Opinion Asks

by The Dartmouth Opinion Staff | 9/17/14 6:12pm

In light of recent discussions surrounding potential changes to the Greek system, we asked our staff to reflect on the necessity of reform.

For good and bad, Dartmouth’s Greek system is unique among peer institutions in its size, prominence on campus and influence on student life. Here, the Greek system in its current form often shapes campus life in ways that are not conducive to the creation of healthy communities, but it also offers many students one of their most important social networks at Dartmouth.

With these competing interpretations of the Greek system in mind, I believe that the system in its current form does need to change in some ways, and less so in others.

Specifically, I believe that houses need to find a better balance between their roles as social outlets (i.e, providers of pong, tails and formals) and organizations that seek to contribute to their members’ growth as individuals. It seems that today’s Greek organizations are very successful in achieving the former goal and much less so in achieving the latter.

— Lorelei Yang ’15

I support the Greek system at its core and strongly believe that Dartmouth’s three major social problems as identified by College President Hanlon’s steering committee — high risk drinking, sexual assault and exclusivity — would worsen substantially without the Greek system due to the decentralization and deregulation of the social scene that would inevitably occur. That said, a few significant but realistic reforms could put the Greek system in a unique position to help erode these problems rather than exacerbate them.

After every weekend, dozens of garbage bags filled with empty beer cans line Webster Avenue, creating an unsavory smell, weakening the aesthetic appeal of campus and contributing significantly to environmental waste and degradation. The College should encourage Greek houses to stop buying cans of beer and instead allow them to reinstall permanent taps and more easily serve drinks from kegs.

This change would not only probably be more cost effective and certainly be more environmentally sustainable, but it would also promote safer and more responsible drinking. Students would not be able to drink as quickly and dangerously because the dispensation of beer from kegs and taps takes much longer than the rapid distribution of cans. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the designated “sober member” at each party would be in a much stronger position to prevent excessively drunk individuals from attaining more alcohol than when boxes of beer are strewn around a basement for anyone to access.

Additionally, I would encourage a genuine overhaul of the women’s recruitment process that would give women the same amount of agency as men over their rush trajectory. I respect and support the new board of Panhellenic Council’s changes that will increase the transparency of the women’s rush system, but the fact remains that a woman’s outcome largely relies upon a short conversation and a computer algorithm, rather than a man’s process which develops through an entire year of “hanging out” and several engaging rush events.

This change would help establish women as social equals on campus, which would in turn increase the feasibility of female-dominated social spaces, and hopefully improve women’s physical and emotional safety within Dartmouth’s social scene and the Greek system.

Unfortunately, the change that would most significantly reduce high-risk drinking, sexual assault and exclusivity at Dartmouth is entirely out of the College’s jurisdiction — lowering the drinking age to 18. Such a law, of course, would allow the college to serve alcohol to all students at non-Greek social events, which would increase the viability of “alternative social spaces” that many on campus so strongly call for, and it would reduce the inherently underground nature of drinking at Dartmouth that promotes secrecy, fast drinking and behavioral recklessness.

Since the College cannot take the lead on that initiative, the best it can do is reform the Greek system in ways that would preserve the friendship, camaraderie, philanthropy and tradition fostered by the Greek system but help to improve student safety and wellness and create a more responsible and inclusive campus climate.

— Spencer Blair ’17

The fact that the campus newspaper, dedicated to general trends, is engaging with this line of thought shows more about the necessity and demand for campus-wide Greek change than my personal opinions. That being said, I think change is a very important way to move the campus forward.

Though I acknowledge the desire for meeting upperclassmen and inclusive party spaces (which is naturally lacking in a town as small as Hanover), I think completely randomizing the Greek system would be an ideal way to give credence to legitimate goals, while solving the myriad problems associated with such a system (apart from the sex-segregation, which, admittedly, should be addressed). Any objection to the proposition would require owning up to vanity and exclusivity.

— Emily Sellers ’15