It's All Greek to Me

by Liam Kuhn | 10/13/00 5:00am

Forgive me if I'm beating a dead horse here, but I'd like to talk about the fate of the Greeks at Dartmouth (if I were a little smarter, I'd come up with a clever mythology pun about Greeks and dead (or wooden) horses, but then again, if I were a little smarter, I'd probably be at Harvard, or at least someplace warmer than this God-forsaken patch of frozen tundra). As you loyal readers of America's oldest college newspaper know, I've been an outspoken supporter of the oft-maligned Greek system for quite some time now. When I came to Dartmouth, I never doubted that I would join a fraternity. I pledged during my sophomore fall and moved into my house during my sophomore summer. Personally, I've had nothing but positive experiences with the Greek system. But, like it or not, the Greeks are under intense scrutiny and some changes are going to be made.

While I was initially adamantly against any administration-proposed changes to the campus social life, I've had to rethink my position recently. When the Initiative was announced and the crusaders in the administration first clamored for an end to Greek life as we know it, many students were rightfully pissed off. Rallies were held, protests were staged, and there was a lot of talk about not letting old traditions die. Immediately, many Greek-affiliated students took the role of the captain who doesn't abandon his ship, regardless of the consequences. While going down with the sinking ship is a romantic ideal, wouldn't it be much easier to just patch up the leaks?

Before I tell you what I think is wrong with the Greek system, let me tell you a little about myself. I'm a painfully shy, quasi-misanthropic kid who can't carry a decent conversation with anyone unless my inhibitions have been sufficiently lowered through any of the vices widely available to the average Dartmouth student. As pathetic as that makes me, at least I'm aware of it. If I had a nickel for each instance of incomprehensible drunken banter I've heard in various basements, I wouldn't be so quick to bring up the fact that this bootleg Ivy League institution costs $130,000 to attend. Think about your average frat party. At very few other schools can you go to a party for no more than five minutes and come out with your clothes smelling of an exotic blend of cigarette smoke, piss and vomit. Perhaps I'm painting with too broad a brush here, but generally the women at this school drink too much beer and wear too much leopard print. At one point, it might have had a certain allure to it. But now that half the people here are riddled with chlamydia, it has lost any charm it once had. As we're told over and over again by administrators and proud parents, Dartmouth attracts some of the world's best and brightest students. Try to remember that the next time you see someone fall down a flight of stairs on his or her way to the basement.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not pulling for a temperance movement or anything like that. We're kids, and we're young, and we have very few responsibilities in life right now. I love getting sloshed as much as the next guy. But when I think about what I've gained by being a Greek, I think about the lifelong friendships, the shared memories, the great stories -- all of that. But sometimes I think the only thing I've gained by joining a house is ten pounds and the early stages of liver cirrhosis. Personally, I have no regrets in joining a house. My fraternity has enlivened and made more enjoyable my time here at Dartmouth. But the administration doesn't seem to view the Greek system in as positive a light as I do, and they're the people who you have to listen to -- not me. So rather than drawing our line in the sand and hopelessly clinging to things just for the sake of clinging, let's reevaluate what's important to us. Let's ask ourselves if we're putting our emphasis and energy in the right places.

I'm not saying the administration has any right or responsibility to tell us how to lead our social lives. And I'm not saying that we should even take seriously any of the ideas the social engineers float in our direction. But changes will need to be made, and I'd rather they come from open-minded students rather than distant, middle-aged suits with nothing at stake in the process. It's great to believe in something and be willing to fight for it. But it's even greater to make sure everything you believe in is really worth fighting for.