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Greeks: The Status Quo Won’t Work

So what is President Hanlon going to do about the fraternities? Keeping things as they are, with an extra frosting of Charlotte Johnson rules and regs, is a non-starter. The College is clearly suffering among prospective students, and with Andrew Lohse’s tell-all memoir on the horizon, things are not going to get better soon.

Various administrations have tried different policies since at least the 1970’s — think back to the 1977 Epperson Resolution, the Wright Report of 1987, and the SLI in 2000 — clearly to no avail. What to do about a broken system that is a signature feature of the College? Dartmouth has the highest Greek participation of any national school:

US News Frats Comp.jpg

Note: Given that College freshmen cannot pledge, the percentage of eligible males in Dartmouth frats is much higher than 48%; it’s now close to 70%.

Among the other Ivies, only Penn at #60 with 30% of male students in frats, and Cornell at # 72 with a 27% membership, make the Top 100 list.

Banning frats, or mandating that they all become co-ed, as Trinity College recently did, are ideas that won’t fly in Hanover. Jim Wright came to the Presidency with a head of steam in that direction; his Student Life Initiative was rejected like a foreign body. It did little to change campus life, save for saddling the College with hundreds of superfluous bureaucrats. So where to go?

I’ve put up a few ideas in the past, but to my mind, the essential step is counter-intuitive: expand the Greek system — rather than punish its members again and again. We need more sororities that can serve alcohol. The frats won’t change until they must, and competition will get them where they need to go faster than any number of ill-justified edicts from Dean Johnson.

Of course, the sororities aren’t perfect, as anyone who has spent time around Kutta Kutta Gamma and other houses can tell you. But over many generations Dartmouth students have spoken via their behavior about their overall preferences, and working with our undergrads, rather than against them, is the only manner in which the College can hope to make progress.

Addendum: Despite all the controversy around Dartmouth’s Greek system in recent years, membership just keeps growing: 31% in the last decade according to the Dartmouth Fact Book.

Greek Membership.jpg


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