Dartmouth's underground traditions not for faint of heart: do you dare?

by Rachel Osterman and Jennifer Thomas | 5/18/01 5:00am

Green Key weekend boasts the beloved label of an annual Dartmouth tradition. Each year, students organize and attend social events to revel in the intoxication of things done before and things that will be done for generations of College students to come.

But lost in the prominence of these public events are those traditions -- or potential traditions -- completed by small groups of students whose sense of adventure leads them to the most fundamentally Dartmouth location of all -- Baker Library.

For this article, The Dartmouth spoke with several students whose anonymous forays into Baker Library highlight the potential for a redefinition of Dartmouth's sense of custom.

A night spent in Baker Stacks

One weekend night last spring, six members of the Class of 2003 decided to embark on what they considered "an interesting adventure."

Sleeping bags and flashlights tucked into their backpacks, the students entered the then existent turnstile of the fourth floor stacks, careful not to appear conspicuous.

"We didn't want to all go in at one time, so naturally we took turns," a female student said.

After an initial meeting on the eight floor, the group agreed on a rendezvous point at which they would gather one hour after the library's official closing. They then separated and sought individual hiding locations.

"I had to sit under a desk for over an hour," said one student. "I was in perpetual fear of the feet of an approaching janitor."

Another student added, "That first hour was particularly scary. I tried to make myself look like I had fallen asleep studying or something, so that if I were found there wouldn't be any trouble," she said.

"But every time a heard a noise, my heart started racing," she said.

That same student was to confront what she described as an unpleasant dilemma a 1:00 a.m., the time when the group had decided to meet.

"When I got there I was the only one, I didn't know what to do. So after 20 minutes of waiting, I decided to go up one flight and get my bag, just in case a janitor found me and I had to leave," she said.

Soon after, two of the five missing group members found their way to the meeting place.

"I checked my Blitz; I got this one that said 'Busted!' and we found out that one of our friends had been caught and forced to leave," one of the male students said.

Still, two of the group members were not accounted for.

"After a little while, we hadn't heard any real noises or anything so we stopped being scared and started talking in loud voices and laughing," one student said.

At one point, the two missing students decided to play a practical joke on their partners in crime. After creeping up behind them, they dropped a book on the floor, prompting frightened shrieks from the already assembled students.

Soon after, the students decided to lay out their sleeping bags in front of the Blitz computers. Just then, they heard vacuums from a lower level.

"We thought we'd been discovered for sure," one member of the anxious trio recalled.

After debating the danger of "making a run for it," as one student said, they decided it would be safer to move their sleeping bags into cubicles and spend the night there.

"In the end, it worked out. We weren't caught, although the people at the desk gave us puzzled looks as we walked out of there at 8:30 the next morning rubbing the sleep out of our eyes," one student said.

Streaking the Reserves

Another anonymous student embarked on a much more public enterprise -- streaking the Baker Reserve corridor during finals week last winter.

"I was taking four classes and hadn't been out for a while. Why not?" he recalled reasoning.

The student, along with the 15 others who had decided to streak, assembled in front of Silsby Hall, where the undressing began.

"We decided to de-robe right there on Tuck Drive when [Safety and Security] shows up," he said. "One guy talks to the officer who apparently said that as long as we didn't run directly into officers we wouldn't be bothered.

"But he couldn't watch us get naked out there, so we went into Carpenter and undressed in the anthropology department hallway."

Once the task was complete, the scantily-clad group made its way through the cold air and into Baker, where the ran through the Reserve to the cheering of a large crowd.

"The place was absolutely packed. I mean, literally, at least 400 people were there," he recalled.

And what happened next? The student declined to comment.

"That's about it. The video tells the rest," he said ruefully, referring to a video recording that circulated through BlitzMail soon after the incident. That video made its way to the desktops of hundreds of students, as well as to many public computers.