Pro-Greek rally replaces Keg Jump

by Brad Russo | 2/15/99 6:00am

As many as 800 students, mainly Greek house members, crowded the ice-covered lawn of Psi Upsilon fraternity Saturday afternoon, not to watch brothers jump over kegs as they have for the past 18 years during Winter Carnival, but rather to participate in a spirited rally at which 15 students gave emotional speeches in support of the continuing existence of single-sex fraternities and sororities at Dartmouth.

The crowd members, many of whom wore Greek letters and green ribbons as symbols of their support for the current system, braved the cold weather for two hours as speakers representing a wide spectrum of the Greek community, as well as one unaffiliated student, expressed anger towards the aspect of the Board of Trustees' historic social and residential life initiative which calls for an end to single-sex Greek organizations at the College.

Psi U President Teddy Rice '00 said "Today we've got more important things to express" to the College and the Trustees than the traditional keg jump, which was canceled this year as part of the Coed Fraternity Sorority Council's decision not to sponsor any parties or events this holiday weekend.

And express they did. In contrast to the largely repressed anger and opinions during Thursday's Opening Ceremony, in which College President James Wright was greeted with mostly silence, the speakers at Saturday's rally seemed to hold little back -- using imagery, quotes and metaphors of the strongest rhetorical caliber.

In addition to circulating a petition calling for Wright's immediate resignation, the crowd cheered as Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority president Anne Mullins '00 said "we will fight tooth and nail to maintain" the current system; Alpha Theta coed fraternity president Michael Holmes '00 questioned "who among you wouldn't defend your homes and families;" and Landis Fryer '99 compared the administration and Trustees to Dr. Jack Kevorkian "assisting in a slow, calculated suicide" of the Greek system.

The words were strong and the images were stronger as some students wore signs on their backs that said "my house is my family" and camera crews from national television networks circulated among the crowd, reminding all that the current controversy is not contained within the confines of small-town Hanover, but has spread to become an issue of national attention.

That gravity and weight were not lost on those in attendance at Saturday's rally who refused to accept earlier statements by Wright and Trustee Chair Stephen Bosworth '61 that this "is not a referendum." Instead, the Greek leaders have chosen to fight the decision to coeducate existing Greek houses and this rally contained their battle cries.

"I see it as a chess game. You're checked and your next move has yet to be determined. Look carefully at the board, my mastermind colleagues. Sacrifice your rook if it means you take their king," Fryer said, continuing his series of highly emotional analogies on how to effectively counter the Trustees' objectives.

"Notice the timing of the announcement, days before Winter Carnival and a week after the alumni drive ended," Fryer said, adding equally "careful planning, excellent timing and swift execution" on the part of students would be needed if the Greek system is to be saved.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity president John Finley '00 addressed what he said he saw as that effort's national significance.

"This is not simply about us here at Dartmouth College ... what happens here cannot be isolated," Finley said. "The eyes of the world are upon us now. It is up to us to make a statement that colleges do not have the authority to take from us our most distinctive human attribute -- free will ... Fear not. We will not let you down."

Former CFSC President and Alpha Chi Alpha fraternity member John Muckle '99, addressing the administration and Board of Trustees, said the "there's more involved here than social life. There are bonds, friendships and loyalty ... The blatant disregard you have expressed to us thus far is completely unacceptable. I challenge the administration for once to open their minds."

Intending to present a diversified voice in favor of allowing single-sex fraternities and sororities to continue at the College and counter the Trustees' argument that the houses as they exist now are exclusionary, the organizers of the rally invited numerous students with different interests and backgrounds to speak in favor of the current system.

Sigma Nu fraternity member Connor Smith '00 said his house gave him the support he needed to publicly announce his homosexuality and Delta Delta Delta sorority member Sarah Burgamy '00 said she was openly gay in high school and still looked for a college with a strong Greek system.

"I don't know if [the administration] is blind or what," Burgamy said. "We're not all the same but we're all family."

Delta Sigma Theta sorority president Mikisha Brown '00 said while she has heard rumors that historically black fraternities and sororities like hers would not be affected by the Trustees' initiative, she "felt the need to support my fellow organizations."

"We need to take a united stand," Brown said. "Now is the time for activism and action, not silence and indifference."

Coed Greek member Holmes said "the option to join a coed house is already available," adding "the supply of coed houses already meets, perhaps even exceeds, the demand."

Others echoed the importance of allowing individual students the opportunity to decide for themselves in what capacity to be involved with the Greek system. Many speakers emphasized the intimate and sacred personal bonds created within a house as well as the worldwide fellowship created by national Greek houses.

Mullins and others discussed the role of the Greek houses in educating Dartmouth students on issues of importance such as sexual abuse, alcohol use and eating disorders -- education she said is lacking in other areas of the College.

"The only significant alcohol abuse and awareness education we have gotten is through the Greek system," Mullins said. "We have charged the administration with providing more education and more social options for the entire community. We will stand firm. We will stand strong -- not only because we love the Greek system, but because we require social choice, and most of all because we love Dartmouth."

Unlike previous rallies and protests on campus which directly or indirectly pitted students against students, Saturday's event presented the pro-Greek position as being one for greater social choice for all -- allowing students to choose social options for themselves -- and in so doing, pitted students solely against the administration and the Trustees.

Unaffiliated student Leda Eizenberg '00 said while she decided not to join a sorority she never decided not to participate in Greek life and opposes the Trustees' Greek reforms.

"I'm offended by the administration's unfathomable attempt to destroy Dartmouth's Greek system," Eizenberg said, attacking the Trustees' initiative at its coeducational core. "Both sexes are entitled to their own spaces if they feel that they need it ... I may not be in a house but I can honestly say I would not want to attend Dartmouth without Greek life."

"The strength of the system has been raised to a new level this past week," Muckle said. "Attempts to destroy the system have brought out the emotions and loyalty that both members and non-members alike share for our Greek system as is. Adversity has strengthened us."

While presenting no clear plan for future activities or direction in their attempt to affect the Trustees' social life initiative, Rice ended the rally by saying "President Wright's announcement on Tuesday embodies how not to run a college" and warned it might eventually "lead to desperation, and desperate people do irrational things," and urged fellow Greek leaders to "mobilize" their alumni.

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