(U-WIRE) HANOVER, N.H. – The Dartmouth College Board of Trustees and college President James Wright announced Tuesday a plan that will put an end to the single-sex fraternity and sorority system, which has existed at the college for more than 150 years.
Although it is unclear what the new system will look like, Wright said the trustees’ decision will mean an end to the Greek-letter system “as we know it.”
The board – which Tuesday released a revolutionary list of five principles aimed at overhauling residential and social life at the college – will look for input from the community before deciding on a new social system “that’s not built on single-sex houses.”
Wright said both he and the trustees are prepared to weather the student and alumni opposition they expect will result from the decision, which will change the face of social and residential life on campus. More than 35 percent of Dartmouth undergraduates are members of the 25 single-sex fraternities and sororities.
“This is not a referendum on these things,” Wright said. “We are committed to doing this.”
Wright said he thinks the decision on the design of the new system will be made in the fall or winter of the upcoming year. He said although it is not clear whether Greek-letter houses will hold traditional rush next fall, “as you get out two years and three years there’s less and less likelihood of that.”
That means members of the class of 2001 who joined Greek-letter houses this year, are unlikely to participate in a traditional rush process during their senior year.
The trustees called for a social system that is “substantially coeducational and provide(s) opportunities for greater interaction among all Dartmouth students.” They also said they will seek significant changes to the college’s residential system and improvement of campus social space.
The trustees are prepared to spend tens of millions of dollars to finance the social and residential life changes, Wright said. He said the college hopes to purchase and refurbish the houses of the Greek-letter organizations that live in privately owned buildings.
“The trustees are giving students the opportunity to reimagine social life and residential life at the college,” Wright said. “And the trustees are prepared to invest money to meet (their) aspirations.”
Wright, who is known for his interest in and knowledge of the college’s history, said the trustees’ social and residential life initiative will be the biggest change the college has seen since the trustees voted to admit women in November 1971.
“(Coeducation) would be the only thing that’s happened here that probably would exceed this in terms of effecting the quality of the student experience at Dartmouth,” Wright said. “And there definitely is no doubt in my mind that eight or 10 years from now the quality of the student experience as a result of these things will be far stronger than it is today.”
Wright said the current fraternity and sorority system is not one of inclusion, making a dramatic initiative such as this one necessary.
“By definition, a fraternity or a sorority is not inclusive of all members of the community,” Wright said. “Finally, Dartmouth needs to become a place that’s more whole, where the entire community can share more fully in the life of the community.”
Wright declined to comment on what he envisions for the future of the college’s social system, but said that despite the trustees’ call to eliminate “the abuse and unsafe use of alcohol,” neither he nor the members of the board have any inclinations of making Dartmouth a “dry campus.”
“I wouldn’t even fantasize how to make a dry campus here,” he said.
-by Jacob T. Elberg, The Dartmouth