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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Heussner: Power Trip

On Oct. 17, Homecoming Friday,The Dartmouthissued a Verbum Ultimum declaring that the Greek system should be abolished. The piece masquerades itself as progressive and brave, but in reality, it is a gross and reckless use of power.

The Dartmouth, America’s oldest college newspaper, has — deservedly or not — developed the reputation as a fair and even-handed publication. SinceThe RadicalandThe Dartmouth Reviewrepresent divergent and polarizing campus views,The Dartmouthis generally seen as the paper that most accurately reflects the sentiment of the majority of the student body.

Administrators take its claims seriously and the national media often references its stories.Business InsiderandThe Huffington Posthave already published articles that cite the Verbum. The paper has power, and the editorial board consciously neglected its journalistic responsibility by provocatively and self-indulgently packaging an opinion piece that stymies the same campus dialogue that it claims to foster. To the editorial board, abolishing the Greek system is, “objectively,” the only ethical course of action.

Objectively, the board needs to rethink its capacity to affect the community.

If the board wants productive debate on Greek life, it should not plaster its Verbum on the front page — leaving students with conflicting opinion pieces as mere afterthoughts on later, less-visible pages.

If the board wants to advocatethe elimination of the Greek system, it shouldn’t recycle old arguments featuring unsubstantiated and fabricated reports as evidence, but should instead forward unique and constructive critiques.

If the board wants to increase campus engagement, it should not signal its own appalling apathy by declaring that the system “just can’t be reformed.” Such a conclusion is an insult to the students and faculty members who have worked tirelessly and thanklessly to revamp Greek life.

IfThe Dartmouthwants to be a leading voice in effecting positive change, it should not hide behind a veil of balanced objectivity. Of course, this is an opinion piece and not a news article, but the editorial board needs to realize the power it holds. The paper’s bold advocation for the banishment of the Greek system is a momentous occasion in Dartmouth’s history — it should have inspired more thoughtful consideration.

Administrators must recognize that theThe Dartmouth’seditorial board is not a reflection of the prevailing Dartmouth opinion. It is a handful of students who seemingly harbor a collective acrimony toward the Greek system and took to a powerful medium to express this opinion.

The opinion should be valued, but not as a reflection of campus consensus.

The mere fact that the opinion of the vast majority of the campus is being conflated with that ofThe Dartmouth, or even that of the steering committee, is significant. We, the students who love Greek life, need to be heard.

Perhaps it is our mistake for assuming that Dartmouth, and its trustees, could correct its current course without us. Perhaps it is our mistake for not voicing our opinion clearly or loudly enough. Perhaps it is our mistake for resorting to measured, even overly sedated, opinion pieces of our own.

To many Dartmouth students, sororities and fraternities bring an irreplaceable level of inclusion and camaraderie that bond lifelong friendships. It is one of the most significant reasons many alumni come back year after year, and the familial community that is nurtured through Greek life is one of the single most important reasons many of us chose to come to this school.

Unfortunately, that community is in great danger. Many Greek leaders are embracing and leading the charge on constructive change, but an alarming dynamic has developed in which the Greek system and the administration are at odds. Houses are being coerced into radical change, and the two factions are working combatively, not cooperatively. A previously inclusive institution has had to close its doors in the name of “risk management.” Several houses now face unprecedented penalties and months of probation for offenses that would have previously been less harshly reprimanded.

The administration has enforced draconian rules without any transparency. If there is any hope of reversing these developments, the silent majority — people who cherish their Greek homes — needs to be louder than the handful of voices on the editorial board.

Jesse Heussner '15 is a guest columnist.