Tri-Kap confronts its Asian image
By Sabrina Peric, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Wednesday, May 2, 2001
The issue of diversity has been bounced back and forth over the past few weeks. Between the protests at Parkhurst, the campus discussion and the now infamous chalk wars, it has become apparent that some campus members want to vent its anger.
As part of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, the campus attention has turned to issues of diversity even more. And many of the racial stereotypes on campus are being revisited.
One of the most prominent stereotypes on campus brings us back to the Greek system itself, surprisingly enough: Kappa Kappa Kappa fraternity.
Founded in 1842 by Hobart, Philbrick and Nash, Tri-Kap is the second oldest house at Dartmouth. Yet, it does not carry with it any stereotype of the "Establishement." Instead, Tri-Kap has come to be perceived as the "Asian frat" or the "minority house."
The Dartmouth met with a group of Tri-Kap brothers who discussed the issues concerning their house and the myths and truths associated with it.
"I am disappointed by the fact that the house had such an Asian stereotype and what is worse is that that stereotype somehow immediately lessened the value of the house," Rich Park '01 said. "We're still Greeks. That brotherhood and essence is still there."
What the group of Tri-Kap brothers shared was a visible love for their house but also a certain frustration.
"I wish that it wasn't for APA month that you're recognizing us," Jeffrey Lin '02, a member of Tri-Kap and also President of the Dartmouth Asian Organization, said.
"But it is very telling," Alex Waters '01 continued.
This kind of frustration has been common to many Tri-Kap brothers over the past few years.
At a college where approximately 24 percent of students are minorities, racial issues tend to become the focus of campus discussions. Dartmouth has the lowest percentage of minority students in all of the Ivy League. Many tend to blame the sense of tradition and the Greek system on these low numbers.
At a point when diversity is such an important issue, what the Tri-Kap brothers have to say rings the same tone as the other campus discussions going on right now.
However, what differed in Tri-Kap's discussion with the campus at large was that the brothers insisted that Dartmouth look inside the Greek system to discover true diversity.
"The College is so intent on racial diversity," Park said, "but I think that our house should stand out as different. We have people from different locations and different classes and it doesn't necessarily have to do with race."
The Tri-Kap brothers insisted on pointing out that there were many different kinds of diversity that people often ignore on campus, such as geographical and economic diversity.
"I'm always amazed -- the college trumps diversity but it's forced diversity," Lin said, "just come to one of our meetings and you'll see, nothing's forced."
"It's all numbers to the College anyway," Park said.
Park suggested that the situation at Dartmouth is no different from anywhere else in the country.
"Go to any other school and you'll see segregation there. They think diversity is this thing that Dartmouth is lacking, but you see it lacking everywhere else," Park explained. "I've never seen a multi-ethnic group at UCLA. It's not just a Dartmouth thing."
Most of Tri-Kap brothers that The Dartmouth spoke to agreed that their rush experience was very different from others' and that the diversity of the house did sometimes play a role in their decision to join the Greek system.
"I didn't really rush the Greek system, only one house -- Tri-Kap," Logan Butler '01 said. "It reminded me of the tightness of home and that was something I lacked when I first got here."
"I didn't rush any other house, it didn't interest me," Lin explained, "Tri-Kap was the place for me to be. It was where I felt most comfortable."
For many of the brothers, Dartmouth was very different from where they grew up.
"I come from a town outside of San Francisco and it has a mostly Asian population. I was totally shocked when I came to Dartmouth, to this campus," Waters said.
Currently about 10 percent of the Dartmouth population is Asian-American, one of the lowest rates in the top-tier schools in the nation.
"Tri-Kap was vastly different from everything like it when we joined," Waters pronounced.
"What really sets it apart for me is the diversity. I think Tri-Kap is unique in being one of the most diverse campus organizations," Waters said.
But all the Tri-Kap brothers agreed that Tri-Kap has changed a lot throughout the course of its history.
"Campus perceptions have changed so much already about Tri-Kap," Butler said and went on to explain. "I remember when I was a pledge and [at] the first party, there were no people. But now everyone [comes]. The image has definitely changed a lot and it will change with every class."
"Looking at our house now it's hard to believe that in the late '80s and '90s Tri-Kap was the [conservative] house," Waters said.
"If we were the '[conservative]' house then," Will Trepp '02 said, "look at where we are now."
"I'd like to see Tri-Kap here in five to 10 years and what we built ... I want that to mean something in five to 10 years. It's made me love my time here," Trepp added, at which point Butler responded, "I hope that five to 10 years from now, people won't be writing articles about why we [were] different. We are setting an example about how you can diversify."