Op-Ed: The Greek System, Debunked

Dani Hupper

Sometimes when I vocally question the role of the Greek system at Whitman, I feel like a radical. But then I remember that there are tons of colleges like us–small, progressive, thoughtful–that have made the decision to transition away from a Greek-dominated social structure.

I believe that Whitman has the potential to be a space for all students to have a voice. I believe that we can build organic communities that foster confidence and self-motivation. And I believe that Whitman has the power to change ourselves for the better and work to solve the various questions we currently face.

So, the letter. To my knowledge, the letter was not created to instigate a battle between Greeks and non-Greeks, but rather to highlight a divide that Greek life itself creates. The letter is in part intended to bring alternative voices that haven’t been a part of the recruitment conversation to light.

In Politics Senior Sem., we are encouraged to think about how debates are framed. A typical class question might be: How do the discourses around X shape a certain social groups’ ‘deservingness’ of a voice? Or, how do the discourses around X shape our conception of what is and isn’t politically ‘realistic?’

These questions hold relevance in our discussions around Greek life. When asked how Whitman College benefits from the Greek system, people most frequently respond with notions of community and brother/sisterhood. Second, is networking and alumni connections.

So what do discourses around Greek life say about who at Whitman is more ‘deserving’ of a voice? Using community and alumni networking to justify the existence of the Greek system preferences the experiences of those who are Greek. It follows that what is good for the Greek person is good for the community as a whole. Rarely are the advertised benefits advantageous to the entire Whitman community.

It’s clear that there are positive qualities or results from the Greek system for those affiliated, but how does it benefit the entire Whitman community? In my experience, the two most cited reasons are philanthropy and safe and centralized parties.

If this were Politics Senior Sem, an eager student might raise their hand at this point and ask; how do discourses around Greek life produce conceptions of what is and isn’t politically ‘realistic?’ In other words, using philanthropy and safe parties to justify the existence of the Greek system suggests that we could not have these benefits in its absence (i.e. it’s politically ‘unrealistic’). However, these benefits are politically realistic and can absolutely be achieved through other avenues. Whitman does not depend on Greek life for philanthropy and safe parties.

Thus, I draw two conclusions. First, just because members of the Greek system benefit from its existence in certain ways does not mean that the Greek system is good for the college as a whole. Second, just because the Greek system has certain positive contributions to the community does not mean that those results could not be achieved by other means.

Moving away from Greek life isn’t a radical prospect. Rather, it’s a strategic one.