Leave the Frats, Take the Cannoli

Mene Ukueberuwa laments the College's capricious treatment of the Greek system.

Mene Ukueberuwa laments the College’s capricious treatment of the Greek system.

“There are decades where nothing happens; and weeks where decades happen.”  V. I. Lenin

It’s amazing how quickly the times have toughened for Dartmouth’s Greek houses in the past couple weeks. The College’s Greek oversight office (GLOS) has dealt out no fewer than four suspensions and probations to houses this term. It’s doubtful that this pileup of penalties could be a coincidence. The judgements were all handed down almost simultaneously between rush and Winter Carnival, with a vicious orchestration that felt something like the baptism scene in The Godfather. The final, most fatal blow was the de-recognition of Sigma Alpha Epsilon on February 4, which allegedly followed a long investigation but no formal finding from Dartmouth’s Organizational Adjudication Committee.

President Hanlon implied that Greek houses would face a higher level of scrutiny when he announced Moving Dartmouth Forward. But the swift change we’ve just witnessed in Greek houses’ standing was so delayed that it caught most students flat-footed. And what’s more, it’s never been clear what specific changes MDF would bring to Greek life. Instead of laying down new rules, the administration has left the student body searching for some certainty, unsure of where our fraternities and sororities stand.

When President Hanlon delivered his address on MDF, he addressed the issue with bold terms. “Moving forward, it will be simple. Organizations that choose not to fulfill these higher standards will not be part of our community.” But in addition to his boldness, Hanlon also promised to lay out the specifics of his new deal for frats and sororities. The “higher standards” that he mentioned referred to his plan for an annual review of student organizations, based on a set of criteria to be written by the Dean of the College.

Now nearly a full year after MDF was announced, there is still no annual review of organizations, and no new set of standards to abide by. In fact, the administration’s “MDF Implementation Table,” which tracks the progress of each action item that followed MDF, lists the review of organizations as one of the few major points that’s still incomplete. In place of standards, we’ve gotten an administration that feels empowered to make bold decisions in the moment. When AD was derecognized last spring, the no-standards approach meant that the College was willing to eliminate them even after OAC cleared them of their hazing charge. Now ten months later with SAE, the College didn’t even bother to formalize its finding before giving them the axe.

The move came almost immediately after SAE’s national organization opted to cut ties with the Dartmouth chapter because of an alleged hazing incident last fall. Of course the administration anticipated that SAE national’s decision would make waves in the media, and felt the pressure to act quickly. But just as in the past, the College should understand the cost of making PR its top priority. Sure, if they had waited a few weeks to continue their investigation there might have been a Rolling Stone story saying Dartmouth is too protective of its frats, or some angry calls from donors. But the administration would have been able to respond to those critics by saying that they wanted time to reach an independent, formal decision. Regardless of their verdict, a more careful approach would have left SAE’s members and the entire Greek community feeling like with at least some confidence that the College wants to be a fair partner in helping Greeks shape student life.

The proposed organizational review was supposed to present a mutually agreeable path forward for Greek life. In the same MDF address where Hanlon told us he would raise the standard on student conduct, he also expressed hope that the Greek system could remain intact if houses lived up to that standard. “I do not believe that simply eliminating [Greek life] would be a comprehensive, or even effective solution to the more pervasive challenges we face.” Fraternities and sororities on campus really have tried to hold up their end of the bargain that Hanlon proposed. Houses have complied with countless changes to their culture: the hard alcohol ban, third-party bouncers and bartenders, plus reforms that predate MDF like the bans on pledge term and freshman at parties before Homecoming. And yet, the College has continued to suspend and even derecognize houses for relatively minor infractions, on an unpredictable basis.

This level of distrust between administrators and Greeks isn’t quite unprecedented. Almost exactly seven years ago, former Dartmouth Review Editor Emily Esfahani-Smith described the unsettling state of student life at the time. “This Winter Carnival, the Greeks are not shutting down Carnival, but rather have been shut down—shut down by the benign ideological imperatives of the administration. Greek houses from TriDelt to Sigma Delt to Sig Ep to Heorot to TriKap are on probation.” And what’s more, Smith also noted that the situation in her time echoed the state of affairs in 1999, when President James Wright threatened to phase out Greek life with his Student Life Initiative. But the fact that we’ve been here before can’t give us complete confidence that things will settle down. The College has shown its willingness to make any change to student life that it sees fit at any time, and until they settle on a clear standard for evaluating student life, their promises about Greek life’s future will ring hollow.

  • Observer70

    Hanlon’s MDF speech promised to “clarify” as well as “strengthen” the rules governing Greek life. It seems disingenuous (or at least inept) to hand down a “reform or die” edict but then fail to provide clarity or work with the Greek community to implement the reform and monitor its progress.

    • piper60

      You need a new honor code: We do not violate constitutional rights, nor tolerate among us those who do!ou do realize, don’t you? That sort of thing will never stop until every Greek houseis leveled to the ground and paved over for deterred parking lots-and everyone livesin Dorms undervthe heavy thumbs of p/C obsessed Ra’sdetermined tore- educate the Great unwashed into proper fad-haunted liberals!

  • piper60

    So, the Geheim0Staats Lieb Sichergeitsdienst strikes again? So what, you KNEW they were snakes when you tolerated them among you!