An Interview with Regan Roberts ‘16

Regan Roberts is a senior at the College and a member of the Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority (K∆E). She recently published and opinion piece in The Dartmouth condemning K∆E’s decision to end their Derby party, a tradition since the inception of the organization. The Dartmouth Review sat down with Ms. Roberts to discuss her views on the matter and political correctness on campus.

Political Correctness: A feature of many modern colleges and universities.

Political Correctness: A feature of many modern colleges and universities.

The Dartmouth Review: Regarding the Derby – what was the immediate reaction?

Regan Roberts ‘16 (RR): After the derby party last year was posted we as a house had a weekly chat on Wednesday in an intimate setting. That Wednesday we discussed race and police brutality in America. The chat was probably the best attended chat we’ve ever and it was facilitated by the ’16 the leadership president Emma Peconga.

TDR: What was the consensus after that discussion?

RR: My impression of the major takeaway was that while Derby is the favorite of a vast majority of sisters there is certainly room for improvement. The most common complaint that I have heard from sisters is that the event is invite-only, which detracts from the spirit of inclusivity in the Greek system that we strive for.  As a lot of other Greek houses can relate, we have to meet the rules of regulations of the College regarding risk management.  In light of risk management, we see an increasing number of large scale events – especially if they’re drinking events – becoming invite only.  For last year’s Derby party, we hired private [Green Mountain] security and worked closely with Safety & Security. After the event, I actually got a call from S&S to say that it was the best managed event they had seen and that the party was executed very safely.

TDR: What direction did discourse on this topic take more recently?

RR: More recently, our first week back on campus – I gather – the ’17 class leadership spoke to the protesters form last year regarding their experience at the event and their grievances. I was not there and many sisters did not know it took place. They [the ’17 leadership] announced that next Tuesday there would be mandatory e-mail and only those who came could vote on the spring event.

TDR: What was the reaction from the College?

RR: Part of the judicial outcome following K∆E’s fall formal included that we could not hold Derby, but we could host one large scale dry event. I reached out to Judicial Affairs and asked why the theme of Derby was specifically not allowed. They [the college] voiced the concern that the derby party was too closely associated with a tradition of heavy drinking. But for us – the craft beer bottles, rather than typical Keystone – is a treat.  Sisters think of our big spring potluck with photos and our closest friends when we think of the Derby tradition. It’s a special day for our house, so I worked closely with the college and asked for the Derby theme to be used for our dry, large-scale spring event.  I argued that a dry Derby could re-focus the emphasis of the event this year and in future years, and Judicial Affairs’ response letter stated “This is a great idea!”

TDR: When it came to the decision making – how did such a consensus emerge?

RR: Before the vote, the 17 K∆E leadership showed a slideshow at the compulsory meeting about our upcoming “Spring Event.” We anticipated that the vote would involve the Derby theme as Derby is traditionally our big spring event – some sisters had heard rumors that the ’17 leadership was leaning towards ditching Derby.  For a decision like that, I was expecting more of an open forum, but the meeting consisted of the slideshow shown by eight girls who were unified in their opinion, stating that they would be uncomfortable to self-identify themselves with K∆E if the spring party theme was not changed. I raised my hand every other side or so – sometimes just to fact-check. I felt strongly that they were only representing one side of the issue. There was some discussion after the presentation, but it was brief and very emotionally charged. It was an interesting dynamic when the leadership basically announced that “Derby is racist – let’s hold a vote.” I felt it was difficult for the 18s to speak up, especially since they hadn’t really experienced house events or other K∆E traditions because the house has been on suspension and probation for the last two terms. The ’17 leadership was featureAd in an article in The Dartmouth – a very matter-of-fact write-up announcing the name-change.

TDR: Was there any input from the alumni?

RR: Even before my article, some friends had heard from alumni who were disappointed to hear that 96 percent of girls voted against Derby. Since writing my article, alumni have reached out to me to speak to the original spirit of Derby as a spoof on Southern sorority culture to establish themselves as local and different. To the original sisters, the party was meant to be a spoof of traditional sorority culture rather than a specific commentary on the Kentucky Derby. Some have reached out just to say how proud they are that I voiced my opinion. Some of them outright agreed with me. All of the alumni who reached out to me were crestfallen – they’ve blessed us with agency to reshape the sorority as suits each class of sisters, but I think that they would have loved to be consulted – they’re feel they’re invested in the sisterhood to this day. We have to thank them a lot for what we have.

TDR: How do you feel your article has been received?

RR: I’ve had current KDE sisters – and men and women across campus – reach out to me to say that my article’s message resonated with their Dartmouth experience. Those who have reached out uniformly criticize the oppressive culture in academia. One person even spoke to how he abstains from participating in class because he is so fearful that what he says will be politically incorrect or that people will discredit his opinion because how he represents his dissenting opinion may come off as politically incorrect, and therefore insensitive and disrespectful and therefore people will think that he’s a bad person. For me, there’s nothing more heartbreaking than to read a message from someone that says “I don’t participate in my Ivy League courses because I am so scared of this oppressive culture in academia.” Hearing people would rather abstain from engaging in discussion – we’re really losing that spirit of academia that we’re all here for, to question ourselves and learn and grow from actual discussions.

The ironic part is that we’ve silenced people with the claim that there’s a socially superior answer.

TDR: What do you think of the new theme, Woodstock?

RR: My grandfather and his brother served in Vietnam. When I wrote my article I posted it along with a photo of my grandfather – who was an army chaplain – when he was holding a service in Vietnam over just a rifle and the fallen soldier’s helmet. It was just a photo, but I had a quote from my grandfather which said the Vietnam war effort “was a most generous sacrifice on the part of the American people.” Since the theme change, I’ve had some conversations with veteran students who are disappointed by the change. But I think the more interesting response is that they’re not surprised: this is what we see in academia these days, a politically-correct cause. While they are disappointed to see a decision like that so hastily made – they’re not surprised by the outcome. In the slideshow, the 17 leadership said “Woodstock’s not problematic, we double checked!” – and for me, I feel, you can’t tell me what’s uncomfortable to me. You can’t tell me what I find offensive, what I find problematic or unacceptable.

TDR: So you prefer the old theme?

RR: My issue with the Derby or Woodstock decision is that you can’t tell me what I find offensive: someone will take offense with every issue – especially the incredibly nuanced issues in this country – and people’s varying opinions should be respected. For the 17 leadership to say that Derby’s history is plagued with racism according to history and to the claims of the protesters – which I did not hear at the time of the actual protest – was interesting to hear a year later.  I have my own life experiences and opinions of the world that cause me to feel otherwise.  Regardless of the theme, for anyone to say that the Kentucky Derby is racist and therefore problematic, and that Woodstock is not – well, who are you to tell me?

*The Review would like to note for factual accuracy that The Kentucky Derby began in 1875 – 11 years after the end of the Civil War. Kentucky also remained in the Union throughout the Civil War.  The Kentucky state song, “My Old Kentucky Home, Good-Night” is an anti-slavery ballad and is sung at the opening of the Kentucky Derby races every year.                                   

  • Rufus

    A load of old claptrap! Back in my day such drivel as this would never make it to publication.

  • asdfasf

    fucking fagot interviewer who is this shit anyway

  • Georges Sorel

    Is this the future of international Socialism?

    • asdfasf

      socialist commie faggot go fucking kill yourself

      • Georges Sorel

        Lenin is coming back to wipe trash like you off the Disqus pages of the good proletariat

        • asdfasf

          fuck you prick say that to my face 2013 Heliport Loop Houston 77003 say that to my fucking face and ur fucking dead