Thanksgiving is Thursday. Out of all the major secular American holidays, Thanksgiving used to be my least favorite. For me, Thanksgiving had always been like those big couches in Sanborn -- drab, stuffy, and it puts you to sleep. Since I've started college, however, Thanksgiving has been more than just a chance to bulk up my tryptophan-intake while making useless small-talk with distant relatives over cold mashed potatoes, it's been a much needed respite from my busy Dartmouth schedule and a chance to spend time with friends and family back home. So let this column stand as my tribute to Thanksgiving, let this be the platter that I bring to the table, a veritable cornucopia overflowing not with corn, squash, and pumpkin, but with quips, ideas, and inane ramblings.
Like just about every column I've written since last winter, this one will have the Trustees' Initiative as its main-course, its meat and potatoes. Perhaps part of the reason why the dialogue about the Initiative has downgraded into an "Us vs. Them" battle fraught with confrontational tones is because we seem to have collectively overlooked one of the simplest and most logical solutions. I'm sure no one would deny that the Greek system is a dominant force in the social options of every Dartmouth student (like it or not). So if the Greek system is the majority, the status quo, and there are flaws in it, then Dartmouth can be said to have a flawed status quo. If something is flawed, only change will bring about improvement to remedy the situation. For change to be brought about in any institutional sense, money is needed. But, for the powers-that-be who are so hell-bent on bringing about change, money is no-object, a non-issue. The College has millions of dollars to throw around to bring about change, to remedy flaws.
So why don't we, instead of just sitting around, waiting to see what scandal-ridden committees will think up next, spend the money on improving the status quo that exists now? Instead of razing the Greek system "as we know it," and building perhaps an equally flawed status quo, why don't we use the wads of cash that Jimmy Wright's been bragging about to augment and fix what we already have, a system that many students already find more than adequate. With some of the vast amount of money set aside to improve Dartmouth's social and residential life, the Greek houses could improve their physical and residential facilities and, perhaps most importantly, increase and diversify the non-alcoholic programming that they do. Rather than take away all the good things that Greek life brings to this campus and surrounding community, our aim should be to augment the current system to the point where there is something for everyone, a sense of belonging for supporters of both Greek and non-Greek environments alike.
We, as a college, pride ourselves on and strive for diversity. This should not be reflected only in hollow admission statistics, but this sense of value for diversity should appear in our range of social options as well. But social options are not increased or diversified through the destruction or de-recognition of an option, no matter how dominant it might seem. The dialogue about the Initiative has become a dialogue of attack and defense because the Trustees seem to think that any flaws we currently have will be cured through destruction, rather than diversification and augmentation.
The Greek system is dominant on campus mainly because of its many good facets; it meets the social needs and wants of many students. The reason why the Trustees are clamoring for change is because not every student is happy with the amount or type of social options we have on campus. Simple logic would dictate that, to increase the number of happy students on campus, one would only need to increase the amount or type of social options on campus. The illogical jump then is the "end of the Greek system" or the end of any social option. To increase options and thereby increase the number of students satisfied with Dartmouth's social options is an honorable and lofty goal -- one that can be achieved through careful planning and lots of money -- not one that will ever be achieved through the destruction of the Greek (or any other) system.
Well, I've come to the end of my column and the whole Thanksgiving analogy's been shot to hell. I don't know what I was talking about with that whole cornucopia thing, but at least I got the inane rambling part right.