On Pierce lawn on Wednesday, Nov 14, UCR’s Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) raised 1,611 cans in partnership with many of their counterpart sorority organizations during their canned foods drive. IFC is a coalition of nine fraternities who organized this event to, in the words of Ali Anwar, president of Phi Kappa Sigma, “make a positive impact on the Riverside community.”

Anwar said that these cans go to Second Harvest Food Bank, where they will be distributed among Riverside’s underprivileged neighborhoods during the holiday season. He continued by saying that in addition to the food donations, IFC is also working with an anonymous private philanthropist in order to make 15 personalized gift baskets, complete with children’s toys and cash donations.

As I perused from one fraternity’s letters and couches to another’s passing food vendors and other miscellaneous booths, I wondered how UCR students are really making a difference during this month of November, a month that is supposed to center on giving thanks. After two interviews and a few minutes, all I could hear was the overbearing screeching of lead guitar from ASPB’s bands for their Wednesday Nooners.

So I asked this of Julius Dorfman, a brother from the fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha, who agreed that one of the most prevalent things about fraternities on the campuses they inhabit are the negative stereotypes about them. So in philanthropic events like these, it helps to combat that reputation. I pressed further and asked if he thought those negative stereotypes were deserved.

“Honestly,” Dorfman said, “that’s not really the case anymore, especially not on this campus… and it helps to do things like this and give to the less fortunate.”

“So, do you plan on having more canned food drives?” I asked.

“We definitely do plan on doing this again,” Dorfman said. He continued in earnest, “And hopefully, next time, we’ll be able to raise even more cans.”

Testing this fraternity’s philanthropic depths, I asked, “How else do you serve the community?”

“We do various things,” Dorfman said. For example “A lot of men came out here recently.” He was referring to the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event hosted by UCR’s very own Women’s Resource Center and the sorority Alpha Chi Omega just recently on Sunday Oct. 21, which raised awareness of acquaintance rape and sexual assault. He motioned to the quad and continued, “[They] put on high heels and walked around the bell tower. It was like a metaphor, brought into like a physicality.”

“How else do you serve?” I asked.

Dorfman brought to light his fraternity’s tradition of cleaning up Linden street, just off of University. “And also we just had the Fireman’s Challenge, where we actually raised over $1,600 for Riverside County’s fire department… and we’re going to be having that every year.” I felt that this brought me much closer to answering my most pressing question: can UCR students truly make a difference?

I was still being inundated by overbearing, whaling classic rock licks, when I spotted Assistant Vice Chancellor Susan Allen Ortega inspecting the donations and talking with some of the event coordinators. I stepped aside with Ortega and had an exceptionally loud conversation with her over the ambient Nooner musical distractions.

She told me how UCR “is very supportive of student philanthropy. And obviously, you know, we have distinction for the degree philanthropy our students do.”

UCR has been ranked number one in student participation in service activities in the nation by the Washington Post. This is an undoubtedly big deal. Having so many fraternities, sororities, and other campus organizations dedicated to community service, UCR students are in a unique position to do good works. Students are getting with the service oriented spirit of November. Giving back to the community and donating to those in need can inspire other students to join a group on campus dedicated to doing the kinds of good works that they might want to support, and make a difference.

This goes a long way in answering my question. If UCR’s student body is nationally renowned for our philanthropic endeavors, and our fraternities, sororities and other campus clubs and groups are truly dedicated to serving the community and those in need, then I’m left with a resounding yes! Yes, as UCR students we can all find a way to give of ourselves and honestly make a difference.