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Pro: No place for pack mentality here

By Jeannine Murray-Roman / March 9, 1999



After last month's announcement by the Board of Trustees, I was disappointed, but not surprised, by the response from the Greek system. It argued that although faculty, administration, and trustees can and should determine who our peers will be, what classes will be held where and by whom, and how much money we will -or will not -pay to attend this institution, our social life is none of their business. Even though the trustees also have the responsibility to guide the college into the future in terms of philosophy and vision, the cry for "social choice" demands that the administration's vision be focused as myopically as our own: on tonight rather than tomorrow.

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One of the reasons I am in favor of discontinuing the Greek system is precisely the monolithic and defensive way in which its members tend to speak and act. Throughout our "controversial incidents," I have seen Greek-affiliated friends attend community meetings and discussions in packs, with the primary goal of defending the system and their houses, rather than participate as concerned individuals. This unwavering commitment to a united front, which implies the sacrifice of differing personal opinions, has no place at a liberal-arts college.

Another response to the initiative has been to prove that not only are Greek houses essential to the well-being of their members, but the Greek system provides indispensible benefits to the entire campus as the most important social option at Dartmouth.

Omitted from this argument is the crucial fact that these "benefits" are not "provided" without restrictions. The occasions when I've had to chug a beer at the door of a privately controlled house before being allowed to come in and dance serve to remind me that my access to that social setting is wholly in arbitrarily determined hands. A certain power dynamic operates when it comes to getting into a party or getting alcohol once there.

Many brothers, sisters, and houses do not use their power capriciously or irresponsibly. But that the power to control social options is in the hands of people who can or cannot open it to the whole campus at their choosing creates an imbalance within social settings here.

With the trustees' initiative, we are being asked to consider whether the extent of power wielded by the Greek system and individual houses over all of our social interactions is appropriate. A greater question in my mind is whether or not we will allow ourselves to individually determine our own answers and act accordingly.

*Jeannine Murray-Roman is a senior majoring in comparative literature.