Petroni: Support for the Trips Directorate

‘You’re Not Tripping’ presents a flawed argument.

by Sarah Petroni | 2/6/18 12:15am

I doubt that there is any Dartmouth student who has not yet read the Feb. 2 guest column titled “You’re Not Tripping.” Myriad conversations on campus have picked apart the author’s various claims to the extent that I question my ability to add anything novel to the dialogue. However, as a woman who doubted her leadership abilities for a long time and found her moxie through positions within First-Year Trips, I feel compelled to respond to Ryan Spector ’19’s claim that the Trips directors have prioritized “identity” to the detriment of the program.

Let’s start with common ground: The author correctly points out that male trippees will seek out mentors with whom they identify. I believe that the elimination of male volunteers would do those trippees a disservice, and I am sure the author would agree. However, a majority-female directorate does not constitute the erasure of male identity from Trips. A directorate that is 80 percent female is not the same as a 400-person Trips volunteer corps that is 80 percent female. As a former H-Croo captain, I can tell you that much of directorate members’ time is spent planning logistics, planning programming and equipping Croolings to accomplish the myriad day-to-day tasks that make Trips run. Twenty-one directorate members cannot possibly interact meaningfully with every trippee — Croolings and trip leaders are therefore encouraged to take the lead in forming relationships with trippees, while directorate members do the planning that makes these relationships possible.

A majority-female Trips directorate is not evidence of the systematic devaluing of any identity, as the author’s convoluted logic goes. Rather, it is an acknowledgement of a nuanced point that escapes the author: that individuals cannot be separated into a set of identities and a set of credentials. “Identity” and “merit” are not separable categories as the author claims. Women and people of color, among others, experience varying degrees of unwelcoming behavior on this campus. It is commendable that at least 15 talented women, many of them women of color, applied to unpaid positions within a program that is meant to begin addressing these realities with incoming students. Historically marginalized voices have unique insight into how to create the meaningful, inclusive programming that didn’t exist for them. They can use their personal experiences to the benefit of a broader spectrum of students without alienating the white male students with whom the author concerns himself.

I cannot personally speak for this year’s directorate, but I have faith that its members will make every effort to ensure that as many trippees as possible see aspects of their identities reflected in the volunteer corps. This includes encouraging caring, capable men to apply for trip leader and Crooling positions. But perhaps those who will most conscientiously bring the goal of representation to fruition are those who know firsthand what it feels like to enter a Dartmouth club, classroom or Greek house and not see their identities reflected.

In short, “You’re Not Tripping” conflates a majority-female Trips directorate with the “erasure” of male presence on Trips, a premature claim given that the vast majority of the volunteer corps has not yet been chosen. Moreover, in presenting a false dichotomy between “identity” and “reason” as the motivating factors for choosing a candidate, the author seems ignorant of the fact that identity and experience are inextricably intertwined within individuals.

I feel compelled to remind Spector that questioning the success of women and people of color is not new. Many of them already have a little voice in their heads that asks them whose spot they took, who took pity on them or what right they have to be where they are. Such questions do not constitute novel dialogue. Furthermore, the author recklessly makes serious accusations of discrimination and incompetence, founded on the offensive assumption that there is no conceivable way that 15 women were the best applicants for their positions. He seems to forget that no one is entitled to a position on Trips directorate.

To the author: I’m sorry that you didn’t get a position that you wanted. Frustration and even bitterness are natural reactions to rejection. But publicly questioning the choices of the directors and the qualifications of those selected can cause harm that is disproportionate to the rejection that you experienced. So, the next time your candidacy for a position is turned down, please don’t waste the time and energy of qualified women in positions of power by forcing them to yet again justify their successes to the community and to themselves. They have more important things to do.

Petroni is a member of the Class of 2018.

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