Discourse / Editorials / April 10, 2008

The right to organize

For contextual purposes, I am an unaffiliated sophomore who looked for a long time at becoming a part of the Greek organization and ultimately elected not to.

Knox has found itself attacked this year. A series of defaced posters, altered to say “We are lost” stands out as an example. There seems to be a growing dissatisfaction with the state of affairs at our college. There is a need, then, to try to make it better, to find a way that we can use these four years of our lives and somehow improve ourselves and our surroundings.

Students need to take ownership of their time at Knox. We need to assert ourselves and recognize that whether our time here was fantastic or awful, our situation, our surroundings, and the way we interact with them are all of our own choosing. College is our proverbial ‘free card.’ We all know (or at least should know) the Tom Petty quote: “This is where we have our four years to be irresponsible and learn to control our own lives.”

Now, our very attempt at ownership of this time, this place, is at stake. We are being told that a way in which we might be permitted to organize ourselves is no longer an option. The Greek system is facing a challenge. I could go on at length about the legacy of the system on campus, how those hurt have been some of the most productive of those in the system and how this action will serve only to divide the campus, but that’s not, I think, even the deepest issue at stake.

Knox takes pride in its political past, and at the core of the political system that we live in is the right to form into groups and coalitions and fight for something we believe in. Knox now threatens to take away that right to organize. To take away our right to form in the way we see fit stands in the face of many of the things this school takes pride in.

This slippery-slope argument is used mostly by fringe groups. Gun nuts are a good example. Just because one right is taken does not necessarily mean that they all are soon to follow. But what we see are the most obvious, the most influential groups being closed off. The statement “Greeks are elitist” is true – if we say there can never be a new group of them. Many groups work with Greeks for more recognition, and this is a threat to cut off the head of the student ability to organize.

If the system is broken, closing it will not fix it. An open system will reach equilibrium; any competent professor of economics can tell you that. This moratorium has already done more harm than any good it might ever do. The words most likely to halt change to anything are “You can’t do that.” That is what we have been told, that there is an acceptable way to organize, and that statement is unacceptable. It may not lead to, but is no different than, saying ABLE cannot exist because of the race issue. Saying SASS should not exist because some of what they do is deliberately controversial. That TKS should not exist because it isn’t perfect.

Telling Greeks to go away tells part of the campus, “We don’t want you. It would be better if you were never here.” If that’s the message; that we only want students who think a certain way, then this is the right move. But if we support the students to make these choices, then leave it us. Knox’s motto is “The freedom to flourish.”

Let Knox keep that freedom.

Jake Whipple

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