Friday, January 25, 2008

Valley News Pines for the Good 'Ol Days of the Student Life Initiative

In an editorial ostensibly about the return of Beta, the editors take a stroll down memory lane:

Tyler Frisbee, a senior who organized a campus rally last week at which the petition was presented to college administrators, made the point a little more directly in an interview with Valley News staff writer Peter Jamison. “Dartmouth has a long, and I would say unfortunate, history when it comes to gender relations at the college. The majority of our social spaces are fraternity basements, which are male-dominated. It can be a hard place for women to feel safe,” she said.

Indeed, there was something about this quotation that drove us back into the dusty archives from 1999, when the Student Life Initiative was first announced. President James Wright famously said then that the fraternity and sorority system “as we know it will not survive these changes,” adding that, “I don't want to suggest that somehow the door is open to existing organizations to continue.” In this ringing declaration, “as we know it” was perhaps meant to be understood in the same way as “permanently” in “permanently derecognized.” In any case, Wright has long ago publicly regretted these comments, which generated an alumni backlash that reverberates to this day.

But what really struck us during this trip down memory lane was a quotation from Stephen Bosworth, then the chairman of the college's board of trustees: “It's not in the best interest of the students or the institution to allow a situation to exist in which there are social organizations of exclusion.” We couldn't agree more, but we wonder if Dartmouth’s leaders still do.

Read the whole thing here.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting Bosworth quote, given that Dartmouth herself is an educational organization of exclusion. Oh, you say, she chooses people on merit (as she defines it.) So do those social organizations, as they define it.

Should one refer to a fraternity in the feminine, as one does for alma mater?

Anonymous said...

I think Bosworth was saying that while exclusive educational organizations are necessary on a national scale, exclusive social organizations within any one institution are detrimental to its goals. Not that exclusivity was bad or good.

Is that a real quote from Wright? It's fishy. I don't remember him saying "survive," and Google doesn't either. Did the editorialist make it up?

dartbored said...

For all her politically correct worship of diversity, Dartmouth is still an institution of exclusion. OK, too bad if you're dumb or can't play a sport well. Fraternities are also institutions of exclusion. OK, you can drink here even if you don't join and we especially welcome females. This is not a gender issue; it's a class issue. Dartmouth has no solution except to let them in for free. Creative avoidance.

Anonymous said...

We couldn't agree more, but we wonder if Dartmouth’s leaders still do.

What business is this of the Valley News?

John Bruce said...

Hanover is a company town, after all.

Actually, I think the flap over the Beta house and AZD is very revealing. When I chose Dartmouth in the 1960s, I did it in large part because it didn't have a heavy-duty social scene. Clearly this has changed. AZD's dilemma has consumed far more blog space and comments than, say, the alumni Trustee dispute or the tuition cut (which has gone almost unnoticed, possibly because, as some have observed, most families who send kids to the Ivies have incomes above the cutoff anyhow).

The Valley News has a valid point, in that the AZD move shows how completely the SLI has been overtaken by events. It is, in fact, unfortunate that Dartmouth was completely feckless in actually coming up with a social system that could replace the Greeks -- and the narcissism implicit in AZD's apparent sense of entitlement in a new house, just as big, just as close to the center of campus shows that the Greeks leave something to be desired.

Glad I got out of Hanover when I did.

Anonymous said...

AZD's dilemma has consumed far more blog space and comments than, say, the alumni Trustee dispute or the tuition cut.

What are you smoking John?

Anonymous said...

Hanover is a company town, after all.

This would be a sensible reaction if Dartmouth was considering a land purchase, altering wages it paid to DDS workers or College staff, or doing something similar. Considering that townies aren't supposed to be at Webster Avenue parties and that Beta wasn't responsible for any rampages down Main Street (correct me if I'm wrong about this), it seems strange for the Valley News to have an opinion about the administration's policies regarding the social lives of the undergrads.

Anonymous said...

and the narcissism implicit in AZD's apparent sense of entitlement in a new house, just as big, just as close to the center of campus shows that the Greeks leave something to be desired.

Glad I got out of Hanover when I did.


Most of the commentary from AZD members concedes that Beta owns the house and is entitled to take its house back.

The sense of entitlement may be a negotiating tactic. If a small group of people asks nicely for something from the college, they're unlikely to get it. If they demand it and stir up popular sentiment, it's more likely that it'll happen. In some sense the College brought this on itself when it decided to do a lot of active social engineering.

Campus identity politics and a sense of entitlement among high-achieving and mostly well-off 18- to 22-year-olds is probably a fact of life rather than a sign of the times. I can't imagine going to Dartmouth before coeducation.

John Bruce said...

"The sense of entitlement may be a negotiating tactic" -- I'm not quite sure what else a sense of entitlement is if not a negotiating tactic. "Gimme a ______ or I'll throw a tantrum".

The issue was never quite that Beta didn't deserve its house. The issue was that the College then had a responsibility to make AZD whole, and a smaller house farther from the center of campus was inadequate as a gesture.

Nobody (except the IvyGate blog) has called this for what it is. Remarkably, the new Dean of the College has enabled these tactics.

I'm sure there are folks who couldn't imagine a Dartmouth without coeducation -- my view is they're quite comfortable in precisely this environment.

Anonymous said...

The issue is not that the college has to make AZD whole. The issue is that a few vocal complainers say they want more for AZD than the house they've been given. The whine has not been universal and should not be confused for the voice of all students.

Anonymous said...

Very Amusing. Check out the masthead just above the editorial where the VN opined "'It's not in the best interest of the students or the institution to allow a situation to exist in which there are social organizations of exclusion.' We couldn't agree more, but we wonder if Dartmouth’s leaders still do." The masthead has nine names, eight of which are men. Do they also play Pong in the basement of the Valley News??