The Wesleyan community often takes pride in its uniqueness—its ability to do things differently. While the University, like every university, has its faults, this approach to higher education is something to be proud of and to encourage. The problem with this approach, however, is their inclusion of organizations that it does not deign worthy of its goals or mentality.
Such seems to be the issue facing the Greek system on campus. The administration especially, but also parts of the student body, do not see the Greek college experience as compatible with the Wesleyan experience. This seems hypocritical to the idea of a “Diversity University,” which should, to achieve such a title, embrace all types of college experiences within the University mindset of unique and progressive approaches to the college community. How, then, can the Greek college experience, often seen as anachronistic within a small liberal arts university, be part of the Wesleyan experience in a productive and inclusive way?
To achieve such an end, the responsibility should not solely lie with the Greek community. If the Greek life community wishes to be accepted as part of what it means to be at the University, and if the administration in return wishes for the Greek community on campus to contribute to a better campus, the members of the Greek community, those on campus not affiliated with Greek life, and the administration all must put in effort.
The stereotypes of Greek life culture on college campuses are rooted in real aspects of the Greek community. Partying aside (as the fact is that University students participate in drinking whether in a fraternity or not), there are aspects to the cultural portrayal of Greek societies that hold true and that are concerning. But Greek organizations on campus can and are taking steps to not only be progressive but also to join in the University’s approach to a college community.
My organization, Alpha Epsilon Pi, has instituted a required consent- and healthy-relationship workshop for incoming members, and many other organizations have instituted or are in the process of instituting similar requirements. In addition, there have been conversations held on campus to discuss how Greek organizations, specifically fraternities, can work to be safe spaces for women on campus and be more inclusive toward the entire University community. The steps being taken show these Greek organizations’ commitment to share in the University’s idea of a college community.
Just as Greek organizations at Wesleyan take steps to act progressively and find how they can contribute to the Wesleyan ideals of a college experience, it is important that students embrace these actions as sincere changes. It is comforting to see several organizations on campus, including several identity organizations and sexual health advocacy groups, work with Greek organizations to run events that advocate for activism both around and from the Greek community. Although this proactive action isn’t necessary of everyone, it is encouraging to see students appreciate what Greek organizations are doing to step up and take action.
Lastly, the administration must be accepting of the Greek organizations on campus. It is difficult for the University Greek community to try to make changes to be productive contributors to the Wesleyan idea of a college experience whilst being constantly labeled as against that concept. Both the Greek organizations and the University administration would benefit from working together to find a place for Greek organizations in the Wesleyan community and mindset.
One method of achieving this would be to hire a Greek representative in the administration, just as most colleges with an active Greek life possess. This individual would be a constant, proactive liaison between the two groups to develop a productive dialogue. The administration should take advantage of the organizational skills, funds, and enthusiasm the Greek communities have to contribute toward bettering Wesleyan.
Two of the phrases presented by Wesleyan’s fundraising campaigns seem relevant to this conversation: “Are you Wesleyan” and “This is Why.” Wesleyan students involved with Greek life are just as “Wesleyan” as those who are not; Greek societies on campus do represent what it means to be “Wesleyan” and are working to become even more so. It should be the goal of the entire community—Greek organizations, non-Greek students, and the administration—to make sure that the slogan “This is Why” can be attached to any and all of the Greek organizations.
Leibowitz is a member of the class of 2014.