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Dartmouth To End Single-Sex Frats

February 11, 1999

HANOVER, N.H. (AP) _ Dartmouth College, the school that inspired ``Animal House,″ plans to put an end to single-sex fraternities and sororities to foster more ``respectful relations″ between the sexes.

Dartmouth students were in an uproar Wednesday over the plan.

``This was like a bomb,″ said Misha Rosoff, 23, rush chairman at Sigma Alpha Epsilon. ``Everyone sort of assumed that the trustees would try to get rid of the Greek system, but this came with no warning.″

Officials at the Ivy League school refused to say whether the plan means requiring fraternities and sororities to go coed or phasing them out altogether, but college President James Wright said it will be the biggest change in social life at Dartmouth since women were admitted in 1972.

The move, announced in a letter to students Tuesday, is aimed at encouraging ``respectful relations between women and men.″ College administrators said they are concerned about problem drinking and the social fragmentation that sometimes accompanies the Greek system.

The college did not say specifically when the changes would be put into effect.

The details are to be worked out in consultation with students and backed with tens of millions of dollars for construction of new housing, dining and social areas to replace the Greek houses.

In the end, the Greek system ``as we know it today will not continue,″ Wright said in an interview Wednesday.

Dartmouth, founded in 1769, has had fraternities for more than 158 years, and they are a major part of the school’s image and the social life in Hanover, a snowy town of about 7,000 people 135 miles from Boston. According to the student paper, The Dartmouth, more than 35 percent of the 4,300 undergraduates are members of 25 single-sex fraternities and sororities.

``The Greek system is a very huge thing up here,″ said Brad Bingham, 22, a member of Alpha Delta. ``If there was a city or a bigger town with more things to do, maybe it wouldn’t be so important.″

A group of students, estimated at 1,000 by the student newspaper, gathered outside Wright’s home to protest Wednesday night.

Greek officers also met Wednesday night and decided to cancel all 21 events and parties planned for the weekend. They want to show administrators that there’s nothing to do at Dartmouth without Greek activities, said College Fraternity Sorority Council member Jamie Paul.

Chris Miller, a member of Alpha Delta when he was a Dartmouth student, co-wrote ``Animal House,″ the 1978 comedy about frat-house debauchery.

``Every time they plant a tree or modify the curriculum they constantly have student meetings and discussions,″ complained Catherine Curran, 19, a sophomore and sorority member from Las Vegas. ``For something this drastic, they should have gotten student input.″

The national organizations of some fraternities and sororities do not permit coed membership, and that could prove a hurdle.

The 120,000 living members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon would have to vote to change the fraternity’s bylaws to admit women, and ``the chances of that are slim to none,″ said Ben Lewis, a spokesman in Evanston, Ill.

``I know of no modern-day fraternity or sorority who has allowed anyone in of another gender,″ Lewis said.

Something that could become a model for Dartmouth occurred at Middlebury College in Vermont in 1991, Middlebury spokesman Phil Benoit said.

The trustees there ``basically said to the Greek system houses, `It’s all right to remain here, but you must open membership to both genders,‴ he said. He said nearly all complied, though they changed names and affiliations.

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