Regarding Ruth Marcus’s April 20 op-ed column, “Needed schooling on bad behavior”:
Academic culture and campus culture are inextricably linked. The epidemic of student drinking and sexual assault stems from the failure of too many of our colleges and universities to demand a culture of academic seriousness. It’s time the adults examine how well their institutions are fulfilling their academic missions.
Nationwide, grade inflation, “open” curricula that fail to challenge students with a broad range of rigorous subjects and class schedules that allow the weekend to start on Thursdays — or earlier — have helped students avoid academic challenge and intellectual growth. Add to that the end of in loco parentis, and it’s no wonder that the college experience has become a veritable “anything goes.” Dartmouth President Philip J. Hanlon can blame students all he wants, but it is administrators and trustees who have failed students and allowed the situation to get out of hand.
Trustees and presidents must examine their institutions to ensure they are focusing on their primary academic purpose. Then, and only then, will the academic leaders really be able to say the party’s over.
Anne Neal, Washington
The writer is president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.
As an alumnus of Dartmouth College (1965), I wish I shared Ruth Marcus’s optimism about President Philip J. Hanlon’s approach to reforming student behavior. The cause of these problems is not some character flaw in the student body, nor can it be successfully addressed through more stringent rules. Dartmouth’s administration always has been paternalistic, exercising a top-down approach to campus behavior. It has given only lip service to student collaboration in defining the rules of the college, and it has given even less to the development of character and social conscience.
An alternative to establishing new rules and expelling students who fail to abide by them, Dartmouth and other relatively small colleges and universities would do well to look at the example of Haverford College. Haverford has an honor code that is far-reaching and truly student-led. Dartmouth would do well to give it a close look. Dartmouth students leading the initiative would be free to invite members of the administration to give input.
Donaldo Hart, Wheaton
In her April 19 letter “Flunk the Greek system,” Karen Ridings said that fraternities and sororities “have outlived their usefulness in their current forms,” “are havens that perpetuate bad habits and attitudes developed in high school” and “can stunt emotional growth.” What unfair, sweeping generalizations about the Greek system.
Many sororities and fraternities strive to help their members become academically successful and develop as leaders and upstanding citizens. Members serve in leadership positions, volunteer in the community and raise money for scholarships, research and charities. I dare say the philanthropic organizations that benefit from this activism and service would argue that sororities and fraternities have not outlived their usefulness.
To anyone tempted to stereotype sororities and fraternities, please, do your research before blaming the entire Greek system for the failings on one campus.
Rachel Rule Ghadiali, Alexandria