NUDM ends fundraising minimum and Greek-centric team system


Illustration by Fiona Wang

This year, participants won’t be required to have a $400 fundraising goal and won’t participate with organization-based teams.

Lucia Barnum, Reporter

Northwestern University Dance Marathon will eliminate its automatic $400 minimum fundraising recommendation and Greek life-centric team system for its first night in the tent since 2019.  

Weinberg juniors Amy Fan and Aarthi Kottapalli, NUDM’s first-ever Accessibility and Inclusion co-chairs, are directing some of these changes in response to concerns about the event’s accessibility. Some students have criticized the $400 fundraising recommendation for putting low-income students at a disadvantage. In previous years, all dancers’ fundraising goals were automatically set to $400, but this year participants can set their own goals as soon as they set up their fundraising page. 

Fan said she prioritized addressing the $400 fundraising minimum because of how daunting it was when she joined NUDM as a freshman. 

“That was a huge barrier for me,” Fan said. “I had to work really hard towards it, and I know that not everyone is able to spend all this time to try and fundraise $400.”

Raising the amount was not mandatory to participate in the event, but many dancers said the expectation to collect $400 was a burden to them or someone they knew. Some said they feared they would be kicked out of the tent if they couldn’t raise enough. 


Weinberg senior Georgia Schafer, who has served on NUDM committees since her sophomore year, said she was barely able to scrape together $400 her freshman and sophomore years. Schafer said the requirement put pressure on her as a first-generation, low-income student, while her wealthier peers didn’t seem to find it as difficult.

“I’m really excited to ease that burden for other people because it shouldn’t be this thing that you’re really worrying about, spending all your time feeling ashamed you’re not going to raise the $400,” Schafer said. 

NUDM’s executive co-chairs, Weinberg senior Cady De Camara and McCormick senior Daniel Birmingham admitted the organization’s messaging about the fundraising minimum has been unclear in the past. This year, they plan to make it explicit that dancers do not have to raise $400 to participate. 

This winter’s Dance Marathon will also feature a brand new team system. In the past, some dancers participated as part of an organizational team — often their fraternity or sorority — to fundraise and attend social events with throughout the year. 

Under the old system, Fan said Greek life sometimes dominated the tent and made others uncomfortable joining. 

Schafer said the heavy Greek presence made the tent feel exclusive. As a freshman, it was intimidating to see Greek organizations wearing matching shirts and socializing in big groups when she was participating with only one or two friends, she said. 

This year, NUDM will sort all dancers into four color teams — Hogwarts-style, Fan said. The teams won’t be connected to outside organizations, and each team will hold social events to foster community within NUDM. 

The Dancer Accessibility and Experience committee formerly oversaw accessibility issues, but this year, the executive co-chairs split the committee in two: Accessibility and Inclusion and Dancer Relations, the latter of which is helping to implement the new team system. In previous years, Birmingham said it felt like NUDM was dragging their feet on dedicating a specific internal space to focusing on accessibility. 

Kottapalli said NUDM has been “deeply engrossed in one tradition” for almost as long as it’s existed, so she didn’t initially think she and Fan would be able to change so much in their term as Accessibility and Inclusion co-chairs. 

“It’s really cool that we’ve already changed so much in a few weeks,” Kottapalli said. “It really sets the tone for what we keep calling the new chapter of NUDM.”

While NUDM cannot completely erase its Greek life origins, De Camara said, she still hopes the 2022 event will be a fresh start because so few NU students have experienced an in-person dance marathon.

“We have to really capitalize on this unique opportunity to make some big changes and hopefully do things that are going to make the institution more inclusive,” De Camara said.  

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @luciabarnum_

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