The New Gestapo

by Jeff Deck | 11/3/99 6:00am

When I read the November 1 issue of The Dartmouth (yes, I do read it even when my column's not in the paper), I was dismayed to see that the Gestapo has been reborn.

I have been silent on the topic of the Greek system vs. the Student Life Initiative thus far, as I wished my humor columns to be read by all audiences and to be viewed in an unbiased light. However, on this occasion I feel the need to speak. In a front page article, The D ran a story about five students who have been vocal opponents of the Greek system. These students have been harassed because of their views, through both impersonal and personal attacks.

I have a problem with this.

Whenever people are intimidated into keeping their views to themselves or, worse, into going along with the general consensus, it is a direct violation of both their legal rights and human dignity. A college campus is supposed to be, and historically has been, a haven for the First Amendment. So, why then are some people, particularly freshmen, coerced into silence about their opinions of the Greek system? There seems to exist a stifling influence over much of this campus. I, for one, am not going to stand for it.

Let us examine the nature of the attacks on these pro-elimination students, focusing for the moment purely on the intellectual arguments and disregarding the brute, stupid remarks that have been tossed at them. Thad Glowacki, in the article, said: "I view their anti-Greek sentiments as hypocritical in the sense that a number of them frequently attend Greek houses."

Let's think about that for a moment. The crux of the pro-elimination students' argument is that a better social outlet could be provided than the Greek system, and as of now, the Greek system is basically the only outlet on campus (thereby meaning there are no social alternatives). No Greek would dispute them on the second point. Since there are no social alternatives to the Greek system, what else are these students supposed to do on, say, a Saturday night? Would you have them sit on their thumbs at home? It is not hypocritical to make use of the current system while recognizing the need for a better one. Using Glowacki's reasoning, if someone had old, decrepit shoes and said, "Pretty soon, I need some new shoes," they would be hypocritical if they didn't throw out their shoes right away and walk barefoot straight to Foot Locker.

Whatever your opinions on the Greek system are, think about the standards that are being set in this case. The suppression of ideas can only bring about stagnation (or "tradition," the current name under which stagnation is masquerading). Suppression can lead only to oppression. Do we really want a system dominating the school that, as the CFS president has admitted, "perpetuate[s] particular types of behavior" -- namely gender inequality and the complete abuse of alcohol -- and that also encourages oppression?

I know, and you all know, that once we leave this campus, the issue of the Greek system will be a moot point. Most will care little or not at all about the fate of Dartmouth social options once they leave here. However, the standards of behavior that are being set here will continue on through each of our lives. Dartmouth, as isolated as it may seem from the rest of the world, is the stage on which we rehearse our upcoming roles in society at large. If Dartmouth students, supposedly intelligent and gifted leaders, continue to act in these same oppressive ways after graduation, they will set a poor example for others to follow.

We must act now to ensure that society on the whole will not be subjected to these anti-democratic, Orwellian methods of suppression. To those who engage in such tactics, I can do little but leave you with paraphrased Voltaire: "I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."