Another view from the Greek system

Letter to the Editor

EDITOR,

I appreciate the concerns some independents present regarding the conformity the Greek system fosters on campus.   However, I’d like to remind the substantial majority of the campus not affiliated with a Greek organization that they fall subject to the same normalizing pressures facing Whitman’s Greeks.   Ms. Salvidea argues that by “uniformly outfitting its members in corporate logos, the Greek system cultivates conformity more than any other force on campus.”   Look around:   you will see more North Face logos on students’ jackets than on Kappa Alpha Theta sweatshirts.   If Ms. Salvidea believes college students shouldn’t submit to hegemonic corporations, she should demand that campus independents stop wearing North Face, Chacos, Carhartts, Chuck Taylors, American Apparel, Nike, Levi’s, and Vans.   The biggest force for conformity at Whitman College is the campus itself, and the problems of gender, class and race facing the Greek system also face Whitman as a whole.   Every student was an Independent upon being accepted to Whitman, and both Greeks and Independents face similar social pressures as a result.   It would be absurd to suggest that Independents don’t conform to any patterns of fashion (see the recent increase of skinny jeans and kuffiyehs on campus), or socialization (see weekly off-campus parties), and while the conformity of the Greek system appears under institutional headings, it is no more potent than the pressures facing any young man or woman at a predominantly white, straight, upper middle-class liberal arts college.  

Furthermore, Ms. Salvidea’s assessments of Greek life are either deliberately humorous or comically ignorant.   She can’t seriously think Whitman Greeks spend their time as she describes, given how many of them take classes with her, edit the newspaper she works for, or sit in prominent positions of campus government.   If she actually knew the individuals who comprise the Greek system, she would understand how diverse (by Whitman’s standards) these groups are, and how powerful the bonds forged by these groups can be. Contrary to Ms. Salvidea’s belief, Whitman Greeks are not formally required to live with each other, attend greek parties, or wear Greek clothing, and many Greeks on campus refrain from some or all of these activities.   But while Ms. Salvidea feels fortunate not to live with the Pio staff, most Greeks at Whitman DO choose to live with each other, a testament to the tolerance and friendship these groups foster.  

Quite frankly, I have never felt more free to express my individuality than I do with members of my fraternity.   The safety and comfort I find in my home on campus has made me a more caring, confident individual, and has given me a greater appreciation of individuality and personal expression in others.   For that, I am gratefully indebted to Whitman’s greek system, however purposeless Ms. Salvidea deems it to be.

Author’s Note: I took a lot of time out of my daily routine of binge drinking and violently asserting my masculinity to write this, so thanks for reading, dear brothers and sisters (you know who you are).

– Ned Schaumberg ’09