The image of some fraternity social events has come a long way from the standard Saturday night kegger in the party room, or the sudsy bacchanals presided over by John Belushi’s toga-clad Bluto Blutarsky (“G.P.A.: 0.0”) at the fictional Delta house in the 1978 movie “Animal House.”
Instead, imagine taking over a portion of a respectable hotel with 160 of your best friends for a long weekend of partying, resulting in a high-end good time, and stories you might not want to pass on to your children, but will probably cherish for life anyway. That’s a fraternity “weekender,” and these days, a good one can cost as much as $100,000 to pull off.
At colleges all over the country, fraternities have been polishing, or relishing recent memories of, a new kind of social event that takes money, planning, imagination, and the desire and ability to get out of town. The weekender is an opportunity for members to bring a date and vacate local campuses. Charter buses take them to a destination of their choice and back home to academia.
At the University of Arizona, the common weekender picks are San Carlos, Las Vegas or Lake Havasu. There are a lot of factors that go into planning a weekender. Many have to be approved through the school.
“Spending time with friends outside the normal college atmosphere is the best part of weekenders,” said Kyle Schoch, a 20-year-old Sigma Alpha Epsilon member.
Although weekenders are a time to get away from stresses and daily routines of college life, organizing one can take on elements of a corporate retreat. Planning, funding, security and transportation expenses of the trip must be calculated and arranged for months in advance. Executive members work together collecting fraternity dues, hiring security or negotiating with hotels and arranging transportation.
Expenses of such trips are often covered by a fraternity’s social dues that are paid each semester by active members.
Christian Ford, treasurer of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Arizona said, “The transportation, transportation team, security team, venues, rooms and free food or drink vouchers are all paid for through social dues.”
Depending on the fraternity, social dues can vary from $500 to $800 each semester.
“A weekender usually cost $80,000 to $100,000. Transportation is a big factor for a weekender, a bus can vary from $4,000 to $5,000 per bus,” Ford said.
A long-distance weekender sometimes begins early Thursday morning and ends late Sunday evening. After a fraternity member asks his date, many dates put together special travel boxes with snacks, drinks and other road necessities for the trip, decorated with fraternity or sorority symbols.
Fourteen fraternities are scattered around the University of Arizona’s campus, and most have had or are planning on a weekender outside the Tucson area this school year.
Fraternities at University of Arizona are not the only ones who are able to experience a weekend of out-of-town socializing and partying. At Arizona State University, fraternities have taken trips to Las Vegas during the fall or spring semesters.
Alton Moore, a 21-year-old Sigma Chi member at Arizona State University said, “The fact that you get to hang out with everyone in a different environment away from school is what makes the weekender, it charges up the mood. People go wild.”