Fraternities at Whitman

DS likes what he reads about Whitman but is a bit spooked by the relatively high % of students that are a part of Greek life. (This is not a Greek slam…I was in a fraternity in college but DS doesn’t think that is in the cards for him). Can anyone speak to Greek life at Whitman? Is it the driving force of social life on campus? Is it largely a preppy group? Any insights/thoughts welcomed as we are trying to figure out if it is worth the many hours of travel to visit.

My son is a junior at Whitman (and currently home on break). He is not in a fraternity, and was a little surprised to hear someone express concern that the percentage is high. There are so many activities at Whitman, a student can find plenty to do outside the Greek system. But those looking for parties are quite often welcome at fraternity parties, even if they aren’t members. And he doesn’t think there are too many preppy people. If you have more specific questions, let me know. He is very happy there.

@KnearSeattle, many thanks for the response. A couple sources say over 40% of males in fraternities which is relatively high compared to some other schools DS is looking at. However, if your son says it really isn’t an issue then that sounds great. Many thanks!

I’ll echo KnearSeattle’s information. frats at Whitman aren’t exclusive or overbearing. My son graduated from Whitman a couple years ago and he did join a fraternity, he liked the guys and took several leadership roles. He found living there was a nice step between dorms and renting houses in town, the cost was lower than dorms, but there was a cook serving three good meals a day and doing all the shopping. He lived at the house a couple of years. There was quite a bit of focus on philanthropy, fund raising and volunteering for community projects and friendly interaction between the frats and the independents. The members aren’t exclusive or rabid or snotty and there is no pressure to join. In fact, my son was pledge chairman one year and had a blast because he had funds to take prospects out to lunch, he really enjoyed meeting a lot of new people, some joined, some didn’t. The frat houses tend to be party central on weekends but the houses (3) are all on the same corner across from campus, all easily avoidable. The parties are open to the entire campus and lots of indies do attend. The last 3 semesters my son lived in a rented house in town with members from each of the other 2 frats and a couple independents, they were friends first and foremost.

Sorry, I was answering while half awake, just getting in the first cup of coffee. Just as I suspected, I should be arrested by the grammar police for that post, and did I really say fraternity members aren’t rabid or snotty? I should hope not! While adding that bit I was thinking about all the horrible stuff I’ve read about frat behavior other places. Whitman has a kinder, gentler, saner version of Greek life.

@bopambo I appreciate all your thoughts (both before and after coffee). Many thanks!

I’ve thought about this topic a lot, we also did a great deal of research on the schools S was interested in. My husband is several years older than me and was in a fraternity in the sixties, I went to college in the seventies when Greek life was considered very uncool by most students at my university, so I had a preexisting bias. Hubby has stories of good times, but also of stupid drunken antics and brutal demeaning hazing rituals at his frat house. I was very leery about S going to small campuses with big Greek footprints and we spent a lot of time looking at schools with no Greek organizations.

After reading tons of student reviews and school newspapers, I caught wind of the presence on some of these so-called Greek-less campuses of what people call “underground” fraternities. Every so often a student review or article would complain about the social stresses of having these unregulated, but very selective groups, influencing the school’s social life. I was appalled. Greek life out in the open is one thing, Greek life lurking in the shadows is another thing altogether. The campuses where this seems to be happening are very selective, somewhat preppy and mostly on the east coast.

I like Whitman’s brand of Greeks, influenced by the overall friendly inclusive culture at the school, and am happy that the administration maintains a watchful eye on how they behave.

@bopambo - I know this is an old thread, but it is relevant to my D right now. I appreciate your information on the Greek scene at Whitman. Lots of people recommended my D apply to, or at least look into, Whitman. The deadline is coming up soon. One of the things that concerned her is whether, on a campus this small, sororities (and frats) play a disproportionately larger role in social life. It sounds like it’s not a big deal. I agree with you that drinking is going to be everywhere, and often, you get these underground organizations that do things out of sight and the administration has a challenge trying to rein them in. I’m more concerned about the overall social atmosphere: how friendly and collaborative the students and faculty are, and the quality of teaching.

Hi BobShaw, I fully understand your concerns. When you look at the numbers it looks like the campus is divided into Greek and non-Greek, but that isn’t the case. Joining a fraternity or a sorority at Whitman is like joining any organization on campus, it’s something you do, not who you are. My son was in service clubs and part of the student government in high school, joining his fraternity was a way to continue doing community service and taking leadership roles. He related that his chapter was always ducking the visits from the national group because the Whitties had failed to learn the rites and rituals one must perform to welcome the grand poobahs, that made me chuckle. Whitman is known for it’s friendly inclusive culture and Greek life is no different. Nobody is “in” or “out”. He has plenty of friends who weren’t Greek.

I highly recommend Whitman, my son had a great experience. The student body is open and friendly, the campus and town are small, which fosters a close knit community. The teaching is excellent, and the professors are extremely accessible. When my son applied to graduate school he had letters of recommendation from professors who knew him very well, including the chairman of his department.

Maybe the thing to do is suggest she apply, and if she’s accepted, take her to visit. She’ll be able to tell pretty quick once she’s on campus whether it fits her or not.