UT Greek organizations have had a tough year so far, with two fraternities kicked off campus and several more under social probation.
This past fall break, however, a mission trip with over 100 Greek-affiliated students showed the town of Pineville, Ky., a different side of Greek life.
"I wanted to do something bigger than myself," said Taylor Hathorn, a junior in journalism and a sister of Zeta Tau Alpha. "It gave me the opportunity to give back to a community that really needs help."
The Cross, UT's Greek-focused Christian ministry, hosted the mission trip. Pineville, a small mountain town just past the Cumberland Gap, has the most government subsidized housing per population in the nation, making it one of the poorest areas in the U.S.
Emily Mastin, senior in religious studies, experienced that housing first hand.
"The poverty of Pineville was more extreme than most that I've encountered," Mastin said. "It wasn't until I actually went into their homes that I realized how bad things really are for them."
Mission of Hope, an Appalachian ministry based in Knoxville. The students build disability ramps and weather proof houses, and also paint various buildings throughout the area while staying in the Bell County volunteer fire department.
"We work hand-in-hand with the community action council up there," Bailey said.
The mission trip provides Greek students an opportunity to return to their foundational roots. Most of the Greek organizations' charters refer to Christian values.
"I think that a lot of people forget that our organizations were founded to help people and give back to the community, and a lot of them were founded on religious beliefs and ideals," Hathorn said.
She continued, explaining that the trip gives Greek organizations a chance to show a different side to the public.
"It allows them to get to know that fraternities and sororities are about more than just having a good time," she said.
All of UT's Greek organizations host philanthropy events, ranging from ZTA's support of Breast Cancer Awareness this month to Pi Kappa Phi's PUSH America organization.
Bailey also pointed out that the trip allows the fraternities and sororities to step outside the borders of typical Greek life.
"In getting away from the university campus, it lowers barriers, so people aren't identified by a particular fraternity or sorority, or even being unaffiliated. We're just students on a trip," Bailey said. "It puts students together on work teams and gives them a chance to really get to know each other."
The Cross also takes an alternative spring break trip to Moultrie, Ga. The longer break allows for bigger projects.
"We actually renovated a whole city park, including building a 40-foot expansion bridge over a creek," Bailey said.
The fall break trip encouraged many students to consider the Moultrie mission.
"I wasn't going to do the spring break trip at all, but after experiencing this trip and seeing how strong the community is and how much Greek students care about really helping people ... it definitely inspired me to do the spring break trip," Hathorn said.
The Cross was started in 1999 by some fraternity students who saw that there were no Christian ministries that worked specifically with the Greek population at UT.
"We're there to support the students," Bailey said. Even amid the recent controversy at Pi Kappa Alpha, Bailey maintained the acceptance offered at The Cross.
"We recognize that things like that happen, it's unfortunate, but we're there to support the students ... not to issue any kind of judgment," he said.