Greek Life: The monster under the bed

The meaning of Spartan life

In the Feb. 13 issue of this paper, Director of Greek Life Mark Starr was reported as saying that it was The Office of Greek Life’s goal to see 51 percent of campus going Greek. The reporter continued jokingly, “It may not be long before we see that goal escalating to world domination, seeing as the 2013-2014 Greek Life Office Annual Report has nearly 39 percent of the campus population listed as already a member of the Greek Community.”

I’d like to think this is some ludicrous joke, but it’s not. Okay, maybe the world domination part is a facetious hyperbole, but the implied domination of Case Western Reserve University is not, and that’s a disgusting and scary thought.

Why do students go Greek? What are the purpose and significance of pledging to participate and abide by rituals and an imposed set of values?

The words “fraternity” and “sorority” come from the Latin frater and soror, meaning brother and sister, respectively. Obviously Greek Life exists to create a sense of community around a meaningful bond between members that resembles siblinghood, but I’m certain reasons for joining differ from person to person. Furthermore Greek organizations have a philanthropy component, which is a wonderful aspect. To be sure, these are noble pursuits, but what happens when an entire college community drinks the Kool-Aid?

The implications of CWRU becoming 51 percent Greek are huge. First, there’s simply not enough room for more chapters to have houses or individual spaces on campus. A number of preexisting organizations are houseless and more dormitories are being erected right now. If half the student population becomes Greek, I can see the petitions to surrender control of Village Houses to the Office of Greek Life.

Second, Greek organizations already have an immense amount of influence on campus. If they get the majority of campus involved, they will have the basis for becoming the hegemon not only of student funding allocation but also of the ears of administrators.

Third, Greek Life is a big moneymaker for CWRU. Transmitting a public image of a half-Greek campus sends a message that we offer some delicate yet stellar balance of brother and sisterhood, while in reality it looks like “The Stepford Wives” meets “Brave New World” as interpreted and depicted by Salvador Dali.

Fourth, the Office of Greek Life has its hands full as it is with all the scrutiny it’s getting for sexual misconduct, so how will it deal with a more than 10 percent increase in students to handle? While space is an issue, likewise is the emotionally charged uncertainty of student behavior.

There are a number of other concerns, but I must now ask: Why do Starr and his office want a definitive 51 percent of affiliates? His comments suggest domination of the school. Is CWRU equipped to handle Starr’s dystopic campus of dominance?

Greek organizations are not bad entities though. In fact they are quite impressive. They effectively attract, recruit, mobilize, act and influence. They possess a great deal of solidarity, and their etymological roots are apparent. But what if such a demand for Greek Life is indicative of a larger problem unique to CWRU?

Perhaps a much larger systemic issue is merely manifesting as a greater demand for Greek affiliation. Perhaps CWRU’s sense of community is so bad that, as students are yearning to find belonging somewhere, they join and latch onto the Greek community, which validates and fosters their desired personal belonging and identity throughout college.

But then we don’t need more Greek chapters; we need to address the underlying problems directly instead of appeasing through programmed affiliation. If we simply continue to add Greek chapters, we bury the problem of community deeper under the illusion of utopia while materializing Starr and his office’s monolithic dream-haze of dominance concealed behind the merits of an otherwise thriving community.

Jacob Martin, a senior, wishes all Greek chapters and their members an enjoyable, successful and memorable Greek Week 2015.