Saklad: More Than Words
The Night of Solidarity risks feigning action with inaction.
With the exception of several houses that hosted events promoting awareness of campus sexual assault, self-care and gender inequity, Greek life spaces closed this past Friday night in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Termed the “Night of Solidarity,” Friday evening was meant to encourage Dartmouth community members to reflect on the ways that Greek life perpetuates sexual violence on campus. The night’s sentiment encourages steps toward ensuring safety and support for everybody on this campus, particularly because of its union with Dartmouth’s “Take Back the Night” march. However, in demonstrating support by prohibiting entrance to students for a single night, Greek houses risk feigning action with inaction. While the Night of Solidarity recognizes the reality of campus sexual violence, it ultimately offers no solutions for impactful change on this front. As several houses mentioned in their emails of solidarity, the next essential steps toward aggregating campus social change include strict and enforced intolerance of sexual violence.
Dartmouth’s 2017 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, which publishes reported on- and off-campus offenses from the past three years, reports eight instances of fondling, eight instances of domestic violence, six instances of stalking and 25 rapes during 2016 alone. These statistics do not even account for the approximately 80 percent of college women who do not report their experiences of sexual assault, nor for the men and gender non-binary individuals who also choose not to report.
Dartmouth’s Greek houses may not be the sole breeding grounds of sexual violence, but they are often conducive to it. The excessive drinking and loud, crowded scenes characteristic of many Greek house basements render inhibited decision-making, harassment and victimization frequent occurrences that can go easily unnoticed. In order to actually challenge its atrocious prevalence of sexual violence, this campus needs to reach beyond the standard tools of administrative programing, post-trauma counselling and community protests. It needs to uproot the problem at a common base — within Greek houses.
Undoubtedly, the Greek system does have utility on campus. Affiliated house communities foster friendships, strong alumni relationships and networking opportunities, but perhaps most markedly, they offer the student body something to do on weekend nights. The value of this last benefit should not to be underestimated — cabin fever can drive students crazy when they have been working all week and the nearest city is two hours away. They need a way to blow off steam, and the Greek houses’ open-door policy gives all students equal access to affiliated spaces. Playing pong and grooving in the basement of a Greek house is often the easiest way to decompress. I support the accessibility of these social spaces, but the atmosphere within them needs to change. The most prevalent form of socialization on a campus should never necessitate legitimate concern for the violation of one’s bodily autonomy. It should never mean accepting the risk of victimization or drinking to the point of sickness and memory loss, or even desperate, coatless sprinting in the cold.
How can students allow this social culture to prevail? How can generations of Dartmouth students contribute to it with nothing more than the occasional passive stab at only the most external of symptoms, which always fails to address the root causes of the problem? This college is 248 years old, and instead of being an experienced institution that has overcome the nation’s prevailing form of college violence, it is, as of 2014, the third largest reported perpetrator.
It is decades overdue for the College to pay attention to the inconvenient reality of the Greek system and initiate the tough solutions that will make this campus a safer place. I am not proposing a complete abolition of the Greek system, but instituting radical change within it is imperative. This could mean alcohol caps enforced by brothers on bar duty, observed or decreased house capacities and diligent safety monitoring of houses by its members. Fraternities could open their doors less frequently to dissuade excessive partying and encourage students to seek social spaces outside of Greek life, or they could host more organized all-campus events rather than letting their regular parties run their own chaotic courses.
Beyond Greek life, Dartmouth’s administration needs to alter its attitude toward drinking outside of affiliated houses. In an environment with easy access to alcohol, underage students will inevitably drink — this should not be the primary concern of the administration. Rather, irresponsible and excessive consumption ought to be their focus. By enabling discreet student alcohol consumption to some extent and allowing students to relax outside of toxic, potentially threatening environments, the administration could actually benefit the community. Campus Safety and Security officers need to distinguish between destructive drinking and moderate drinking before punishing both offenses with the same reprimand.
The kind of change needed to decrease sexual violence on this campus requires a radical upheaval of Dartmouth’s social structures. It isn’t simple; it will disrupt established norms in a way that will upset many supporters of the Greek system, and it will require a concerted and prolonged effort on the part of those actually willing to fight for change. Closing house doors in recognition of the Greek system’s role in perpetuating campus sexual violence advertises an important message, but the Night of Solidarity needs to instigate much larger social change on campus. Dartmouth students have accepted sexual violence for far too long, remaining complacent within the structure of social spaces that proliferate it. Members of this community cannot continue to shy away from challenging toxic institutions because they constitute an intrinsic piece of campus life. The collaborative stand taken on the Night of Solidarity cannot dissipate, as has every other initiative to solve a social issue we should have already eradicated.
Next year’s potential new members of Greek houses: I encourage you to consider how affiliation with a Greek house implicitly supports its upheld standards of socialization. Current brothers and sisters: know that you have the power to change the climate of your houses. Administration: evaluate your standards of punishment. And to all the students as exasperated by Dartmouth’s state of affairs as I am: keep waving your flag of social change and fight tooth and nail to see it raised above this institution.