Dartmouth’s current Greek system enables offensive behavior, students both in favor of and against the system agreed at a debate Monday night. Though the participants, Mark Andriola ’14, Aaron Colston ’14, Becca Rothfeld ’14 and Holli Weed ’14, all said the Greek system must change in the coming years, they disagreed on whether to fault the collective system or individuals within it for problems like sexual assault and binge drinking.
In an event that filled Dartmouth Hall 105 to capacity, Andriola and Weed argued in support of the Greek system, citing its institutional power to create change and heralding individual responsibility, while Colston and Rothfeld were in opposition, noting the Greek system’s exclusivity and perpetuation of binge drinking and sexual assault.
The Greek system, Colston said, is not inclusive. And its exclusivity, Rothfeld said, differs from that of other extracurricular options at the College. Being excluded from an a capella group due to of a lack of singing ability, she said, is different than being excluded from a sorority for artificial reasons.
Though the Greek system is not perfect, Andriola said, it offers students a support system and allows them to connect with alumni. Despite existing stereotypes, he said, the College’s Greek system is much more inclusive than those at other colleges, citing its open-door policy for parties.
Abolishing the Greek system would not necessarily end sexual assault and binge drinking on campus, Colston said, but it would ensure that the problems are not further perpetuated.
Weed said that institutional mechanisms within the Greek system can help improve student accountability when it comes to sexual assault, harassment and hazing at Dartmouth. Dartmouth Bystander Initiative and Movement Against Violence training occurs within the Greek community, she said, and as a result its members can be powerful tools for change. Education efforts and standards of accountability within the Greek system should be raised, she said.
Andriola said that while the Greek system is not perfect, he does not see a reason for its abolishment. Instead, he said, individuals should raise their personal standards of behavior.
Potential ways to improve the current system, he said, could include allowing more sororities to throw parties and providing other social outlets for students. He said that students should not feel pressured to enter the Greek system.
“Sororities: change the way you do rush,” Andriola said. “Frats: stop hazing, get DBI training, stop sexual assault and stop being offensive.”
Colston said that the collective system, not its individual members, is the problem. There is room, he said, for a new version of the College that does include a Greek system.
“Dartmouth is not yet the College on the Hill,” he said. “But we can be.”
Before the debaters spoke, math professor Alex Barnett and economics and public policy professor Charles Wheelan ’88 delivered opening statements.
Barnett said he opposed the Greek system due to its culture of binge drinking, hazing and sexual assault.
“Violence against women is cultural, not biological,” he said. “Frats provide an ideal training ground for that kind of behavior.”
The process of rushing a Greek house, he said, creates social anxiety and ostracizes students who choose not to join.
Wheelan, who joined Alpha Delta fraternity at the College, said students should remember that they can improve the current system rather than simply abolish it, adding that he believes Greek leaders have the potential to make positive changes.
“There is clearly a reason why some 50 percent of students join Greek organizations, and this should not be lost,” Wheelan said.
Rothfeld is a former member of The Dartmouth opinion staff.