Greek life and the faculty

Read the SLC Greek Report mentioned in this column here.

I write this column to express my frustration with the faculty discussion over Greek life at Knox. As Student Senate President, sitting on both the Student Life and Faculty Executive Committees, I have been a part of this conversation since September. 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.

I have warned faculty members at these meetings against dividing Knox students into Greeks and non-Greeks. This is a division, which we ourselves do not make and one that will be devastating to the campus community and culture. This issue is not on the radar screens of the student body. We aren’t worried about this. Instead, we fear the implications of this discussion going further, as it is only going to continue to get more hostile.

That is in fact what is happening. I’m disappointed that some faculty members choose to fall into the trap of stereotyping and painting Greek students as all the same. This is exactly the kind of behavior that so many of us were appalled to see exemplified in a recent issue of The Knox Student. It also seems that many of the arguments I’ve heard over the last few months have nothing to do with the system at Knox, but rather preconceived notions of what Greek systems are like at other institutions.

Knox’s system is simply different. In fact, most of the arguments against the Greek system were flat out refuted by the report of the Student Life Committee on Greek life at Knox. One of the most recurring arguments at the faculty meeting last Monday against the Greek system was its exclusive nature. As I voiced at the meeting, I find it extremely ironic to be discussing that issue at an extremely exclusive liberal arts college. As a non-Greek student I feel no pressure to join. I do not feel excluded or unwelcome at Greek events or among Greek students.

I have been disappointed with the unwillingness of some faculty to hear the other side. Many of the positive aspects of Greek life, and there are many, are simply downplayed, and at times even joked about. It has been said by some faculty members at these meetings the philanthropy Greek organizations participate in and the money they raise is secondary to social purposes; that these groups do philanthropy on Friday so they can get drunk and party on Saturday.

I find this to be extremely disrespectful. This would be as if I said faculty members teach on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday so that they can be institutionally supported to conduct their pet research on Tuesday and Thursday. I think a lot of faculty members would take exception to such an accusation. Why are the Greeks any different?

There is a larger issue here of faculty involvement in student life. The idea that the faculty should decide what organizations Knox students can and can’t be involved in is extremely paternalistic. Students are adults and the expansion or reduction of the Greek system, just like all student life at Knox is self-regulating. Organizations and clubs, Greek organizations included, ebb and flow with the ever changing student body. For the faculty to step in and assert a right over that is frankly very frightening. After all, where does it stop?

I am glad that finally at Tuesday’s Student Life Committee meeting we had a chance to sit down with Greek leadership. I thank them all for coming. I’m also glad that the Committee finally took a formal stand. At the meeting the Committee unanimously recommended to the faculty that no action be taken on the Greek issue. I hope the faculty will heed this recommendation at their meeting next Monday. This discussion needs to end and we need to take the Greek community out of the crosshairs.

Brad Middleton

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