If the number of students joining Dartmouth's sororities, fraternities, and coed organizations is any indication, Greek life at the Big Green is thriving. Recruitment was up for fall term, houses are undergoing renovations to improve safety and accessibility, and organizations are using commitment to public service as an opportunity to build stronger ties with the Dartmouth and Upper Valley communities. For many students, Greek letter organizations are enjoying a renewal, reflecting the system's integral place in the College's landscape.
Membership in a fraternity, sorority, or coed organization is a popular option, with roughly 60 percent of eligible students (sophomore fall and older) joining. This fall, a total of 562 students joined Dartmouth's 7 sororities, 13 fraternities, and 3 coed houses, up by 45 students over the same period last year. (That number doesn't include Dartmouth's historically Black, Native American, and Latino organizations, which will conduct their recruitment processes later.) Kate Robb '08, a member of Alpha Xi Delta and the president of the Panhellenic Council, an organization that governs most of Dartmouth's sororities, says, "We oversee the recruitment process for potential new members, and we try to make sure that every woman has a positive experience." The goal is to create the best fit for both student and sorority. This year, every woman who completed the process was invited to join a sorority.
Most Dartmouth coed organizations, fraternities, and sororities (shorthanded by the College as "CFS") have their own houses, the majority of which are privately owned (seven are College owned). Many of the physical plants that support those houses are showing their age and, as Sigma Phi Epsilon's community service chair Kevin Scully '09 notes, "have taken some serious punishment" over the years. In 2003, the College conducted an audit of every physical plant on campus and worked with each organization to create a plan to bring the buildings up to a campus-wide standard of health, safety, and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Five years into the plan, many houses have undergone significant improvements, says Bernard Haskell, assistant director of residential operations. During summer 2007, the fraternity Sigma Nu closed for renovations to create a second means of egress, and sorority Kappa Delta Epsilon's renovations made the basement and first floor of its Webster Avenue house wheelchair-accessible. The majority of houses are wheelchair-accessible, says Haskell, and the rest are moving in that direction.
Life within Greek Letter organizations rests on six guiding principles, explains Fouad Saleet, associate director of CFS and senior society administration: brotherhood/sisterhood, scholarship, accountability, inclusivity, leadership, and service. Service, in particular, says Saleet, is an area where CFS organizations excel. "We pride ourselves on community service. It's part and parcel of the experience."
This often manifests itself as a commitment to local causes and people. The fraternity Alpha Delta recently volunteered, in concert with The Home Depot and nonprofit KaBoom!, to build a playground for the community of Lebanon, N. H. Under the leadership of Kappa Kappa Kappa, many of the organizations on Webster Avenue came together to host a Halloween carnival for local children. Ian Tapu '08, a Tri-Kap who spearheaded the Halloween event, says he felt "it strengthened our ties to the community. We're hoping to do it again next year." Many students describe joining a CFS organization as a way of finding the support network they left behind in families and hometowns. "I'm from a small, close-knit community in Maine," says Scully. "Recruitment was the first time I developed a group of friends I felt comfortable with, people I could rely on for help." He says that Sigma Phi Epsilon has been a place "to build myself as a person in a community with amazing, unique guys, with different experiences." Lindsay Deane '08, of Delta Delta Delta, says that for her, the sorority is "a great space to be supported by other women." And for Robb, being part of the CFS system has been "a defining aspect of my time at Dartmouth."
By GENEVIEVE HAAS
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Last Updated: 5/30/08