Letters to the Editor
It has come to my attention that the Washington and Lee administration has implemented another frightening new policy upon our beloved campus. Freshman girls and boys are now living literally right across the hallway from each other in several (if not all) freshman dorms. To make matters worse, I hear many girls and guys, while wearing nothing but a towel and slippers, have to walk past dorm rooms housing the opposite gender in order to get to the restroom to take a shower. I find this new first-year housing policy to be extremely disturbing and upsetting. I KNOW Robert Edward Lee would be rolling in his grave right now if he found out about the dire situation at hand. The current freshman dormitories are absolutely not the living quarters of a lady or a gentleman. If this university administration is serious about curbing possible sexual violence on campus, why are they allowing a situation like this to exist? Now that I think about it, what good did they think could possibly come from this when THEY CREATED AND IMPLEMENTED THIS HIGHLY DISTURBING NEW POLICY? I also am forced to wonder just how many years it has been since the freshman girls and guys were originally forced to live like this. I could not imagine the feeling of dropping off one of my daughters on move-in day and seeing a couple of freshman guys setting up shop just across the hallway. On top of that, I honestly think I would seriously consider pulling my daughter out of the school if I saw that these same guys were going to be living in between my daughter’s room and the restroom that my daughter would be planning on using to bathe each day. Ultimately, I can think of little else that would create a more perfect environment for sexual assault than one that consists of hundreds of possibly highly inebriated 18-year-old boys and girls coming back every night to dorm rooms located just across the hallway from possibly equally inebriated members of the opposite gender. If the current administration ever decides it wants to become a little more serious about curbing possible sexual assault on campus, I think a fantastic first step for them to take would be to completely separate the first-year girls and boys living quarters. I hear the administration has decided to tear down Gilliam and Davis in the coming years and plans to house freshman students in only two dorms – Gaines and Graham Lees. Why not put all the freshman girls in one dorm and place all the freshman boys in the other? As liberal as most public universities are these days, even they still have the decency and common sense to house their first-year boys and girls in different buildings during their freshman years before they allow them to live off-campus (of course W&L upperclassman off-campus housing is another story, but after seeing how the administration has utterly botched first-year housing, who knows what kind of mischief they will get themselves into with upper-classman housing). I’ve heard both female and male first-year students, parents, and grandparents express their sharp disapproval of the situation as it currently stands. This new plan would undoubtedly be welcomed with open arms by the vast majority, if not all, of the first-year students as well as the extended Washington and Lee community.
At this point in my dealings with the university, I highly doubt the current administration has even thought to consider the enormous liability they are heaping upon themselves by creating an environment in which sexual assault is most likely destined to occur. I am no attorney, but I do know a legal liability when I see one if it is JUMPING OUT OF THE PAGE AND SCREAMING at me. I also know that I will ABSOLUTELY NOT be donating a dime to the university this year or in the years to come as long as this cringe-worthy policy still stands. I strongly urge all others reading this piece to do the same until this foolish administration ceases these reckless operations and begins to take possible sexual assault on campus a little more seriously.
-An extremely concerned and disturbed lover of Washington and Lee
The Greek system is a subject of frequent ridicule at W&L. The University primarily complains about fraternities and how they foster a destructive and irresponsible party culture; however, seldom does anyone discuss the problems with the sorority system, which are quite different.
With a strong fraternity system already in place upon W&L’s admission of the first co-ed undergraduate class, introducing sororities was the logical move at the time. Women needed the same social outlet that men had in order to make the co-ed transition smoother. The system works, sure. Just like men, W&L women have the option to join a social fraternity so they can form lifelong relationships, yet the sorority system is indeed flawed, but in a different way than its fraternity counterpart.
Few liberal arts colleges comparable in size to W&L have a national sorority system on campus. Because all six sororities at W&L are affiliated with national organizations, we must abide by certain rules. National rules prohibit the presence of alcohol in Greek housing and also prohibit men being on the third floor. No one seeks out the sorority house as a place to hang out with friends except the sophomores who live there. Instead, we gather at off campus houses, which essentially divide the sorority into groups based on pledge class. Needless to say, sorority houses are not much of a social center and the rules we are required to follow essentially preclude fun of any kind on the premises. We cannot host our own parties on campus, and aside from the occasional off campus band party when funds are available, we do very little to contribute to the W&L social scene. How are W&L women expected to feel equal if our social lives are almost entirely dependent upon a male dominated Greek system?
Additionally, the rush process is truly ridiculous. While fraternities take freshmen out drinking every night of the week, sorority members must rely on superficial interactions with potential new members. The process induces an unnecessary amount of anxiety for both groups not to mention creates unnecessary rivalries between sororities.
A few other questions arise in my mind as well: Why don’t sororities have chefs on staff and get three hot meals a day like fraternities do? I also wonder what kind of message the University intends to send by providing double beds in the fraternity houses and only singles in the sorority houses, but these are just few of many mysteries of the sorority system.
Although some of these issues seem inconsequential, W&L women’s dependency on fraternities is ultimately a safety issue. Because of the Honor System, we choose to put in our trust in W&L men who are sober driving and trust that there’s nothing suspicious in the grain alcohol mixture at an off campus party. Ideally, a W&L student’s word can be taken at face value, but there is always the possibility of something going wrong. Perhaps W&L would be safer for everyone if sorority women contributed to things such as sober driving for off campus parties or hosted parties at all. Because of our strict adherence to national mandates involving hazing, we are not allowed to institute a driving list. If we were to require pledges or sophomores to drive once every three months for an off campus party, we risk losing our national charter on the grounds of hazing. This seems like a pretty absurd consequence for implementing a safety measure. Perhaps if sororities could host on campus parties, there would be less of a need for off campus parties in the first place.
I am aware that many of the questions I have raised are not the fault of the University. W&L has no control over rules implemented by national organizations, but we do have control over some of the smaller issues, such as dining and furnishings of the houses. Perhaps W&L students and the administration could simply start a dialogue about the possibly instituting local chapters, such as those that exist at Sewanee and Dartmouth. Local sorority chapters operate primarily under the jurisdiction of its own members and certain University rules. As is, the sorority system does not provide the same type of experience that fraternities do. We ought to discuss in depth the place of national sororities at W&L so that we might find a way to eliminate the bigotry of the Greek system, which is ironically fostered by the national organizations themselves and their archaic standards for 21st century college students which have no place at Washington and Lee.