Free Dartmouth
3/14/2005 06:21:00 PM | Timothy

Did Trustee Candidate Todd Zywicki know about the 1987 'Zete Sex Papers'?
As many of you know, Zeta Psi fraternity was derecognized by the college in 2001 following the surfacing of 'The Zetemouth' (or Zete 'sex papers' as dubbed in original article in The Dartmouth). In the trustee election, I believe that supporters of the petitioner candidates have used the Zete derecognition as an example where Dartmouth does not respect free speech (I'm not sure if not the petitioner candidates themselves have used the example of Zete, but they certainly talk about the importance of free speech).

Anyway, I see from this post on the Dartmouth Review's weblog, that petitioner candidate Todd Zywicki '88 was a member of Zeta Psi. Reading that on google today, it suddenly occurred to me to wonder what Todd Zywicki thought of the 'Zete sex papers'. And no, I do not mean the incident that caused the permanent derecognition of Zete in 2001. I mean the 'sex papers' that caused the temporary derecognition of Zeta in 1987, while Zywicki was at Dartmouth College (and presumably was probably by that time also a member of Zeta Psi, since he was an '88). During my senior year, The Dartmouth ran a story:
Zete sex papers not a new tradition.
House was derecognized in 1987 for similar offenses, but tradition reemerged.

On a warm, bright day in April, 1987, Dartmouth awoke to news that one of the College's fraternities was in trouble. Already on social probation for alcohol violations, Zeta Psi fraternity, The Dartmouth reported, was under investigation for a newsletter distributed at meetings that depicted the alleged sexual exploits of a house member.

The publication showed a personified hog asking to be sexually abused by a member of the fraternity. "The newsletter shows a woman being raped and acting as if she wanted to be raped," a woman who had seen the publication told The Dartmouth.

A College investigation was launched, top administrators made statements deploring the newsletter, opinions raged in the opinion pages of The Dartmouth and the fraternity's porch was littered one night with tampons covered with mock blood.

Less than a week after the initial revelations, the College announced that Zeta Psi would face a year of derecognition.
I'm wondering a few things here. it seems possible and even likely to me that the 'Zete sex papers' (for lack of a better term) were circulated while Mr. Zywicki was a member of Zeta Psi. If he never actually saw the papers, he must have known about them, if only after they were publicized. So I'm wondering what Mr. Zywicki thought of the newletter described above put out by his fraternity during the time when he was at Dartmouth. Was he at the meetings where such newsletters were passed out? Did he speak out or do anything about it? (Does he think he should or should not have done anything?) With the D-Plan, it is possible that Mr. Zywicki was gone from campus during the period we are talking about. But how long did this tradition go on? If nothing else, I'd like more illumination than this D article about that time, if anyone has any info about this.

What I'm also interested in, and what I think has great relevence, is what Mr. Zywicki thought of Zete's punishment in 1987. But did he think it was a violation of freedom of speech? (Do you?) I doubt we'll find him talking about what he knew about Zete then. If you read the D article, it says that Zete's 'derecognition' lasted a year and meant that the fraternity could not hold social events. But the fraternity was clearly penalized, in part, because of the newsletter. So let me ask all of you who talk about 'free speech' as the reason you are voting for the petitioner candidates: should Zete have not been punished the first time around for its newsletter?

I'm toggling between internet windows as I write this, and I've now found Zywicki's response to the derecognition of Zete in 2001 in the Chronicle of Higher Education:
Todd Zywicki, a former Zeta Psi member who graduated in 1988, says many of the college's Greek alumni are outraged over what he describes as the administration's decades-long campaign against the Greek system.

"The sex newsletters were clearly disgusting, but the college's response was completely disproportionate," says Mr. Zywicki, who is now a law professor at George Mason University and one of many Dartmouth graduates to have criticized the administration in the college's alumni magazine recently. "To permanently de-recognize an entire fraternity on the basis of speech is an inappropriate and irrational punishment that can only be a pretense for a larger goal."
Even if you think that the permanent derecognition of Zete in 2001 was excessive and disproportionate, what do you think about *any* punishment for fraternity newsletters like the 'Zete Sex Papers'? Does *any* punishment by the College violate 'free speech' that should be protected? What would (or has) Zywicki said about these matters? What do the petitioner supporters? The interesting thing is that Zete members were among the most contrite fraternity members on campus following the surfacing of the 'Zetemouth'. What I mean is that the loudest voices for 'free speech' did not come from Zete then (at least that term). This is because they were under threat of punishment, obviously. But many members of Zete (at least the ones I knew and based on what they said to me at least) thought the derecognition was unfair, and said right after the sentence was handed down that Zete should have been given a punishment, but not so severe a one.

Given that Zywicki thought that 2001 Zete Sex Papers were disgusting, did he think the same of Zete Sex Papers published by his fraternity during the time he was at Dartmouth? I suppose I'm also interested in this because I'm wondering what made nice Zete guys just allow this to continue at both times. Assuming that Zywicki was a member of Zete when this was going on, what did he think about the college's punishment? Does he think that colleges should never punish such newsletters? Does he think that Zete in his time in 1987 and in my time in 2001 should have received any punishment at all?

I've heard a plausible case made (by a Democrat) that the 2001 Zete derecognition involved violations of due process. And then you have Zywicki's case that the 2001 derecognition was disproportionate.

But there is another viewpoint: that the newletters were protected free speech, pure and simple. This I'll call the Dartmouth Review fraternity case (incidently, the Review editorial took a slightly different take on it, but no matter). The argument is that the newsletters were privately distributed, and obvious satire in places, I believe. Is this the essence of free speech? Well, if you believe this, then *is any punishment* justified? So, does Zywicki believe this now? What did he think in 1987 when he presumably actually faced this issue (as a college student of course, though)?

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