Kim asks Greeks for 'frank' conversation

by Emily Goodell | 7/16/09 10:00pm

President Kim told the GLC he would seek to learn more about Greek organizations and their needs early in his presidency.
by Zach Ingbretsen and Zach Ingbretsen / The Dartmouth

College President Jim Yong Kim met formally with representatives from every Greek organization for the first time Wednesday evening, when he attended a meeting of the Greek Leadership Council in the Rockefeller Center. Kim stressed that he wanted members to be completely "frank" with him about Greek life at the College, promising in turn that he would be honest about what changes he could make.

Kim said his knowledge of fraternities and sororities is limited, since he himself was not affiliated with a Greek organization during his undergraduate years at Brown University.

"I don't know how exactly I can be supportive of you; I don't know how exactly I can challenge you and make the strong bonds that you're building with each other to create great things, not only at Dartmouth but for the rest of the world," Kim said. "I don't know how to do that, but I'm completely committed to finding out."

Kim said that while he wishes "all young people drank a little bit less," he is impressed with the bonds that form among members of Greek houses.

"A lot of interesting medical research shows us that people who have friends they've had since they were 18 into their 60s and 70s live longer," he said. "So in other words what you guys are doing is perfectly natural, and people are doing it all over the world, and it's something that I support."

Kim said he is concerned that the current Good Samaritan policy might lead students to hesitate before calling for help for an intoxicated friend. Kim said he wanted to look at the issue from a "harm reduction" standpoint, a technique he used while working with the World Health Organization to prevent the spread of HIV by ensuring clean needles were available for intravenous drug users.

A student asked Kim to share his thoughts on the Hanover Police department's policy to accompany all ambulances, including those carrying students suffering from alcohol poisoning, to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, which the student said usually results in the patient's arrest. Kim said he had heard of several possible options that could prevent the arrests, including having the College purchase its own ambulance or having physicians at Dick's House. He also said he intends to start a "conversation" with Hanover officials about the policy.

"I don't think we're going to stop you guys from drinking, I think the scientific evidence is overwhelming that we're not," he said. "But what can we do to make sure that no one doesn't call for help because they're concerned that someone will be arrested?"

Kim said he was also examining the need for more social spaces at the College, adding that he would like to have a space where Greek organizations could hold formals and other events closer to Dartmouth than current venues.

The GLC meeting was the first time Kim has met with the Greek community at large, according to GLC moderator David Johnson '11. It was arranged by Dean of the College Tom Crady, according to Johnson. Kim only stayed for half an hour due to scheduling constraints.

"I think people started to come out of their shell right as he had to go, in terms of asking the questions that are uncomfortable to ask," Johnson said. "He's a very candid guy, and that was definitely appreciated. There were a lot of tough questions and he didn't balk at any."

Epsilon Kappa Theta sorority president Jessica Krug '11 said she was glad that Kim has reached out to the Greek community this early in his presidency.

"One of the great things is he was honest in letting us know what he can do and what he can't do," she said.

Krug is a member of The Dartmouth Staff.

Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity president Andrew Purpura '11 said he thought Kim's lack of experience with the Greek life will bring a fresh perspective to the system. Joseph Zimring '11, president of Theta Delta Chi fraternity, said he was impressed with the way Kim related issues at Dartmouth, like keg policy, with his experiences in global health.

"Obviously, he's got a lot of knowledge about the world, and he had done bigger things with his life," Zimring said. "It was interesting to relate those back to the smaller things that were happening at Dartmouth."

Kim answered student concerns with a "fair and balanced" attitude, according to Chi Heorot fraternity President Brian DeAngelis '11.

"He's very analytical in the way he tackles everything he looks at a problem from all angles," he said.

Shortly before Kim left, the conversation turned to the renovations currently being made on the President's house.

"I can tell you we're going to get a basketball hoop in the driveway, so you will all be invited to come play basketball," he said.

**The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Joseph Zimring '11 is the president of Phi Delta Alpha fraternity. In fact, Zimring is the president of Theta Delta Chi fraternity.*