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The Sorority Sellers’ Market

Notably absent from the five disgruntled Panhell leaders’ recent critique of the sorority system (“not an inclusive and constructive institution”; “stratifies the Dartmouth community along race, class, gender and sexual orientation”; and so on), was a concern for the large size and small number of sororities on campus. The quantity of undergraduate women in Greek houses has grown by 37.4% over the past decade:

Sororities.jpg

However, there still are only eight sororities and three co-ed houses on campus to counter the College’s fifteen fraternities.

An observer doesn’t have to be an Econ major to understand that this supply-demand imbalance will lead to excesses and abuses in the rush process. Many sororities have close to 150 members, and given this overcrowding, a good number of women fail in their effort to join a Greek house. There is little competition between sororities for members, and the sisters feel little pressure to reform the negative aspects of their cultures.

In addition, as we have pointed out, given that only two of Dartmouth’s sororities are locals — allowing them to serve alcohol openly — Dartmouth fraternities have a de facto monopoly on social life, with all the negative effects that such a concentration of power entails.

As this space has opined in the past, it’s time for the College to double down on the Greek system by building seven more sororities. This number is needed to open space for all women who want to join sororities of a manageable size, to create some kind of equilibrium between men and women, and to provide a safe alternative to the fraternity scene. Any lesser action would be no more than a Band-Aid slapped on a sore that has been festering at Dartmouth since the advent of coeducation in 1972.

Addendum: A recently minted alumnus, who shows admirable numeracy, writes in with data:

Hope you’re well. I agree with your point regarding erecting more sorority houses. But as a point of fact, you’ve stumbled upon a predominant theme. For what it’s worth, the fraternity:sorority ratio at Dartmouth is closer to even than at most other schools:

Cornell — a good “comp” to Dartmouth in discussing Greek life, has 18 sororities and 47 fraternities, with 24% of women joining houses and 28% of men.

Compare to Dartmouth with 11:17 and 47%:48%.

UPenn — bigger urban school, but comparable(-ish) in academics: 13:36 & 27%:30%. Go further, say to UVa, and find the same trend: 16:27 & 28%:25%.

(All figures per Princeton Review.)

For the life of me, I can’t see why women would want to be in sororities of 150+ members. And as regard the number of sororities at the College, as long as women are being turned away at rush, there is a need for more houses.

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