I would like to take this opportunity to respond to The Weekly’s recent opinion article about Greek Life’s exclusivity. Speaking on behalf of Greek Council, I want to offer our perspective as well as more information regarding this semester’s Recruitment Week.
Before I address the points raised by last week’s article, I want to state that not all Greek organizations participate in Greek Council’s Formal Recruitment, so efforts to generalize all organizations overlook the true makeup of Greek Life at Oxy. Sigma Lambda Gamma and Kappa Alpha Psi conduct their own independent Recruitments and have different intake system without a bid process that caters to students specifically interested in them. When discussing the Greek system it is important to take the different processes into account, as doing so will lead to further understanding of why organizations conduct Recruitment in different ways.
This spring, 209 students registered for Formal Recruitment to meet six out of eight Greek organizations. That number is higher than it has ever been since I personally have been at Oxy, unsurprisingly – the Greek population at Oxy has climbed from 10 percent to 25 of the student population in three years. These increased numbers clearly demonstrate that students see Greek Life at Oxy as a positive and beneficial feature to student life. We like to pride ourselves on being inclusive, and we are, compared to most other schools, but certain factors now structurally prevent our organizations from accepting every interested student. However, Greek organizations must take into consideration significant risk when accepting too large a new member class.
When organizations have too many members, their leaders have more difficulty with member management and accountability, and have fewer resources to use to further their organizations’ goals. Some organizations’ facilities are just too small to fit more than a certain number of members. And recent experiences over the past few years have shown that a larger new member class leads to more new members dropping out of their organizations, as they have a more difficult time truly becoming a part of their new organization on an individual level.
Risk is perhaps the most important issue. Risk management is a large and admirable part of Greek organization leadership, and when an executive board cannot adequately manage all of their members under risk policies, bad things happen. As much as inclusivity is extremely important, we cannot be fully inclusive at the risk of damaging or losing existing organizations.
We have been challenged to come up with a solution to this problem, and we think expansion is the appropriate step toward this solution. This spring, Delta Sigma Theta sorority will be forming a new chapter on our campus. Oxy students must know, though, that the expansion process is long and difficult, but we are working as fast as we can to continue to bring new Greek organizations to campus. Inclusivity is one of Greek Council’s core values, and we recognized this problem and began working to create an expansion process long before The Weekly’s article reminded us.
We hope this letter offers a bit of clarification about our recruitment process. Greek Council is planning an informational panel to take place in April, and if anyone has further questions about expansion or Greek Life in general we would be happy to address them there. Check our Facebook page, Occidental College Greek Council, for updates.
Claire Marsden (Greek Council President)
Emma Gerch (Zeta Tau Zeta President)
Nirjhar Mundkur (Phi Kappa Psi President)
Mackenzie Tucker (Alpha Lambda Phi Alpha President)
Christian Wolfgram (Sigma Alpha Epsilon President)
The question of Occidental’s tolerance, or lack thereof, is a recurring debate that resurfaces every semester. Usually, the central subject of Oxy’s tolerance debates revolve around how accepting a “liberal” college is or is not to conservatives, racists, sexists, homophobes, etc. This conversation is worth having because debate and action are necessary to improving our campus climate for all students. However, I write this in hopes to bring a certain counterargument to Ms. Juliet Suess’s definition of “tolerance” or lack thereof.
To illustrate her point, Suess defines intolerance as a simple reactive backlash toward an unpopular opinion. I would argue that the “intolerance” she claims this campus exhibits is more complex than a knee-jerk reaction. I would even contend that the majority of this campus fails to even qualify as a “liberal” or “progressive.” This is not to say that everyone, save for a select few, are racist/classist/sexist, but rather if this campus were truly “liberal,” there would not be a prevalent need for various student organizations to combat intolerance. Organizations such as O.S.A.C. (Occidental Sexual Assault Coalition) and C.O.D.E. (Coalition at Oxy for Diversity and Ex have demonstrated the history of institutional ineptitude toward issues like sexual assault and diversity. These organizations have also suggested, empirically, that part of the campus climate fuels our ongoing problems.
As someone who has programmed numerous events for the Black Student Alliance in years past, as well as an attendee or programmer of various related events, I can attest that the audience reaction is not as hostile to intolerance as the piece suggested. This is not to say that the opinions expressed by audience don’t conflict or that the analysis is always on-point. However, given the lacking presence of the “conservative” people at these events, it is very hypocritical for these same absentee critics to indict these meetings as “intolerant.”
Therefore, is it not only not “intolerant,” but it is absolutely necessary to call out persistent problematic behaviors. There are numerous emotional and physical consequences when dealing with oppressive behavior. The same cannot be said of those whose oppressive behaviors get called out.
If someone dislikes Ke$ha’s music for artistic reasons, they aren’t demonstrating the same hatred that many other marginalized groups go through. It’s apples and oranges.
Therefore, it makes sense that Dean Avery and a whole host of students would have a visceral reaction to the Nazi swastika. Regardless of the intent behind the swastika’s posting on the door, the symbol still represents a legacy and ongoing ideology of anti-Semitism, racism, and genocide: a true representation of intolerance. The absence of malintent does not excuse how hurtful someone or something can be.
I neither write this letter to silence Ms. Suess’s opinions nor to indict against The Occidental Weekly. Rather, I just want to deconstruct this notion of challenging intolerance as, in fact, a form of intolerance. It is this notion, of which, I find to be somewhat insulting to the work many people have done and are currently doing to create a safe, equitable, and democratic space on campus.