By: Jesse Hunt ’13
At ten o’clock in the morning on the Saturday of Homecoming, the Board of Trustees held an open forum to discuss the newly released revisions to Trinity’s social structure. What follows is an abbreviated retelling of a few highlights of this forum.
Seated at the side of a table in the front of the Washington Room, I had an excellent vantage point from which I was able to observe both the audience and the panel. To my left sat the Charter Committee and the Board of Trustees. To my right were all those opposed to one or more aspects of the Board’s decision. At the podium separating Charter Committee members from Trustees stood the united front of Jimmy Jones, Trinity President, and Paul Raether, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, alumnus of Trinity College and the product of a fraternity system pre-dating coeducation at the college. Mr. Raether instructed all in attendance that questions would be taken at a rate of two minutes per person and only if presented respectfully and constructively. He then braced himself for the onslaught of Trinity affiliates now racing towards the microphones.
One by one people began lining up to make their voices heard. Students, alumni/ae, Greeks, non-Greeks, parents- they were all there. Some audience members carried with them speeches, statistics and notes while others approached the stage empty-handed, having already committed their points of contention to memory. The audience was charged, to say the least.
Throughout the next hour and a half, a myriad of opinions, critiques and aggravated sentiments were shared with a Board of Trustees that had not yet faced those who must bear the onus of their decisions. The first to speak was a United States Marine. Marching to the front of the room in full military fatigue, the man’s voice quickly conferred upon all in attendance that he needed no microphone. He strutted back and forth in front of Trustees and Charter Committee members, pointing out the inconsistency of a plan to achieve perfect gender parity within Greek organizations being mandated by a Board that has achieved no such parity itself. To this, Mr. Raether announced that the Board would be making similar moves to gender parity, though he did not give specifics.
Next up was a disgruntled alumnus who was part of the same Greek organization as Mr. Raether. After hearing the alumnus’ impassioned speech, the Chairman of the Board addressed the speaker as he walked towards the back of the room. A few words were exchanged and, as the speaker exited the room, Mr. Raether reminded the man that they were of the same fraternity. To this the alumnus replied, “That’s right. We gave it to you and we can take it back.” Although insulting, the statement was met with a smattering of applause and quite a few laughs.
Following this incident came the height of disrespect for the day. Two young women, both recent alumnae of the college and sisters of the same sorority, stood poised in their Greek-letter-adorned sweaters ready to speak out against the co-ed mandate. Addressing the first of these women as “Kappa number one,” President Jones was met with a myriad of catcalls and boos that turned into cheers when the women stated that, in fact, she was not “Kappa number one” and actually did have a name. After speaking her mind the alumna returned to her seat amid an overwhelming roar of applause. Shortly thereafter, the second of the two letter-bearing women approached the microphone. President Jones addressed her in the same way that had garnered such fierce reprimand from the audience just moments earlier, this time referring to the woman as “Kappa number two.” Again, the calls of dissent turned to uproarious applause when the second woman dismissed the pet name and stated her real name. By now all seats were filled and still more people adorned the walls of the room, standing front to back in some places just to see the event transpire.
Several speakers later, only a few minutes remained until the meeting was to be adjourned. The announcement was made that a young woman standing at the microphone would be the last of the day. Throughout the next two minutes this female student offered a minority view from the looking glass of underclassman women that both defied the basis for the co-ed mandate and riled the soul. Though I do not have her words written down verbatim I will do my best to summarize.
In her short time at Trinity, she said, she had witnessed multiple counts of date rape, none of which were in any way associated with the fraternities. She offered the observation that the issues being attributed to fraternities are not, in fact, fraternity problems; rather these are broader issues of discrimination and chauvinistic tendencies at Trinity College and at college campuses in general. She explained the fact that she and her friends do not blame the fraternities for incidents like the ones she has already borne witness to in just a few months at the school. To demonstrate her point further, the young woman shared an incredibly disturbing event she had personally experienced the night before. On the night preceding the forum, the young woman was walking along the Lower Long-Walk when a male approached her that she believed to be a Trinity student. This student stopped her and said, “this would look better on you” before taking a sip of his beverage and, in her words, “spitting it on my chest.” Needless to say, some things must change.
So I ask you, the reader, where do we go from here? Do you really think the new social policy is going to change the intangibles without active engagement by students and faculty? Are you content going through the motions? Or, will we pay heed to experiences such as these of the freshman woman in order to uproot the deep-seeded source of the real problems at Trinity? I leave that to you to decide. My only request is that you remember this: nothing worth having comes easy. You have a voice- use it.