Girls (And Guys) Gone Local

Much ink has been spilled on these pages about the never-ending campus ruckus over the virtues of national versus local Greek houses. Nowadays, the conventional wisdom damns the dangerously archaic anti-alcohol regulations of national sororities for forcing the Daughters of Dartmouth to satisfy their booze fixes in the basements of boys.

But there is a much more basic case to be made against national organizations. Putting questions of social space parity aside, it still makes zero sense for Dartmouth to have national sororities and fraternities.

Simply put, the core idea behind nationwide Greek organizations is an oxymoron. By definition, fraternalism embodies a close-knit bond that threads together intimate friends. This spirit cannot be replicated on a nationwide scale with hundreds of thousands of members.

When I interviewed Fouad Saleet, the associate director of the Coed, Fraternity and Sorority Administration, he pointed to this extended big fat Greek family as the “biggest bonus” of national membership. Hardly any students would concur with his rosy assessment. Crossing paths in the real world with random twentysomethings that happen to share the same Greek letters at another school only lends itself to superficial chitchat — let alone any genuine kinship of “sisterhood” or “brotherhood.” Is this worth the hundreds of extra bucks that Dartmouth members shell out to their national organizations? Hardly.

Come rush night, Big Green undergrads flock to the houses on Webster Avenue that match their own values and interests. These local chapter personalities do not necessarily hold up on the national plane. A friend commented that the chapter of Sigma Nu fraternity at her college was the “sketchy date rape frat” on campus — not quite the same breed of fellows that inhabit Dartmouth’s Sig Nu.

And more careerist Greek disciples embrace their thousands of fellow “brothers” and “sisters” across the United States as a networking goldmine. As a member of a fraternity that has links to a national apparatus, this “perk” has little value to me. To be blunt, armed with the Dartmouth Alumni Network, resource-spoiled College undergrads do not need to bank on their Greek brethren at the University of Central Arkansas to land their dream job.

At the end of the day, being tethered to a national overseer is just an added — and unwanted — layer of administrative oversight. The recent public transgressions of Kappa Kappa Gamma (inebriated skating shenanigans) and Alpha Xi Delta (Formalgate) sororities put them in hot water with their national keepers. Coupling with the sanctions already handed down by Parkhurst, the bigwigs at national dispatched their minions to Hanover to reindoctrinate these “wayward” gals with the “ideals” of the parent organization.

Granted, nationals send both manpower and monies to Hanover to cradle newborn chapters in their fragile infancies. But this maternal care becomes unnecessary once the houses mature. With decades of history and established alumni backing, College chapters of nationals have their roots firmly planted into the earth. And the Dartmouth Greek system these days flourishes in a Golden Age. Membership rates are booming. In short, the vigorous health of these chapters obliterates the raison d’etre for national organizations at the College.

Yet oddly, Parkhurst preserves its institutionalized preference for national houses. An existing ban on locals ensures that only national fraternities and sororities sprout up. And notably, according to Saleet, while CFS has no power to thwart houses from breaking their ties to national and becoming local houses, the College reserves the right to deny them CFS-recognition and all the accompanying perks.

Parkhurst should not punish houses for breaking the chains of oppression and vying for a better raw deal for their fellowship of friends. For individual members, the national affiliation carries a heftier price tag than being local. These extra dues just “buy” the chapter more bureaucratic oversight by some faraway national headquarters staffed with strangers. Who wants this?

Irreconcilable financial and philosophical differences between Dartmouth chapters and their national organizations may boil over sometime down the road. Separation may prove necessary. Rather than sanctioning them, Parkhurst should support such disgruntled houses in their declarations of independence.

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