Greek vote to gauge opinion

by Scott Anthony | 11/11/93 6:00am

After sifting through a tug of war between supporters and opponents of the Greek system, students head to the polls today to vote on a question that many say will not provide a definitive answer.

From 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. students can vote in Thayer Dining Hall on one question: "Do you support the continued existence of single-sex fraternities and sororities at Dartmouth? Yes or no?"

The referendum comes after Greek house meetings last night. Greek leaders said they will not force house members to take a side but will urge all students to vote.

About 60 percent of upper-class students are in Greek organizations.

Results of the poll will be included in a report the Assembly will submit in January to the Committee on Student Life, a board made up of Trustees and head administrators.

Earlier this week, a group of students calling themselves Vote YES! splashed posters around campus, urging students to pledge their support for single-sex houses.

"It's important for people to have social options on campus," said Jim Brennan '96, who leads Vote YES!.

And students who support a no vote sent out a BlitzMail message yesterday telling students that a yes vote will slow down Greek system reform.

"Without a no vote, the current Greek system is likely to remain unchanged and stagnant," David Cohen '94 wrote in the message. "The SA will use a yes vote to claim to the Trustees that no reform is necessary at all."

President of Alpha Theta co-ed fraternity Michael Stodghill '94 said the question is biased toward supporters of the system.

"I don't think it's a very fair question. I don't think there's much doubt that students at Dartmouth want single-sex houses," Stodghill said.

"I'm concerned that people who sponsored this in the Assembly will use it as a blunt weapon to try and stop any kind of changes from taking place in the Greek system which are necessary," he said.

Sonya Dyhrman '94, vice president of the Panhellenic Council, said she does not see the point of the referendum.

"Personally I fail to see how the referendum will help the Committee on Student Life develop a proposal for an ideal social system," Dyhrman said. "Voting no on such a referendum could be interpreted in many ways, none of which are especially conclusive."

Guy Harrison '94, president of the Interfraternity Council, also questioned the wording of the question.

"I think the question is a little too simplistic to settle a debate that has such a wide variety of opinions," Harrison said. "I don't think the vote will completely settle the issue."

But Assembly Vice President Steve Costalas '94, who drafted the question, said the referendum is not meant to cover all aspects of Greek reform.

Instead, the question is just the first step in the Assembly's plan to examine the future of the Greek system, Costalas said.

"The intent of the referendum is to let the Student Assembly know whether single-sex fraternities should exist at all," he said.

Artzer said the referendum is "part of a larger discussion, not part of witch hunt."

Costalas said throughout the rest of the year the Assembly will sponsor debates and discussions on the Greek system, culminating in a town-meeting in Webster Hall at the end of January.

"What [the referendum] will influence the most in the short term is how the Student Assembly looks for what it thinks is an ideal social system here," Costalas said. "This is only the first step."

"Change is going to occur no matter what the vote is," he said. "The question is do we retain some part of the system."

Harrison said the Greek system is working to reform itself.

"As in all organizations, we do have problems," he said. "However, the leadership within the Greeks has acted to change the system from within to conquer these maladies."

Harrison said he has seen a lot of prejudice from those against the Greek system. "I have seen Vote YES! posters defaced with swastikas which I do not find appropriate at all," Harrison said.

Co-ed Fraternity Sorority Council President Mark Daly '94 said the turnout today is important.

"I think the first thing to look at is what percentage of the student body votes," he said. "If no one votes the results will be inconclusive, skewed and irrelevant. Either way the vote turns out, it forces us to look at the Greek system."

But Daly said he thinks students should vote yes.

"I'm a very big backer of free choice, and there's nothing wrong with single-sex organizations," Daly said. "I'm all for equality. But I think people should have the choice between co-ed and single-sex houses."

Stodghill said he thinks the terms of the question will heavily influence the vote.

The question "casts the whole debate in very absolute terms," he said. "You either support single-sex houses or you don't ... It turns a no vote into a vote against the whole system instead of the general problems.

"The framers of the questions wanted to cast the debate in such a way so that it is a take-it or leave-it proposition," Stodghill said.

Costalas said he expected a yes vote.

"I would think the campus wants single-sex houses to be available," Costalas said. "I expect that will carry the day."

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