Sarah Mae Alcorn
Around this time every year, the subject re-emerges about the association made between alcohol consumption and Greek life. As a student of Whittier College, where the Greek life is not made up of national organizations but instead societies particular to the college, I never found this issue relevant to the student body.
This year however, when I expressed interest in pledging, I was informed that my refrain from alcohol consumption would potentially pose as a problem if I wished to become a member of Whittier’s various societies.
I was completely shocked that a personal decision, which I am positive other students have made as well, would keep me from experiencing a part of college that many students find important. It left me to wonder what the motives of Whittier’s societies truly are.
The way that television, films and other forms of media portray the college years is often as a time where it is socially acceptable to abuse alcohol in an effort to have a good time, but more often than not they refrain from representing the very real consequences of the decision to exhibit such behavior. Just as often, the people that participate in this behavior in media, are members of fraternities and sororities. While people often express that this is a false representation of Greek life, statistics seem to prove differently.
The United States Department of Education’s Higher Education Center reported that 75 percent of fraternity members engage in heavy drinking compared with 49 percent of other male students. Similarly, 62 percent of sorority members engaged in binge drinking versus 41 percent of non-sorority members. Whittier’s societies, while they may not be nationally recognized student organizations, are the closest thing that Whittier College has to them. Consequently, it has come to my attention that the same flaws that are present in Greek life at a state university, plague Whittier’s societies as well.
It would be far from the truth to say that the 11 societies that Whittier has have no positive influence on the college or the community. In fact, most societies pride themselves in their efforts to give back to the community and raising awareness on campus about a spectrum of social issues.
The members of our societies are some of the most successful students at Whittier, but when prospects are discouraged from joining based on their personal habits, the social aspect of the group may be interfering with the overall goal.
Yes, societies are social groups but when did drinking and socializing become synonymous? When societies are deterring students who do not socialize in the same way that they do to join, they may be losing a very valuable asset to the group.
When I spoke with a Whittier College student that does not drink alcohol and who had gone through pledging he told me, “I wasn’t pressured to drink by any of the society members but it definitely was around me and I felt like I should either be drinking or talking about drinking to fit in.” Unfortunately, the decision between membership or morals caused this student to de-pledge.
A student’s personality, intelligence and desire to participate in the group is what really matters when searching for prospects but instead obtaining a bid has become a popularity contest that is strongly influenced by the social drinking aspect of college.