Make RoundUp great again

Colton Becker

On the first Friday afternoon of April, the skies were dull and gray, and a light breeze was in the air. Campus was devoid of its characteristic bustle, and the pulse of academia had slowed. As students parted from their melancholy campus, the tower faded from sight, and an invigorating new aura soon emerged: A sea of neon flooded the West Campus jungle. This was not global warming — it was RoundUp.

RoundUp 2016 marked the 86th year of this annual gathering. What began in 1930 as a medium to celebrate the UT alumni has evolved into a more inclusive celebration of the UT experience and school pride. College students from all across the state and country make the trek to West Campus every year to live the life of a Longhorn for 72 hours. Our pals in College Station even attend, despite the agonizing concession of missing out on country gold karaoke night at the Dixie Chicken. More significantly though, we stopped using RoundUp as a way to entertain alumni and started using it as a way to entertain ourselves. Now, this evolution of RoundUp isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, who wouldn’t like to dance with a good lookin’ Zeta or Texas Sweetheart (or any UT girl for that matter) on a beautiful Austin day while the Ying Yang Twins perform “Get Low” in someone’s backyard? That’s magical, that’s euphoric, thats a Nicholas Sparks novel in the making. That’s RoundUp in the 21st century — but there’s more to it.

While RoundUp may provide a reason for students to indulge in a weekend of alcohol, cheap food and live music, this isn’t the only reason this unique weekend is a University of Texas tradition. You can’t have UGK without Pimp C, and you can’t have RoundUp without philanthropy.

Philanthropy is arguably the thread that is holding RoundUp together. The combined proceeds from events such as Pizza Pie with Alpha Chi, Kappa & Pi Phi Carnival, Zeta Backyard Bash, Kickin’ with Chi O, and numerous others result in over $100,000 raised to benefit various charity foundations year after year. This year, the Texas Interfraternity Council made it a mission to formalize the philanthropy component of RoundUp by partnering with the B+ Foundation and hosting a fundraising competition amongst all of the Greek organizations. Along with putting all proceeds from wristband sales toward the cause, Texas IFC was able to raise $95,444 toward the B+ Foundation’s mission to help kids fight cancer by providing financial and emotional support to families of kids with cancer nationwide. This is great, but you may be wondering how this holds RoundUp weekend together.

For any kind of organization, event or effort to be sustainable, it has to be for the right purpose(s). Additionally, efforts to fulfill the purpose(s) have to be properly balanced and executed. The purpose of RoundUp, as previously mentioned, is to celebrate our school pride and the UT experience. Our chosen methods to fulfill said purpose are parties and philanthropy, two things that Longhorns execute best. However, though the means to fulfill that purpose are healthy, the balance of them are not; as a consequence, it diminishes our ability to fulfill the purpose of RoundUp. This endangers RoundUp’s sustainability. But alas, this problem can be fixed — we simply need to change our mentality.

We value the parties; despite sound ordinances and all those surprise guest appearances by APD, we have been resilient. However, as a whole, we value the philanthropy much less. Fortunately we’ve begun taking notice. Now that IFC has made RoundUp a formalized philanthropy cause, we are well on our way to adjusting these ill-balanced means. But IFC alone can’t restore the balance and change the mentality of RoundUp. For just as it takes a great deal of water to preserve DJ Khaled’s plants, it will take a great deal of effort from Longhorns to change the mentality of RoundUp and thus preserve it.

RoundUp was, is, and will continue to be a reflection of our school pride and the capacity we have to make a difference. It has lived through the Great Depression, the fall of the Soviet Union, 80s hair metal and the transition of Bruce to Caitlyn. It’s as historical as Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl performance and as relevant as what Kim Kardashian ate for breakfast. We must ensure that it lives on come whatever may, and this will be accomplished once we begin to place more emphasis on philanthropy. To be clear, we don’t need to place less emphasis on parties. We just need to balance the two out. It’s as much about us as it is about them — the countless number of people who benefit from our philanthropy efforts. Have you ever been to a gala that wasn’t benefiting a cause?

So, when you talk about RoundUp, talk about the parties. Talk about how proud your parents would have been if they saw you at those parties. Talk about how you discovered the meaning of life at those parties. And most importantly, talk about the philanthropy. Talk about how you raised money for the B+ Foundation, Safe Place, Make-A-Wish, the Neighborhood Longhorns Program and many others. Talk about how you raised that bag of Franzia for a great cause. Talk about how proud you are to be a Longhorn, to have been a part of a weekend that raised over $175,000 to benefit thousands of lives. All this talk will change the collective mentality of RoundUp and revive this tradition as a viable, justified and important cause that will continue for future generations of Longhorns.

Becker is a nutrition science sophomore from Alvin. He is the director of public relations for UT's Inter-fraternity Council.