Panel criticizes campus gender relations, Greeks

by Tim Mosso | 11/13/02 6:00am

Gender sensitivity and the flaws of Dartmouth's Greek system were the dominant themes during a discussion panel yesterday in the Top of the Hop.

A predominantly female crowd packed the second floor of the Hopkins Center to hear what was billed as a forum for "topics that aren't talked about on a daily basis but should be."

The panelists and audience complained that the social life of Dartmouth students is dominated by fraternity parties, drinking and situations that put women in uncomfortable positions.

The six student panelists, all seniors, offered their opinions on statements ranging from "Men on campus say they would never send their daughters to Dartmouth" to "What forms does sexual harassment take on campus and have you ever encountered it?"

Sexual abuse and gender discrimination were the primary subjects of discussion. Panelist Robert Cotto '03 argued that Dartmouth is not "a woman-friendly place."

"I denounce fraternities and sororities on this campus," panelist Alexis McGuinness '03 said. "They are a refuge for a single mentality."

McGuinness argued that the Greek system promotes gender stereotypes and discourages sober interaction between students.

Alcohol-related sexual abuse was cited as one of the key dangers promoted by the fraternity system. The panelists agreed that sexual harassment at Greek house parties snowballs to sexual abuse in the bedroom. The prevalence of heavy drinking was viewed as a primary contributing factor in date-rape incidents.

"Alcohol is used to justify unacceptable behavior," panelist Christina Cleveland '03 suggested. McGuinness added that many sexual assaults go unreported because of the "gray area" that alcohol creates.

Panelists pointed to the use of homosexual slurs as an often overlooked form of sexual harassment. Students in the audience and on the panel decried the casual use of terms such as "fag" and "gay."

Panelist Miles Harrigan '03 acknowledged the difficulty of expunging these common terms from one's vocabulary "I'm gay, and I sometimes say, 'That's gay.'" However, the panel was unanimous in denouncing the practice as insensitive to privately and openly gay students.

Dartmouth students' relationships involving friends and couples were blasted by panelists as being too brief, narrowly-focused, and difficult to maintain. Panelist Tim Faller '03 joked that "dating at Dartmouth is eating with somebody, drinking with somebody, or sleeping with somebody."

The lack of off-campus social options and the disruptive effect of the D-Plan were identified as the unavoidable causes of the school's often compromised student relationships.

The panelists suggested that constant communication between partners was the key to making the most of existing relationships and easing separation. The same recommendation was made for maintaining strictly platonic friendships that may be disrupted by the quarter system.

The discussion was given the provocative title, "Shut the Fuck Up."