In yesterday’s editorial, we sought to tease apart and examine some of the issues presented by greek life, and, after carefully considering some of its entrenched problems, we concluded that, on the ideal Duke campus, greek life would not exist. In our second installment, we would like to dispel some concerns about the practical difficulties of diminishing the reach and power of the greek system.
Some predict that restricting greek life would elicit a palpable backlash from alumni. Tempering greek life at Duke would, many argue, mean alienating a huge contingent of donors. It is our belief, however, that the long-term payoffs of such a move would outweigh the short-term losses. If restrictions on greek life join with an institutional commitment to high-quality independent living—whether through the current House Model or some alternative—students outside of greek life will have better residential experiences. If independents no longer feel like they received the short end of the housing stick, they may be more likely to donate to the University. So, despite risking short-term losses by raising the hackles of a few alumni, decreasing the presence and power of Greek life may actually prove financially and reputationally beneficial in the long run.
The largest obstacle standing in the way of a limited Greek system is the scarcity of satisfying alternatives for students looking for an enriching residential experience. In order to address this issue, the administration would need to amend and improve the current housing system. Many Duke students look back on their first-year housing experience with nostalgia. There are no institutionalized social barriers – no selectivity, little exclusivity. But, as sophomore year approaches, students are forced to make hard decisions about where and with whom to live. This is largely a function of small block sizes, which represent, in many ways, the most ill-conceived and problematic aspect of the House Model. If the House Model is to offer a fun, desirable alternative to selective groups, it must guarantee students the ability to live with friends they make freshman year.
The administration would, specifically, have to increase block sizes so that groups of 10-15 people could live as a unit. We would like to see these new social units granted access to amenities needed to fill any social void left by a formerly dominant greek system. In particular, these living units should have easier access to alcohol. Currently, houses have to navigate red tape and exorbitant costs to obtain alcohol, and, though safety and liability will remain important issues, relatively easy and safe access to alcohol will drastically reduce the social costs of not going greek. Independents must also have ample space for social events. Once independents have more space and autonomy, they will be able to cement themselves as vibrant social communities.
It is true that, without a robust greek life, sports teams and other groups might become the dominant social units. We are confident, however, that improvements to independent housing will not only prevent this from happening, but also create a more enjoyable Duke experience for all students.