August 19, 2006

Volokh Conspiracy Weighs in on Stork "Intimidation"

Four posts (all on one page!) from The Volokh Conspiracy—two from Eugene Volokh, one from Dartmouth Trustee Todd Zywicki, and one from Jim Lindgren—on the Stork Affair.

Also, Zywicki blogs a brief but comprehensive review of Dartmouth's history of free speech.

I'd like to draw out a comment from the second Volokh post that I hope some of you will comment on. The commenter begins by explaining about the weight a frat president can usually put on his frat to do something or other, and provides a little different view of the Stork Story.
So here's what I think happened. The "intimidation" started with Stork, who at the very least had suasion over GDE and the football team. He basically sent out quasi-orders saying "do not vote for the new constitution." Probably with a request to get others to do the same. "As the president of the fraternity" he expected to be obeyed (especially in such a trivial effort as this, one that coincided with the frat's interest). Stork also held positions at other organizations (at the very least the IFC [Inter-Fraternity Council], presumably others at well). The administration presumably was concerned that he would use those positions as well to send out "encouraging" emails to his "friends."

The administration's concern would not have been that he was making the troops march -- they like that; the heads of orgs serve as liaisons who can keep the students in line in a way the administration cannot -- but rather than he was making them march against the administration's interests. So they called him in and probably asked him whether it was appropriate for him to be pushing his subordinates around like that. They then mention that he's in other positions -- "We know you're VP of the IFC -- have you told them they have to oppose the constitution, too?"

Were they trying to muscle him? Sure. Were they secretly reading his email? Of course not. (And Stork's credibility is highly undermined by the suggestion that they were.) Were they threatening to go after him where he lives? Ha! All they were doing is trying to make him sweat. Which is fairly SOP for college administrators when someone publicly criticizes them -- they call the student in to talk about the problem and make him feel uncomfortable about it. Does it have a chilling effect? Sure. But mostly because it's just uncomfortable to have some older than you patronizingly question your beliefs.
Thoughts? I know nothing about the inner workings of frats or their power structure, so I'd be interested in evaluations of his claims by those that are.


  1. Anonymous1:43 PM

    do students who write or lay out for the free press alter their political beliefs exactly in accordance with your wishes?

    the half of eligible dartmouth men who join fraternities are not sheep -- stork's expression of his own opinion will not compel his frat brothers or fellow athletes to act as he suggests. his message was an inductive argument, not some sort of order.

    don't be silly.

  2. Agreed. Being a fraternity president is often times little more than a token position in the eyes of memebers; the president is simply the guy who is willing to deal with the administration and jump through the necessary hoops to keep the house in good graces. In no way does he exert that much influence upon the membership

  3. Dan, that's sort of what I assumed, but it was an intriguing comment and I wanted to draw it out of the Volokh thread nevertheless. Thanks.