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The Dartmouth
April 19, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Pledge Term Double Standards

Now that the Recruitment Period for both men and women has come to a close, 'pledge term' has shifted into high gear. Along with it has come the buzz generated by new members around campus. I would like to state very clearly that although I am the Vice President of Administration of a sorority, the views presented here are solely my own, not those of my organization, although it was the number of sisters concerned with the double standard that I will discuss which inspired me to write.

My organization was recently reprimanded because a new member wore a sign around campus that read "I'm a Baby ______," the blank being the name of our house. The reprimand was due to the fact that the sign could be construed as demeaning. I would first like to note that in the dictionary I have in front of me, definitions of the word "baby" include "the youngest member of a group" and "something or somebody regarded with affection, pride, or admiration."

Aside from this, my complaint is not with the rules we are being asked to follow, or the individual doing the asking. Hazing has become a sensitive issue and one that both our college and the state of New Hampshire have done an admirable job in trying to address. However, although I am vehemently opposed to anyone being forced into doing anything that makes them uncomfortable or puts physical or mental well-being into question, I am also a fan of rites of initiation. I rather enjoy and take pride in the fact that I am able to wake up and dress myself as I wish, and that I am free to express my opinions in a letter like this one, and I recognize that were my freedoms not protected by forces that use said rites to create the sense of community that makes them successful, I would be up a creek.

Now, I'm not recommending boot camp for the pledges per se, but I do think there is something positive to be said for taking pride in one's organization through shared actions and displays of communal belonging. If I were in charge of monitoring hazing behavior and Greek organization conduct, I would be less worried about those who are so proud of their house that they're willing to display it publicly, and more concerned about activities that are intentionally being hidden from view.

Rules are rules, and "hazing is hazing is hazing," as a close friend of mine put it, and I am willing to follow those rules -- provided that all other organizations are held to a similar standards. The trouble is, however, that they are not. The proverbial schoolyard bully in this scenario is stealing signs but overlooking lunch boxes (or are they called pledge packs?). There's something wrong with this picture, and perhaps more troubling than the double standard that exists is the fact that the administration member who reprimanded us is turning a blind eye to the activities of certain fraternities, and has been for years.

I am offended that there is anyone, male or female, among the higher-ups in this College who would enforce such one-sided policies. Even more offensive, however, is the fact that we are expected to sit back and follow their lead. I am quite proud of my sisterhood and the effort that its members have taken to welcome our new class, but I'm even prouder to be surrounded by other women who saw a problem with what happened last week. I suggest that until the administration can explain to my 'little sister' why I can't give her a sign to wear but it would be okay for me to ask her to shave her head (or would it?), they put less thought into designing strict new policies regarding new member activities, and more effort into communicating to students and organizations, affected by those policies, that they're willing to apply to, and enforce, among both sexes.

Dartmouth has made it clear that there will be no debating the grey areas around the definition of hazing. However, when something is black for females and white for males I don't see grey " I see a throwback to 1971.