. Every Sunday morning, about 150 to 200 members of mostly fraternities and some sororities at UMass meet in the Robsham Visitors Center parking lot to clean up the streets. According to Kyle Merchant, a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, the fraternities and sororities divide the dirtiest parts of campus or the dirtiest streets that surround the campus among themselves. They then go street to street throughout the Southwest and Northeast Residential Areas and pick up beer cans, paper and anything else that is considered trash.

“We are not just a bunch of kids that party,” Merchant said. “It is our way of showing that we also care for this school. (We want to show) the residents of Amherst that we really do care – we are just normal kids that are trying to have a good time and care for the environment that we are living in.”

Michael Esposito, vice president of community affairs for the Interfraternity Council and member of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, said the Sunday cleanups have created, “a measurable way to give back to the community on a regular basis. What is good for the town is good for us.”

Merchant said the cleanups allows people to get to “know other Greek life people” while “helping out the community.” He added that this makes the cleanup “a great combination of everything.”

Esposito said the cleanups are “something that continuously provides value to the community around us.”
Kevin Thompson, a member of Pi Kappa Phi, said the town has been very appreciative and knows they are “good guys” who are trying to do “good things.” McCarthy said they have had residents approach them to thank them for the weekly cleanups they do.

Yet so far, Thompson said that bridging the gap between the community and fraternities “is definitely a work in progress.” McCarthy added they “have not heard much from the students” but the administration is “glad” the fraternities and sororities are doing this because it shows “a more positive side of the UMass community.”

Sorelle Mbakop can be reached at [email protected]