Should Grinnell pay homage to the Greek gods?

Over break, with no columns to write, we elected to take on an extra literary research project, and analyze the journalism scene at a comparable peer institution. Since they were not interested in publishing our column (they called it “a piece of trash”) our dreams of syndication have been soundly vanquished. But it’s OK, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, after all.

While at that peer institution, we also decided to investigate the prevalence of their language system on campus. Being highly involved with Grinnell’s language system ourselves­—one of us (Pat) just might graduate with a foreign language major, and maybe even this May—we were intrigued at the plethora of options available. To our surprise, there were many more language houses than we are accustomed to, but a large number of them seemed to emphasize one language–Greek. Thankfully, the Panhellenic residents were kind enough not to practice their Greek language skills until after our departure. Unfortunately,we missed sampling the Greek cuisine, though we are sure our very own Dining Services will step up with savory Greek offerings, like spanakopita, gyrros, pites, and Greek salads.

By far the biggest difference we noticed was at the social gatherings. Admittedly, this particular institution has a larger student body than that of Grinnell’s, but we were unprepared for the crowds at these Greek–themed events on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. We have never seen such crowds at foreign film gatherings at the language houses here on campus. The participation was tremendous; furthermore, people actively engaged in discussions of the cultural activities. We were fortunate to play one of their Greek-themed games as well. The rules seemed simple enough, with tossing two small white balls–a clear homage to the Atlas stones–the length of a table into cups at the other end being the primary goal. Although no one can be certain of the exact origins of the game, rumor has it that it was a part of the Ancient Olympic Games.

We were also surprised by the emphasis the Panhellenic residents placed on tradition. Language houses at Grinnell have a long, rich history, dating back to at least before the fall of 2007. But for all this history, we make little use of our traditions. By contrast, we would be unable to count the number of times tradition was discussed during our research visit, although this may be because we are not math majors.

It would be nice if Grinnell added a traditional Greek language house. Rich in culture and steeped in tradition, it would add another dimension for students learning Greek on campus to practice conversing with each other and supplement their curriculum. Moreover, it would increase the sense of fraternity between the existing language houses. We would like to see language houses become more popular with the student body, and, based on our experiences, the addition of a Greek language house contributes significantly to civic involvement. But that is just our idea.

– Pat Stuchlik ’11 & Dmitriy Glumov ’11