Greek Life: Tragedy or Comedy?

Cyril Burchenal, Columnist

American universities across the nation are experiencing new and unforeseen questions of established college norms. Among the institutions questioned is Greek Life. Many detractors would say they perpetuate unhealthy behavior and exclusive social status. I can see all of these points as reasonable sources of concern, however I would like to assert that Greek Life on campus does not perpetuate these accusations, and instead subverts them.

I feel I should preface this by stating that I am not involved in the slightest with Whitman’s Greek Life. I haven’t spent a tremendous amount of time in any of the houses. I’m a typical Whittie in the sense that many of my close friends have chosen to pledge. While I understand and respect that choice, I recognize that Greek Life is not for me. Despite this, my experience with Whitman’s numerous Greek organizations has been exclusively positive. I have felt welcomed and valued as a community member by everyone I’ve had the pleasure to meet.

The two criticisms mentioned above I believe would merit concern if they were well-founded, but I do not believe they are. Greek Life is unfairly charged with promoting unhealthy and excessive drug and alcohol use. While I can not say that there is not drug and alcohol use in Greek Life that may at times be excessive, this is not exclusive to Greek parties. Independent parties are equally excessive in their consumption, while lacking the safety precautions that Greeks have so wisely established. The presence of door workers to check IDs, bartenders to distribute drinks and sober roamers to watch out for Whitties in over their heads is not only valuable, but critical to creating a campus culture of safe partying. If Whitman is indeed committed to the Green Dot, then it should encourage and take pride in the efforts taken by its Greek Organizations.

The later criticism of Greek Life, that promotes social exclusivity, is not without merit. Yes, Greek Life benefits those within it more than those without it, but that does not mean it does not benefit the campus as a whole. Greek Organizations offer special opportunities to Whitman students that would be few and far between otherwise. The presence of large social forums through which to organize events is a resource to the college that goes often ignored. Great community events have been organized through Greek organizations. And simply because someone isn’t Greek themselves, that doesn’t mean that they can’t engage with Greek Life on their own. Many Greek organization have special titles for non pledge friends of the house.

Greek Life may be controversial, but it has its place on campus. When thinking of about this, I always remember that it was I who rejected Greek Life, not Greek Life who rejected me.