End It Already

by Liam Kuhn | 10/26/01 5:00am

I seem to remember not too long ago a whole lot of dirt being kicked up by something called the Student Life Initiative. Now, for those of you who are new to the College or whose attention span has been ruined by too many mind-altering substances or too many boring econ lectures or too many late-night games of pong or too many poorly-constructed run-on sentences written by bitter, hackneyed columnists who always drone on about the same stupid subject, let me give you a brief synopsis of the SLI. The SLI is, as I see it, a three-pronged platform that, if implemented properly and efficiently, will turn Dartmouth into the greatest Ivy League institution in the world (north of Cambridge, of course).

The first prong, which is already in effect, is to financially bleed Greek houses to death so that they will continue to look and smell like crap with no hope whatsoever of ever showing any improvement.

The second prong involves the creation of countless new rules and regulations, mainly hollow and symbolic in nature, to complement the current set of rules and regulations that Greek houses already circumvent on a daily basis. Raise your hand if you drink less now that the frats got rid of permanent bars in their basements now put your hand down because a) you're lying, and b) your econ prof is about to call on you.

That brings me to the third and most important prong of the SLI: using student input to create viable and attractive alternatives to Greek parties in order to increase the range of social options available to students on campus. With all due respect to the oft-maligned social hotbed that is Poison Ivy, this has yet to happen (oh yeah, that reminds me, that Moonwalk stuff on the Green during Homecoming was a great idea that provided endless fun for Dartmouth students of every race, creed and color if they were six years old).

So, given that the SLI has been a total bust, let's look at what that leaves us with. Exactly what we started with, a social scene dominated by the Greek system. Some people love the Greek system, others hate it. I've done both with equal fervor over my years here, but for now let's look at it from the perspective of someone who doesn't like it. What can you do about it? Well, in the spirit of life-giving-you-lemons-so-you-make-lemonade, you can go to a Greek party and try to have a good time. Tons of people do just that every weekend. What they all fail to realize, it seems to me, is that frat parties suck. The fact that they're enormously popular and therefore "the thing to do" at Dartmouth doesn't change the fact that they still suck, and therein lies the rub.

Now, don't get me wrong here. There was a time in my life when I didn't think frat parties sucked (I might have even written a column or two extolling their virtues, silly me). They were great when I was a freshman. To a freshman, frat parties are still somewhat novel and there's a lot of anticipatory glee and excitement that accompanies them. There's the element of surprise: will I get in? Will I know anyone there? Will I hook-up with that girl from my English class? Will regular detergent work on vomit or will this shirt have to be dry-cleaned? The element of danger: If I climb through the window near the second floor bathroom, will I get pummeled to a bloody, lifeless pulp by half the football team if anyone sees me? If so, will it be the only tackle they make all year?

As a freshman, when things are new, you don't seem to mind the fact that you waited in line in the cold for half an hour just to get into a party that's so packed you'll only be able to get one beer, and that beer will be flat and warm and some 250-lb. brother named Bruno will have spit half his lipper of mint Skoal into it. You don't seem to mind the suffocating crush of humanity or the deafening blast of the music. The logic is so simple even a freshman can grasp it; this is a party. Parties are fun. You are here, therefore you are having fun.

But keep your chin up, Slugger, you won't always be a lowly frosh. Pretty soon, you'll be old enough to join a house, and then you get to throw the parties for everyone else. And that, my friends (and with apologies to Chinua Achebe), is where things fall apart. Nobody likes to throw a party. Ask any brother of any fraternity what's the worst part about being in a house and he'll tell you it's the elephant walk. Definitely the elephant walk. But ask him what's the second worst thing about being in a frat, and he'll say throwing a party. Parties involve hours of hard work and preparation. There's nothing festive about lugging around full kegs or unclogging a puke-encrusted trough with your bare hands or mopping up a basement floor that smells like the carcasses of 10,000 dyspeptic hyenas are decaying just below the linoleum.

The most depressing thing about parties, however, is the end. After the basement's cleared out and there are only a dozen or so people left on the dance floor, then things really get pathetic. Watching the last few people pair off and go home with each other is like watching the last five kids get picked for kickball teams in gym class at a school for blind invalids. It's enough to make you cry just looking at it.

There's a lot more I'd like to say, but I'm already over the word count. So, to sum up, here's a brief history of my time here at Dartmouth: 1. Greek system dominates social scene. 2. SLI introduced to create alternative social options. 3. Big controversy, blah, blah, blah, long story short, nothing's changed: Greek system still has social scene in a stranglehold. Despite what appears to be a bitter hatred for this school and everyone who goes here, I actually like Dartmouth and happen to believe that we're a pretty bright bunch of kids so why can't we come up with something better than this?

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