Chi Gam hosts campus race discussion

by Erin Loback | 11/16/98 6:00am

A diverse crowd of more than 100 students gathered at Chi Gamma Epsilon fraternity Saturday night to discuss ways to foster better race relations on campus.

The discussion was facilitated by University of Vermont Student Body President Binh Douglas, the first black student body president at a school where minorities compose only 4 percent of the population.

The discussion was part of a series of events last week addressing race relations at Dartmouth, partly in reaction to a party sponsored by Chi Gam and Alpha Xi Delta sorority which was advertised as "ghetto."

"At UVM we questioned the system and the administration," Douglas said. He spoke of two takeovers of the administration building, one in 1988 which lasted a few days, and one in 1991 which lasted two weeks. Many students who participated were taken to the hospital following the takeovers because they fasted the entire time.

"Now we have a university-wide requirement of a culture course," he said.

A student visiting from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst said students at his school must pass two courses on ethnic diversity before they can enroll as freshmen. He said race-related incidents still occur on his campus, but the "general education requirements help us to address them."

Chair of the Student Assembly's student life committee Teresa Knoedler '00 said the Assembly is attempting to change distributive requirements and create an Identity, Race and Ethnicity requirement.

Some students said they thought social interaction was better than forced discussions and events on campus because it promotes one-on-one encounters.

But Nana Ashong '99 said she does not think social interaction is the answer to Dartmouth's problems because so many events sponsored by cultural groups already take place and not many people attend them.

"Getting to know one person doesn't necessarily give you a broader sense of having learned anything cultural because that is just an individual," Ashong said.

Yale Dieckmann '00 said he supports social interaction because it is not just a one-way exchange of information. He said panels and forums are just people sharing their heritage without learning from the attendees.

"I already had your forum, it is called European history class," Zaira Zafra '98 replied.

One woman said students who feel uninformed need to take a more proactive role in their own education. "I'm here to get my Dartmouth degree, not help you get yours," she said.

She said it is dangerous for students to feel comfortable with race relations on campus. "When you get comfortable, you get apathetic, and when you get apathetic, it happens all over again."

Douglas told the audience about a race-related incident on his campus in which brothers at the Acacia fraternity sent out new pledges to "find students of color and badger them." He said three white pledges with a camera and a golf club lured an Indian student downstairs in his dorm, asked him to "look scared,"

"roughed him up and then shook his hand and thanked him."