Minority views lead the way

by Sean Donohue | 11/4/93 6:00am

The question of whether or not the single-sex Greek houses should continue to exist has nothing to do with whether or not a majority of the students at Dartmouth like it. It is a moral question, a question of whether a system which excludes people on the basis of their gender, and reinforces patterns of male dominance has any place at Dartmouth

The idea that the morality of such a system can be determined by a majority vote is based on the false and dangerous premise that the majority is always right.

Throughout most of American history, advocates of progressive social change have been a prophetic minority. To cite an obvious example, in the first half of this century the opponents of racial segregation were in the minority, and in the 1950's a referendum in the South on desegregating the schools would have been met with a resounding "no."

Yet now the vast majority of Americans view racial segregation as an evil practice. Does that mean that segregation was somehow right at the time, but became wrong when majority oppinion changed? Does that mean the Supreme Court should have ruled in favor of the segregationists in Brown v. Board of Education? Most would be hard-pressed to say yes.

Child labor laws, women's suffrage, and countless other reforms which we now take for granted were first championed by a small, forward-thinking minority in the face of a majority which considered these concepts foolish.

Some may argue that if the arguments of those opposed to single-sex Greek houses are strong enough, then in time we will succeed in convincing the majority that we are right. It may not happen right away, they say, and perhaps we'll lose this vote, but in time the majority opinion will come around, and the students will vote against the Greek system. But, that time isn't a luxury we have.

Women are being raped, assaulted, and harrassed in fraternities and by fraternity members right now. Pledges are being subjected to humiliation and physical and psychological abuse. Gays, lesbians. and bisexuals within single-sex Greek houses are being forced to stay in the closet.

These situations are too urgent for us to wait for the majority oppinion to chnage if students vote to keep our current system.

Don't be fooled by those who claim that the upcoming referendum will resolve the debate over single-sex Greek houses, or even bring us closer to a resolution.

The issue at hand is not whether the powerful majority would rather keep the single-sex Greek houses or replace them with something else, it is an issue of whether Dartmouth will allow its students to continue to maintain student-run institutions which oppress, exclude, abuse, and marginalize other members of the Greek system.

This crucial issue must be examined in the context of morality and justice, not in the context of selfish personal preferences. Whether or not people "like" the Greek system has nothing to do with whether or not it should exist.