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The Dartmouth
June 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Social System Provides Continuity

The words of advice on Sophomore Summer seem to center around two key ideas. First, do not get your hopes up so high that they cannot possibly be fulfilled. Second, the most important thing is to live with a good group of people that you like.

This second piece of advice serves not only to highlight the huge role that living conditions play in general college happiness, but also points to one of the ways the social scene at Dartmouth successfully meets student needs.

For all the rightly deserved criticism that surrounds the Greek system, the central fixture of the Dartmouth social scene, that same system deserves some credit for the generally positive feeling that surrounds Sophomore Summer.

Several factors, many unique to Dartmouth, could easily make Sophomore Summer a dismal experience. The most glaring is the Dartmouth Plan itself. Many of the students who are now assembling for a season in Hanover are returning from places as distant as China or as foreign as Eastern Europe.

We then expect these students to return to campus and pick up as if they had never left. Yet where do they find continuity? Even if they return to a familiar residence hall, they will see a completely new set of faces that has moved there for the summer.

The classroom offers little hope as well. While major classes frequently attract the same core group of students, the summer is limited to sophomores. Any 1994 or 1995 majors are off leading their various lives. This is compounded by the fact that many people avoid major classes over the summer in an effort to "take it easy."

Perhaps the most personal of challenges facing sophomores is the shifting of close friendships. A '96 whose closest friends are '95s or '97s must confront a completely different social dynamic.

Even friendships between '96s are in jeopardy. A '96 returning from an LSA may have developed an entirely new group of close friends among the people he or she was with in that foreign country. Several '96s will also face the opposite problem, returning to find that what was once a core group of friends has dispersed into separate avenues.

Yet for all this gloom and doom my friends and acquaintances among the classes of '94 and '95 seemed to have had a great time during their Sophomore Summer. Obviously something is working to overcome these obstacles to our general happiness.

That something is the social system that we have here at Dartmouth. In many ways that system is a product of the D Plan -- the source of the problem.

At Dartmouth we have a social system that has evolved to take on the unique problems that are created by the very nature of Sophomore Summer. Together, Greek houses and undergraduate societies create a sense of continuity at a college that seems to be designed specifically to destroy continuity.

During the summer these groups provide a living arrangement that is, at the very least, welcoming and familiar. And at its best, it is conducive to reviving old friendships and sparking new ones.

The success is not limited to people who live in the physical plants of various organizations. All members benefit from a guaranteed group of friends and acquaintances. Even non-members benefit from the continued open parties and social space.

As we work toward the continued evolution of Dartmouth, specifically its social scene, it is crucial that we understand the successes of social life here. Any system in the future must respond to the obstacles to continuity. Hopefully in the future, we will overcome them as successfully.