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The Dartmouth
February 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Greek System Needs Reform

The College's Greek system clearly has serious problems requiring fundamental reforms. The College owes it to the faculty and students to take a comprehensive look at the Greek system's role at Dartmouth.

Over the past decade, no issue has sparked more controversy and discussion on campus than the Greek system. Every report in recent memory has called for the College to undertake a comprehensive review of the Coed Fraternity and Sorority system.

In 1987, the Ad Hoc Committee on Residential Life released the so-called Wright report, which called for the College to "reduce the role of fraternities and sororities in the social life of the campus."

In 1989, the Committee on Diversity wrote that "the CFS system tends to encourage excessive drinking, anti-intellectualism, sexism, racism and homophobia." Following up that report, the Committee on Diversity and Community at Dartmouth in 1993 recommended the College undertake a "thorough examination of the CFS system."

And last year, in its initial report, the Committee on the First-Year Experience stated that the College should not overhaul its residential life, advising and first-year programs, "without addressing the effects of the CFS system."

The College cannot repeatedly call for investigations into the Greek system without following through on those recommendations.

While the Greek system offers many opportunities to students -- leadership, camaraderie, social options, community service and campus programming -- the system needs serious and fundamental reform.

Without a doubt, the largest problem in the Greek system is alcohol. According to a recent survey by the College Health Services, 97 percent of Dartmouth students think the campus culture promotes alcohol use.

A large part of that pressure comes from the Greek system. On any given Friday or Saturday, almost all late-night social options on campus are provided by Greek organizations, and more often than not, these social events involve alcohol. The campus needs other social options.

The survey also establishes a direct relationship between Greek members and binge drinking, which is the consumption of more than five drinks in one sitting. Nineteen percent of students who do not attend Greek parties report binge drinking within the past year, while 38 percent of students who attend Greek parties report binge drinking. Sixty-one percent of Greek members report binge drinking.

Alcohol is not the only problem within the Greek system. As demonstrated by the allegedly racist and misogynistic poem written and read at one weekly meeting of Beta Theta Pi fraternity over the summer, the Greek system is a place that tolerates and sometimes facilitates this behavior.

Incidents such as the reading and writing of the Beta poem violate the College's Principles of Community, and the College should take measures to prevent the creation of environments that permit hateful acts.

Also, there is an obvious lack of gender equity in the Greek system, with 15 male organizations, six female organizations and three coed fraternities. If there are going to be single-sex organizations at Dartmouth, then there should at least be a more equitable system.

Finally, by its very existence, the Greek system fragments the community. It divides the College into small, exclusive groups, which contradicts the idea of a greater Dartmouth community.

The College has skirted the issue long enough. Every administrator is scared to undertake an examination of the Greek system because of the potentially negative student and alumni reaction. While the Greeks have tried to reform internally, their small scale efforts have failed to adequately address their problems.

The College should establish a committee of administrators, faculty and students -- both Greek and non-Greek -- to examine the Greek system and its appropriate role on campus.

No reform could possibly work unless it comes from the students and the administration, because both sides have to be happy with the results. In order to guarantee objectivity and provide a fresh perspective, the College should place an outside evaluator on the committee.

While most students would agree that the Greek system does have a place on campus, they would also agree that it plays too large a role in the campus social life. There is a serious lack of non-Greek programming space on campus.

If the College is really serious about building community at Dartmouth, and is not just paying lip-service, then it will create a committee of administrators, faculty and students to examine the Greek system and the system's place on campus. Students, as well as administrators, must realize if the Greek system has a future at Dartmouth, it must change.