Let’s reevaluate pomping

Benjamin Burkeen

Homecoming planning is well underway for a number of student organizations, and it is arguably one of the events (besides football) that brings together the majority of our campus community. People get into homecoming. I myself have participated in several events for different organizations and have thoroughly enjoyed it; it’s a blast and a great way to facilitate interactions between multiple groups on campus.

Pomping, or the “Large Lawn Decoration Competition,” according to the 2014 Red Book (rules for Homecoming Week), is a longstanding Homecoming tradition at The University of Alabama. Student organizations spend countless hours arranging colorful pieces of tissue paper into large (and I admit, impressive) decorative structures that are displayed at the end of Homecoming Week. Sororities in particular put much thought and attention into planning their pomps, and as their membership numbers have increased, so have the number of hours they spend creating these enormous pomps.

According to the Alabama Panhellenic Association’s website, there are 18 sororities at the University. This year, 2,261 women pledged the 16 Panhellenic sororities that participate in formal rush according to AL.com. If we divide the new pledges between these 16 sororities (Alpha Delta Chi and Sigma Delta Tau do not participate in formal rush or host their own lawn decorations; they are paired with a larger sorority), that means on average, there are 141 freshmen in each pledge class. Moving conservatively from there, let’s assume there are 75 sophomores, 60 juniors, and 50 seniors in each sorority (accounting for girls that drop or go inactive). We’ll also assume that freshmen are required to do 25 hours of pomping during Homecoming Week, sophomores 20 hours, juniors 15 hours and seniors 10 hours. That comes out to 6,425 pomping hours throughout the week per sorority. If you multiply that by 16 sororities, that equals 102,800 hours spent pomping, and that number doesn’t include the hours put in by ADX and SDT, the men in fraternities who come to assist or the other various student organizations that participate in pomping.

Now let’s talk dollars. According to two executive members of separate Panhellenic sororities, large sororities spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,500 each on tissue paper alone for pomping during Homecoming 2014 – and that is not including scissors, glue, chicken wire, cardboard or zip ties. Assuming each sorority spent around $2,500, that brings us to a total of $45,000 spent on tissue paper alone.

Pomping isn’t evil. It is a great opportunity for organizations to collaborate with one another and celebrate Homecoming Week. Pomping also facilitates bonding between paired sororities and fraternities. But I believe all of the time, money and valuable manpower could be better spent serving the greater Tuscaloosa community, accomplishing everything that pomping does and more. Pomps only stay standing for a week after homecoming, at most.

In contrast, serving the community has an impact that extends much longer than a week or two. Just imagine the impact UA students, and the Greek system in particular, could make if those 102,800 hours were spent on service projects in our community or if that $45,000 was donated to organizations in need. What if, instead of a competition to see who can build the best pomp, we have a competition to see who can serve the most volunteer hours in Tuscaloosa? The same amount of creativity, drive and innovation could be applied to service. The possibilities are endless: food banks, mentoring, Habitat for Humanity, tutoring, nursing homes, etc. This could be a phenomenal opportunity for our university, which has had its fair share of controversy in the past few years, to set an example for colleges across the country. Now that would be something to celebrate.

Benjamin Burkeen is a senior majoring in management. His 
column runs biweekly.