So What's The Problem?

by Katie Reichardt | 11/14/00 6:00am

Who'd you hook up with last night?" part one of a panel discussion at KDE sorority took place on Thursday, November 9. On the table was the topic of gender relations at Dartmouth, with particular attention to the sorority perspective. A packed house watched seven panelists -- juniors and seniors, male and female, Greek and unaffiliated -- speak for five minutes each about their own experiences. A lively discussion ensued in which many members of the audience addressed their own difficulties with male-female interactions at Dartmouth, particularly in reference to the Greek system. Despite the complaints, hours later the Greek party scene continued unaffected.

It seems to be standard operating procedure here at Dartmouth where a campus-wide issue is somehow brought to everyone's attention, discussion and controversy ensue over the next few days, the issue dies down, nothing actually changes and we all get on with our lives.

The Greek system "as we know it" is the social backbone of the campus. It is also the source of some serious deficiencies in gender relations. The effect of the Greek system on gender relations remained a serious point of contention among many members of the audience at KDE. Also, people raised the point that, despite the behavior encouraged by the system's institutionalized norms, rituals and traditions, these behaviors are still very well supported.

We need to be more self-critical about how we interact with members of the opposite sex. Many of these simple questions have no simple answers, but they must be addressed if we are to pinpoint exactly why we need panel discussions in the first place.

What's the best (healthiest) way to meet the opposite sex on campus?

What spaces on campus facilitate non-Greek (gender-neutral) communication? How is gender interaction fundamentally different within fraternities and sororities?

Where is it that the majority of female to male interaction exists? Male to female? (There is a difference.)

Why do juniors and seniors so often find themselves lacking strong friendships with members of the opposite sex? Can this problem be explained by the fact that, during their sophomore year, half of these students become members of an organization that exclusively encourages same-sex friendships?

If you're not an athlete/actor/DOC/etc. person: is there a better way to meet upperclassmen than through the Greek system?

If so many people DO agree that there's a problem, what is the nature of the problem? Is it describable?

Among the obvious factors of the Greek system, the D-plan, and the (limited?) gender-neutral space on this campus, which of these play the greatest role in the problems?

Is a "reformed" and more gender-relations-friendly Greek system possible? Or is it the nature of the system to foster a generally unhealthy interaction between men and women, one that is based on alcohol abuse and encouragement of stereotypical male/female role playing?

Why haven't more steps been taken to address the problem? When they have, why have these efforts failed?

Do Dartmouth students, then, just assume that it's not worth the hard work required to achieve better gender relations here? How much action are Dartmouth students willing to take to improve communication between sexes, and how much do we really want to get to know people unlike ourselves?

Solving the problem requires a genuine campus-wide dialogue, because every Dartmouth student needs to be aware of not only his or her gender relations experiences, but those of other people as well. Between the distinctions of Male/Female, Hetero/Homosexual, Greek/Unaffiliated, Upperclassman/Underclassman, etc., there are many different perspectives on this campus. The problem is, if most of your friends have similar experiences to your own, you might come to believe that most of the campus feels the same way. That's why we need to communicate.

If you agree that there are institutionalized problems, stop complaining privately and come complain publicly. Think about these questions and come to the second part of the panel, "So What's the Problem?" 9 p.m. tonight at Alpha Delta fraternity.

Real change will occur only if the students on this campus unify their individual decisions and actions in a common direction towards improved gender relations.