The viral blog post and email chain from the Sixth Circle blog on Sunday, April 8, shocked campus, and will likely remain relevant for a week or two. Yet, one cannot help but think just like any Greek organization getting sanctioned or even this year the murder of a young man on campus, (and of course, these things are not analogous in gravity in any way), the dialectic for the average Wake Forester will likely regress to the status quo in only a few weeks — prosaic talk about Greek life, academic obligations and summer plans.
While this radical group still has our attention, it is important that the substance of their argument is not lost on the reader in the face of their provocative tactics. Without a doubt, using the header “you are not safe here…”, calling for the abolishment of social Greek life on campus, and criticizing both OGB and WFR, our campus’ chief publications, will not win one many sympathetic ears on campus. Nor will their use of antiquated and idiosyncratic terms such as “beseech” or referencing Dante’s Inferno. In fact, their use of vaguely threatening language, while legally protected, in some sense undermines the call to discourse that this fringe campus group is trying to make. Yet, what worked for this group is that for the first time in my Wake Forest experience, people are talking about issues with campus life that we often like to forget about.
As an editor at the Wake Forest Review, and a member of a social fraternity on campus, I can say without a doubt that the level of vitriol and outrage in discussing this manifesto was nearly unparalleled to any other event on campus I can recollect — and that goes for both of these two groups. The reality is that people do not want to have their ideas or identities challenged. However, the five criticisms that these writers lay out are at times exaggeratory, but mostly reasonable and even urgent in terms of their potency and potential for making meaningful reform on campus.
Both the Wake Forest Review and the Old Gold and Black struggle at times to have constructive dialogue or meaningful journalism outside of their own political leanings (I myself have been guilty of this on many an occasion), and find themselves ensconced within a framework where they simply want to argue with other politicos on campus. If you need evidence, look no further than the at times polemic and misguided sparring over gun control in recent OGB columns. There is minimal effort to include a larger group of students into political debate, and of course this largely stems from Wake Forest students being widely apolitical. Yet, this goes hand-in-hand with curriculum reform. Wake Forest students need to do a better job of learning for the sake of learning; they need to be truly intellectually curious. What matters more than taking an ‘easy A’ divisional is learning perspectives that one is generally not exposed to. This campus is full of brilliant minds. The Sixth Circle is on to something — Wake Foresters need to stop limiting themselves.
Next, the criticism of maltreatment of Aramark staff is also extremely important. Working a support staff position at Wake Forest is not an easy proposition. Hours are long, wages are low and students often lack proper manners and therefore ignore basic dignity of many members of the support staff. While Student Government has applied pressure to increase wages for support staff starting next year, this is insufficient. As a campus, we need to become more involved in events such as the School of Divinity’s effort to give out gifts to staff workers during the holiday season. When students come back in a stupor from parties over the weekend, they ought to clean up after themselves to make upkeep at least an iota more tolerable for support staff. When we have daily interactions with staff, we need to be courteous and polite, with no exception. These are not difficult fixes, and they go a long way.
While I disagree with the proposal of ending social Greek life altogether, one does not have to be on campus for more than a few days to know that serious reform needs to occur for Greek life. While long-lasting friendships are made and many Greek organizations throw social events in a responsible fashion, there are serious outliers that impact the well-being of students on campus and often can deter individualism and pursuing activities beyond one’s chapter. Sometimes it is hard to tell if these negative aspects are an outlier, or simply a cost of being involved in Greek life. By no means does Greek life need to be abolished, but higher standards of character and achievement need to be set and enforced by the university for Greek men and women.
Of course, it is easy for a few nameless writers, ever-so-emboldened by their anonymity, to construct an indictment of Wake Forest, especially when they advocate for nothing in return. But to write off the points made by this group is to ignore some of the blatantly problematic things that are inextricable to Wake Forest as we stand today.