Trustees lift moratorium on Greeks
In a surprise move earlier this month, the Board of Trustees lifted its moratorium on the creation of additional single-sex, selective and residential organizations. The decision, which was announced the Monday following Commencement, marks a significant departure from the trustees' 2001 decision to forbid the establishment of additional Greek houses.
The moratorium was among the more notorious elements of the 1999 Student Life Initiative, an ongoing effort to modify social and residential life at the College that revolves heavily around the Greek system.
"By definition, a fraternity or a sorority is not inclusive of all members of the community," College President James Wright said in a February 10, 1999 issue of The Dartmouth.
When asked if he believed the reversal marked a retreat from the SLI, Wright instead suggested that the move reflects successful progress for the Initiative and for Co-ed, Fraternity and Sorority houses.
"I think one of the success stories of the Initiative over the last few years has been the way that CFS organizations by in large, with their alumni leadership and their nationals where appropriate, have really stepped up and have... tried to play a more responsible role in the community."
Dean of the College James Larimore initiated the discussion by recommending that the Board discontinue the moratorium. With the trustee's approval, Larimore now retains sole authority to grant recognition to an additional fraternity or sorority, where, according to Wright, "it properly belongs."
Larimore approached the board because of his recent work with student groups concerning a possible seventh sorority, which Wright acknowledged as a "long-standing need."
Wright, however, approached the situation differently in a 1999 interview with The Dartmouth, where he expressed a desire for fewer single-sex organizations when asked how the SLI would affect the Greek community.
"What we want to see is certainly a significant decrease in number," Wright responded.
Reflecting on that year, Wright acknowledged the tensions of the time.
"I think we stumbled coming out of the Student Life Initiative, I think that created some tensions, some fears early on that took a while to work through."
Although supportive of a new organization, Wright noted the difficulties associated with a new residential sorority.
"I'm not aware of any place that's sitting around here conveniently that's vacant for a sorority," Wright said. "I think that's a real issue that Dean Larimore will have to have with some of the students who want to organize the sorority."
Wright also emphasized the extreme time commitment to bring a new sorority to Dartmouth. He acknowledged the efforts by '05s and '06s to re-charter Phi Delta Alpha fraternity, an organization that already had an alumni backbone and national oversight. A new sorority would have no graduated members, and would need to find a national organization, if it so chose. Wright added that the trustees' move does not force national affiliation on a new sorority.
Because the trustees did not back away from the moratorium selectively, Larimore could potentially review an application for an additional fraternity. Despite the possibility, Wright does not anticipate an outcry for a new Greek brotherhood.
"I'm not aware of any movement or any sort of identified student need for a new fraternity right now, but certainly that would be up to the Dean of the College if he would have a plan or proposal that he would find attractive," Wright said.
Larimore said he does not presently have any criteria to judge whether a proposed fraternity would be granted recognition but said he plans to look at the guidelines in place before the moratorium's creation to see if any regulations are applicable today.
Despite his willingness to discuss plans for any new single-sex organization, Larimore questioned whether the Interfraternity Council would welcome an additional fraternity considering the impact it would have on rush numbers.
Overall, the Board's reversal creates a focal point for the more positive student-administration relationship that has developed recently. Wright pointed out the move back to Fall term rush, the re-chartering of Phi Delt and College loans to houses are all attempts by the administration to work more closely with CFS organizations.
"The graduating class really had a sense that there had been a change, certainly I talked to a lot of students over the spring," Wright said. "It may not have been as bad as The D or some other people had characterized it two or three or four years ago, but none of us could deny that there were some real tensions."