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Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Hey Panhellenic: give the rest of Whitman a vote

Panhellenic gets it all wrong.   The governing body for Whitman’s sororities is considering adding a new sorority to the three already on campus, without seeking campus-wide input. Perhaps out of chicanery or a sincere lack of judgment, Panhell believes that they can drastically alter our school’s social dynamic without consulting the roughly 70 percent of students who are not part of a sorority.

Panhell should hold a binding, campus-wide vote, rather than incestuously decide whether to add a new sorority. Taking a cue from ASWC, Panhell could conduct this vote electronically such that all students (including those abroad) could participate in this consequential decision. If the student body wants a new sorority, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s great too. But it shouldn’t be up to Panhell to dictate the decisions that do and do not affect the greater student body.  

Maybe that’s what they don’t get: how their decisions affect the rest of us.  

Let’s do some math, shall we: According to the feeble statistics on their Web site, Panhell alleges that “approximately 30-35 percent of the female student body is involved with one of the three national sorority chapters.” Whitman claims that 55 percent of the student body, which totals 1434, are women. Therefore, about 276 women on campus are part of a sorority and there are roughly 92 members in each sorority. Though I’m assuming ideal conditions and not taking into account any confounding variables, the addition of a new sorority at Whitman would drastically increase the overall percentage of women in sororities to around 47 percent. Nearly half of all the women on campus would be in a sorority.

One of the most deleterious effects of sorority life with respect to the student body is its exclusivity. While sorority members are “encouraged to maintain a diversity of friendships,” they rarely do out of a lack of time to spend on non-greek activities besides, of course, school or the occasional club. It’s even more difficult to imagine maintaining friendships with women in sororities if their constituency were to approach 50 percent: more exclusive sorority-fraternity dances, more chapter meetings and the like.

Sororities are as exclusive as they are homogenizing. Women in sororities are required to attend a multiplicity of events that gravely limit their social interactions with people outside of the group that attend these events. Of course, I hang out with a similar group of people all the time, but it is my decision to do so, not that of a socially limiting hierarchical structure whose implementation I pay for. The more sororities we have on campus, the more homogenized the campus will be.

The addition of another sorority would inherently put pressure on its leaders to recruit heavily in order to not repeat the shortcomings of the last sorority to go under back in 2005.  

A heavy recruitment campaign could convince women who would have otherwise opted for an independent lifestyle to join a sorority out of a perceived need to instantly and effortlessly find a group of friends. Proselytizing, greek style.  

Sororities reinforce the very heteronormativity: yeah, I said it: that many of us came to college to deconstruct. I’m not saying that sororities don’t accept women who identify as queer or don’t identify with a gender at all, because I’d hope that they do. But, as a friend told me, the palpable implications that come with attending frat parties and sorority-fraternity socials are that you attend them with the ultimate objective of hooking-up or meeting someone rather than merely developing friendships.

So, how about it Panhell? Do you believe in democracy? Do you want to demystify the non-greek perception of sororities on campus and give us a legitimate reason for why we should allow a new one?                        

What better way to establish a discourse with the student body than to afford us a binding vote on this pressing issue that will not only affect greek life and Panhell members, but the entire campus. Your sororities have already begun a cordial and productive relationship with the student body through worthwhile philanthropic activities such as Mr. Whitman and Cakes for CASA. Why can’t Panhell take this a step further and establish one as well?  

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  • R

    Rachel Constantino-WallaceApr 30, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Though I am absolutely flattered that Mr. Medak-Seguin believes sororities to be so omnipotent as to attract a significant number of women who otherwise would have remained independent simply by adding a fourth sorority, it is unfortunately a false assertion. The goal to be attained by adding a fourth sorority is to deal with increased interest in sorority membership. At current levels, the existing three sororities cannot continue to accommodate the large number of women who want to be Greek. Our chapter facilities are above full capacity and our pledge classes are large even by state school standards. Adding the fourth sorority would cause there to be four medium sized chapters as opposed to three huge chapters. If the number of Greek women ever gets to 50% of the women on campus it will be because 50% of the women on campus want to be Greek and not because Panhellenic added a fourth, or even fifth sorority.

    Medak-Seguin proposes a campus wide binding vote to determine whether the greater Whitman community wants to allow the addition of a fourth sorority. The problem with this proposal is that the people who would be affected most by this addition are contained within the sorority system itself. The potential for changes within the sorority system caused by a fourth sorority is high in comparison to the potential for changes for the Whitman community at large. For example, the sororities would have smaller pledge classes which could make the bonds between pledge class members stronger at the expense of a larger group. The bottom line is that whether a sorority system is composed of three or four chapters is of no consequence to those outside of the system. The vast majority of the significant changes caused by the addition of a fourth sorority affect only those within the system which is the strongest argument for keeping the decision to within the system as well.

    Medak-Seguin also staunchly maintains that Greek women have no time for anything but school and Greek events. I vehemently disagree. Greek organizations work hard to instill both interpersonal and leadership skills in all their members and, consequentially, Greek men and women hold some of the most important and influential, not to mention time-consuming, positions on campus. Greeks are ASWC Executive Council Members, Pioneer editors and reporters, varsity athletes, club officers, as well as more than half of the ASWC senators and numerous Resident Assistants. One would be hard pressed to find a group on campus without significant Greek membership and leadership.

    However, the most problematic assumption in the article in my opinion is the pervading belief that Greek culture is simply objectively bad. Medak-Seguin mocks the feeling of instant connectedness one feels as a result of joining a Greek group. Connectedness is something that all people strive for whether it is as a member of an athletic team, freshman section, club or performing group. The Greek system is simply another, possibly more traditional, way to be connected to a greater community. It is completely up to a potential member to decide if the Greek system is a system she wants to be connected to. If she chooses to become a member, she can make her membership as time-consuming as she wishes it to be – a choice that should be free from the condemnation of the rest of the Whitman community.


    Rachel Constantino-Wallace
    Panhellenic Council President

  • W

    William LawrenceApr 29, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    In response to Brigitte’s comment, I would like to clarify my earlier statement:

    The Greek system greatly influences the SOCIAL dynamic on campus, and therefore individual social lives. ASWC, with its prodigious stores of cash, does have a much greater impact (thankfully) on extracurricular educational opportunities.

  • A

    A Whitman ParentApr 28, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Surely the content of the student newspaper also has a large impact on the Whitman student body. It has the ability to provoke thought, provoke anger, to unify, to divide, even to serve as a catalyst for debate and change… How about letting the entire student body decide what should be published in the newspaper and who should be able to write for it, or even comment on it?

    I know the newspaper isn’t the same as the Greek community — but the point is that both can have a big impact on the community and neither opens their decision making to the community at large. However, that doesn’t mean they do not or should not solicit input from the community.

    But suppose The Pioneer did give the student body the ability to decide the content of the paper and who is permitted to write for it. Maybe the students would decide that they didn’t want any more anti-Greek propaganda published. To paraphrase Mr. Lawrence: “No more hit pieces by activist writers of The Pioneer! Let the people decide!”

    Or, perhaps more constructively, The Pioneer would decide to ask for feedback from the student body about the paper’s content and editorial strategy. Maybe that’s what Panhellenic should do and will do about adding another sorority. But providing an opinion is not the same as voting and deciding. Don’t confuse the two.

    A suggestion that Panhellenic find out what the student body thinks about adding a fourth sorority — actually any suggestion — might get a more positive reception if it wasn’t embedded in an otherwise insulting commentary peppered with statements not supported by fact or reality.

    I’m relatively neutral on the question of the impact of the Greek community at Whitman, although I would be surprised if the student body overall felt it had more negative than positive impact.

    Something I’m absolutely against? Trying to pass off a nasty rant as legitimate op-ed.

  • A

    AmyApr 28, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Ned, as an Independent student, I’ll attempt to answer your question about how the Greek system affects the social life for the rest of the campus in a negative manner. Firstly, I’d like to state that I’m in no way opposed to the Greek system. On the whole, I would characterize the greeks’ effect as mostly positive (community service, promotion of scholarship, all campus events, etc). However, it is the exclusiveness of the greek system that is at the root of the negative social impacts, at least for me.

    You ask how greek life negatively affects the social life of an independent. Well, about 90% of my close girl friends are in a sorority. Since most functions are closed, it is difficult for me to hang out with them on weekend nights. I am often left behind on friday nights, when they go to dinner with frats, or weekly chapter. I feel excluded on a frequent basis. So Ned, I’d have to say that the greek system most definitely affects my indie social life.

    My concern about the addition of a sorority would be a widening of this schism between greeks and indies. That is, if more girls are in the greek system, it becomes an even more pervasive force and would result in more independents feeling “shut out” or “excluded” by their greek friends (whose numbers would grow). One of my friends said that an additional sorority wouldn’t actually result in more greek members, just smaller pledge class sizes. If that is the case, it’s something Panhell should communicate to the campus at large.

    In the end though, it is my CHOICE to be friends with girls in sororities. Just as it is my CHOICE to be independent this year. And it will be also be my CHOICE whether or not to join a sorority next year. At the heart (ignoring its “angsty” and “accusatory” tone…which is pretty unnecessary) the article was one mostly about choice. The greek system does affect independents, both negatively and positively. Shouldn’t everyone have a say in whether the greek system should be expanded then? At the very least, Panhell should give everyone an opportunity to express their opinions on a fourth sorority. I actually think a poll would be fitting.

    Oh, and Pio, is there truly nothing else to write about other than the “fact” that greeks are “jello shot-downing robots who pay for friends?” As much as I find it funny to watch my Greek friends get thrown into a tizzy after every new article, these types of arguments are tired and over played. Not to mention, they are untrue. Sure they sing silly songs and whatnot- but that actually doesn’t affect or matter to me at all. There is no need to put down and slander members of the greek system time and time again. For the most part, they are kick ass people. Coming from an Indie, get some new material Pio.

  • S

    Stephanie HerbstApr 28, 2009 at 1:41 am

    I’m not going to say much, because I’m sure the Editors of the Pio will be inundated by responses to this article. I just want to say:

    1) The idea that we attend co-ed functions to hook up is frankly very offensive. The hooking-up culture is not exclusive to sororities and frats. Come on, what are we, animals?

    2) The recent Greek-hating articles always mention a huge separation between the Greek and Indie culture at Whitman. However, I feel the split between Greek and Indie gets deeper each time someone decides to write one of these hurtful Greek-vs-indie articles. How does name calling and finger pointing solve the problem? If you want to stop this split within the Whitman community, stop perpetuating it.

  • K

    Kate NewmanApr 27, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    Mr. Medak-Seguin,

    Just to clear up some of your misinformed assertions about the potential effects of adding a fourth sorority to Whitman, here are some concrete numbers and facts about the extension process.

    Currently, there are approximately 85 members per sorority, give or take a few. Our quota, the number of spots each sorority has to offer women going through recruitment, for the past several years has been 28 and the college’s established ideal for the membership of each house has long been at 65. At larger state schools, where the Greek system exists on a much larger scale than Whitman’s, quota generally hovers somewhere around 20 spots.

    In working to bring a fourth sorority to campus, Panhellenic’s intention is not to dominate the entirety of the Whitman female population, but rather to create smaller pledge-classes, more along the 20-22 quota line rather than 28-30, thereby creating more cohesive groups who can comfortably fit into their chapter rooms and fully benefit from the strong bonds being in close contact with a small group of people provides, similar to many other communities on the Whitman campus. In all likelihood, the number of women going through recruitment each year will fluctuate only slightly, rather than explode to fully 50% as you suggest, simply from the addition of another house. Instead, the relatively stable number will be divided into four houses rather than the current three.

    All members of all three sororities were given full, detailed descriptions of the extension process and took time to discuss amongst themselves all possible outcomes of bringing a fourth group to campus, (a step we took in Panhellenic as well,) then given an opportunity to vote. All three groups unanimously voted yes.

    Your concerns are welcome and valid, and I do hope that some accurate information to illuminate the fuzzier areas of your research has effectively addressed your spirited, though worn, criticism.

    Kate Newman
    VP Programming, Panhellenic

  • B

    BrigitteApr 27, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    Hold up. Mr. Lawrence, as a former member of Panhellenic myself, I must ask you–do you honestly believe that the “decisions made by Panhell [a tiny governing board with slight impact on the greater greek system, but very little on individual sororities] have a greater relevence to students than those typically made by ASWC”? I am saddened that you see ASWC as having so little importance to your own life as a Whitman student. Get involved. Talk to your representatives. Make ASWC decisions relevant to you if that’s how you truly feel. Because Panhellenic’s campus influence is in no way comparable to the vast governing body of ASWC.

    Also. I second Ned. Let’s see some concrete examples of how the Greek system has negatively impacted you before we go around making broad, non-specific statements. I’ve always been taught that makes for the most convincing and effective writing.

  • K

    Kristine BergApr 27, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    I am relatively certain that the addition of the 4th sorority – which, by the way, is just a possibility not a firm plan – is because there is so much interest from Whitman women in Greek life that the present number of sororities cannot handle all of the women. Adding a fourth sorority would just alleviate some of the pressure on the sororities to try to accommodate all of the interested women and add another outlet. This wouldn’t increase numbers, just resources.

  • L

    LindseyApr 27, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Adding a sorority won’t mean that 92 girls will randomly decide they need to fill that void. It would mean that there would be four sororities of manageable size, and all women who want to participate in Greek life will be able to. The proportion of greeks to indies will probably stay the same. Don’t throw around statistics pretending that numbers prove a point.

  • N

    Ned SchaumbergApr 26, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    If these organizations are so exclusive, then how can they so drastically affect people who aren’t members? In all seriousness, I ask (not being a Campus Independent), what negative effects Greek social life has on the social life for the rest of campus.

  • W

    William LawrenceApr 26, 2009 at 1:20 am

    Jen, your comparison to French House and Philosophy Dep’t administration is simply a false argument. The fact is, like it or not, Greek organizations have a huge impact on the lives of every student, Greek and Indie. Decisions made by Panhell have a greater relevence to students than those typically made by ASWC. As Becquer points out, a fourth sorority would drastically change campus culture, and every student deserves a say.

    To sum up: No more bench legislation by the activist judges of Panhellenic! Let the people decide!

  • J

    JenApr 23, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    I usually don’t comment on these articles because they’re so ignorant and angsty. I keep hoping they’ll calm down or at least change their tone, but they just. keep. coming! Greek Weekend wasn’t inclusive. Our shirts are stupid. We are conformist zombies. So here are some thoughts on your thoughts:

    I guess the idea of letting the campus vote on a new sorority is worth tossing around. A poll would be interesting…? Can I vote on how the French house is run, then? How about the new requirements for the Philosophy major (even though I’m not a Philosophy major)? Can I have a say on that next year? Yes, you’re part of the Whitman community but that does not entitle you to voting membership in all of Whitman’s sub-communities. You cite democracy, but democracy is a contract and a relationship; you give, you get a vote. You don’t get a say without contributing.

    And why the accusatory tone? With all due respect, Mr. Medak-Seguin, you clearly have no idea what membership in a sorority entails. Which is fine. But you (and numerous other Pio columnists) probably shouldn’t use a newspaper column as a soapbox to spew your bogus claims about the Greek system breeding homogeneity. It’s offensive. Members of Greek groups edit your paper, actively participate in your student government, support first-years in their roles as RAs across campus, plan your community service events, compete on your sports teams, tutor countless members of the broader Walla Walla community… should I continue? Kappas have collectively done almost 900 hours this semester. Why didn’t you multiply that stat by four in your analysis? Surely, these people are not all exactly the same just because they share an appreciation for the incredible support system provided by the Greek system at this school.

    And a final comment: “Of course, I hang out with a similar group of people all the time, but it is my decision to do so, not that of a socially limiting hierarchical structure whose implementation I pay for.” Come on. This sentiment has to go. Greek dues primarily pay for house and section maintenance, scholarship luncheons, fundraisers, dry functions, and food. (sorority girls eat!!! A lot! WHO KNEW!?) Yeah, we also drink, although most sororities are officially “dry” and cannot fund drinking functions with members’ dues. We still get up in the morning and show up to the same classes you do, and, when we’re done, we attend to the responsibilities we have as members of the Greek community. At all those chapter meetings you love to bemoan, we discuss how to promote scholarship and community involvement among members, and how to appease people like you with events like Greek Weekend.

    What are you doing? You may think the Greek system is stupid, but it’s not going anywhere. Where is your effort to welcome us into your Indie System? I’m all ears.