Corrupting the Minds of the Youth

By Adam I. W. Schwartzman

Let me play Meletus for a moment—“Concerned Students of Dartmouth” no doubt consider themselves the Socratic gadfly the College needs.

The group, which is led by ‘13s Nina Rojas and Dani Valdes, seized the opportunity of Dimensions weekend to push their agenda onto unsuspecting prospective students and their families. Their laundry list of complaints—“hazing, sexual assault, alcohol abuse, single-sex social spaces and a lack of accountability”—reads like a “who’s who” of buzzwords on campus, most very real issues in their own right, but little more than rabble when conflated and stripped of substance.

According to the Concerned Students, the College has failed to acknowledge how said issues are “structurally institutionalized.” The problem, or at least one of the driving forces behind it, is the Greeks. From the Daily Dartmouth: “Options to consider include converting Greek houses into residential housing, changing single-sex Greek houses into coed spaces, abolishing the Greek system completely or implementing open membership at Greek organizations, according to [leader of the Concerned Students] Rojas.”

Read: options to consider include abolishing the Greek system completely, abolishing the Greek system completely, abolishing the Greek system completely or abolishing the Greek system completely, according to the bogus doublespeak of a (wo)man on a mission.

A caveat: the Concerned Students are not ill intentioned, only misguided. They seek to enact change through action, only their finger is off the pulse in two glaring ways.

One: a campaign against the Greek system is not tantamount to a campaign against sexual violence. Neither is it a campaign against hazing, nor binge drinking. A campaign against the Greek system is a campaign against the Greek system.

Two: The notion that you eliminate the hive mind when you destroy the hive is plainly flawed. Students will always form associations and students will always self-segregate, if not by Greek affiliation, then by sports team, or what have you. Any detrimental attitudes you seek to stamp out will continue to propagate so long as there are people to propagate them. Maybe Rojas would prefer a Dartmouth devoid of students; instances of objectionable behavior would be drastically reduced, at any rate.

Rojas told the Daily D that she does not believe her actions will affect Dartmouth’s yield for the class of 2016. According to her, “some of those parents and students have already committed to Dartmouth, and others will ultimately in the end choose Dartmouth based on other factors.”

I can’t decide whether to file that contention under “unreasonably idealistic” or “decidedly incorrect.” Dimensions weekend is specifically designed for students who have not yet committed to the College. Its purpose is to attract the girl deciding between rowing crew at Dartmouth and singing pirate-themed a capella at Brown, not the twelfth generation legacy whose ancestor invented pong with Eleazer Wheelock and built Dartmouth Hall out of planks from the Mayflower.

Moreover, let’s not forget the fact that a petition signed by a herd of wide-eyed prospective students is largely ineffectual. After all, the would-be 16s have little more than an acceptance letter to tether themselves to the College, and such a dubious connection does not offer much clout in Hanover. Folding prospies into the campus dialogue by airing out the College’s dirty laundry not only lacks substance, but directly—and somewhat viciously—undermines the goal of Dimensions weekend altogether.

The conversation spurred by the Concerned Students of Dartmouth is on the mark. Sexual violence is a very real problem, and Hanover is not spared from its reach. What is not on the mark, however, is to tie that problem so directly to the Greek system. Creating such an absolute association not only vilifies fraternities, sororities, and all of their members, but dramatically limits the scope of constructive examination. If sexual violence is the problem, and I truly believe the Concerned Students would agree that it is, then a remedy cannot be found through sole focus on the Greek system.

This bears repeating; sexual violence is too much of a reality to pigeonhole it into a concomitant of Greek life at Dartmouth. Such an association may drive campus dialogue, but ultimately confounds the issue on a very fundamental level. Bringing this dialogue to prospective students, especially on a weekend intended to showcase old mother Dartmouth in all of her glory, only worsens the offense. It is unlikely the Concerned Students of Dartmouth will go away any time soon, but one can hope that they will get wise, get real, and get constructive.