Gil: A Modern Greek Tragedy

by Michelle Gil | 2/7/16 7:00pm

Welcome to the newest installment of, “How much further can the administrators drive Dartmouth into the ground?” In the past two weeks, the College derecognized one fraternity and suspended a sorority and a gender-inclusive house. It is quite apparent that the administrators have an anti-Greek agenda.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m so happy that I am a ’16. My class year is riding out on the very last tendrils of “Dartmouth” as I have come to know and treasure it. As much as I love Dartmouth and still believe the experience here is incredibly special, I think the administration seems to be doing everything in its power to destroy all that endears so many students and alumni to this institution.

It’s not even the slow but sure destruction of Greek system itself that I, and many others, find so abhorrent. There’s more to the Greek system than drinking and partying. In fact, I rarely drink alcohol and I still enjoy being in a sorority and attending fraternity parties to hang out with my friends. We are not merely hedonists trying to grasp tightly to a debauched system of drinking and socializing. Rather, it is what the Greek system stands for. The Greek system is a student-run, student-driven community, where students feel they can create their own social spaces. Is it so unbelievable to imagine that students might want to be involved with a community they have created and fostered rather than one forced upon them by a paternalistic administration?

The Greek system also offers opportunities for philanthropy, a close-knit, supportive community and ready-made forums to facilitate conversations on important campus and generation-wide issues including sexual assault and mental illness. But beyond that, what is so abhorrent about the fact that parties do take place within the Greek system? I don’t think it’s unreasonable for many college-aged kids to want to attend parties. And in a rural town like Hanover, the relative dearth of clubs and bars nearby make Greek organizations the most ideal locations for such forms of entertainment. The only other alternative is for students in dorm rooms or off-campus sports houses to host such events, which would only make them more exclusive as well as more susceptible to certain unavoidable risks.

Amidst this, administrators have been doing everything in their power to persuade students that alternative, college-sponsored social spaces are the only acceptable options for us. There are movies and theater productions at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, Friday Night Rock and other musical events in Sarner Underground, discussions and meetings in One Wheelock, not to mention 8-Ball Hall and BarHop. There are certainly a number of students who take advantage of these options, but they are not the majority. As adults with the functional capacity to make our own decisions, we vote with our feet here at Dartmouth. Time after time, the vast majority of Dartmouth students willingly choose to go socialize at Greek houses, whether fraternities, sororities or gender-inclusive organizations. Therefore it is not, in fact, a lack of alternative social spaces that is the problem, as those opposed to the Greek system often claim.But rather, it is that, despite the existence of these alternative social spaces, they are not well-attended because they are not heavily desired. Despite this obvious truth, I find it utterly baffling that the College’s administrators so ignore the voices and concerns of the majority of the population they are entrusted to serve. Instead, they see fit to try and force us to abandon the Greek system.

A thriving Greek system and viable alternative social spaces are not mutually exclusive. As has been increasingly the case in recent years, it is possible for both to exist. And should the reality remain that more students choose to go to fraternity parties than to other social events, the answer isn’t to force the hand of the students by shutting down Greek organizations so that the only remaining option is elsewhere. The answer is to keep having College-sponsored events but to respect the perfectly adequate decision-making skills of the adult students who may choose the Greek scene instead. And most importantly, the answer is not to try to force-feed us the new residential system as an alternative to Greek life.

A housing system which, by the way, sounds nearly identical to the cluster system we’ve already have had in place for years. This new “residential community” system just gives it a new name, makes it more restrictive and mandatory and will seemingly become the only option left for socialization after the administrators pick off every last Greek organization one by one. The residential college systems upon which our new system appears to be modeled — such as those found at Harvard University or Yale University— involve separate libraries, dining halls, classrooms and other such facilities specific to the multiple residential groups. Without these extensive separate facilities, Dartmouth’s proposed residential living system is literally nothing more than a restrictive housing guideline.

Even though the administrators have cited a supposed lack of inclusivity within the Greek system as a reason necessitating its reform (and apparently its demise, as well), Dartmouth has for some time now had one of the most inclusive Greek systems in the nation. At Dartmouth, any student is allowed into any fraternity party. At almost every other school in the country this is not the case. Unfortunately, the Greek crackdown of the last few years has actually served to slowly but surely destroy our inclusivity. Fraternities are becoming more exclusive with who they allow into their basements, and more and more parties are moving into dorm rooms and off-campus houses. Why? Because, shockingly to almost no one, some college-aged students enjoy partying and drinking alcohol. This has been a universal truth for over a hundred years. I do not understand how administrators can delude themsleves into believing that they can stop an activity that no institution or government in history has successfully been able to prevent.

How much further can this institution fall? How many more students’ and alumni voices have to be ignored before the administrators wake up and realize that the Greek system is not a monster to be slain?