Whitman Rushes Pledge Process

Tristan Gavin

Illustration by MaryAnne Bowen
Illustration by MaryAnne Bowen

If you ask anyone about his or her Greek organization on campus, most will make the classic, defensive claim that Whitman Greek life is different. And it is –– or so I believe. But if the fraternities and women’s fraternities (that a third of the campus are involved in) are really as inclusive and nurturing as they are made out to be, then why does Greek recruitment not reflect those ideals?

Joining a fraternity or women’s fraternity is a huge decision, and one that most first-years do not come to school expecting to make. The decision greatly impacts the places you live and the people you spend time with over the course of the rest of your time at Whitman. Four years of your life decided in two weeks.

Two weeks. Two weeks to meet upperclassmen and get a feel for the unique culture of each individual organization, all while meeting other first-years you could potentially be living with as soon as sophomore year. Not to be overlooked is the fact that all of this is happening at a vulnerable and impressionable point for first-years: their first few weeks of class.

So if Whitman Greek organizations really do foster personal growth and meaningful relationships, which I firmly believe they do, then why is the process so superficial? Fourteen days of awkward lunch dates and overly planned events give hardly a glimpse of what Greek life really is like at Whitman. Whitman is full of nice people and anyone can put on a good face and be friendly for two weeks, so how can you really make a decision by the end of recruitment?

The answer is that you cannot, and the result makes Whitman’s pledging process much less meaningful. First-years can pledge to join an organization and try it out for a semester before actually deciding it is the right fit for them. Essentially, Whitman has taken all of the relaxed and non-obligatory aspects out of recruitment and thrust them into the traditional processes of international fraternities, some of which have been in existence for decades. Being a pledge at Whitman has very little meaning compared to other schools. 

Greek recruitment at Whitman tries to create the most welcoming environment possible for first-years considering Greek life on campus. The events try to hurry first-years through the process of getting to know the organizations as if it is speed dating, with the goal of making an educated decision at the end of the two weeks. Recruitment is an exciting and overwhelming chance for first-years to meet tons of new people, make new friends and build an understanding for what makes Whitman Greek life unique from big state schools and media portrayals of fraternities. So why rush it? 

As it stands, Whitman recruitment reflects the precautionary attempts by administration to maintain a welcoming Greek environment without compromising time. Yet, with nearly a third of the school involving themselves with Greek organizations on campus, the Greek community is, by the numbers, already far and away more welcoming than most other organizations on campus. If it only takes two weeks for a third of the school to join, why not take an extra two or three more weeks to make the decision as educated as possible.

When I went through recruitment, I really appreciated the absence of drugs and alcohol that I had heard of at other institutions, but I still felt a slight disconnect. The strict rules encourage fraternities and women’s fraternities to compete to convince first-years to join them, rather than allowing a more organic decision. The entire process paints the organizations in a serious and slightly alienating light that, in my experience, does not reflect their attitudes for the other eight months of the school year.