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The Dartmouth
May 28, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

A Little Bit of Everything

More equivocating than Donald Rumsfeld at a press conference, more confusing than Michael Jackson naming his baby "Blanket," just a bit longer-lived than the average mayfly, Green Key is here again. Which is to say little, as we are approaching our least understood excuse for a hedonistic holiday. The only thing I know for certain is that this is no "honor society" -- in fact, there's no real reason for why Green Key exists, but we still participate in it when it comes around once a year. It's kind of like the Tampa Bay Devil Rays of Dartmouth. You watch a game against the Rays, but you're not sure why.

And I'm not even being original here (I'm borrowing from the analogy of Liam Kuhn '02), because Green Key does not try to be either. It's just another season, and another "important" weekend. It is a weekend devoid of the rituals of Homecoming and Winter Carnival; the Student Assembly can send out little green flyers each year, but at heart this weekend symbolizes all that the administration fears about the desires of 18 to 22-year olds -- that a majority of them just want to pass out in a puddle of their own vomit, perhaps at the AD lawn party, perhaps somewhere else like on your bed (cue dramatic music: duh duh duh!). You choose your own adventure.

Certainly I don't speak for all Dartmouth students; I know that I, for one, have to finish my thesis this weekend and can't afford to participate in the bacchanalian rituals. Or so I've been trying to convince myself. That doesn't mean I won't think about it though. I'm not attempting to speak for everyone on this issue but I want to draw an important extrapolation out of this: that as much as we talk about diversity at the school (apparently we are approaching 40 percent people of color, though some would say this number is closer to 32 percent), what is lost is an analysis of what we can learn from how the majority of people act. The marginalized always act relative to something, but what is that something at this school then?

This weekend I will confront the dilemma of entering the majority. This is a dilemma that many Dartmouth students are confronted with, though to varying degrees: to do work or to join the masses and flock to the drinking holes around campus that we call fraternities. The water may be muddy and might give you cholera and dysentery, but you should expect that from these holes dried up under the sun of derecognition and condemnation.

Many of us never find a way out of this dilemma, and we say to ourselves that we can "go out" and study as well, when many of us can't. We try to meet that image that the school used to propagate as the ideal "Dartmouth man," who was athletic and academic at the same time, even if he wasn't too intellectual. The old Yale T-shirt goes: "You can always tell a Dartmouth man, but you can't tell him much." When I saw this shirt five years ago, of course I found it insulting. But it is a stereotype we have had to move out from under; it is one that isn't wholly true in the face of this myth of the student who "works and plays hard," to use the cliched phrase. It is one that the administration wants to eradicate, and the feeble efforts of administrators to intellectualize this school attest to their belief that there is something wrong with our old image, that we need a facelift. (Interestingly, as I write this, I think how the school seems to have forgotten this mission and I think how it is ironic that the student who would "translate Catullus" might sometime face problems in locating a copy of Catullus' "Odes" in the beleaguered library.)

So I am faced with a decision about what to do with my last Green Key weekend. One side of me wants to take advantage of Dartmouth for what it offers. But another part of me knows that frat basements and next day hangovers are not the only thing that I will remember about the times I've had here. What I will remember are the drives through Vermont, trips to Four Aces Diner in West Lebanon, innumerable hours sitting around my room this year with friends. Rarely will I think of basements and that ill-fated seventh game of pong.

Whatever you think of the Greek system, to those who frequent it or belong to it, I think it's important to remember that you don't belong to a house as an end in and of itself, but you join mainly to know the people who are already there. You shouldn't get sucked in by the dominant values of everyone else, but should maintain a little distance in everything you do. You'll remember more about your college experience that way.

So I'm still ambivalent about what I'll do this weekend. I think I'll do a little bit of everything: go to Boston for a day, do work for another day, and see some friends another day.