Fraternities seek to improve community relations

Mike Sado

Fraternities seek to improve community relations | by Kozek Students might have found themselves scrambling for their ID cards when they attended a fraternity party at the beginning of the semester.

The rule was implemented by the Interfraternity Council (IFC) in response to some incidents last year involving Whitman students and Walla Walla community members.

“Over the course of last year . . . there were a couple of fights between community members and Whitman students (some Greek, some not) and also three possible incidents of attempted date rape druggings.   Two of these incidents occurred at off-campus, independent house parties and one at a fraternity,” senior Chase Cooper, President of the IFC, wrote in an e-mail.
Cooper clarified that these incidents extended to the Whitman College campus as a whole, and were not centralized to just the fraternities on Issacs Ave.

“Point being, the issues surrounding community relations/tensions   extends to the entire Whitman College community, and is by no means isolated or confined to the Greek system or fraternities,” Cooper wrote.   Since the passing of the new rule, there have been no new incidents reported.

In fact, the problems between the fraternities and the Walla Walla community may be exaggerated.

“[In] the past we’ve had groups of kids from [Walla Walla] show up at the TKE house on more than one occasion.   More often than not, they are simply looking for a place to drink a beer or people to interact with,” wrote junior TKE fraternity member Micah Babbitt in an e-mail.

Babbitt assured that in the event something drastic happened, the residents of the house would know how to handle it since “it has been a point of interest over the past year.”

The IFC has been proactive with the community in an effort to prevent any further complications.   According to Cooper, the organization sent out “a simple community relations” letter stating their intent to encourage communication between the fraternities and their neighbors.   Sent out last semester, the letter provided contact information as well as a schedule for the all-campus parties.
Renovations made to the TKE house over the summer, including large rocks placed in front of each basement window, should also help fraternity-community relations. According to junior TKE Alex Miller, the house has received noise complaints from neighboring houses as well as from Jewett Hall. The new rocks should help dampen sound from parties at the house.

Fraternities are typically involved in community service as well.   “The TKE’s do a blood drive each semester, host a Thanksgiving dinner for a couple hundred . . . senior citizens where we take donations for Alzheimer’s disease, play bingo at the Oddfellows, and we had about twenty guys . . . involved in the Whitman mentoring program last year,” wrote Babbitt.

Cooper sees the problems between the Walla Walla community and fraternities as declining, citing “solid relations” in general.

“While still strained at times,” Cooper said,   “I feel as though the frats are –– generally speaking –– far more respectful of the community at large than they used to be.”