Dartmouth reacts to Greek-letter proposal

(U-WIRE) HANOVER, N.H. – An emotionally charged Dartmouth University Student Assembly meeting Wednesday night ended with the passage of a highly controversial resolution opposing any major alterations to the Coed Fraternity Sorority system without the consent of the CFS Council.

This meeting comes two months after Dartmouth’s Board of Trustees announced a revolutionary social and residential life initiative that would abolish the traditional Greek-letter system on Dartmouth’s campus and require all Greek-letter organizations to be coed.

“(We’re) not saying no changes, but we want the basic nature of the system to remain the same,” resolution sponsor Ryan Clark said.

Students at the meeting accepted one amendment that stipulated students should take responsibility to end sexual abuse and alcoholism. After two hours of debate, students rejected an amendment allowing students, not just administrators, to have input in the Greek-letter system’s future.

When a motion to table the resolution failed, several voting members left to try to eliminate quorum. But the effort failed.

The composition and tone of the meeting, which was attended by 75 students, showed the extent to which the controversy has affected the assembly since the trustees’ February announcement.

“Finally we are getting to the core issues that this campus has been dancing around,” said Josh Green, Student Assembly president.

The measure passed easily with 39 votes for the resolution and three against. More than 80 percent of the 39 votes for the measure came from Greek-letter members.

Debate ensued after Green suggested the entire student body should agree to the amendments.

“The shape and structure of the Greek system affects everybody on campus,” Green said. “If the Greek system goes, it affects a lot more people than just the Greek system.”

Alex Wilson, assembly secretary, said Green’s amendment was “a terrible idea in terms of this resolution” and that “there has never been an explicit agreement of the student body, and the assembly cannot speak for the student body.”

The Greek-letter system has shown it has a more unified voice than the assembly when it comes to the Greek-letter life initiative, Wilson said.

He said his justification was that the Greek-letter houses have a greater stake in the change than the rest of the campus and should be entitled to self-determination.

Despite a few changes and the rejection of Green’s amendment, the resolution boiled down to issues of representation.

“On behalf of students, (the assembly) should act in their interest of freedom and choice,” Assemblyman Juan Gonzalez said.

A vocal minority of dissenters also was present at the meeting.

“I’m embarrassed to be a part of the assembly today because when given the opportunity to choose language that clearly indicates an interest in all student voice, the assembly voted to marginalize all voices except those of CFS leadership,” Assemblyman Scott Jacobs said.

Tom Leatherbee said he was cautious about making a decision before the trustees’ visit campus Thursday, when they might clarify their decisions to students.

“I was really upset by what happened,” said student Jon Sussman. “I feel cheated by the assembly because had Green’s amendment been included, it would have made the resolution consistent with the assembly’s goals.”

-by Jeffrey Tanenhaus, The Dartmouth

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