Woodward: Where is the Unity?

by Aylin Woodward | 2/13/14 7:26pm

At this moment there is nothing that Dartmouth’s collective community cares more about than the Bored at Baker incident — it reminds us intensely of the potential for great cruelty that exists in our midst. Our student body is incredible at showing spontaneous solidarity in the face of issues like this one. The community gathering on the Green Monday evening was inspiring and poignant in its simple, elegant statement: We are Dartmouth, and we are better than this. But only a relatively small fraction, maybe a quarter of campus, came to show support despite numerous blitzes and personal invitations from all corners of campus. So the question is why so few?

Dartmouth has a collective action problem. Right now, the group of Dartmouth students most vocal about mercilessly cracking down on sexual assault is too extreme for many students to identify with. This is what needs to change — we need every single student on this campus to understand that it is worth being as engaged and passionate as those spearheading the movement. If we want a safer campus, we cannot just attend community gatherings, we must become a unified voice — one that demands change, zero-tolerance policies, transparency and accountability where none previously existed.

We must remember a few key things. First, it is impossible to unify if we alienate half of our campus in the process. And I am not referring solely to affiliated men. Eloquent opinions like “Where is the Outrage?” (Feb. 10, 2014) by Sadia Hassan ’13 play an integral role in catalyzing change. Unfortunately, that catalyst comes at the high cost of alienating those on campus who may not feel quite so angry. Students, like myself, may feel unable to engage with these important issues because they are afraid of being judged for not being passionate enough about them. We do not all feel comfortable lending our voices to such extremism. We all engage with issues on different levels: it is a fact of life. Not all of us will make addressing sexual assault our singular goal on campus, but make no mistake — every single student gives a damn.

That the Greek system, and the culture it perpetuates, has issues is old news, and I won’t discuss that here. But I take issue demonizing the fraternities and forcing every affiliated man to bear the burden of the abhorrent acts of one individual — and an unaffiliated one, at that. One of my friends called the community gathering “weird” because “there were actually a lot of men there.” Of course there were men! How dare we think that they care any less about the safety of campus as everyone else. To damn every single man on this campus because of the actions of a select, horrid few belies a mindset that is just as closed as that of those we maintain are responsible for our situation in the first place. Moreover, I take issue with Hassan’s assertion that fraternities “furnish all men with disproportionate power,” because that statement undermines the active agency of all individuals, male or female, who are not fraternity members. I, for one, am not powerless because I do not allow myself to feel powerless.

If you insist on alienating a group by branding them a common enemy, then by all means let it be the administration. Why not hold the administration and Committee on Standards accountable and demand that the hearing of such a case be open and the perpetrator named?

Right now, the student body finds itself on two sides of a schism — one side unified in passion for a necessary change, the other alienated and uncertain. Passions are high. People are angry, scared and discouraged. But we are Dartmouth. We are all Dartmouth. And we need to bridge the divide before our campus unravels into a disparate group of untrusting, hateful people who will share no more than the signature on their diploma.

This rampant plague of sexual assault and lack of appropriate action is tearing our school apart from the inside out. We have the power to stop it, but only if we stand together.