Opinion » Column | Sept. 23
This past Saturday, as I was getting dressed to go out, I heard indecipherable shouts coming from outside (call it luck of the first floor). I was waiting for my own pickups, so naturally my roommates and I dashed to the common room window to get a better look. Instead of hearing the sweet sounds of African a cappella, I heard random mathematical symbols. “Are they chanting epsilon?” my roomie Jackie asked. “And delta … ?” Luckily, a friend who was over was able to fill us in on what was happening: Greek rush.
I felt a little bad for being out of the loop, but then I realized that for a whole year Greek life had been completely nonexistent to me and that, more likely than not, it would continue to be so. With such small numbers on campus and such trouble from the University’s administration, this is not surprising.
Imagine Greek life as a pesky fly in the kitchen. As you’re cooking meals and spending time with family around the table, you hear an incessant buzzing. It annoys you enough that you try to end the poor thing’s life, but because the likelihood of killing it is so low, you settle for swatting it away.
This is essentially the way in which fraternities and sororities are treated on this campus.
I cannot say that Greek life would interest me personally. I have two older sisters and the majority of my friends are women, so any more “sisters” and I would probably lose count. I am also well aware of the darker sides of Greek life — among them socioeconomic and ethnic divisiveness, high-risk drinking, ridiculous initiations and occasionally crude hazing. But I think it is extremely hypocritical to argue that these qualities are only found in Greek life.
Every eating club on this campus holds a stereotype based on its membership, and within each stereotype is a reliable modicum of truth. Some are more diverse than others, some have wealthier members than others and some seem to dedicate themselves to determining how much Beast can cover the floor in one night. And while the bickering of most clubs involves simple socialization or games, some are inevitably more, ahem, unattractive.
And so, during this rare moment when Princeton Greek life is on my mind, I wonder why this very thing is so adamantly fought by the Princeton administration when similar entities already exist. The only conclusion I can draw is that eating clubs will forever be “quintessentially Princeton,” and, though Greek life is starkly similar, it would be seen as detracting from the established image of the University.
Everything that Greek life is stereotypically known for could be deemed the antithesis of the image Princeton aims to project. Picture obnoxiously loud music, even more obnoxious undergraduates with red Solo cups or bedazzled, overly large coffee mugs in hand, running amok in every corner of campus and town. However, the only major difference between this and a night on the Street is allowing yourself to run amok under the name and protection of an “eating club.”
Compare the following two images: The first, a “frat bro” in his casual wifebeater and baseball cap — backwards, of course — stumbling about after a few drinks. The second, a bicker club member, in a casual powder blue button down and shorts, also a tad drunk. Let’s even give him a British accent, to offset frat bro’s baseball cap. Though both of these men are equally drunk and will be getting equally sloppy in a few short moments, there remains one important difference: The bro has the frat stereotype hanging over his head — wild, unkempt, unruly — while the bicker club member represents all that defines eating clubs, embodying qualities of collected coolnessand the refinement of Princeton itself.
There is nothing wrong with acknowledging and hoping to avoid the pitfalls that an active Greek life can bring to a campus. I think a sustained dialogue on the implications of such groups should be encouraged. Still, to turn a blind eye toward other institutions that so closely resemble fraternities and sororities is plainly unjust and displays unfair partiality towards such institutions. Because when push comes to shove, eating clubs and Greek life are similar, in that they provide a social hub during our years of undergraduate education and help establish connections of all forms for the years beyond. This alone should be reason enough to ease the stringent policies the University has so persistently, unfairly maintained.
Lea Trusty is a sophomore from Saint Rose, La. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.