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What’s Up with Chris Schons ‘88?

An alumnus by the name of Chris Schons ‘88 has a column on the website Counterpunch about the College’s Greek system. He seems deeply opposed to frats, and his piece continues the ratatatat that will lead to fewer applications next year and probably a lower U.S. News ranking. While we can argue about his conclusions — everyone is entitled to an opinion — his facts leave me scratching my head. Does this sound like a Dartmouth that anyone recognizes:

During my own time at Dartmouth in the 1980s, student life was marred by a toxic atmosphere of ritualized alcoholism; anti-intellectualism; homophobia; misogyny; and racism. (Shortly after I graduated, there were also flagrant incidents of anti-semitism.) The locus of these problems was the fraternity houses. Many young lives were crippled, and academic careers derailed, by institutionalized alcoholism. Female students were referred to by fraternity boys as “co-hogs” - a term coined in an undergraduate song that was a awarded a prize by a dean - and it was not uncommon to hear boasts about “pulling a train” on a girl. Binge drinking was endemic, and it was considered quite acceptable and even laudable for a student to get so drunk that he would “boot,” or vomit. In this atmosphere, it was difficult to study and carry on a normal social life…

[Today] It appeared that virtually nothing at all had changed since the 1980’s, and before that, the 1970’s.

As I wrote when Carol Folt riffed before a large audience on how so very, very bad things are at the College, “You read words like this and you halfways expect the Co-op to start selling T-shirts that say Concentration Camp Dartmouth.”

Schons is a Latin America Regional Expert at the University of Florida Tourism Crisis Management Institute. Does he really believe in his above description of the College? I am the first person to want to articulate the many aspects of Dartmouth’s mismanagement and social ills — and many of the specific events that Schons evokes do occur on occasion, just as they do at other schools — but what state of mind leads him to such overbroad generalizations? It was “difficult to study and carry on a normal social life”? Really?

For one, the “Co-hog Song” dates to the mid-1970’s; it was sung at fraternity Hums, a frat a capella competition that took place on the steps of Dartmouth Hall. Was Chris there? And did Chris ever himself hear of people boasting of gang rape? If life at the College was so rampantly despicable, what led Chris to stay in town and get his degree?

There are people who put together similar narratives about the United States — the Occupy crowd comes to mind — that describe a populace ground to pulp by predatory multinational corporations and the Koch brothers. Those folks need only look out the window to see that their view of the world is skewed beyond knowing. As Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot by just watching.” Mr. Schons should do the same and be more nuanced in his depiction of the College — at least if he wants people to take him seriously.

Addendum: Chris is a prolific commenter in The D, on various Dartmouth-related Facebook pages, and on other websites related to the College. He remarks are admirable at least for their rigorous consistency.

Addendum: A student’s aunt and longtime Dartblog reader writes in:

I am usually averse to sharing personal anecdotes, but will make an exception in this case. Late last summer, I had the great good fortune to host an end-of-season house party for my Dartmouth nephew and 12 of his classmates. The group consisted of one legacy, two African American students, and no recruited athletes — although everyone who was present participates in a sport at the College and is affiliated with a fraternity. How to express this? Well, they were delightful in every sense of the word. And please bear in mind that I am not anyone’s idea of an easy audience.

These kids, to a one, were extremely bright, well-informed, articulate, beautifully mannered and engaged. Big ideas, admirable goals and excellent senses of humor — everything that a hostess could wish for around her dinner table — haha. On a more serious note, these are the same kids currently being subjected to the devaluation of the Dartmouth degrees that they have worked so hard for — the same kids being unfairly labeled as racist, homophobic, misogynistic degenerates in the national media. How is this possible? It is all so wrong.

How on earth did the voices of radical fringe groups like RealTalk and insane individuals like Chris Schons gain so much traction? Maybe because there has been no countervailing voice to date — everyone would appear to be cowering in the PC bunker. Somebody needs to stand up for the kids.

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