Op-Ed: Cultural reversion
Published: Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 03:09
This fall, many upperclassmen return to campus with more familiarity than novelty, in part by the momentous decision passed by the Greek Leadership Council (GLC) near the end of spring. Members of the Class of 2017 are not permitted at Greek parties until the Monday following Homecoming. While the weekend’s implications are fairly obvious, with basements full of more familiar faces than new, it is worth noting the marked effects on campus culture, specifically the cultural divide so perfectly portrayed by the small groups loitering about Russell Sage residence hall.
Fortunately, this sort of social dynamic has been captured in the past. Prior to 2001, freshmen were barred from parties during their fall term, but in October of that year, after Homecoming, GLC decided to lift the ban on freshmen at fall Greek parties. Proponents of the change cited a lack of non-Greek social activities, a cultural expectation for sneaking or breaking into Greek houses, the gendered preference of their guests and the social divide between freshmen and upperclassmen as justification. What may seem surprising in retrospect is the widespread support from not only undergraduates, but the administration as well.
This episode has shown us that many students likely oppose the prohibition on freshmen in fraternities and sororities. The main differences today are the administration’s new stance and the establishment of Collis After Dark and other alternative social activities. While attendance has varied, such programming seems to serve as an equal, if not better, option, at least given the sheer frequency of rumor and mention. The best such rumblings I’ve heard was a pseudo-bar crawl from freshman dorm to dorm — the equivalent of pre-gaming for pre-games of pre-games. It seems that now, more than ever, the exact volume of Good Samaritan calls rests in the hands of first-years. Moreover, these activities, whether alcoholic in nature, are consummated among freshmen alone. Exposure and rapport between the freshmen class and upperclassmen has been effectively halved. The social wisdom that usually trickles down has also been stifled.
The policy permeates throughout the week. Considering sheer hours, freshmen with more time on their hands will participate in more clubs and sports. These organizations across the board will see greater attendance than in years past. Perhaps — and admittedly, this is a long shot — grades for freshmen fall will be higher this year than at any time in the past decade. While those statistics might be hilarious on some level, the college administration would likely use such objective evidence to further any sort of pressure against Greek culture in the future.
The trade-offs between the powers that be — Greek culture and non-Greek culture — are entirely predictable. The policy enacted last spring is effectively a rebalancing between the two and their prominence in Dartmouth’s culture as a whole. The policy will almost certainly, in the long run, better the image of the Dartmouth student in the public eye and might even staunch the criticism from our number-one fan, The Huffington Post. While this may inspire the College to enact more restrictive policies against Greek culture, I would imagine that anything more restrictive would bring about more social upheaval than good.
We should consider the stakeholders in the situation at large. Should Dartmouth’s public image improve, the administration will have claimed their victory. Upperclassmen remain relatively untouched, as the new policy places no restriction on our time. But consider the freshmen. Their lives at Dartmouth are now bound to a new social trajectory that I personally cannot imagine. Frequently among upperclassmen, I hear general approval for the newfound policy, but it is quickly followed by grateful sentiments about the fortunate timing. Freshmen are left to alternative programming, their not-so-clandestine pre-gaming and their social isolation from the rest of campus. Put simply, for the betterment of the College’s reputation, freshmen serve as the temporary sacrificial lamb. If we find this disconcerting, we should be wary of the altar, and wonder what, if anything, is the current administration willing to offer for reputation’s sake.