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Changes in the Wind?

What to make of this Wall Street Journal article? It announces nothing, but it does seem to put everyone on notice that new policies regarding the Dartmouth Greek system are in the offing:

WSJ Frat Comp.jpg

Is the piece part of a scripted PR campaign to prepare the College for a major fall term announcement about frats? Given the press pieces that I noted yesterday, one could come to that conclusion. Ostensibly policy is still being formulated, but the Trustees have a long history of deciding first and then forming the committee later, so anything is possible.

In any event, before the administration rushes off and abolishes/restructures the 30 houses in the Greek system, we might ask a few questions and note a few facts:

● Membership in Greek houses as risen 27.5% over the past decade (+29.4% for fraternities; +15.4% for sororities; and +17.3% for co-ed houses). Participation in Greek life at the College is at an all-time high today: 67.4% of upperclass students are members (2,213 out of 3,282 eligible students). Students seem to be voting with their feet in favor of Greek houses. How much does the legendary loyalty of Dartmouth alumni have to do with the bonds forged as Greeks?

● Are the statistics for sexual assault, binge drinking and other banned activities lower at schools without an important system of fraternities and sororities, especially ones that have banned Greek life altogether on campus in the past, like Williams and Bowdoin, etc.? If not, one has to seriously wonder about the cause and effect relationship between fraternities and inappropriate behavior. In making major changes, would we be throwing out the baby with the bath water?

● Greek students have GPAs just slightly above the unaffiliated-student average.

● Dartmouth will not have a new Dean of the College to replace the hapless Charlotte Johnson before the summer of 2015 at the very earliest (a search committee has not yet been formed). Is it conceivable that major changes to student life will be enacted this fall without an administrator to oversee them? And how easy will it be to recruit a new Dean if the College is in chaos due to major changes in a central area of student life?

The people who are the most severe critics of the Greek houses often seem to be people who spend no time in them. Let’s hope that this decade’s effort to reform the system is the product of knowledgeable reflection and not animated by ignorance and prejudice.

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