Q&A With Student Life Committee Member

Sylvie Corwin, Staff Reporter

In October of 2018, Assistant Professor of Classics Dana Burgess proposed a motion to the faculty to eliminate “single-sex social and residential organizations.” The motion was modified to just address fraternities and sororities and the issue was passed on to the Student Life Committee to deliberate. While the Student Life Committee has made no decisions yet, junior Cody Hipskind outlines the potential options going forward in the following Q and A:

Q: How did you get involved with the student life committee?

A: I think it was sophomore year, I responded to a student-wide email sent out by ASWC looking for volunteers to be on the student life committee. I sent in an application, I was interviewed by a different committee, and then confirmed by the Senate. But we didn’t have a meeting for at least a year and a half, it’s been a pretty inactive committee.

Q: What is the purpose of the committee?

A: The committee’s pretty old, I don’t know the full history but it’s decades old. It’s been convened to discuss various issues but I am pretty sure this is the first time that it’s been convened since I have been at Whitman and definitely the first time since I’ve been on the committee. It’s current convening is to discuss the continued presence of Greek life….We are particularly addressing a resolution on the part of Professor Dana Burgess to disrecognize the Greek system here at Whitman, though the committee is not limiting itself to whether or not to approve the resolution. We’re looking at broad possibilities of recommendations.

Q: What happens after the committee makes a decision?

A: We’ve been convened as an advisory body, we’re here to advise the assembled faculty on what they want to do with regards to Greek life. They can take our recommendation and approve it, they can reject it, they can send it to a different body for further advice. We are definitely not the kingmakers in this situation.

Q: How big is the committee and how is it structured?

A: I don’t think we’ve had a meeting yet where every member has been able to be present so we’ve had different groupings. I believe there are currently four student members, at least two faculty and at least two administrators.

Q: What is the timeline going forward?

A: We’re hoping to get our recommendation in by the end of the semester. After that we may be reconvened to offer further advice but we’re hoping to get our initial recommendation in by the end of the semester.

Q: Will this be a longer process that continues into next year?

A: It could, it kind of depends on what we do and what the faculty decides. For example, they might ask us or ask a different body to initiate a full review of Greek life at Whitman, which is not unheard of. These sorts of reviews, they occur on a cycle. Greek life is due for one relatively soon anyway. That would be a longer process, it would definitely go into next academic year.

Q: Do you have any personal goals for the committee?

A: My main goal is just that we really listen to everyone who has a stake in this, all the stakeholders. I know we’ve got plans, or at least the beginnings of plans, to meet with leaders of both the fraternities and sororities to discuss the issue. I would hope that that extends beyond that, that we also listen to independent students who are interested.

Q: Anything else to add?

A: I would just emphasis that this is still an ongoing process, we’re definitely still in the learning stages of it…. For myself at least I am very much eager to continue learning before I make any decision about how I am going to vote. So if your readers are interested in discussing this issue, getting involved, I would definitely encourage them to reach out.

Emma Beaver