Park: Pillaging the Greeks

by Annika Park | 2/10/16 6:40pm

Walking around this week, I’ve seen more people wearing their Greek letters than usual. Despite some dismissing the wearing of letters as too passive a mode of protest, it was a reminder to many of us of the news that broke last week: the suspension and subsequent derecognition of the historic Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.Over the past year, two of the most controversial Greek houses on campus have been derecognized by the college. Last year, Alpha Delta fraternity of “Animal House” (1978) fame was derecognized and now SAE, infamous after Andrew Lohse’s “Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy: A Memoir” (2014), has also been dissolved.

Students are referring to this recent crackdown on fraternities as part of College President Phil Hanlon’s “Moving Dartmouth Forward” plan towards more inclusivity and academic rigor. It seems as though in the eyes of the administration, what goes on inside these fraternities on a typical Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night out is abominable enough to be wiped off of campus once and for all.

The administration fails to realize the obvious— banning fraternities does not solve the problems that arise from students partying. As many members of the student body have already argued on various social media platforms, suspension and derecognition of fraternities makes the social scene more exclusive. Hanover is not New York City. The Greek scene is one of few options for students to “hang out” and have fun. With or without it, students will still find a way to party.

But the issue that deserves more attention is that through the removal of Greek life, the administration is destroying what is central to Dartmouth’s school culture. Greek life is less common in the East Coast than in the South and this is especially so amongst the Ivies. Without a doubt, Dartmouth stands out amongst its brethren because of its unique academic environment. Conan O’Brien, in his commencement speech, remarked that, “Dartmouth, you must stand tall and feel proud, because if Harvard, Yale and Princeton are your self-involved, vain, name-dropping older brothers, you are the cool, sexually-confident lacrosse-playing younger sibling who knows how to throw a party and looks good in a down vest.” Dartmouth is unique among the Ivies, and our Greek culture is a testament to that.

Ridding Dartmouth of its Greek life removes a part of our culture. Dartmouth’s Greek houses, contrary to their depiction in the press, provides students with remarkably open social spaces. A Dartmouth student’s identity is a student who works hard and plays hard, and Greek life helps to bolster that persona. That persona may appear unappealing to the administration, but it is a persona that many who come to Dartmouth expect, enjoy and embrace.Hanlon must realize that through his recent actions, he has done irreparable harm to what is arguably the longest-standing social scene at Dartmouth. Many students are already bringing up how the closure of these two houses would negatively affect men’s rush for the Class of 2019. The intense scrutiny placed on Greek houses not only drives dangerous behavior underground, but also further increases hostility between Greek houses.

It is with great fear that we imagine a Dartmouth without a Greek scene. If this pattern continues, is likely that a select few fraternities will remain (if they were to remain at all) and alternative social spaces, as in spaces sponsored and run by the College, will take their place. Instead of administration driven alternative social spaces gaining popularity, existing Greek fraternities would gain “social capital.” Fraternitieswill stop being open spaces and become similar to exclusive and pretentious “eating club,” in which members and non-members are strictly divided.

Dartmouth students must fight to preserve our culture. The administration’s overzealous attention to its student’s social lives has left students extremely dissatisfied. As members of this community, we have a responsibility to act. Dartmouth is one a few schools where the majority of the upperclassmen are involved in Greek houses, and it is our job to ensure our legacy stands.