Moderates left out in the cold on Greek referendum

by John Strayer | 11/5/93 6:00am

The proud and mighty Reform SA! sent out the call. They said political bickering was holding the Student Assembly back from doing something productive.

Let's do something!" they shouted.

The result: a referendum on the Greek system that is so poorly worded as to be utterly pointless and downright stupid.

As it now stands on Nov. 11 students will say "yes" or "no" to the question, "Do you support the continued existence of single-sex fraternities and sororities at Dartmouth?"

When you look carefully at the question you realize that it is impossible for most people to say "no."

Let's examine some possible student views.

Suppose you would like a system where single-sex houses are marginalized and co-ed houses dominate.

Maybe in your ideal situation one single-sex fraternity and one single-sex sorority remain. Because you believe that individuals have the right to choose a single sex house, however, you must vote "yes" on the referendum.

Someone else might feel that the current system is definitely flawed because women are packed into half the number of houses as men.

The system needs a massive overhaul to rectify the situation. However, if you have this stance you are still forced to answer "yes."

Maybe you are a brother in a fraternity. Every day you see positive aspects of the Greek system. However, after this year's rush you decided the process didn't really work.

You think that we should seriously examine both the rush process and the pledge period. Can you display any of these concerns on Nov. 11? No, you can simply say, "Yes, some form of the system should continue."

Certainly some will vote "no" on Thursday.

Who are these people? They are the people who think the entire system is so inherently flawed they cannot support the existence of even one single-sex fraternity or sorority. They are the people behind the signs and chalk scrawlings which criticized rush with one-liners.

There will probably always be a small vocal minority who imagine that every hour on the hour a fraternity brother rapes someone, smokes a cigarette and then clubs a baby seal to death. The theory is that once fraternities are removed, this will all end.

This isn't to say that there isn't at least one or two rapists currently in the fraternity system. The problem is that because of the wording of the question the most moderate and rational reformists are forced to vote right along with the rapists who want the status quo.

The referendum will point out that the extremists are a minority. Then the results will be paraded in front of the Trustees as if it is a mandate from God. They will say "See, almost everyone likes it the way it is!" When the truth may be that almost no one likes it the way it is -- they just didn't get to say that on the ballot.

A well-worded question would not divide the student population between those who think fraternities and sororities should be abolished and those who want some form of the system to survive. A good question would determine what percentage of students would like to see some sort of dramatic change. The answer to that question would be interesting.

Way to go Student Assembly! You broke free of political bickering to ask the student body a question so biased that the answer is meaningless. I anxiously await your next move. If you can't find an equally poor-worded question for another referendum you can always return to bickering and name-calling. At least that is interesting.