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Dartmouth’s Greeks Under Renewed Fire

By Kevin R. Lang

Between the alcohol crackdown, the freshman housing decision, and negative media coverage, MIT’s fraternities have had a rough time in the past few years. Nonetheless, FSILGs should consider themselves lucky -- Greek life isn’t so easy some 120 miles to the north.

Last week, Dartmouth College’s faculty of the Arts and Sciences voted 81-0 to urge the administration to withdraw all recognition of fraternities and sororities.

In sharp contrast, MIT has repeatedly vowed to help FSILGs through the 2001 transition, both financially and through housing policies outlined in the Chancellor’s report, “The Design of the New Residence System.”

Committee proposes CFS changes

Dartmouth’s Committee on the Student Life Initiative -- similar to MIT’s Task Force on Student Life and Learning -- recommended in January that the College form strict new guidelines for Coed Fraternity and Sorority System houses.

According to the report, “Major failures to meet any of the new standards ... would result in either de-recognition or loss of residential status. It is unlikely that all present organizations will be able to meet the new standards, with the result that the number of organizations will probably be reduced.”

In order to cope with the subsequent housing shortage, the Committee called for the construction of two 350-bed dormitories in order to foster a more open campus community.

Faculty urges drastic measures

However, The Dartmouth reported last week that faculty members said that such changes would not rectify problems with the Greek system, and instead argued for complete withdrawal of College support.

A primary concern was that the fraternity system is highly exclusive and discriminatory, and thus does not conform with the goals set forth by the Committee on the Student Life Initiative.

The Dartmouth reported that Associate Professor of Religion Susan Ackerman -- who proposed the resolution -- called the CFS system one of “power and privilege,” citing figures which showed that CFS affiliated students tend to be mostly white and more affluent than other students.

Faculty members also claimed the Greek system promotes excessive alcohol use.

Some faculty reportedly argued that previous plans to reform the system have failed.

“Isn’t it clear by now that reform has not and will not work?” said comparative literature department chair Marianne Hirsch in The Dartmouth.

Religion professor Kevin Reinhart said enforcing the proposed standards would be a constant fight for the administration.

New dorms could replace CFS

Dartmouth is currently planning to rebuild its residence system around “residential clusters,” and the construction of several new residence halls will greatly diminish Dartmouth’s reliance on CFS organizations for undergraduate housing.

Faculty members urged senior administrators to focus on the construction of new dormitories, which will enable the College to withdraw their support from Greek houses by 2005.

Dartmouth is currently home to three coed organizations, 16 fraternities and nine sororities, and 50 percent of eligible students join CFS organizations according to Dartmouth’s website.

MIT’s new undergraduate dormitory will offer some relief from the increased number of on-campus residents in 2001. However, MIT would need to build substantial undergraduate housing to follow in Dartmouth’s footsteps: more than 1,000 students live in MIT’s 36 FSILGs.

Vote not entirely surprising

So far, student response to the faculty vote has been limited. “There hasn't been much reaction to it, to be honest,” said junior Deborah Bernstein, Assistant Managing Editor of The Dartmouth.

Bernstein said most students recognize that the faculty does not support the Greek system, and she noted that those faculty members who were outspoken at last week’s meeting were longtime opponent’s of Dartmouth’s CFS organizations.

“It’s not the most popular system on campus” among faculty, Bernstein said. “You’re not going to find anyone who supports a system that perpetuates underage drinking.”

However, the vote did surprise many at Dartmouth because the faculty unanimously endorsed the Committee on Student Life Initiative last year.

Report calls for alcohol changes

The Committee on the Student Life Initiative also proposed the introduction of new guidelines for alcohol use on campus.

The report states that “small gatherings of students of legal age would be permitted to have alcohol with no registration requirements. Larger groups would be required to register. Registered social events would require certified servers and would have strictly defined ending times.”

MIT implemented a similar alcohol policy several years ago.