For the last half-century or so, Dartmouth College has been one of the foremost battlegrounds for the most important and immense conflict of our era: The battle of the old school versus the new school.
Once, long ago, Dartmouth was the world's primary point of convergence for "Good Old Boys" from cities across the United States. They would meet here to memorize the Western canon, make important friendships that would extend into the corporate and political worlds, and drink hundreds of beers a day in a consequence-free environment. They shipped women in for parties. As far as anybody knew, this was Paradise on Earth.
Then a little war and a lot of drugs inspired those least affected by their tumultuous times -- college professors and their students -- to freak out and start a counterculture. All of the sudden, Dartmouth students were being bombarded with female intellectual equals, graded for class discussion and punished for setting things on fire. A way of life was under attack.
Today the battle of old school versus new school has relegated itself to a few key issues. Environmental sustainability is one of these few topics -- along with acceptance of unsanitary living conditions, the Collis pasta line and a disdain for the pathetic, God-fearing "Dartmouth Beacon" -- where the D.O.C. (symbol of new school activism) and the G.O.B. (symbol of an old school, reasoned apathy) meet. However, where these two sides once found conflict (e.g. "It's good to throw air conditioners off the porch" versus "No, that's bad"), a new psyche of teamwork has emerged on campus, leaving everybody but The Dartmouth Review hesitantly optimistic. This teamwork hasn't developed because somebody called a truce, but rather because we've found something in common. As it turns out, the thing that holds the G.O.B's beer is something that the D.O.C. regards as a highly valuable and renewable natural resource called aluminum.
For as long as I've been a student here, the irony of the College's insistence on sustainability but refusal to allow kegs in Greek house basements -- which leads to (literally) tons of unnecessary aluminum waste every term -- has been the source of a lot of laughter. I was happy to hear last week that steps were being taken by the College to finally fix this problem (albeit in a roundabout way that ignores the heart of the issue). Not surprisingly, the new ideas for sustainability have been brought forth by a student: Erika Sogge '08, the current student intern in the Sustainability Office under the oft-derided Jim Merkel.
I interviewed Sogge last week, and she had some great news: The College had agreed to pick up Greek houses' cups and cans together, in the same bag, and take them to be sorted (probably by some miserable hippy) for recycling off campus. The free pick-ups would occur every Monday morning and there were plans to add a Thursday pick-up as well.
The next question was obvious: "Erika, there's usually more in those bags than just cups and cans. What do the operators of this service think about the fratty cocktail of vomit, urine, tobacco, unused condoms and textbook pages that we use to increase the spatial efficiency of our trash bags?" Easy, she responded, just poke a hole in the bottom of any bag that is reasonably full of just cups and cans to let it drain before pick-up. A little gross, sure, but that's why God gave us pledges.
At the time of the interview, she said six Greek organizations had signed on to this service, with more committed to do so once they got off probation. Since the interview, however, she has lost some of her excitement, saying that while the service would recycle cups and cans together, they may not accept "dirty cups." If that's true, we have two big problems: We're still going to have to throw all of our cans away, and somebody's a huge moron.
The development of cup and can recycling would be huge news for Dartmouth students, and make us all feel a little better about our lifestyles. Your quick six would become part of a beautiful cycle that represented our symbiosis with the Earth and its bountiful resources. But it sounds like, as usual, a good idea got its ass beaten with the idiot stick our College's bureaucracy likes to pass around sometimes. Regardless of what happens with this recycling thing, the new school and old school agree that more can be done, and the most cited example is that the administration could realize how asinine its keg policy is.
"Kegs would be a great option for sustainability, but it'd be pretty tricky politically to get that accomplished," said Sogge, representing the "new school." Darren Sturges '07, decidedly "old school," weighed in on why this difficulty exists and why it's so ridiculous in a guest column last month: "The College thinks that if we use cans instead of kegs we will drink less. They are mistaken. In all honesty, it would be almost physically impossible to drink more than we already do" ("Rethinking Dartmouth's Keg Policy," 10/10). So what's the problem?
The counterargument from the Administration is that if students were serious about wanting kegs for environmental sustainability, we wouldn't throw our cups away after only one use. This response, in addition to being absolutely ridiculous, is seriously balls-out retarded. Just because we don't want to start using Eco-Mugs in basements to save the world doesn't mean we aren't capable of seeing a reasonable way to reduce waste and reduce the expenses Greeks incur in providing the overwhelming majority of social space and activity on this campus.
"It's crazy," an eager-to-share Joe Kardon '09 philosophized, "that The Man makes me deal with seven trash cans at Homeplate, [gives me] a chick-magnet Eco-Cup on a lanyard, and then forces me to throw out like 20 or 30 cans a night just because I like a little social lubrication. Say 30."
Finally the sustainability-pushers on campus have come to understand that the problem is not that Dartmouth Greek organizations are anti-environment; rather, it's that they aren't really anti-anything. Dudes aren't lying when they say that they're just trying to hang out. As a consequence, there are plenty of policy changes that can be made to address environmental and sustainability issues in our lives that don't require us to make big sacrifices or magnetize more trash cans. Historic enemies have joined together in an attempt to add a modicum of reason to the social fabric of this campus. Hopefully the College will start to listen, or else we'll have to go back to arguing over the awesomeness level of using burning-tire smoke signals instead of Blitz.