Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

An independent view on the Greek article


I agree whole-heartedly with Gabriela Salvidea’s statement that the Greek system enforces conformity. In last week’s column she wrote that “College as a breeding ground for such conformity is an unfortunate paradox.” In fact, all organizations and groups (even the ones in college) foster conformity.

Many Whitman “Indies” are fiercely proud of their Independent status. This label insinuates that unlike Greek-members, who are completely dependent on each other and the Greek system, non-Greeks are free from the ties of social membership.

In attending Whitman College, you enter a community. Communities foster conformity. Whitman students are programmed in a certain way: we’re “taught.” I am here to learn how to think, to learn to approach my surroundings with a critical and analytical perspective that enriches my daily interactions. I am learning to conform to a supposed intellectual ideal.

Furthermore, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to conform. It’s easy to be self-righteous as an Independent. You can be proud of your supposed social success in avoiding the Greek system. You’ve managed to find friends and have fun without paying semester dues! Perhaps you’ve avoided the Greek system, but you haven’t avoided the undeniable other systems that you’re a part of.

Every gathering of people has the potential to be a community. Community members choose to unite in solidarity, usually for a common purpose or goal. As far as I can tell, the common purpose of sorority and fraternity members is to have fun and meet other like-minded people. There’s nothing wrong with this purpose. It’s a rare and sad individual who joins a group and hopes to isolate himself and avoid enjoyment.

Like Salvidea, I disagree that the Greek system’s main purpose is to create well-rounded citizens. According to the Whitman College Web site, the purpose of the Greek system “is to promote the pursuit of academic excellence, enrich the personal lives, and further the ability of their members to serve society.” It’s not that fraternities or sororities don’t uphold these values.  

I would imagine that you don’t join Kappa Kappa Gamma just because you want to read to kids. If that’s your motive, you join the Storytime Project. If you want to read to kids, meet other Whitties, participate in fun social events and be a part of a community, though, then you might choose to join the sorority.

I have a hard time criticizing Greeks for turning to fraternities or sororities for social security. I think it’s great to get e-mails every week from upperclassmen, inviting you to their parties, inviting you to dinner, making you feel included and wanted. Who wouldn’t want that? The Greek System just gets criticized because it has such a blatant social purpose.

As a member of the Ultimate Frisbee team at Whitman, I enjoy many of the same benefits as Greeks. I get e-mails about weekend parties, meet new friends, and have fun. I feel included and I feel liked. It’s a nice feeling. Wearing a shirt with an angry-looking onion makes others associate me with the Frisbee team. In that respect, I am “conforming” to the culture of the team. Is that really such a bad thing?

Sorority members aren’t forced to sing demeaning songs or wear logo-imitating sweatshirts. Yes, these things are part of the sorority culture, but members aren’t brainwashed into following this culture if they don’t want to. In the same way, wearing sweet onion gear, drinking at parties and singing “Wanna be a Baller” is a part of the Frisbee culture.  

When you join a community, it’s because you like the community’s culture and want to conform to abide by it. Conformity is only natural, and we’re kidding ourselves if we think that our Independent status excludes us from this phenomenon. As a community of independents, let’s eliminate any feelings of superiority and realize that we too are socially dependent conformists. Maybe then we can bridge the gap between the Greeks and Independents and foster an even stronger Whitman community.

– Elana Congress ’12

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  • L

    LizMar 7, 2009 at 10:44 am

    I appreciate how objective you were in writing this article. Thank you.

  • L

    LeahMar 6, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    This is the best of the responses to Gabriela’s article in my opinion. The honesty and clarity is invaluable in a rush of letters that mainly throw tantrums.

    “I feel included and I feel liked. It’s a nice feeling…Is that really such a bad thing?” Exactly.

  • M

    MargauxMar 6, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    I think this is a great letter, Elana. It said exactly what I thought when I read Gabriela’s article.