SA question doesn't get at problem

by Brandon Del Pozo | 11/11/93 6:00am

Regardless of how the referendum turns out, the debate over the Greek system will not end as long as there are drunken students vomiting up their guts in basements and on the street and stealing each other's furniture for fun.

We lack a clear analysis of what the problem is, in simple English. Hence I present "Prolegomenon to the Greek Problem." You may want to clip and save it for reference before you write letters to the editor or posters.

Hanover is really cold and in the woods. There is not much to do. A man named Eleazer came here and started a school a long time ago, and people came.

But soon they were bored. So they read a lot of books. Then, they got together and read books. Literary societies were formed.

Somebody brought some beer to these meetings, and that was the end of the books. The beer kept you warm without having to burn it, and with enough of it, you felt like you could write books -- you didn't need to read them. Hence, fraternities were formed.

For many decades things went swimmingly. There were no women around and this was good because men do really crazy things when left alone in their basements.

The woods were still cold and empty, and Webster Avenue was prospering. Many students suffered from granite on the brain.

Meanwhile, men who had graduated and grown old and who had fallen into fat wads of money went ahead and gave a lot of it to their frats in an effort to stay young and keep traditions alive, and this made the frats strong.

After a while the College decided that it was time that women came to Dartmouth. There was resistance at first, and then it dissipated: the men of Dartmouth were quick to realize that with the advent of women at Dartmouth there would be something else to do besides drink beer and ski a lot.

But all was not well: they would tolerate the women, but if they thought that they could become members of the all-male organizations they loved, they had another think coming. There is a fundamental incompatibility between loafing around in your boxers with a beer and having a smart, attractive woman living next to you. That was for marriage, many years later.

So the women got their sororities, and a few brave houses sprung up that wanted to try the idea of men and women loafing around in various states of undress on weekends. All of them kept their beer, but the frats had most of the parties.

So here we are: the woods are still cold, and there is still little to do. There are few bars and no clubs in town.

The Greek system has the sole burden of rabble-rousing, and they do it well. This system is not right for everybody, but anyone who has delusions of turning it suddenly on its head is sadly mistaken.

The Greek system is the only thing to do here socially that is constant and substantive and reliable, but many people do not like it or its by-products.

Single-sex Greek houses will always have a right to exist since there is equal opportunity: anyone that wants to join a house can, and they all pretty much do the same thing.

This is because there is such a thing as separate but equal: it is the same idea that governs single-sex schools. You can go to a co-ed school or a single sex school, but you can get principally the same education at each, save certain differences in social interaction that you choose to accept.

It is high-handed for a group of people to stand in their rostrum and say "You frat morons are morally wrong in perpetuating your system. You should stop it. We never go to your parties or partake in your system and frankly we have our own, but you have to stop yours anyway because it's wrong."

Unless the idea of a fraternity is a priori morally wrong, the institutions we have now should always have a place at the College if we want them to.

I am for some sort of reform in the Greek system, but I have neglected to provide arguments for it because they are apparent: excessive alcohol abuse, tension in gender-relations and the sometimes abusive social order inherent to aspects of fraternity life.

What is needed is intelligent debate, not knee-jerk reactions. Find the very basic problems. Find out why they are there. Find out what the people want. Try as best you can to work them out. But find the heart of the matter. It does not lie in removed, obtuse arguments about equal opportunity.

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