A few years ago, Matt Szczur (class of 2011), like every other member of the football team since 1992, registered for the bone marrow registry. However, unlike most other players, Matt was a match, and his decision bore significant consequences: participating in the bone marrow transplant meant missing 10 games of the baseball season, his other varsity sport at Villanova, during his junior year.He still donated. Fortunately, all went well during both the operation and his recovery, and his selfless service has become a shining example not only for the athletic program, but for all Villanovans.
Coach Andy Talley has coordinated Villanovans registering for the national registry for the past 20 years. This year, with 535 students, faculty and staff swabbing their cheeks to bolster the registry, 535 potential new matches were documented. Although donating is not a high-risk procedure, it still involves anesthesia and surgical procedures. Approximately 1.34 percent of donors suffer serious complication due to anesthesia or damage to bone, nerve or muscle in the hip region. It’s a low rate of error, but this is not a decision made lightly.
Donation is voluntary. Through its website, Be The Match, the National Marrow Donor Program, only requests is immediate notification if you are unwilling or unable: “We [Be The Match] will need to continue the search for another donor without dangerous—even life-threatening—delays for the patient.” No obligation, but don’t waste time.
In an ideal world, people would join the football players in doing the right thing. Registering is a half hour commitment at the maximum, and that is the most that most donors will be asked.But when the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life makes this an occasion for Greek Week “points” to be awarded, that ideal situation goes out the window. Greek Week awards points for a wide range of events, from athletics like tug-of-war and football to philanthropy like the canned food drive and blood drive.
However, when chapter presidents are explicitly told by the head of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life that they must have a certain percentage of chapter members register for the bone marrow registry, what message does that convey? Is it sufficient if one-third of members of the chapter—this year’s requirement—donate, even if they have no intention to participate in the future? In the office of Greek Life, the answer is yes.
Someone could stop by, sign his or her name, swab both cheeks and get a free pen. When Be The Match calls after a few weeks or months to say that a match is found and asks the person to donate, but this person says no, how much do Greek Week points matter then? Hopefully those points are worth their weight in gold, because the registry will have to “continue the search for another donor without dangerous—even life-threatening—delays for the patient.” People who decline are not misanthropes, but signing up is a commitment to do the right thing, for yourself and for others.
Greek life organizations should challenge and aid members in becoming men and women of principle. Food donations to The North Light Community Center receiving donations of food and money and blood donations to the Red Cross would decrease if fraternities and sororities were not required to participate, but those are examples of Greeks being encouraged to do the right thing in a good way.
I think this drive is one of the best opportunities for students to show character, and Coach Talley has done a phenomenal job making this a staple of Villanova’s commitment to service. I also think that Greek Week’s effort to increase philanthropy is another highlight of student life. But Greek Life is forcing young people to waste the time of registry volunteers, of legitimate (potential) donors and of people whose lives depend on a sincere effort. And that is wrong. Five hundred thirty five is an impressive number, but is it genuine?
I am a member of a fraternity and I registered with Be The Match not because I care about Greek Week but because I thought it was the right thing to do, and I will strongly consider donating if I am a match, like the vast majority of the other 534 who signed up. Greek Life should increase education for potential donors so that they want to donate to save a life, not coerce those who have their eyes on Greek Week Champions t-shirts.