By Alli Smith
The entirety of my first morning in McClurg was filled with the complaining screeches of tables being pushed together, chairs being moved, and the sight of the forlorn faces of fraternity gentlemen and sorority ladies. On our first morning of classes, I watched several guys push together three of the circle tables in McClurg in order to include a good portion of their organization, as well as members of other fraternities.
All the guys sat, ate, and talked at their cumbersome little triangle of pods—an attempt to reclaim their usual front-table status. As a girl walked into the bathroom, I heard one poorly concealed whisper of “She’s hot,” as that section of the table lifted their eyes to see the girl in question.
As I’m sure you have all noticed, McClurg’s first section of “fratside” has recently been disbanded due
to the work of the ReThink task force. Where certain fraternities’ beloved tables once sat, there are now small,
round tables. The ReThink task force is striving to strengthen our community and has instituted some wonderful
policies throughout campus, and I truly commend their mission—so, please, do not think my thoughts about the
McClurg tables are reflective of my thoughts on the task Force’s greater work within the Sewanee community.
In the ReThink task report, the change is supported by an effort to be “less divisive,” and that the old set up could be “intimidating to women students.” In the popular discussion around campus, many students have been discussing about whether or not fratside is a set up that increases gender segregation, exclusion of non-greeks, and allows for the objectification of women.
Clearly, by my initial experience of the new fratside, changing the tables has done nothing to prevent guys from checking out girls, or vice versa—we’re still guilty of it at my own sorority lunch table, just as we were last semester. We’re college students with some of those teeming hormones left from high school. Clearly the issue is with our values, our character, and what we think is acceptable to say about one another, than it is the configuration of our lunch tables. And, to be frank: if guys are still going to check girls out in McClurg regardless, I would rather it be when we’re walking down the aisle of fratside than when we’re walking into the restroom, but, to each his own.
Many people seem to believe that purpose of the new, round tables in McClurgis to promote boys and girls to sit together. The times I have been in McClurg, albeit I am a part of the noon and six sharp dinner crowd, there have hardly been any boys and girls sitting together, and those who are sitting together do so in the alcoves, just like McClurg last year. I don’t believe the tables segregate the genders. I think we electively choose to separate ourselves. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s the nature of the beast and the product of our own psyches, not the nature of the tables.
Furthermore, I value my time to sit with my fellow sorority members at meal times. Sewanee’s sorority system is a unique system in the fact that we can drink in our houses— we often have parties in lieu of sisterhood retreats or more traditional forms of sorority bonding. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it does mean McClurg time is sacred. There are plenty of times for boys and girls to interact, but I highly value my meal times with my fellow sorority members as a way of bonding. With the circle tables, I now usually sit with my four close friends, and am unable to readily touch-base with most of my organization in one sitting.
I love to walk into McClurg and see most of my organization at one table—besides, fratside at noon probably has better attendance than most organization’s Monday night meetings. As corny as this sound, lunch on fratside is a time of unity and something that I rely upon. You will see me fumbling around, pulling the “oh, I forgot a drink,” circling McClurg, if I don’t see my fellow sorority members at a long table. I think we’ve all seen a lot of that in the past week.
In order to fulfill the task force’s mission and still appease the Greek community, we could return to the old
style tables in exchange for our organizations’ promises to attempt making fratside less exclusive and intimidating. This promise would include creating a more welcoming and friendly environment. It would be a push to invite freshmen, the opposite sex, or any non-Greeks to our tables. Additionally, we could shake things up and make
sure that the first or third table isn’t always one specific fraternity or sorority. After all, an inclusive community seems to be what the ReThink task force is after, a change in student behavior and discourse, not some sort of McClurg feng shui.
I understand that some people do enjoy the new tables and they have succeeded in their mission in some instances, but, as a member of the Greek community, I miss the old tables. Walking down fratside to see all of my organization’s members unified at one table is a welcoming, Sewanee tradition to me.