Initiative aims to succeed where other reports failed

While the steering committee report details a multitude of specific changes it hopes to see in the College’s residential and social life, this is not the first time a report has been issued calling for substantial social change — and not all have resulted in correspondingly drastic reforms.

As the Student Response Task Force enters its final phase of gathering student input and the Coed Fraternity Sorority Council prepares to unveil its long-awaited report response, The Dartmouth looks back at the other reports — and their diluted results.

The evolution of change

The implications of the Five Principles — which call for greater choice and continuity in residential living, improved social spaces, a “substantially coeducational” social system, a reduction in the number of students living off campus and a reduction in the role of alcohol on campus — are far-reaching.

President Wright has asserted from the beginning that despite the magnanimity of the Initiative, the ideas will not crumple under pressure from students or alumni.

Following last winter’s announcement, President Wright told The Dartmouth “this is not a referendum on these things … we are committed to doing this.”

However, the issue raised by the Initiative is not a new one. Several earlier reports called for the elimination of the Greek system and attempted substantial social life changes, but none as of yet has been implemented in its entirety to effectively end the dominance of the system.

All the way back in 1978, the faculty voted 67-16 to abolish fraternities. In 1979, the Board of Trustees indefinitely postponed the decision.

Under former College President James Freedman, two committees — the Committee on Diversity and Community at Dartmouth in 1994 and the Committee on Diversity of 1989 — issued reports that confronted many of the issues that are currently high on the College’s agenda.

Both reports dealt with the problem of alcohol abuse and the role of the Greek system in social life on campus. They both came to the conclusion that the CFS system tends to encourage unsafe drinking as well as anti-intellectualism and sexism — two of the claims that have been made repeatedly in the past year following the release of the Five Principles.

The CDCD also expressed concern — much like the steering committee’s report — that the Greek system’s perceived problems affect the public’s view of the College and consequently the make up of the applicant pool.

“Despite Dartmouth’s success in increasing numerical diversity, its recruitment of minority students remains extremely sensitive to the interpretation of the outside world, particularly to those who view Dartmouth as less tolerant than its peer institutions,” the CDCD report stated six years before the Initiative report came to the same conclusion.

Freedman said the charges concerning the Greek system were very strong and warranted action, however he said he did not know what path the College should take to reach a solution to the problems that had been brought to light by the reports.

CCAOD reports

Alcohol reports in the past have also been unsuccessful at curbing underage drinking and alcohol abuse.

The recommendations in the steering committee report regarding alcohol use and abuse among students are combatting familiar problems which have appeared in reports by the College Committee on Alcohol and Other Drugs at various times throughout the College’s history.

The 1998 CCAOD report recommended lowering Dick’s House fees for students admitted for intoxication, fearing that exorbitant costs deterred some students from obtaining medical help.

That report also suggested that the College’s alcohol policy be revamped, changing the existing “keg formula,” banning kegs over the summer term and allowing Safety and Security monitors to check in on events.

The similar CCAOD recommendations of 1991 resulted in a 14-month ban on kegs. The report was later repealed after havoc broke loose on the campus.

Some material changes have resulted from the policy changes initiated by these CCAOD reports, but for the most part, changes have been slow to catch on, and the original plans appear only in watered-down form.

During the 1991 keg ban, secret codes and hiding techniques were all the rage for students trying to get around the new laws that were governing them.

Current CCAOD regulations are also known to be circumvented. Similar policy violations — including tampering with keg tags to allow for more alcohol than is technically allowed — also persist even after the 1998 modifications.

This Fall term, former CFSC President Jaimie Paul ’00 admitted, “We’ve gotten really good at writing policies with loopholes.”

In response, Senior Associate Dean of the College Dan Nelson, who has been at Dartmouth since 1987, said he has witnessed the effects of many changes to the alcohol policy.

“I think that we know that some organizations work actively to get around the alcohol policy and violate its provisions,” he said. “Other organizations don’t.”

Nelson said he thinks there have been some “incremental changes” that have resulted in “incremental improvements,” but he said there is still much progress that has left to be made.

President Wright in the fray

Before the CCAOD reports and the Freedman-initiated proposals, came the so-called Wright Report of 1987.

In March of that year, then College President David McLaughlin initiated an ad hoc committee, chaired by History Professor James Wright, which eventually submitted what is known as the “Wright Report.”

The goals of the committee were:

– an enhancement in the intellectual life of students outside the classroom and the image of the College;

–a campus environment marked by greater respect and tolerance;

–a diminishing in the role of alcohol in the social environment;

–a significant reduction in the role of fraternities and sororities in the social structure of the College;

–a more fully integrated residential structure;

–a greater faculty role in residential life

The actual report, which was released in late April of 1987, recommended increasing social and intellectual options at the College by constructing a campus center and strengthening dormitory cluster cohesiveness.

The Wright Report also proposed reducing the role of fraternities and alcohol in campus by moving rush to sophomore spring and allowing alcohol to be served at open parties only in designated areas to students of drinking age.

Changes were made, but in a somewhat modified form.

As a result of the Wright Report, the Collis Center was expanded in 1993 and fraternity and sorority rush was moved from freshman spring to sophomore fall.

Scope and perspective

Although the Initiative report aims to accomplish many of the goals that have been set out over the last two decades, the previous reports were less comprehensive.

In other words, reports like the ones issued by the CCAOD and the CDCD dealt more specifically with certain campus social and residential issues instead of looking at the broader long-range picture.

Wright called the previous reports, including the so-called Wright Report “predecessors to this report.”

He said the Trustees were trying to solve the same problems, but he said, “There was not a sense then that the College was in a position” to make the changes the reports proposed.

King said, “The essential differences really relate to the place at which the institution stands.”

He and Wright agreed that the College is in a different situation now — both financially and in terms of its leadership — than it was in the past when similar proposals for change were brought to the table.

“All of these reports and all of the discussions that have occurred over the last 15 years in essence have culminated as of last year when the Trustees issued their Five Principles,” King said.

He called Five Principles and the steering committee report the last additions to an evolutionary process leading toward change.

But he said this time around, the Trustees are determined to make the proposals turn into visible, material changes.

“This Board is committed to movement,” he said. “We’re committed to the process that we have initiated.”

Wright said that he is individually very committed to making the proposed changes come to fruition, especially because he thinks the College is now more capable of change than it had been when previous reports were issued.

He said his commitment to making the changes come into play on his first day as president. “I’m deeply committed to this,” he said.

Although neither Wright nor King had a timeframe in mind for when the final decision of the Trustees, tentatively scheduled for this Spring term, would go into effect, both assured The Dartmouth that significant and visible changes were in the College’s immediate future.

Top Stories