Long Pong Silver

by John Schroeder | 6/21/01 5:00am

As my body slowly dissolves into a puddle on my chair (sort of like the old Boomer Esiason commercials -- "I'm melting! I'm melting!"), I don't feel the same drudgery of moving and preparing for a new semester. Instead, I feel anticipation -- for this is our "Sophomore summer," apparently a time of such revelry and carousing that no one can think about things like "work" or "sleep." I think this handed-down notion is simply a veil for class pride. For as the sophomore class enters its junior year, the class members feel a collective urge to give the appearance that their summer was better than the year before, and that the subsequent class cannot hope to match the fun the current class just had. This process then repeats itself for the next class and establishes the culture of revelry that most of us accept.

I think that this myth is misplaced and perpetuates the stereotypes that a large percentage of Dartmouth students place ass before class and beer before Shakespeare. Sophomore Summer should not be about what the popular memory predicates for you, but about what you want it to be. This summer should be an exaggerated version of the freedom we are supposed to have in college. The advantages now are that your friends are probably living closer, you finally feel like you are comfortable in your social realm and you don't have to put up with older students telling you that "nobody rages anymore," or some other thoughtless stock phrase. You shouldn't feel the pressure of having to live up to those folk tales of the seventies and eighties. These tales are various idealizations of masculinity and masochism (for what else is "boot and rally" but a masochistic practice?) Sophomores recreate Tubestock every year without any real knowledge of the years before.

The folk tales and lore of Dartmouth reflect a campus that never really got used to coeducation. Women are still, to an extent, prey. (Would-be theorists can say they are "Other"-ed or suffer from the panopticon of Foucault, but the fact remains that women do come from a minority position in which, if they want to feel included, they must usurp power from the majority and become like the majority in order to feel accepted.) But more to the point, Sophomore Summer proves the fact that the men on campus have to constantly reassert their masculinities through the killing of brain cells. And the current polarization of attitudes on campus -- witness the chalk drawings last semester -- make most men fear emasculation by the people threatening to change tradition. Thus the louder voices on campus that are often read in this very publication actually make the old guard recreate imagined habits. Basically, the current discourse on campus is too inflammatory for actual change.

Now I've also done my share of stupid things, but I think that I've gotten over trying to test my limits -- I feel secure without getting sick and I don't have to play that fourth or fifth game of pong to feel that I've had a good time. In fact, I don't have to drink to have a good time. (Gasp, will wonders never cease?)

I don't advocate any institutional reform for this problem, but simply an increased awareness on campus. By now, people should feel secure in their own small communities of friends. They shouldn't feel the need to spend the $11,610.43 of tuition on simply a good time. Summer should include fun, of course, but it should not be at the expense of class.

But who am I to give advice? I'm just [count on fingers] one man. I'm sure some people are reading this column with the same thoughts I would have -- perhaps thinking that this guy is a smug piece of x and has his head shoved up his y. So I will give a statement that probably should have been my preface: I can't control the sway of the College, just complain about the current state; I try to learn from my mistakes and then look at any perceived mistakes in school and talk about them; in 'Nam I once shot a man with a potato gun (no wait -- scratch that last comment -- I've said too much).

I understand the feeling that this semester is like summer camp -- after all, I spent six years at summer camp. But I stopped going to summer camp when I was fifteen; I don't want to start again. I want to make this summer my home and not the beach house that I'm renting for the summer. This school is a part of us and not a place to trash. In closing, I would like to do what so many do: blame the administration. No, not really. I'd rather go and do the things that I can't do during the regular school year. So I'm going to go eat some food a friend is cooking, or maybe I'm going to go kayaking at dusk and maybe then do something I wouldn't tell my parents about. But until my will breaks down, I'm not buying into the popular Dartmouth culture, even if so many people I know already do.