6:00 PM EST, November 30, 2012
Trinity College plans to tame its wild Animal Houses by reining in fraternities and sororities rather than performing a Greekectomy. That's a reasonable compromise. Here's hoping it works and the liberal arts college in Hartford doesn't have to go to the nuclear option.
The Greek system may be endangering students and earning Trinity a harmful reputation as a party school. A spike in students taken to the hospital for drugs and drinking has been "far more severe among members of fraternities and sororities," said a committee appointed by Trinity trustees to study the college's social milieu. The 18 percent of Trinity students in fraternities and sororities have lower grades than average Trinity students and, unfortunately, "appear to wield a disproportionate influence on campus culture."
Trinity would be justified in banning the Greeks, but trustees instead approved less radical solutions, such as making them coed. That's a gentler approach than Amherst and Williams colleges have taken. These top liberal arts schools, with whom Trinity likes to compare itself, have banned fraternities. Their endowments, each well over $1 billion, haven't appeared to have suffered. So clearly alumni adjusted.
It's not assured, of course, that coed organizations will be safer or more sober. But banning pledge period and requiring a Greek group's collective grade-point average to be at least 3.2 will certainly help, as the committee recommended. So will filling the social-activity vacuum on campus.
Fraternities are anachronistic cliques that limit members to their own kind, whether by income, race, religion, grades, major or gender. They also limit social interactions. Trinity President James F. Jones Jr. has written of the Vernon Street fraternities' "stranglehold" on social life. The house system suggested by the committee would be healthier and more inclusive.
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