Another view on Gabriela’s opinion piece

Letter to the Editor

EDITOR,

Gabriela’s recent opinion piece on conformity in the Greek system was a provocative article, and it is not surprising that it has generated some strong reactions. Underlying her conformity critique is her fairly explicit opinion that the Greek system at Whitman is at best redundant and at worst antithetical to the college’s mission. It is this sentiment that I think has caused the most unrest, which I think is unfortunate as it obscures the potential for some interesting conversations. My hope is that responses to it can move beyond defensiveness, as I think that Gabriela makes many more interesting points beyond mere Greek-bashing.

Some Greek friends have expressed that they felt attacked personally. I suggest that this concern may be misguided; Gabriela clearly attacks the Greek system as an institution, but I see no specific references to individual Greeks, even in the abstract. I also wonder if, when individual members see a critique of their institution as personal attack, they help to reinforce common perceptions of Greek conformity.  

Another common response is that other organizations, clubs, sports teams, social groups and even the college selection process itself also have their own levels of inherent conformity. Fair enough, but I think the point Gabriela was trying to make is that the Greek system is more conformist than the general Whitman community and more restrictive of individual growth. I make no claims about the second point, but I think that the Greek system at least visually represents a higher level of conformity than most other groups at Whitman; whether this influences individual members I do not know. As symbols, the trappings of the Greek system (yes, including the shirts) seem conformist, at least to me. This is not to say that Greek individuals “do not mature or are not unique,” to quote Gabriela, but only to point out how things appear from the outside.

The Greek system is certainly a convenient and obvious punching bag for opinion pieces, and the conformity argument is, as Gabriela admits, hardly new. But I think that this and previous pieces provide an opportunity for constructive and intelligent discourse. Some issues and responses that I have not heard discussed include: Are sororities comfortable with the messages and implications of adapting and displaying corporate logos? Is the conformity of the Greek system even a problem? What benefits does the system provide for individual growth and individuality? I believe there are good answers to these questions. Instead of writing off these sorts of articles, we should consider these perspectives on their own merits and respond.  

– Tristan Grau ’11