Xie: A House Divided

by Kevin Xie | 2/15/15 7:26pm

When students reference the Greek system, it includes more than two dozen organizations compromised of both fraternities and sororities. Yet, while Greek organizations encompass an array of students and interests, references to the “Greek system” often regard the system itself as a singular entity. This seems only fair since, for better or for worse, credit and blame for the actions of various houses are often attributed to all Greek houses, regardless of who is responsible. This essentialist view of the variety of Greek organizations as one body, however, is also the Achilles’ heel of the system. Sharing the blame for the actions of others can drive wedges between houses and aggravate tensions between those with existing disagreements or organizations that do not necessarily like each other. Now, more than ever never before, it could be the greatest undoing for affiliated students.

Our social scene is largely dominated by Greek houses, and within the system exists an undeniable set of hierarchies. Part of it seems natural — as Ivy League students we strive for excellence in all regards, and ranking things is almost second nature to many of us. When it comes to the Greek system, however, it goes beyond a simple system of ranking. For a Greek system some tout as inclusive, there are many preconceived notions from house to house — some good, some not so much. Those are reinforced further — often negatively — once part of a house. It’s a sort of groupthink, really. This fraternity is lame and second tier, that sorority is snobby and thinks the world revolves around them, the list goes on and on. While it is one thing to have likes and dislikes, too often people buy into stereotypes surrounding houses without grounding those opinions in any actual experience or interaction with the many people in them.

And that’s the key word here — people. As individuals, the majority of Dartmouth students seem perfectly charismatic and caring. But as a house, group mentality can start influencing the thoughts and actions of students toward various Greek organizations — acts ranging from endless house rankings on Bored at Baker to petty theft, graffiti and breaking and entering. Baseless behavior that one would likely never consider doing as an individual often becomes more acceptable and even encouraged when in a group. This kind of behavior can be subtle and judgmental or at times become physical and violent. Social constructs, like fraternity wars between houses, are very real — even if no one wants to openly admit to being influenced by what campus is saying. There is an inherent divide between the perception of a homogenous house and their unique members, and the line of distinction is only a few simple letters.

To the people that intentionally reinforce this divide, it is time to grow up. To the Greek system at large, this is a particularly dangerous issue given recent news from administrators. Already, significant changes are being made to the current social climate with College President Phil Hanlon’s “Moving Dartmouth Forward” plan, including a ban on all hard alcohol and mandatory third-party bartenders and bouncers for social events. Regardless of where you might stand on these proposals, it seems clear that the College has one objective in mind — protecting its public image. To that end, us affiliated students are a tremendous liability.

Immunity is not guaranteed just because of entrenched traditions or wealthy alumni. One look at the sheer size of the College’s endowment will show that Dartmouth lacks neither the money nor the logistics to pull off complete abolition. It will be certainly be difficult, but why shoot ourselves in the foot? Stereotypes about fraternities lead to petty theft, disrespect and sometimes even violence. We do ourselves and our image no favors when it comes to destructive behavior aimed at each other. It is absolutely ridiculous that for the brightest of our generation, we can be so malicious and shallow.

Think next time, not based on the letters on your chest or your house pride, but rather as students and individuals — take a stand against pettiness and stereotypes. If the target is on our backs as Greek students, then we should stand as a truly united entity or pay the price and fade away.