Students march for social equality
By Kate Farley, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, January 18, 2008
More than 200 students marched from Alpha Xi Delta sorority to Parkhurst administration building carrying copies of a petition that calls for the establishment of additional gender-neutral and female-controlled social spaces on campus Thursday afternoon. Several attendees of the rally also carried signs denouncing the College's recent decision to allow alumni of Dartmouth's chapter of Beta Theta Pi fraternity to begin recruitment next fall.
In his brief remarks to the crowd assembled in front of Parkhurst, Dean of the College Thomas Crady addressed the students' demand for more female-controlled social venues on campus.
"We are committed to try to find additional spaces for sororities," Crady said.
The crowd stood on the front lawn of Parkhurst for approximately twenty minutes singing the College's Alma Mater and emphasizing the line, "for the daughters of Dartmouth," before dispersing.
Many students carried stacks of signed petitions up the stairs of Parkhurst to College President James Wright's office. Wright has been out of town since Tuesday, on a tour of Dartmouth alumni clubs across the country.
Tyler Frisbee '08, a coordinator of the protest, said more than 800 signed documents were collected and placed in Wright's office, although some of the documents may not have been official copies of the petition.
The petition, which was a collaborative effort of many groups on campus, was revised numerous times before the event. Some of the provisional drafts of the document were widely distributed via BlitzMail.
Frisbee, along with Kate Breeding '08, another rally coordinator, and David Lindenbaum '08, president of the Inter-Fraternity Council, finalized the petition.
Lindenbaum said the first version of the petition that he saw contained language that was critical of Dartmouth's decision to allow Beta alumni to recruit for a new fraternity. The final petition, however, focused solely on encouraging the College to address the perceived inequality between male-controlled social spaces and gender-neutral or female-controlled space on campus.
"I believe that situation needs to still be analyzed," Lindenbaum said about the College's decision to allow Beta to recruit new members, adding that he did not have an official position on the Beta issue at present.
Beta was permanently derecognized by the College in 1996 after violating the terms of its probation following a series of incidents that took place in the preceding five years.
Last Wednesday, the College announced that it had reversed the permanence of the 1996 decision and would allow Beta alumni to recruit members for a new fraternity that would eventually apply for recognition from the College and a national organization. Though the Beta alumni hope to reaffiliate with the national Beta organization, the national fraternity has not yet expressed interest in recognizing the Dartmouth group.
As a result of the alumni group's return to campus, Alpha Xi Delta sorority, which currently leases a physical plant on Webster Avenue owned by the Dartmouth Beta trustees, will be forced to vacate the residence by June 30.
AZD's anticipated move has sparked discussion on campus about parity between male and female-controlled social space.
In an interview with The Dartmouth, Wright said he saw the Beta situation as a separate issue from the conversation about social space on campus.
"The issue of social spaces on campus is an ongoing and underlying issue," Wright said. "The announcement on Wednesday [of Beta's return] brought an immediacy and urgency to the situation and it was a catalyst for discussion."
Some attendees of the rally, however, said they perceived the issues to be related, and several carried signs that addressed only the Beta situation.
Latif Nasser '08, who carried a sign reading "No More Frats," said that he felt Beta's return was not a good step for the campus.
"There's been a lot of concern over gendered spaces recently," he said. "To me, it seems like this makes it worse."
A member of a Greek organization, who wished to remain anonymous because he did not feel he could speak as a representative for his fraternity, said he was concerned about Beta's possible return.
"I don't want Beta to come back because it's a frat that makes the whole frat system look bad," he said.
Other students worried that allowing Beta to return would damage the disciplinary system for Greek organizations.
"I don't know what the College's choice means for accountability and responsibility," said a member of Sigma Delta sorority who wished to remain anonymous for similar reasons. "How will they punish frats if the frats know they can just come back a few years later?"
As attendees of the rally filled the sidewalk in front of Parkhurst, some attempted to start a chant calling for "equality," but were quickly silenced by organizers of the event.
The coordinators had applied for a permit for an outdoor activity from the town of Hanover because of the size of the anticipated crowd. The conditions of the permit prohibited the group from making "excessive noise." Organizers said the size of the crowd met their expectations.