Faculty sentiments mixed toward Green Key weekend

by Tracy Landers | 5/18/01 5:00am

This year's Green Key weekend, a three-day period that will likely be dominated by Greek parties, begins only five days after 92 faculty members voted unanimously for the revocation of College support from exclusive single-sex Greek organizations.

Professors' opinions concerning the Greek system varied greatly, but Professor of Religion Susan Ackerman's comment captured a general sentiment:

"In no way does the faculty want to shut down student social life ... any alternative entertainment outside of exclusionary social organizations would be great ... we [the faculty] would maybe even want to join you," she said.

"I think having a celebration in the springtime is perfectly acceptable," Religion Professor Amy Hollywood concurred. "Lots of schools have a springfest as a way to relax before exams. I don't have any problem with Green Key in principle."

Psychology Professor John Pfister also offered his qualified support.

"As long as Green Key is on the calendar, I don't mind it," he said. "I would hope students are diligent and motivated enough for me to hold productive classes on Friday."

Yet he did see room for improvement.

"Why keep this celebration exclusively Greek? If Green Key were expanded, alcohol would become a smaller part of the whole," Pfister added.

Agnes Lugo-Ortiz, professor of Spanish & Portuguese, said she felt that parties have both positive and negative aspects.

"I would like to see a Dartmouth more attune with a community of learning, but I'm not against parties. Some parties encourage openness while others confirm the worst in human character," she explained.

Giavanna Munafo, Women's Studies professor and director of the Women's Resource Center. said that although she was not in favor of "cutting out all the fun," she did feel that "if we articulate a mission we need to hold ourselves up to that."

"This Green Key weekend is an opportunity to change the way they [the Greek houses] do it. I'm hopeful that there won't be lots of people hurting one another," she added, citing the fact that sexual abuse statistics often rise dramatically during Green Key weekend.

"I know so many students that feel alienated, who think Dartmouth traditions such as Green Key are about drinking, crazy behavior and irresponsibility," she concluded. Munafo said that it is this alienation that compelled her to vote against the exclusivity of the Greek system.

Ackerman echoed this sentiment.

"Faculty felt very strongly that they wanted to express solidarity with students who felt assaulted by recent incidents at [Psi Upsilon fraternity] and [Zeta Psi fraternity]. We wanted to say we're your friends, we support you, we care about you," she said.

Ackerman, Hollywood, Lugo-Ortiz and Munafo each signed the public letter recently sent to College President James Wright and the Trustees that articulated 101 faculty members' dissatisfaction with the "exclusion, self-indulgence and arrogant sense of entitlement" inherent in the current single-sex Greek-dominated social system.

"The vote is a challenge the faculty has given the Greek system. Students can respond to that vote by changing practices and becoming inclusive," said Dean of the Tucker Foundation Stuart Lord, who is also on the Greek Life Steering Committee.

"I've heard of some things that have happened during Green Key that are not positive ... I hope that the faculty's vote reminds people that we have an opportunity to say 'we are prepared to change,'" he said.

Like Munafo, Lord said he sees this weekend as an opportunity for change.

"This Green Key, let's not just have a can of beer and a dance. Let's do some thinking. Let's showcase the great things that students are doing who are Greek, so members of the Greek system no longer feel ashamed. Let's begin to articulate in actions, not in words, what it means to be a College recognized organization," he said.

Though the two issues are related, professors' opinions on the Greek system as a whole were even more varied than opinions specifically concerning Green Key weekend.

"There is nothing that single-sex exclusionary social organizations can do to meet the principle of community at Dartmouth," Ackerman said.

Munafo disagreed.

"There is a difference between exclusivity that is harmful, and that which is acceptable. Single-sex organizations can be beneficial; they are not necessarily harm producing," she said.

On the same topic, Lugo-Ortiz said, "It's unfortunate for the sororities, which serve as a safe-haven, but exclusion is not the way to go. The Greek system creates a structure of 'us and them.' We want a system of openness -- a system of private clubs is a system of discrimination."

Other professors expressed more positive opinions.

Pfister, who did not sign the letter or participate in Monday's faculty vote said that, in general, he had "really positive feelings" toward the Greek system.

"I think it provides forays for its members to find out about themselves and members of the opposite sex. The problem is when the membership becomes clouded with negative ideals such as misogyny."

"I'm in favor of any Greek system with a plan for moving in the right direction," Lord added.

"Why would 50 percent of eligible students join if it [the Greek system] weren't positive in some ways?" Munafo pointed out. "Some students are very pessimistic about the process of change, I'm much more optimist that the institution is ready to hold all of us accountable in new ways, not just the Greek system but the whole community."