Should Greek Houses All Go Coed?: No
By Jack Boger, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, September 21, 2012
Dartmouth’s Greek tradition is a long and proud one, stretching all the way back to the 19th century. These venerable institutions have, by and large, weathered the tests of time and provided thousands of Dartmouth students with wonderful memories and lasting friendships. For some, however, the Greek system appears to be a hopeless anachronism more suited for its Victorian origins than the 21st century. This belief is rooted in the single-sex nature of Greek houses and their perpetuation of what some see as an unfair and unequal social system. These campaigners would seek to transform the system by mandating that organizations become fully coeducational, shifting from fraternities and sororities toward a new social model. But by becoming coed, the problems cited by critics of the Greek system — chiefly binge drinking, hazing and sexual assault — are unlikely to be greatly affected, while the positive aspects of single-sex organizations will be lost.
It shouldn’t be surprising that people seek out opportunities to join groups and feel accepted. We are social creatures and have been doing so since the first cavemen started grunting at each other over a fire. Different social organizations serve various purposes, and on college campuses, fraternities and sororities exist in large part because they offer college kids a fun social outlet and a new group of friends that can provide support and guidance. The shared experience of a single-sex Greek house bonds members and creates friendships in ways that coed houses might not.
“There’s something special about developing a bond within a house, and it seems like both genders develop unique friendships within that,” Cole Adams ’13 said, Inter-Fraternity Council rush chair and social chair of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, said. “You can just relate on different levels.”
He noted that many students rush Greek houses because of the positive experiences their parents had in them.
“To this day, many of my dad’s best friends are his fraternity brothers, and I expect it will be the same for me when I’m his age,” he said.
The sorority experience can also provide a similarly fulfilling experience.
“My sorority has been one of my most valuable experiences at Dartmouth,” Olivia Kent ’13 said, a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. “It has provided me with a wonderful system of support. I think having a space for girls to come to that’s completely their own allows for a sense of comfort, safety and community where you can be yourself and feel accepted for that. It’s very different from a dorm or classroom setting.”
Perhaps the key argument against forcing single-sex houses to become coed is the freedom of association. Students should be allowed to make their own decisions about who and where they spend their free time. Furthermore, coed Greek houses already exist for those who seek them, and virtually every extracurricular activity and club on campus is open to both men and women. Fraternities and sororities remain the few exceptions to this rule, and while some would argue that they follow an outdated model, the single-sex nature of the Greek system is actually one of its greatest virtues.
“It is important to separate sometimes, especially for women, and let people be themselves,” Ginny Miller ’13, a member of Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority, said. “There are so many opportunities at Dartmouth that are coed that fraternities and sororities are the only time you’re in a single-sex environment.”
The Greek system should not stay ossified in all of its old ways. All organizations should be willing to change in accordance with the times. The Greek system and its members would benefit from thoughtful reform, especially if it would create more equitable social spaces. The policies of national sororities that limit their ability to hold events with alcohol shifts a great deal of social power toward the fraternities, an imbalance that should be corrected. With an open attitude to change but maintenance of its core values, the Dartmouth Greek system can and should remain (mostly) single-sex for centuries to come.