Following meeting with Hanlon, students talk Greek reform

by Madison Pauly | 9/17/14 7:13pm

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Of students surveyed, more than half opposed eradicating the Greek system.

Since College President Phil Hanlon met with Greek organization leaders Tuesday night, councils and presidents say they have met repeatedly and at length to discuss potential reforms to the Greek system.

Attendees said that Hanlon, Board of Trustees Chair Bill Helman and “Moving Dartmouth Forward” presidential steering committee chair Barbara Will demanded they initiate change in their organizations this term, emphasizing the administration’s desire to collaborate before the Board considers the committee’s recommendations in January.

Hanlon convened the committee in May, tasking members with reducing binge drinking, sexual assault and exclusivity, and the committee worked this summer to solicit feedback.

During Tuesday’s meeting, attendees spoke about freshman safety, hard alcohol, adult oversight of social spaces and new member probationary periods for any student organization. Discussion also touched on sexual assault, racial inclusivity and financial accessibility, as well as ways to promote community building through residential life.

Coed council interim president Noah Cramer ’16 said he believes students are just now realizing the scale of the College’s options.

“I think there’s at least a sense among the relevant people that things could change a lot in January,” Cramer said.

Of 71 students surveyed in various locations on campus Wednesday evening, more than half opposed eradicating the Greek system.

The survey asked respondents to rank their opposition to or support of various Greek reform proposals from one to five, with one being strongly support and five being strongly oppose.

Respondents varied across class years, gender and affiliation with a Greek organization. About 30 percent of students surveyed were affiliated while 70 percent were unaffiliated.

About 59 percent of respondents said they were “opposed” or “strongly opposed” to eradicating the Greek system, including half of unaffiliated respondents and more than 70 percent of affiliated respondents.

More than 61 percent of respondents, including 64 percent of unaffiliated students and 57 percent of affiliated students, said they believed significant changes should be implemented in the Greek system within the next year. Ten percent of unaffiliated students and 19 percent of affiliated students said they wished significant changes would “never” be implemented, while only two affiliated students and one unaffiliated student said that they wished to see immediate change.

Of the proposals listed — eliminate pledge terms, protect freshmen, adult presence and banning hard alcohol — respondents were most opposed to adult supervision in fraternities, with 77 percent in opposition, including 90 percent of affiliated students and 72 percent of unaffiliated students.

About 57 percent of affiliated respondents opposed eliminating pledge term, as did 36 percent of unaffiliated students, with the same percentage of unaffiliated students also indicating they were neutral.

Interfraternity Council president Wil Chockley ’15 said Tuesday that the council discussed abolishing pledge term during its presidents’ meeting earlier this week and will reach a final decision about the fall on Sunday.

About half of both affiliated and unaffiliated students surveyed expressed support for stronger measures to protect freshmen.

One respondent wrote in: “No freshmen all of their freshman year. This is how it used to be in my dad’s generation.”

Four respondents suggested that sororities go local, while two suggested changing sorority recruitment.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Hanlon did not present concrete demands for reform or specific consequences if student-led change does not occur this term, Alpha Theta coed fraternity president Cristy Altamirano ’15 said.

Panhellenic Council President Rachel Funk ’15 said she felt “relieved” by the meeting, as she believes it demonstrated the administration’s willingness to work with Greek leaders rather than institute immediate top-down reforms.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity president Daegwon Chae ’15 wrote in an email that he was frustrated that the presidential steering committee did not provide insight into what specific changes it is considering at the meeting. Students, he wrote, presented concrete plans like eliminating pledge term and revising social event management procedures.

Altamirano said she believed that clearer goals and consequences would have encouraged other Greek leaders to take the call for change more urgently.

Sigma Nu fraternity president Blaze Joel ’15 said that attendees seemed willing to make changes.

Calling the meeting a “vague threat,” Altamirano said Hanlon’s lack of specificity actually empowered Greek leaders, allowing them the opportunity to collaborate with administrators and make progress this fall, which may in turn influence decisions in January.

“We’re the ones that have the agency for now, for this term, and we need to be the ones leading these changes, but at times it did feel like we were being admonished,” Altamirano said. She added that the meeting seemed to push the brunt of criticism for years of stagnancy in the Greek system on single-sex organizations.

During the meeting, however, Hanlon praised the Interfraternity Council’s recent movement toward eliminating pledge terms, Altamirano said.

Panhell plans to announce several major changes after next week’s recruitment period, Funk said, declining to provide specifics.

Panhell’s first priority is to carry out the sorority recruitment reforms announced last spring, she said. Council members are also considering announcing at least one other initiative beforehand, “to set a tone for what new members might expect,” Funk said.

The spring reforms — which included sorority-blind pre-rush events and smaller budgets for rush events — resulted from suggestions from the Improve Dartmouth website and Greek advisors, Funk said.

Cramer said he was encouraged by the meeting, as he believes coed fraternities are “ahead of the ball game” in many areas identified for improvement, citing policies that allow students with financial need to avoid dues and compliant pledge term practices.

Altamirano said she plans to tell Alpha Theta members that the organization must improve by January. While the coed fraternity does not face the same issues of exclusivity and financial inaccessibility that same-sex organizations may encounter, she said, its pledge term policies could be better codified.

During the meeting, Hanlon said he intends to increase the number of College-run social options like the Hop Garage and Microbrew Mondays, Altamirano recalled. If College-run social scenes are the most enticing social options on campus, Greek life will become “less populated and thus less problematic,” she said.

“My feeling is that this reform, in the long run, will make Greeks obsolete,” Altamirano said.

Funk said she wished the meeting focused more on gender equality, ways to reduce the predominance of male-controlled social spaces and concrete steps to address sexual assault.

During the meeting, Funk said, Hanlon expressed support for local sororities and suggested that the administration would provide financial support for sororities that wished to break away from national organizations.

Chris Leech contributed reporting.

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