Freshmen Ban Recap

The behavior that Brother Bluto models seems to inform the content of the freshmen pregames.

The behavior that Brother Bluto models seems to inform the content of the freshmen pregames.

The bathroom reeked of vomit at 2AM Sunday morning. In front of the sink’s cabinets, curled up with a bucket, John lay inanimate, moving infrequently and only to cough and spit.

“John… Buddy? You need some help.”

My thumb hovered over a contact on my phone: Good Sam.

To my amazement, John’s head tilted away from his bucket and he glared at me: “I swear to God, if you Good Sam me, I’m never talking to you again.”

***

Stories like this were commonplace within the Cass of 2018 during six week period when it was prohibited from participating in the College’s Greek life. Eager to exercise the newfound freedom that is college—and to have what is commonly considered a typical college experience—the freshman class consumed alcohol copiously and often with a great degree of secrecy in the dorm rooms. Throughout the fall, new students analyzed and compared their Undergraduate Advisors to discern who had the most viable space to get drunk in and then planned furtive pre-games. In so doing, they brought the fraternity parties to the dorms when College policy had prevented the natural flow of people in the opposite direction.

Without any flexible, social space to relax and drink in, the freshman pregame served as an interim substitute. These parties are not safe, nor do they encourage best practices with respect to alcohol consumption. By isolating these social interactions in dorm rooms, Dartmouth unwittingly encouraged a secretive, unhealthy attitude toward alcohol, during a transformative time period in which most students, now free from the restrictive eyes of parents, are rethinking the role of alcohol in their lives. In this cat-and-mouse game that the College has created, ambitious freshmen hoarded liquor and hid it from Safety and Security, which is immediately established as “the enemy” in the minds of new students. Perhaps even more alarmingly, the secrecy required for freshman to drink encouraged the selection of hard alcohol over beer, as it was easier to conceal and can be consumed more quickly. This amplifies the risk involved by increasing the potency of the alcohol in question and the dangers of not knowing one’s limits.

The motivation to drink in the dorms was exacerbated substantially by the six-week ban. The delineation of certain GLC-approved, freshmen-exclusive, dry events created a destination for the end of the night, but because everyone knew that no alcohol would be present, they consumed copious amounts of alcohol beforehand to facilitate a good time upon arriving. Thus, a culture of pre-games was born. When, like the rest of the campus, freshman have the full run of campus social spaces to enjoy, this dangerous, ordered mentality is substantially reduced. Freshmen can fully explore these new spaces and enjoy themselves by drinking in more open environments under the watchful eyes of more experienced upperclassmen.

For this reason, the end of the six-week fraternity ban has presented a major improvement for the safety of the freshmen class. Previously, first year students were inclined to gather in groups of varying sizes in dorm rooms in order to consume significant quantities of alcohol. In case of a dangerous situation, freshmen were significantly less privy to the idea of seeking assistance with an intoxicated individual. The fear of getting in trouble prevented freshmen from making Good Samaritan calls. When in a fraternity, the responsibility falls on a different dynamic and system of incentives: older and more experienced students who are responsible for the well-being of their party guests are much more likely to know when something is amiss and are more willing to intervene to diffuse a dangerous situation. The result is an environment that is significantly more welcoming, entertaining, and safe than the pregame culture that preceded it.

Beyond safety, there is also the advantage of an improved sense of integration with the rest of the school. After weeks of socializing almost exclusively with other members of their class, freshmen finally have an opportunity to branch out and meet people of a variety of ages, interests, and pursuits within campus life. No longer are freshmen confined to freshmen-exclusive parties and pregames; instead, they are free to socialize with and meet upper classman in a far more organic and informal environment. This meaningful social interaction has less of a chance of happening when freshmen spend so much of their first term socializing exclusively with their classmates rather than the rest of the Dartmouth student body. Coming to Dartmouth is a huge lifestyle change, and the six week ban limits the outlets for freshmen to meet potential influential figures in their lives. Granted, students still have trip leaders, sport teammates, and UGAs to interact with, but this is a limited pool. There is no doubt that the ban facilitates the bonding of a class within itself, but there is much more bonding that can be done as a student body rather than one small part of it.

When it comes down to it, the six-week freshmen fraternity ban does not seem like it serves the College’s best interest. Although its intentions are good, it ultimately increases the risks that freshmen students will confront during their first encounters with alcohol and segregates them from the venues where much of the College socializes. As a result, it presents both a danger to their health and a limitation to their ability to integrate themselves within the community they now call home.

Jack F. Mourouzis also contributed to this article.