At the beginning of this term posters were hung around campus stating, “How well do you know your President Brad Middleton?” Apparently, I do not know him well enough. In his article, “Greek Life and the faculty” he seems to only represent the small but vocal faction of Greek organizations at Knox College. He continually used the pronoun ‘we’ as if to say that every Knox student he talked to about Greek life had the same opinion as him. This use of language serves those who are in favor of bureaucratic Greek organizations and alienates those in the Knox student body who oppose them. I know many Knox students who would disagree with Middleton’s pandering to Greek organizations; as Senate president, he should have slightly higher interests in mind (rather than following the views of the minority constituency that got him elected).
The mind-numbing problem with Middleton’s article is his ineptness as to how a democratic (or worthwhile) forum should sound to the participants involved. He wrote, “The discussion began originally with a question about Greek expansion and since has morphed into a discussion questioning the very place of the Greek System here at Knox College.” The debate for whether or not to expand Greek life at Knox has at its root, whether Greek life is beneficial to the Knox student body. Thus, faculty has every right to discuss what would be the benefits and or consequences of the elimination of Greek life from Knox. Students should enter into Knox College entrusting the faculty and administration with a certain degree of power to challenge our academic experience. This challenge could be and often is at the expense of students’ comfort or in this case, the role that Greek organizations have upon students.
Faculty discussions should not be limited in scope or else the fundamental questions are not asked. The hypocrisy would be if professors ask students to discuss the interplay of class, racism, gender constructs, and issues of power in their classrooms while they themselves avoid these issues when they arise in the form of exclusive institutions operating within Knox College. Middleton found the faculty’s discussion of the exclusivity of Greek life ‘ironic’ in lieu of Knox being “an extremely exclusive liberal arts college.” If the argument goes that admission practices are just as exclusive as Greek organizations, the solution should not be to toss up our hands and say this is a necessary evil, but rather have a discussion to change the practices of both these bureaucracies.
The exclusivity of Greek organizations hinges on the unfairness and secretive aspect of the recruitment process. When one pledges for a particular organization and is not ‘given a bid’ he or she is not told why. The idea that a student chooses a Greek organization or more to the point that each chooses each other negates the issue of where power lies. Fundamentally, the student cannot reject a Greek organization, yet the Greek organization can reject the student. The Greek organization has a social network built into it, which the student can try to join. However, if the student is not given a bid (rejected), the organization continues to exist as before. This dynamic shows that the structure of a Greek organization is in control of the agency of the individual pledging.
Furthermore, when a student is accepted into a Greek organization their identity is shaped by the older members, who are all of the same gender. The ability for a group of all males or all females to shape a particular person’s identity through the time spent within their organization is a scary thought. If one wished to challenge their views on a consistent basis, they would find this troublesome in Greek life, simply because of the absence of gender in day-to-day discussions.
Middleton’s assumption that Knox students are competent adults negates why education is necessary to 18-22 year olds. Tangentially, the American government specifically recruits young males eighteen years old to join the armed forces because eighteen year olds views have not yet been radically challenged and in most cases are not developed enough to have moral and ethical dialogs. These years in college are essential for developing critical analysis and communication skills, while simultaneously pushing our personal comfort levels. Knox students and specifically those in Greek organizations may not yet realize the best ways to challenge themselves and thus comforts such as Greek life could stifle intellectual development.
In conclusion, the issue of Greek life on Knox is far more complex than Middleton will admit. To stifle faculty discussions on this issue would eliminate the sometimes hostile give-and-take needed in any good democratic discussion. I am reminded of a quote from Dona Richards, a famous Students Non-Violent Coordinating Committee activist, who states, “A good organization brings people together, a bad one makes everything neat and compartmentalized.” A forum to discuss the issue of Greek life should open up students and faculty dialogs that are not as narrow minded as Middleton and his Greek constituency’s views but that incorporate other student opinions about the implications of Greek life at Knox College.
The column originally referred to Middleton as class president and has been corrected to say Senate president.
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