Some are alarmed at the broad mandate for control of students' lives that an enforced Principle of Community would give the College. One example of an infraction that the new judicial system would punish, the report says, is last year's 'ghetto party,' a fraternity party that had a theme some students found offensive. The scope of the new 'unified College-wide judiciary system,' then, would include supervision of expressive conduct, including speech. The Principle of Community also seems to apply to casual interpersonal relations and political beliefs, especially beliefs about the educational value of 'diversity' and affirmative action.
'This is brainwashing, pure and simple,' says Todd Zywicki '88, Assistant Professor of Law at George Mason University. 'They want to ensure that students think in the way they desire. This report is an astounding social engineering document and its aim is the re-education of students once they get to Dartmouth. The College doesn't like that it doesn't know what goes on behind the closed doors of a fraternity. They want pervasive supervision of students.'
The dismantling of fraternities and sororities at Dartmouth would mean the end of student-controlled social spaces and the regulation of student social lives by the Dartmouth administration. In this way, campus critics argue, the Social Life Initiative represents the infantilization of students at Dartmouth...
'Greek organizations are Burke's 'little platoons' that link atomized students to the history and legacy of Dartmouth, and act as the mediating institutions that Tocqueville talked about,' says Zywicki. 'Fraternities provide a comfort zone for students to consider and debate uncleansed ideas. That's why Dartmouth wants them broken into atomized pieces, the better to remold them into the new Dartmouth mindset.'
I also found this section of the article really interesting:
Whatever the particular merits of the Greek system, Dartmouth's move to tightly regulate the social lives of students on and off-campus signals the adoption of the in loco parentis role that universities abandoned in the 1960s and 70s in response to student protests. 'Students don't rebel against adult guidance in the way they did 30 years ago,' President Wright told The New York Times last March. Wright's Dartmouth is leading universities in returning to the pre-1960s mission of defining students values—in his case, 'based on Dartmouth's Principle of Community and on adherence to norms of civil behavior.'It's clearly a break from the past. 'I graduated from college in 1968 and the whole point of going to college then was to get institutions and parents out of my life,' Harry Lewis, Dean of Harvard College, said in the same March 3 Times article. 'I worry about the narrowing impact that such a well-supervised college experience might offer... There is something troubling about students working so hard to fulfill the dreams of others. It makes it harder for them to discover something of their own, get excited and pursue it.'
Zywicki's concerns about the judicial enforcement of the Principle of Community, which did not end up happening, are right on the money. The Principle are incredibly subjective:
The life and work of a Dartmouth student should be based on integrity, responsibility and consideration. In all activities each student is expected to be sensitive to and respectful of the rights and interests of others and to be personally honest. He or she should be appreciative of the diversity of the community as providing an opportunity for learning and moral growth.The SLI report actually suggested hauling organizations in front of the what became the Organizational Adjudication Committee for failing to provide "moral growth" and for not being "sensitive" and "respectful". Trying to enforce these wishy-washy moral standards would have been a parallel to the House Un-American Activities Committees. Although Dartmouth has stated that the Principle of Community are not judicially enforceable, during the Zeta Psi fiasco this apparently took place anyway, according to a 2001 TDR article:
Dean Redman argued to me, in person, that he was able to punish Psi Upsilon for violating the Principle of Community. Yes, that selfsame Principle of Community that the Student Handbook notes 'in itself is not adjudicable'. The vehicle for this was a requirement of the Minimum Standards that says fraternities and sororities are obliged to incorporate the spirit of the Principle of Community into their charters. Thus, Dean Redman claimed the ability to punish them for violating the spirit Principle of Community. In essence, he is punishing them on the basis of a speech code that applies to 40% of the College's undergraduate population, but not to the other 60%. If these students were not Greeks, their speech would not be punishable (ignoring, for the moment, Redman's asinine views on harassment).
Although the Minimum Standards of that era are gone, the current 89-page CFS handbook does state that Greek organizations must, as a requirement for recognition, "ensure that its conduct, purpose, and activities are consistent with the mission of Dartmouth College and the Dartmouth College Principle of Community," which does seem to contradict the statement that the Principle are not adjudicable.
The entire concept of the Principle of Community is very questionable. Without a doubt, the presence of any racism, sexism, or homophobia at Dartmouth is a serious problem. But these problems cannot be solved by a three sentence edict from the Board of Trustees. Unlike its peers - the Standards of Conduct, the Academic Honor Principle, and the statement on Freedom of Expression and Dissent - the Principle are overwhelmingly vague, leaving it a danger to Greek organizations when its adherence becomes a condition for recognition. Around Dartmouth, it gets placed on the walls of offices and reception rooms. It becomes the justification for every social life recommendation, every decision, every program. It represents the epitome of 21st century quasi-corporate politically-correct head-in-the-sand thinking - the belief that mission statements and the like actually matter, and that decisions should be based around them. Any belief that the Principle of Community have made Dartmouth a more inclusive place is absurd. Dartmouth has become more inclusive because the world is becoming more inclusive and because students are actively seeking to make Dartmouth more inclusive. Certainly, administrators have been making a difference in improving diversity (the fine folks of the Student Life Department, for example), but the belief that Dartmouth can be socially re-engineered from up high with disregard for the things that students care about (i.e. the Greek system) is flat-out misguided. Dartmouth's improved inclusiveness has not occurred because the trustees published a statement twenty-eight years ago or because they aimed a wrecking ball at the Greek system nine years ago.