The Interfraternity Council has stepped in center stage to save UCSB’s classic Fight Night – minus the ring girls.
Pi Kappa Alpha’s Fight Night came under siege a few weeks ago after the university sanctioned the fraternity for risk management violations. However, swooping in to save the philanthropic event were IFC President Henry Lindemann and Vice President of Risk Management JP Primeau who appeared before A.S. Finance Board’s packed meeting yesterday to request $23,775 for Fight Night, and received $19,625, promising to tone down the graphic nature of the event, including the popular ring girls.
Only one hurdle remains for the IFC to save the philanthropic event – the organization now needs approval from Director of Greek Affairs Stephan Franklin and Events Center Director Gary Lawrence.
The event, a 15-year UCSB tradition, generally fills the Thunderdome to capacity with about 5,000 fans. Last year, it generated approximately $10,000 for the Say Yes to Kids Foundation at Primo Boxing Club Inc.
“It’s great because we needed it so bad,” Say Yes to Kids Director Joe Pommier said of Fight Night being reinstated. “We’re on kind of a shoestring budget, and it’s free to the kids. Without the program there are a lot of kids that are left out of the program to hang out in the street with nothing to do.”
Because it received the finance board funding, the IFC event will need to cover fewer costs than in previous years, and thus will be able to contribute $10,000 to $15,000 more to charity this year. Also, the IFC will ask each fraternity and sorority in the greek system to donate $250 to offset expenses.
At yesterday’s finance board meeting, several audience members, mainly from student group Take Back the Night, decried the event’s alleged promotion of “rape culture” and gratuitous violence, and suggested the board reconsider funding. Specifically, they said the traditional use of ring girls, who parade around and dance in the ring in between rounds and fights, is sexist and demeaning to women.
However, Lindemann, a third-year global studies major, and Primeau, a second-year business economics and biological sciences major said that this year Fight Night will not feature ring girls, who are generally recruited from the ranks of UCSB sororities. This change may make the match more palatable to university authorities, they said.
“They have always been a contentious point with the university,” Lindemann said of the ring girls.
In their place, the IFC will contact university-sanctioned groups such as the UCSB dance team and cheerleaders in order to lend additional credibility to the controversial entertainment.
Third-year psychology major Sara Matthiesen was one of several women who attended the meeting to express concern with the sexual nature of the ring girls and the violence of the event. After learning ring girls would not be a part of the show, Matthiesen said she was still opposed to cheerleaders or the dance team performing, as the close association of “sexualized entertainment” with boxing rounds forges a link between sex and violence.
“Having sexualized entertainment so close to the violent act of boxing does promote rape culture, which we’re trying to combat on campus,” Matthiesen said.
Primeau said IFC would consult students to alleviate such concerns.
“It’s about working with these groups to make sure the event is friendly to all university students,” Primeau said.
While PIKE usually runs the boxing match, UCSB Greek Affairs suspended the fraternity Fall Quarter for risk management violations. According to PIKE President Tyler Stauss, the suspension occurred because of an incident in which members tagged the house of another fraternity.
The suspension of the event provoked much community outrage because of Fight Night’s philanthropic nature.
A.S. President Jared Goldschen, who is a member of the greek system, facilitated IFC’s request for funds. He said PIKE approached him to see whether finance board could fund the event.
“I said ‘We can make this happen,'” Goldschen said. “‘But we have to take PIKE’s name off.’ [PIKE’s suspension] was intended to punish a particular fraternity, but also punished students and hurt philanthropy.”
Goldschen said his main motivation in helping get the event funded was that it is important to the student body.
“I didn’t want to see a big, 4,500 person Events Center event shut down because of a single entity,” Goldschen said.