Changing W&L's Housing Policies to Promote a Healthier Community sign now

After reading about all these problems in the Phi over the past two months, I have felt compelled to share my disappointment to the way we have been trying to solve them. Rather than looking at why our problems exist and creating an environment to facilitate healthier behavior, we say Hey, thats bad. Dont do that or else! But this is approach is always bound to fail. As the editorial piece said last week, you cant teach college students morality. We seem to be caught in a never-ending game of whack-a-mole, but we havent even thought about how to make sure the moles dont surface in the first place.

While I do laud the limiting of the policy to hate speech, and not anything found offensive to other students as is common in other schools, it is still impractical.
Applying speech codes without actually letting students learn about others for themselves doesnt accomplish anything. Its only a band-aid, not a solution. We need to have an environment that naturally fosters contact between people of different sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Any claims of diversity will be confined only to numbers seen on paper until such an environment is created.

If we are truly an institution that produces leaders for the 21st century, then we need to get into the 21st century. The fact that the Hate Speech Policy even had to be brought up is a clear indicator that our students are graduating devoid of the intercultural exchange essential to success in todays globalized business world.

What better way to understand different types of people than by living with them? Unfortunately, our Greek system is a natural dividing factor. The astronomically high costs of fraternity membership are an immediate barrier to many international students here on full scholarship. With notable exceptions, the international students are segregated from day 1, and it only gets worse from year to year as they are lumped all together in the international house, Gaines, and Woods Creek, while the wealthy white population lives amongst themselves in the fraternity scene, deprived of the potentially wonderful benefits of intercultural exchange.

But its not just a Greek vs. non-Greek barrier. Integration between fraternities is even a huge problem. The sororities, however, are a prime example of how we can have a Greek system without the problems inherent amongst fraternities in their current incarnation. Friends in different sororities continue to interact with each other after they join their respective organizations, eating at each others houses, etc. The close physical proximity is a huge factor, but whats more important is that there are few enough of them that they are not in cutthroat competition all fall term. We have nearly the same amount of fraternities as we did when we were all male, but we have only half of the number of males to draw from! As such, there is an incredibly unhealthy divisiveness between houses of males who would in normal circumstances be friendly with each other. If we were somehow able to have around seven fraternities, this unnecessary hostility would disappear and would encourage more inter-fraternal interaction, helping to build a stronger overall community.

But gender relations would still remain an issue. Lets face itthis environment is not at all conducive to the formation of co-ed groups of friends. The fact that the sorority houses are located so far away from fraternity houses is ludicrous. If recent Phi articles on this topic are any indication, students overwhelmingly want more everyday gender interaction. Well heres a solution that would substantially improve the predicament: build more dorms, and have students live on campus for two years before moving into their Greek houses. Its simply unfair to have one semester to make your static friendships for all four years of college. I for one wish I had a lot more time to interact and discover before having everything set in stone by the time pledgeship season rolled around. Having that one extra year of living with people not in the same Greek organization will provide a necessary period of interaction that can only serve to bring the community closer together and contribute to the true intellectual development of all students.

Living together forces people to gain a deeper understanding of each others backgrounds. If we are exposed every day to different genders, races, religions, sexual orientations, then it will severely hamper our tendency to engage in hate speech, rendering the ratification of any official policy a moot point.

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Alta FloresBy:
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Washington and Lee University


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