Feeding the Right Wolf

What is the purpose of this "new" Green Key? Is it simply, as my friend suggested, to get stupid and sunburned in your sweet lax penny? Or is it to hide in the library and prepare for exams until it’s all over?

What is the purpose of this “new” Green Key?

George Will once observed that, “The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly either being corroborated or are pleasantly surprised.” Lately, it would seem that two years of scandals, protests, and controversies are beginning to prove him right. 

Since the winter of 2012, the College has developed an uncanny ability to attract publicity for all of the wrong reasons. First, Andrew Lohse made the world believe that those nerdy high school kids who matriculated to Dartmouth were actually out-hazing frat stars at the likes of UT and LSU. Then, there were the sexual assault revelations, a trail of them that prompted an ongoing Title IX investigation and culminated in the publication of a “rape guide” on Bored@Baker. There were also anecdotal flashes of Greeks gone wild, with purported “hazing” instructions, choice party themes, and poor aim contributing to a steady drumbeat of negative headlines. And amidst it all, a veritable parade of protests has made Dartmouth seem like the Somme of social warfare to outside observers. Is it any wonder, then, that application numbers and alumni giving rates have been so disappointing as of late? 

As a student on campus it is hard not to find this negativity infectious. When the news is filled with ugly headlines and your dad keeps forwarding you the latest hit-piece from Cosmo (okay, hopefully it’s your girlfriend sending you those), a quiet fatalism starts to creep across the Green. Eventually, despite the best efforts of folks like Jake Gaba ’16 and Yeshuto Shaw ’15, pessimism becomes commonplace under even the most casual of circumstances.  

Take for example, a conversation I had with a rather sullen friend in the library this past weekend. After exchanging pleasantries, I asked him if he had any plans for the end of the week and the start of Green Key. He sighed and shook his head, noting that he didn’t much like the thought of participating in the fabled weekend this year. When I expressed my surprise, he explained that “he couldn’t see the point anymore” and was concerned that “Dartmouth had a special weekend for the glorification of drinking” at a time when it was being pilloried for a litany of related social problems. With that, he was off, undoubtedly to go find his tail somewhere in the stacks. 

In the days since, the substance of his concerns has stuck with me. From an historical standpoint, he was right about one thing: Green Key today seems utterly bereft of the purpose that made it so important to our forbearers. Throughout much of the twentieth century, the celebrated spring weekend was far more than just one of Dartmouth’s signature bashes; instead, it marked a rite of passage that loomed large in the life of all its students. After matriculating to the College, first-years underwent nine months of torment before they could be called sophomores. Come Green Key, though, freshmen were allowed to remove their putrid green beanies, burn them in the Green Key bonfire, and join their older compatriots in the celebration that ensued. Perhaps Clifford Orr ’22 best summarized the spirit of the weekend when he wrote: “It has surely been a grand and exciting time, and if the whole class doesn’t come down with typhoid fever from drinking streams… we shall consider ourselves lucky. Thank Heaven, though, it’s over.” 

In recent years it would seem that more than just the tribulations are over. Gone are the days when the weekend marked a “second initiation” for the freshmen class. No longer do seniors “kidnap” first years to prevent their appearance in the Aegis photo or do sophomores wrestle with them for control of the keg at the center of the Green. Absent too are erstwhile traditions like the “Hums,” junior prom, and the fraternity chariot races around the Green. In their place, we get overpaid main stage acts like Lupe Fiasco, Collis kite contests, breakfast for dinner, and Friday afternoon tie-dying tutorials. With programming like this, it is little wonder that Dartmouth’s spring weekend seems to have lost its way. 

What then is the purpose of the “new” Green Key? Is it simply, as my friend suggested, to get stupid and sunburned in your sweet lax penny? Or is it to hide in the library and prepare for exams until it’s all over? We at The Review would submit that it is neither. Call us sentimental, but we see it as something far larger than that; in our eyes, it is one of the best opportunities for the Dartmouth community to get together and enjoy each other’s company before the end of the spring pushes us apart. For some, that purpose is best served with a few cans of Keystone in hand, but for others that means a variety of things. It could mean a golf outing with freshmen floor mates at the Hanover Country Club or a movie night at the Hopkins Center. It could mean an impromptu high school reunion or even a few drinks with an alumnus you happened upon at Murphy’s. It could also mean spending afternoon on Webster Avenue or Alpha Delta’s lawn in a raucous and fun-filled now.  

Whatever bliss you choose, choose it knowing that it links you to a spring tradition larger than just your four years here. Although the connection between current and past Green Keys may be tenuous, the sentiment of camaraderie and fun that Clifford Orr described is still alive and well. All you have to do is tap into it. Ignore the pessimism, enjoy the moment, and make this year’s Green Key yet one more reason to love the College that we all call home.