Dartmouth and Sexism

Nathan Empsall ’09 writes the Wayward Episcopalian blog. For quite some time it mostly focused on Katrina relief efforts, a subject close to the author’s heart as he has spent considerable time in Louisiana. Recently its scope has enlarged to Democratic politics (he was Biden’s chief person at the College) and to Dartmouth. I encourage everyone to read his blog regularly.

Why mention Empsall now? His post from yesterday is a perfect example of the overreactions characterizing the campus this past week.

The problem is that if Beta is rerecognized, which appears likely, Dartmouth will have 16 fraternities to only 7 sororities. This discrepancy is exacerbated by the fact that the locations of the fraternities is infinitely more desirable to those of the sororities. If AZD leaves its central location, only one sorority will be left with a convenient spot on Webster Avenue, aka “Frat Row” (case in point, it’s not even called “Greek Row”). Worst of all, the College has a blatantly discriminatory policy that only men can establish local Greek organizations; all sororities must be national. This all means that it is much easier for men to host open parties or serve alcohol. Given that 2/3 of eligible Dartmouth students are members of a Greek organization, the Dartmouth social scene largely revolves around Greek life. (I am part of the leftover 1/3.) This means that, in essence, the official policy of Dartmouth College is that if women want to have evening fun, it must be on men’s terms, in places where men control entrance and alcohol access. This, of course, increases the risk of sexual harassment and even assault, and the College does nothing.

My ideas about this whole debacle are still somewhat inchoate, but I feel like a few rather egregiously false points are being regularly made. Empsall mentions most of them, so I’ll address a few. He stops short of claiming that Beta has no right to the house they own—a position a few campus extremists have intimated. The argument that this College is sexist because it has 16 fraternities and only 7 sororities might seem logical. The problem, they claim, is that females don’t control enough social space of their own. Fair enough. Yet it seems to me that the real issue is the College’s insistence that new Greek organizations be nationally (i.e., dry) affiliated. Because many of the fraternities are local, and those that aren’t were grandfathered in and allowed to remain wet, this means that all of them can hold open parties. Empsall seems to be confused when he claims that all the sororities must be national because as of right now there are three local sororities. The actual policy seems to be that new Greek houses cannot be local. Earlier in the week it had appeared as if the College had given Beta a free pass on this requirement, but Dean Redman clarified late Wednesday that Beta will not be rerecognized until they are nationally affiliated. New Fraternities don’t seem to be getting any more slack from the College than new sororities. After Redman made the administration’s position clear, the claims of differing standards between men and women no longer hold any water.

If anywhere, the problem seems to reside in the policies of the national Greek organizations—especially the national sororities. Because they require their chapters to remain dry, this forces their sisters out of their presumably ‘safe’ houses and into the basements of fraternities. Admittedly, there is an extremely easy way out of this predicament: Dartmouth should drop its requirement that new Greek organizations be nationally affiliated. Indeed, they don’t require coed houses to be nationally affiliated. If discrimination is anywhere, it is not against just women but single sex institutions in general.

The inherent sexism found in Dartmouth’s social scene has led many students to say they would not send their daughters to Dartmouth. I do not blame them; this pattern of disrespect and sexism must be stopped.

Lastly, this just strikes me as ridiculously melodramatic. See below (courtesy of The Dartmouth Online).
The Still North for Wednesday, January 16, 2008