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A Dashed-off Note on the Beta Situ

Note: The post below is of no use to non-Dartmouth readers. Ta! -j

The gentlemen of Beta Theta Pi, the authors of some local controversy ever since they elected to reclaim their property and house (after subletting to a sorority for a spell) have posted a statement on their website explaining their actions.

I learned only yesterday evening, while waiting on a regrettable line-cooked chicken breast sandwich, that Beta’s move—one of some years’ premeditation—has inspired a fair but of anger in certain quarters. There is a visceral distaste for the reclamation among the young ladies who have rented the Beta house since the fraternity was banished from campus, in 1996, for the intransigence of, basically, bad taste. (The student newspaper recounts two episodes of men fighting, one of verbal cruelty, and one of possession of an illicit keg of beer. I presume this sort of thing provokes tremors in sociologists all around the world, but it falls rather squarely within most people’s personal definition of “college.”)

Since Beta has exercised its right to reclaim its house, the ladies of Alpha Xi Delta are homeless but for the new property and house the College has selected and purchased for them to be used according to College rules. This seems to the ladies to be unsatisfactory. The ladies are correct, really; although the situation has blossomed into a mosaic of academic muddle (“Beta ‘s return seen as sign of gender issues,” the student newspaper announced this ayem), all of the problems would be readily erased if the nanny-deans in Dartmouth’s employ gave up on their plans to slowly gain total control over social life in fair Hanover.

The strategy, which is greatly in style among today’s professional deans, calls for various tactics, from balloon loans to the one in operation here: a ban on any Greek organization not affiliated with a highly restrictive national entity. If Dartmouth dispensed with its social engineering policies and allowed any conglomeration of students and alumni to band together in sorority under a constitution of their own composition, and if it would permit them to purchase their own land upon which to build, live, and carouse, then, it seems to me, there would be no tears here.

As things are, the drear is the making not of Beta or AZD, but of the ridiculous Dartmouth deanery; the undue burdens it places upon sororities makes them basically dependent upon the beneficence of the College, when in fact most of these students and alumni would probably prefer to constitute social organizations stoutly independent of the College. Alas they cannot. Thus indentured by Dartmouth, they are obliged to consent to social controls of dubious worth and foolish manufacture. This leads to complaints about things like “equity” and “social space” which would not exist if the Greek system were permitted, as it was for over a century, to operate on a free-market basis. Ultimately, it is this silly little scheme of Dartmouth’s that is the author of the ladies’ grief.

There: the only thing I hope I shall ever write on these intramural squabbles. One wishes students would learn earlier on that the best way to work within an obnoxious bureaucracy is to ignore it entirely.


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