Should Greek Houses All Go Coed?: Yes
By Reese Ramponi, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, September 21, 2012
If Dartmouth’s administration mandated that all Greek houses on campus “go coed” by banning gender discrimination in the rush process, I can only imagine the opposition. Such an idea would go against long-standing Dartmouth traditions and undoubtedly anger many students — not to mention fraternity alumni whose donations would soon plummet. By and large, the student body does not support making the Greek system coed. In a Government 10 survey conducted by Tyler Stoff ’15 this year, 70 percent of the 672 undergraduates surveyed were not in support of a fully coeducational Greek system. According to the survey, the majority of students said that the Greek system should remain as is.
To some, like Stuart Ghafoor ’14, inaction on the issue of a coed Greek system is similar to the administration’s inaction on coeducation until 1972.
In 1960, only a slim majority of students favored the mandatory racial desegregation of the fraternity system. But simply because the students do not support an issue does not mean that it should be dismissed. The administration mandated the transition to coeducation and the desegregation of the fraternity system since they were seen as in the best interests of the College.
The current Greek system is undoubtedly flawed, but would a mandated change to coeducation be able to address the multifaceted problems of sexual assault, binge drinking and hazing within (but not limited to) the system?
The inability of national sororities to hold open events with alcohol combined with the small number of local sororities on campus tips the scale of social control as women are driven to socialize in male-dominated spaces. An increase in the number of local sororities would begin to address this problem, but the power balance during events held at individual houses would remain the same. In addition, issues related to gender equality exist not only in this social scenario, but also within the way the Greek system teaches us to treat each other.
Our four years as an undergraduate are an important time for personal development. It is where we learn to “relate to ourselves and to each other on our own terms” and make lifelong friendships, according to Gabe Rosenstein ’13.
Developing these relationships and having experiences in spaces that are male-dominated and gender-normative perpetuates already strained gender dynamics while making it harder for men and women to form friendships, he said.
“It is preparing [students] to not treat the other gender as an equal, but as an other,” Rosenstein said.
Coeducation could work to combat the power balance between men and women in fraternities, according to Aaron McGee ’14. Women visiting a fraternity would no longer be guests of a brother, but simply guests. For both women and men within the house, coeducation would act as a mechanism for self-regulation. As Brian Giunta ’14 said, “Men would not feel comfortable hazing women like they haze each other.” The idea of men hazing women is “sinister,” Giunta said. The presence of the opposite sex and the gender dynamics that accompany it would allow individuals to see what they had somehow missed — that the hazing tactics that occur within the Greek system are not only dangerous, but dehumanizing and derogatory. Giunta said that having all houses go coed would reduce instances of hazing and sexual assault due to the in-house accountability.
Some argue that there is no need for a coeducational system, but only for coed options within that system.
While coed houses exist on campus, they are not an option considered equal to the mainstream Greek system. Because they are smaller and have a different rush process, coed houses are often self-selective and not considered by those looking for a house to join.
Fraternities’ hesitance to go coed stems from a fear of this reputation and a worry that they will lose their house’s character, McGee said. They are mistaken, McGee said, as it was not coeducation that gave these houses their unique reputations. Rather, it was the offbeat and accepting nature of these houses that made them receptive to the idea of coeducation in the first place.
“It’s not that coed houses can’t be mainstream,” Alpha Theta coeducational fraternity member Van Melikian ’14 said. “Just that the current coeds aren’t mainstream.”
Perhaps the student body would have decided to support admitting women eventually. Perhaps fraternities would have eventually accepted African-American members. But we cannot know how long it would have taken for these changes to come about organically. Even without administrative action on this issue, “there will be a tipping point,” Stoff said.
The system will slowly shift, and in time, the houses that have maintained antiquated single-sex traditions will be seen as discriminatory, Stoff said.
In 100 years, the Greek system’s shift to coeducation will seem much like these historical changes: a speed bump on the path to gender equality.