Reality, Care to Join Me?

by Ben Gerwin | 5/30/01 5:00am

In light of the recent events on campus, I feel it is time once again to pull the students on campus back into the real world. Wake up and face reality if you will. More specifically, a few very important yet forgotten points need to be addressed.

Recently, Zeta Psi fraternity was derecognized based strongly upon the clause that its members violated the "Sense of Community." The hypocrisy of this decision may not be directly apparent to most of you, but it should be. Am I the only student that finds it odd that the administration's response to a violation of the "Sense of Community" is to ostracize 48 students from the Dartmouth community? Because, basically, this is what the administration did. The current members of the fraternity were given no chance to reform themselves, but rather were convicted of violating something that the College itself clearly does not understand. And the administration wonders why the fraternities are uncertain of how to proceed in the current environment.

Another important yet forgotten point is the true role of the fraternity system at Dartmouth. The Greek system is not an anti-intellectual, racist institution that stands in the way of the College's ideals. For one thing, members of the Greek system are involved in many activities across campus. And when one member presents a paper, acts in a play, plays the cello in a concert, dances in a Milan culture night or plays lacrosse for the Big Green, this translates into many members showing support. For example, I am a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, and a brother recently presented his research paper on Cuba. This presentation was publicized across campus, yet the overwhelming majority of the students at the presentation were members of Sig Ep. In this instance, being a fraternity member clearly increased academic and cultural awareness, and there are many more similar examples. The Greek system, in contrast to what the administration would like to believe, actually fosters increased participation throughout the campus, and more so than any impersonal mass email will ever do in motivating students to attend events.

In regards to the charge that the Greek system is inherently exclusive in nature, I would like to point out one obvious observation. People choose their friends. If the Greek system were eliminated, this does not miraculously mean that everyone will become great friends with each other. On the contrary, the Greek system is not the homogenous institution that its critics would like to believe. I know that after joining a house I have become friends with many people whom I probably would have otherwise never met. Through joining a house, an environment is actually created for increased interactions across superficial social boundaries. And continuing on the point about friendships, the elimination of the Greek system will remove the positive goals that do exist above simple friendship, such as community service. I highly doubt that a group of friends not tied together by a stronger commitment to each other would put in nearly as many hours helping others as do the Greek members. I don't see a random group of friends rallying each other simply on a whim to get up on a Saturday morning and paint a house or build roofing for Cover. The Greek system raises the bar through the addition of these positive ideals on top of the concept of friendship.

I would like to address one final point that has been bothering me ever since the beginning of the Student Life Initiative -- that is, the idea of "in loco parentis," Latin for "in place of the parent." Inherent in the SLI itself is the notion that Dartmouth students are not capable of making their own decisions, and that the College must therefore step in and do so for them. Again, this is a highly hypocritical stance in that we are intelligent enough to get into Dartmouth, but not intelligent enough to be trusted in the choices that we make once we are here. If students were truly not getting anything positive out of the Greek system, then they would simply choose not to participate in it and the system would dwindle on its own. No one forces anyone to join a house. By handing down decisions from above, the administration is undermining the basic principles that underlie being a college student. Let the students hit conflict on their own, become stronger and exit Dartmouth with stronger convictions rather than an inability to deal with the real world due to the protectionist, sheltering policies that the administration hopes to implement in the near future.