Benefit events are typically framed to be appropriate for those whom they are intended to serve. At their philanthropy event Thursday to raise money for the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, the sorority Delta Phi Epsilon decided to serve something else.
“Join the women of Delta Phi Epsilon for a night full of unlimited pulled pork, mac and cheese, salad, cookies and pictures!” read the first line of the benefit’s description on CrowdChange, an online fundraising platform.
When I first read this sentence I did a double-take to make sure I hadn’t accidentally navigated to the event page of a country club birthday party and to confirm that this was in fact a charity event to raise awareness of eating disorders.
The sisters of Delta Phi Epsilon did a double-take of their own when I informed them of my decision to write an article about their fundraiser. Hours after I left their house, the event description on CrowdChange was altered to exclude the above sentence, presumably in a panicked attempt at damage control.
I don’t want to shroud this event with negativity or detract too much focus from its ultimate mission, which was laudable. The initial description, while absent-minded, was likely just an oversight on the part of its planners. Obviously, they were trying to raise money and awareness for an under-discussed and stigmatized cause.
The quiet change indicates that the members did not want to publicly acknowledge the mistake, which reveals their insecurity regarding the branding.
But this dishonesty is a poor indictment on Delta Phi Epsilon. A cover-up, even one of comparatively small size, was unnecessary. Apology and accountability would have resolved the controversy surrounding the event.
DPhiE chapter president Mikayla Smith said the description’s original language was not meant to over-emphasize the food element of the event.
“The way that the chapter branded the event was as a benefit dinner with the main focus being on the photo booth and the candlelight vigil that we will have at the end of the night," she said. "It was not our intent to brand the event as an all-you-can-eat buffet."
Yet the way the sorority advertised this event was a confusing, tone-deaf blunder that many found insensitive. Smith told me several DPhiE members had struggled with either eating disorders or body dysmorphia, but I didn't ask if any were were available to speak.
Presumably, any DPhiE sisters who have battled eating disorders would have protested if they thought the event was offensive in nature, and their approval of the event would further attest to the its good intentions.
But the clumsy handling of this otherwise innocent fundraiser was distasteful. Imagine a charity event for paraplegics that featured a squatting contest, or a benefit for the blind headlined by a silent film.
A bit of tactfulness is all that the survivors, along with the rest of us, ask.
Carter Cooley (he/him) is a junior studying political science. After graduating he plans to go into political campaign management.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this column misidentified the president of the Delta Phi Epsilon chapter at IU. The president of DPhiE at IU is Mikayla Smith. A previous version of this column was also unclear about who was available for comment. The writer did not ask if any DPhiE members who have lived with eating disorders were available to speak. The IDS regrets these errors.