Letter to the Editor of The Trail 4 March 2016

The mission of Wetlands Magazine is to provide a platform for marginalized voices on our campus, particularly highlighting those experiences informed through gender, sexuality, race, class, and ability. Due to the homogeneity of our student body, we find that these voices are largely excluded and silenced. This is equally as true in our classrooms as in our decision-making institutions on campus. Outside of the Student Diversity Center there is little work being done to amplify these voices, leaving these students ostracized. To push back and break through this systematic silencing, Wetlands provides not only a space dedicated to sharing narrative accounts of institutional erasure but also a platform to build communities founded on self-love and collective empowerment in opposition to dominant power relations structuring our campus community.

 

This mission leads us to feel dissatisfied with Brandon Schneider’s recent remarks on Wetlands published in the most recent letter to the editor in The Trail. It appears to us that his remarks are denigrating the lived experiences of marginalized students in relation to Greek Life. Through framing Wetlands as being a site of unwarranted criticism, he is denying the reality that our broader campus community is structured by capitalism, white supremacy, antiblack racism, antisemitism, misogyny, cissexism, ableism, and antiqueerness. Greek Life is not a space free from these structural violences. This violence is heightened through hastily appropriating the felt sense ostracization in our campus community.

 

Consider, for example, when Schneider writes that “like any other human on the face of this planet, we do not like feeling ostracized from our academic and social groups that we enjoy and dedicate our time to [sic],” he fails to acknowledge that the antisemitism his house participates in actually ostracizes the Jewish students on our campus. What to him is merely a “joke told behind closed doors” is actually emblematic of longer histories of subordination and trauma. Ostracization is not equally experienced by all people. Asymmetrical power relations structure the very essence of the term “ostracization.” His misappropriation of the term “ostracization” is symptomatic of the way that campus organizations consistently reduce the felt experience of ostracization to a feeling of “being left out,” a framing that disavows structural power relations in the service of dodging critique. Schneider’s article is not a good-faith engagement with critiques of Greek Life. It is instead part of an individualizing logic that seeks to locate the “problem” in individual members’ behavior, rather than attending to the structural conditions that allow privileged individuals to feel safe making antisemitic “jokes” “behind closed doors” in the first place.

 

This logic is one of liberal guilt, and does little to remediate structural violence. When Schneider writes that “sure, historically and on larger college campuses Greek life probably deserves its bad rap […] but here, we’re all liberal arts students in the PNW, largely liberal and social justice-ly [sic] minded people” he assumes that individuals’ intentions can somehow overcome histories of structural violence. This is the assumption of liberal guilt, which tells us that merely striving to be inclusive can somehow undo the violences of the past that extend into the present. Consider, again, when he writes “members of Greek Life are still individual students involved in a variety of organizations [including] […] the Puget Sound Student Union and UPS Men of Color Society.” This logic produces a “feeling” of “being liberal enough,” numbing us into accepting the entrenched inequities of the status quo. It does nothing to address structural violence because it denies the very existence of structural violence altogether. This individualizing logic demonstrates the veracity of critiques levelled against Greek Life in Wetlands and The Trail.

 

To move toward collective empowerment we need to focus on more than just “the few ‘bad eggs’” who make campus unsafe, and we need to focus on the structural conditions that, in the words of legal scholar Dean Spade, “distribute life chances unevenly across populations.” Merely intending to be inclusive does nothing to challenge the uneven distribution of life chances structuring the lives of marginalized students; failure to address the power relations structuring Greek Life allows Greek Life to continually overlook its own role in the ecosystem of campus, reproducing (however unintentionally) a climate of hate and exclusion.

 

Sincerely,


Kailee Faber, Wetlands Magazine Editor-in-Chief

Kathryn Queirolo, Wetlands Magazine Prose Editor

Elayna Caron

Shanna Williams

Natalie Balkam

Michelle Leatherby

Denise Parry

Kaitlyn Carney

Simone Quinanola

Molly Golanka, Wetlands Magazine Art Editor

Rory Wong Jacobs, Wetlands Magazine Poetry Editor

 

1 March 2016

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