Assembly votes to support CFS system

by Jeffrey Tanenhaus | 4/14/99 5:00am

More than two months after the Board of Trustees announced a revolutionary social and residential life initiative that threatens to end the Greek system "as we know it," an emotionally charged Student Assembly meeting last night ended with the passage of a highly controversial resolution opposing any major alterations to the Coed Fraternity Sorority system, such as co-education or abolition, without the consent of the CFS Council.

One amendment, that students should take responsibility to end problems of sexual abuse and alcoholism, was accepted with ease, while another -- that the power to determine the future of the Greek system be given to all students and not just the CFSC -- was rejected after almost two hours of heated debate.

The composition and tone of the meeting -- which was attended by 75 students and marked not only by dissent from within the Assembly, but also from non-members attending the meeting -- showed the extent to which the Assembly has been changed by the controversy which has embroiled the campus since the Trustees' February announcement.

"It was the most intense meeting I've ever been a part of. Finally we are getting to the core issues that this campus has been dancing around," Assembly President Josh Green '00 said.

A landslide victory of 39 to three -- with more than 80 percent of yea votes coming from Greek members despite the fact that the Assembly as a whole is only roughly 50 percent Greek -- passed the measure, but not before a walk-out by several members threatened to table the resolution.

The group of Assembly members walked out in hopes that the body would not have the requisite number of voting members present to take an official vote.

"We didn't get specific in the 'fundamental alterations' part because there are certainly things we can't foresee. Besides it would take a long time to list them. This does not prevent any changes to the system that the CFSC agrees [to]," resolution sponsor Alex Wilson '01, who was elected Secretary of the Assembly before the debate began, said.

"[We're] not saying no changes, but we want the basic nature of the system to remain the same," resolution sponsor Ryan Clark '01 said.

The specific resolved clauses read:

LET IT BE HEREBY RESOLVED that the Student Assembly, as a representative body of the students of Dartmouth, and in full recognition of the concerns and aspirations of the administration and the Board of Trustees as regards improvements of social and residential life, strongly supports a CFS system that is student-controlled, residential, and open to both co-ed and single sex organizations; and

LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED that the Student Assembly calls on students to take responsibility for eliminating problems -- such as sexual abuse, alcoholism, and campus fragmentation -- which exist within the current residential and social system; and

LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED that the Student Assembly is unequivocally opposed to the imposition of any fundamental alterations to the current CFS system, especially co-education or abolition, without the explicit agreement of the system itself.

Conflict arose when Green proposed the amendment to change the last phrase to read: "without the explicit agreement of the student body."

Green said, "The shape and structure of the Greek system affects everybody on campus. If the Greek system goes, it effects a lot more people than just the Greek system."

Green stepped temporarily aside as president to propose the controversial amendment, and vice-president Case Dorkey '99 led the meeting from that point forward.

Wilson said Green's amendment was "A terrible idea in terms of this resolution" and that "there has never been an explicit agreement of the student body, and the Assembly cannot speak for the student body [in that situation]."

On the other hand, the Greek system as an entity has shown it has more unified voice when it comes to the Trustee initiative, Wilson said.

"To deny the other students' voice in that seems naive to me. The Assembly should be fighting for the right of all students to have a role in the decisions that are made at the College," Green said.

"I think all students will have a voice, but I don't think the entire student body has the right to make certain of the decisions the CFSC makes," Wilson said.

"The final decision on the administration's proposal to the CFS gets decided by the CFS. The student body doesn't get a veto on the CFS, and we won't support fundamental change without the consent of the CFS," Wilson said.

His justification was that the Greek houses have a greater immediacy to the possible co-education of fraternities and sororities than the campus as a whole, thus they should be entitled to the right of self-determination, Wilson said.

Much time was devoted to proposing and debating changes to the resolution, from substituting words to striking and adding new clauses. Despite a few changes, and more notably the rejection of Green's amendment, the resolution boiled down to issues of representation.

"It's in our best interest and duty to represent the campus [and send] a clear message to the administration that we want institutional authority. On behalf of students [the Assembly] should act in their interest of freedom and choice," Assemblyman Juan Gonzalez '02 said.

Refuting some members who said the Assembly should remain in its role as a moderator, Chair of Student Services Beth Westman '99 denied that label and instead said "Our job is to act the students' advocate, and people support this [resolution] so let's be an advocate and pass this." A round of applause followed her comment.

A vocal minority of dissenters was also present at the meeting.

"I'm embarrassed to be a part of the Assembly today because when given the opportunity to choose language that clearly indicates an interest in all student voice, the Assembly voted to marginalize all voices except those of CFS leadership," Assemblyman Scott Jacobs '99 said.

Tom Leatherbee '01, Chair of Working Group Two, said he was cautious about making a decision before the Trustees visit campus on Thursday, when they might clarify their decisions to students.

"I was really upset by what happened. I feel cheated by the Assembly because had Green's amendment been included, it would have made the resolution consistent with the Assembly's goals," Jon Sussman '02, a non-member of the Assembly, said.

Tensions peaked in the closing moments. Since the duration of the meeting had already caused people to trickle out, when a motion to table the resolution failed, several voting members left to try and table the resolution by not having quorum.

The group's effort to force a tabling of the motion by preventing quorum fell six absentees short.

"I think it was an inappropriate way to express a courageous opinion," Green said.

"I walked out hoping that this would not be the face of the Assembly the week the Trustees get here so that we could wait and see what the Trustees give us. The Assembly didn't take a stand up to this point, and this weekend they might clarify the Five Principles," Jacobs said.

"By walking out, they were fulfilling their own definition of representation." Sussman said.

Also announced was the resignation of the Administration and Faculty Chair Janelle Ruley '00 and Secretary Greg Chittim '01. Green said nominations for Ruley's position will occur after next week's election.