Peters: A Mechanism for Change

by William Peters | 10/8/14 4:28pm

Since the beginning of term, listening to conversations from members of the Greek system has left me with one impression: affiliated students are genuinely concerned that their organizations will be eliminated. So far, the Interfraternity Council has officially eliminated “pledge term” — all persons who shook out and are granted bids are now immediately considered full-fledged members. House leaders are stepping up their game to maintain the teeming social scene that keeps so many students occupied in the middle of nowhere. In reality, the Greek system is one of the things that has made Dartmouth’s location more enjoyable. Perhaps Greek life has dominated social life at the College thanks to its remoteness, and in turn, has created a culture that is dependent on tails, pong and sweaty dance parties in sticky basements. The houses have become apparatuses for consistent togetherness, and now they might be on the verge of extinction. But despite the need for reform, ridding the College of the Greek system entirely would also rid it of a key mechanism for change.

Right now, administrators are cracking down on drinking, directing Safety and Security officers to diligently seek out as many infractions as possible. The nature of the fraternity scene essentially guarantees that if they look hard enough they will find something. Perhaps administrators are conducting a gradual approach — one that will build cases, allowing violations to pile up, enabling them to take out houses one by one and say, “We told you so.” If elimination is the end game, why won’t administrators just pull the plug? Why bother wasting so much time and commissioning a steering committee?

These are the questions on my and many other affiliated students’ minds. Both house leaders and members are listening to administrators’ concerns and charging each other with more responsibility so they may save their houses — their homes. Moreover, Greek houses are not ignorant of what’s at stake. At least two fraternities (Psi Upsilon and Alpha Delta) have recently seen the consequences of violations. Other houses are looking to them as an example of how some of the Old Traditions must fail. In the past year, individual houses across campus have held forums to discuss sexual assault, drinking and race and gender inequality. These efforts show that Greek organizations are looking to meaningfully change the culture that has perpetuated these issues for so many years. In short, administrators have the eyes, ears and more cooperation than ever from relatively unified members of Dartmouth’s Greek life.

If these efforts from the students are disregarded and Greek life is eliminated from Dartmouth’s campus, that apparatus for togetherness disappears. Destroying Greek life is not the solution, and in fact the machine that has enabled some of Dartmouth’s problems can be used to fix them. Without the Greek house, Dartmouth has no mechanism to effectively navigate social issues. Greek houses are social waypoints, where literally thousands of people go to socialize and create a community. And though these communities can be sources of Dartmouth’s well-publicized issues, they are not their only cause. As we saw at the beginning of the term, a significant number of alcohol-related incidents involve freshmen outside of Greek spaces. Prohibiting freshmen from Greek life proves that harmful behavior can still manifest elsewhere. Eliminating Greek life would very likely reduce reported incidents on campus, but at the same time, we would forfeit the infrastructure to protect students and police the campus.

The administrators have gotten the attention of affiliated students. It is time to stop hanging abolition over our heads, and start working with us — the people who have shown that we care. We don’t simply want to save our houses. We also want to see Dartmouth be better and use our organizations as positive tools of change.