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News, commentary, criticism and praise for the College on the Hill, enlivened with history, culture and travel when we feel so moved.
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A German Prof’s View of the College
Tanja Dückers, a widely known German writer who is currently teaching at the College, gives her take on Dartmouth’s social scene in a piece in the Süddeutsche Zeitung (or in translation, if your German is rusty). File this one in the category of “Is everything that I read in the press inaccurate, foolish or both?” Some excerpts:
But why in particular are there so many rapes at educational institutions? Some of the conversations at Dartmouth have focused on the exploitative character of capitalism per se…
Other discussions seek causes for the rape statistics on more pragmatic levels, and point out that most of the rapes take place at or after fraternity parties. There are of course “frats” at many American universities, but at a college like Dartmouth, which was founded in 1769 and is located in an isolated stretch of New England, they play a particularly important role.
If you want some kind of social life here you will attend the parties on campus because the alternative is listening to country music over a glass of juice at the local pub…
Annabel Martin, a professor of Spanish and head of Women’s and Gender Studies at Dartmouth, says the system - that allows men to drink alcohol but not women - is like “something out of the 1950s.” Many believe that the fraternities propagate a regressive image of men and women that is conducive to violent behavior - and over half of the college’s male students belong to one.
But rapes aren’t the only problem: so are the sometimes extremely brutal initiation rituals at which, for example, “vomlets” (omelets made out of vomit) must be eaten or candidates are made to swim in the Connecticut River at night. One student drowned attempting this.
The faculty at Dartmouth has several times voted to ban fraternities at the college, but they have never been able to prevail against the alumni - who account in large part for financial donations the college receives…
But the alumni are not the only ones who are against banning fraternities. Many of the students are against it as well. Being part of a fraternity means being part of a group that later guarantees members a life-long professional network. In some cases, membership amounts to a kind of insurance policy against unemployment.
Capitalism? Women can’t drink? Fraternity unemployment insurance? It’s hard to know where to start in listing the errors and mistaken assumptions in a piece like this. One would think that a faculty member might have taken care to get her facts right. That said, this piece would make for fruitful study in a course that reviewed the cultural blinders that can distort a writer’s understanding of a subject (a person sees what that they want/hope to see) — or the tendency of many otherwise-rigorous scholars to confuse hallway gossip with the truth.
Addendum: The Süddeutsche Zeitung is Germany’s largest daily; it sells approximately 1.1 million copies each day.
Addendum: A young alumnus writes in:
The misinformation in Prof. Dückers’ article is astounding. I am especially concerned about her connecting a drowning in the Connecticut River to a fraternity ritual. If Prof. Dückers is referring to the 2005 drowning or the more recent RiverFest drowning, in both cases she would be wrong. That she misattributes their deaths for academic gain is offensive to the deceased and their families and is tantamount to equating fraternity members with murderers.
Furthermore, I wonder if Prof. Dückers’ beliefs reflect widely held views by the rest of the faculty. If I walked into a class bearing my fraternity’s letters on a hat or shirt, does my professor think of me as part of the system Prof. Dückers depicts? I should hope not.
August 14, 2013
Breaking: Of Crips and Bloods and Memories of Ghetto Parties
History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, or sometimes it just repeats itself. From the New York Times on November 30, 1998: At Dartmouth College, white students at a ”ghetto party” dressed…
June 25, 2013
Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson’s War on Students Part (2/2)
Part 1, Part 2 Today’s post again recounts the events that befell the Freshman. However, the content of the Hanover Police department report reproduced in this space yesterday is supplemented by information from my own…
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…
- The Dartmouth College Case
- 2007 Trustee Election
- Dartmouth Constitution
- Sunday Morning Sinatra
- The Indian Wars
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