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The Dartmouth
May 26, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Green Key Society redefines its role on and off campus

The College's Green Key Society has lent more than its name to Green Key Weekend. Since its creation 76 years ago, the society has played a number of roles -- from welcoming committee to student government to junior service society.

However, despite a continuing struggle to redefine its role, the society has always maintained its service to the College and the Upper Valley community.

Early history

The Green Key Society was created on May 16, 1921 -- with 51 sophomores as its initial members -- when two of the College's sophomore service societies merged.

The key was chosen as the insignia of the organization, according to the Green Key constitution. Members were also required to wear white beanies with the insignia whenever they welcomed guests of the College.

The Dartmouth reported in 1921 that "the name, The Green Key, was chosen because it symbolizes Dartmouth in the word 'Green' and hospitality in the word 'Key.'"

The society drew its inspirations from the Knights of the Hook, a service society at the University of Washington.

In the year preceding the society's birth, the Dartmouth football team had been graciously hosted by the members of Knights of the Hook during an away game at the University.

The society's members had greeted the athletes at the train station, provided transportation to their lodgings and served as guides.

Former College Vice President Orton Hicks '21, who passed away last week, was then a center on the football team, helped form the Green Key Society after having been treated so hospitably by the Knights of the Hook.

"He wanted it to be called the 'hospitality society,'" current Green Key Society Advisor Holly Sateia said. "He wanted it to be an organization that welcomed visitors and thought that [visiting] athletes should be treated as our guests, not our enemies."

Upon its creation, the society performed three main duties: welcoming and entertaining prominent guests to the College, acting as a rule enforcement committee for freshman and selecting male students to act as cheerleaders and ushers at athletic events.

In an editorial the day after its creation, the editors of The Dartmouth described the society as a "rather striking innovation" and wished the new society "the best of success."

For the next 20 years, the society retained its function as a welcoming committee -- especially for athletes -- but its various projects became increasingly service-oriented.

The society began aiding the College with freshman orientation and Commencement activities as ushers. They also produced a handbook to educate incoming students about the College's different organizations and activities.

In 1929, the society began the spring tradition of the Green Key Ball, an event which continued for more than 30 years, and was integral to the evolution of the modern Green Key Weekend.

For two years, during World War II, the society suspended its regular duties and acted as the College's student-body government.

"The student government wasn't very strong at the time, so Green Key took over," Sateia said.

After the end of the war, the society increased its services to the Dartmouth community and began publishing the "Day by Day" picture calendar and date book.

The society needed to shift its focus as athletics grew and the Dartmouth College Athletic Council took over Green Key's original responsibility of welcoming visiting athletes.

By the late 1980s, the society had transformed itself into a service organization for the College.

Redefining Green Key's role

Today, the society functions as a junior service society for the College and the surrounding community.

Green Key continues to publish "Day by Day" -- which produces the majority of the society's revenues -- and aids the College during Freshman Orientation and Commencement and Reunion.

"Our biggest projects are to guide the freshmen during Orientation and control the Freshman Sweep during Dartmouth Night," said Green Key President Jaqueline Rose '98.

As many as 40 Green Key members remain on campus during Senior Week to act as guides and ushers.

In recent years, members of the society have also made efforts to visit sick students at Dick's House and raise funds for charities such as the United Way, Rose said.

During the month of April, Green Key members helped the Admissions Office with the ice cream social held to welcome next year's incoming freshmen.

The society has also played a large role in recent student elections. Up until last year, students voted in the elections through paper ballots and Green Key members tallied each individual vote by hand.

The last two student elections, however, were conducted electronically. Students cast their votes through the Internet, and a computer tallied the votes automatically as soon as the final vote was cast.

The Green Key Society still played a role in the election process, however. Members stopped by each of the public voting computers and helped troubled students with the new voting procedures.

The society also produced an informational pamphlet about the candidates for Student Assembly president and vice president.

Currently, the society is working on expanding its activities outside the College community.

"We have a really full plate with all the volunteer activities that we are going to do," Rose said.

Most recently, the society lent its hand in the Dartmouth Community Outreach Projects on May 3. The society was also involved with Project Insulation, in which members helped renovate old buildings.

Due to the society's dwindling prominence on campus in recent years, the group has made fervent efforts to increase student interest in the Green Key Society.

"A really big goal of ours is to increase visibility on campus," Rose said. "In our class, there were so many people who didn't know about the selection process."

Sateia said she blames the Dartmouth Plan for this lack of awareness and participation. Nearly all of the elected Green Key representatives are on campus during the summer.

Due to the nature of the D-Plan, however, on-campus membership drops during the Fall, Winter and Spring terms, she said.

"Trying to coalesce as a group when the membership changes term to term is a real challenge," Sateia said.

This past year, the group mailed letters to the Class of 1999 and held a study break in which members explained the society's various responsibilities, Rose said.

Their efforts seem to have been fruitful. While only 19 members of the Class of 1998 ran for the 20 Green Key positions last year, more than 70 sophomores ran this year.

The Green Key constitution requires 65 members: 20 at-large members are selected by their classmates in student elections and 44 representatives come from different student organizations. The junior class president acts as the 65th member.