Dartmouth Needs A Dialogue

by Jim Freeman | 11/27/96 6:00am

I write this column today at the end of the erm and at the conclusion of my tenure as President of the Coed, Fraternity, and Sorority Council. I have served in this capacity for the past year not necessarily as a proponent of the status quo, but one who understands the vast potential that the organizations and 1,600 members of the CFS system represent.

I also know how often this potential is not realized.

As has been demonstrated time and again, the CFS system serves as the single largest organizer of programming events at the College as well as an enormous source of community service and philanthropic efforts for the surrounding communities. But as the incidents that have been disclosed over the past year concerning Beta Theta Pi fraternity well illustrate, there are times when CFS organizations and members serve to injure and fragment the Dartmouth community. Some would say that there are houses and members that serve in this capacity by their very nature.

Thus, we arrive upon a concept that seems at times to be altogether foreign to Dartmouth students, that of change. Beta has now learned it must change or leave. This message about what it means to be a member of a larger community, both responsible and considerate regarding your peers has not been lost on any of Beta's members or member of the college as a whole. Members of the AAM, La Alianza, Amarna, and any organization at Dartmouth have most assuredly offended and injured individuals on this campus throughout the years, and most likely these people have learned to change or they have gone. What I believe would be most beneficial to the CFS system at this point is for people to realize that it is not, and should not be, an immutable body. The system and its member organizations can alter, grow, and in fact dwindle away, making room for another form of social organization on this campus if Dartmouth students call for such change.

Too often, the dialogue about the CFS system is reduced to a statement that one either agrees with and supports the continuance of the system, or that one disagrees with it and believes that it should be supplanted. This does not constitute constructive discourse. Villanizing the system and inanely attributing most of the College's woes to it wrongly points the finger at others -- rather than at oneself -- to create the community that you believe is lacking at Dartmouth. By the same token, CFS members must realize that traditions can be changed or added, and the nature of an organization can always be improved. While I have had a positive experience in my fraternity, this does not mean that it has been the best possible experience, that the addition of different facets, perhaps even women, might not have bettered the times that I had there.

Therefore, during their vacation away from school when the rush of papers and the flurry of finals has subsided, I ask the students of Dartmouth College to objectively reflect upon what they as individuals want in a social community at the College.

The founders and early members of Amarna did this a few years ago and returned to create change in an organization that has since burgeoned into a force on this campus that I believe will have strong influence in our community for years to come. Members of fraternities and sororities do this on a smaller scale every time they bring something new to meetings or take something away that they no longer consider to be appropriate.

We must return from our winter breaks and have conversations, not as proponents or opponents of anything, standing on one side of a fence or another, but rather as original thinkers willing and able to make Dartmouth our own.

From my experiences over the past three years, I believe this dialogue should address many concerns, among them the issue of physical space on this campus and the gender and ethnic rifts that could be better bridged in the years to come. I, for one, look forward to having the remainder of this year to engage in discourse about the wonderful aspects of Dartmouth which should be maintained and the ills which must be addressed.

Finally, I encourage the 00's, 99's an 98's that will wrest official power from me and my classmates over the course of this year to realize how much they can make Dartmouth amenable to their needs, how much they can make change.