Separate is unequal

by The Dartmouth | 11/15/93 6:00am

Members of the Board of Trustees told students this weekend that they are not interested in making any decisions about the College's single-sex social organizations. The stance does a disservice to students on both sides of the heated issue, and ignores the College's principles of equality.

Board members said the issue of single-sex social organizations has been a top problem at the College for decades. They also said it is the only issue they have skirted for so long.

Single-sex social organizations violate the College's equal opportunity policy, because they discriminate in their membership criteria on the basis of gender.

The Trustees in April will vote on whether to end the College's Reserve Officer Training Corps program because of its apparent conflicts with the equal opportunity policy. The College has also examined the athletic department to determine if its offerings are equal. That same standard should be applied to the social system.

In taking a hands-off stance on Dartmouth's social system, the Trustees are refusing to enforce the College's written guidelines for gender equity. Even former Provost John Strohbehn pointed out in a column on these pages that social organizations with gender-restrictive membership rules violate the College's policy.

"If our equal opportunity policy permits exceptions to the bases of non-discrimination, then we need to carefully justify the reason that student social organizations are exempt from a policy that Dartmouth has embraced in many forums as fundamental to our values and our purposes," Strohbehn wrote.

His point: either the single-sex organizations must change or someone should explain why they are exempt from the equal opportunity policy.

When the Student Assembly drafted a referendum on the question of single-sex Greek houses, students who organized the vote hoped to present to the Trustees a definitive account of student feeling on the issue. And they hoped that the Trustees would make a decision, one way or another, about the future of the single-sex houses.

Since the Trustees shirked the burden of applying the equal opportunity policy to single-sex organizations, someone else has to address the issue. Mary Childers, who is the special assistant to the president and the director of equal opportunity and affirmative action, seems the most qualified to look at the policy, maybe with the help of a committee formed by administrators.

The College must adhere to its own equal opportunity policy. The policy must be applied rigorously to all aspects of life at the College, just as the Honor Principle is applied to every academic endeavor that students undertake.

The broad ethical principles on which the College is based cannot be dismissed, especially by the people who make decisions at the very highest levels.

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