Woodward: Help Us Help You

by Aylin Woodward | 10/2/14 7:41pm

Following the conclusion of men and women’s rush this past week, certain inescapable realities about the recruitment process once again reared their ugly heads. Despite the Panhellenic Council’s extensive efforts to improve the manner in which houses conduct rush — extending round two parties by 20 minutes to allow for more time to meet rush participants, pushing for all potential new members to receive invitations to round two parties at four houses — some women still fell through the cracks. Men too. While the raw aggregate numbers (297 bids were extended to women and at least 241 bids were extended to men) are impressive, it is still an unfortunate truth that single-sex Greek institutions have not completely mitigated how emotionally taxing the recruitment process is on the Dartmouth community. The process is rough for everyone, whether an individual receives a bid at his or her favorite house, gets put in one of his or her bottom two or simply drops out.

Formulating the trajectory of the social scene year after year is an enormous responsibility. Single-sex fraternity and sorority leaders are tirelessly striving to make rush as fair and inclusive as they can, but they are struggling under an insurmountable burden — how do they take everyone who wants to join? How can they improve the transition from inclusive, community-based freshman floors to the jarring, unexpected social dispersal that takes place sophomore fall? They can’t — at least, not without help. And this is where the coed houses need to step in.

In a recent meeting with interim Dean of the College Inge-Lise Ameer and Laura Hercod of the President’s Office, the Greek Leadership Council and Greek leaders discussed how to change the underlying ethos of a college lifestyle centered on drinking, and how perhaps such rampant glorification of extreme behaviors stems from under-utilized power in the social arena. Subsequent points were made that while these notions are functionally sound, in reality precipitating a fundamental change in the system at large is close to impossible. How can we change what students want to do, and what they assume they must do to survive in the jungle of Dartmouth nightlife?

These discussions resonated with me deeply, because I, like many of my peers in the coed community, am ready and willing to step up to the plate. I am admittedly biased here — I am the president of a coed house. But I went through women’s rush all the way to pref night, and then decided that being in a single-sex house was not the right choice for me. Undoubtedly others have realized the same. If someone were to create a category of “under-utilized social power” in the steering committee’s “Moving Dartmouth Forward” report, the coed houses and Amarna should be at the top of the list.

Why can’t we assume relatively visible leadership roles in forming social options on campus? Because we are both realistically and structurally impaired from doing so. As The Dartmouth’s summer editorial board wrote this past July, the Greek mainstream dismisses coeds and casts them as being outside the traditional system to the point where they are considered “alternative.” As one president said quite succinctly last night, “No one comes when something is called alternative.” And therein lies the problem. None of the other Greek houses consider us to be on an equal playing field, and therefore neither do any of the eligible sophomores preparing to rush.

I recognize that some may conflate the notion of throwing support behind coed houses as being synonymous with supporting a push for all single-sex houses to go coed. That was put forth as a possible panacea to cure the ailments of the Greek community, but I know I am not alone in believing that it is not and should not be a viable option.

I am not calling for any converts here. In fact, the differing functions of single-sex versus coed houses on campus are necessary contributions to our diversity of social scenes. But single-sex fraternities and sororities (as well as administrators) could gain significant dividends by promoting coed houses as being equally legitimate and accepted social spaces. For those in the know, they already are. For the rest of campus, they have the potential to be the non-alcohol centered social spaces that the College is trying so desperately to create.