The Two Faces of the Fraternity

by Nina Maja Bergmar | 10/10/07 12:11am

Deceived by my own naivete, I once thought of Dartmouth as the utopia that many of us craved to become part of when leaving high school. I somewhat foolishly believed that human corruption withered away as it entered the community of this idyllic Ivy League school. Dartmouth, to me, represented intellect and acceptance, and I decidedly believed it to be a little more "perfect" than the real world. I did not realize that Dartmouth, just as any other place, has its pros and cons. I had yet to learn that imperfections and defects can be distinctly different, and that it is up to us to decide what to include into our own community.

I brought the veneer of a flawless Dartmouth with me as I arrived on campus on Sept. 9, only to have it brutally distorted after taking yet another step into my new home: the frats. The romantic beauty of the astounding white buildings was met by its stark opposite as I sniffed the smell of beer and urine in a basement that looked more like a dump than an actual Ivy League dorm. Beer cans were tossed all over the floor and dirt had defiled the floor and walls. It hit me instantly how alarmingly erroneous my portrayal of the College had been and I was caught by surprise, to say the least. It dawned on me that Dartmouth is not only dirty and nasty in certain places, but is also far from being faultless. Its imperfections reveal the two sides of the fraternity scene, and these became increasingly clear to me as I made my way through basements and dance parties over the coming weeks.

I can't deny the excitement I experienced as I played my first game of the renowned pong. I loved the free drinks I received night after night at the various fraternity houses around campus. I gladly accepted drink after drink and game after game without paying much attention to helpless freshmen guys who desperately tried to compete with upperclassmen for the girls' attention. I failed to recognize how some guys appeared to devolve inside the frats, letting their basic needs and desires take over after a beer or two. It took me much too long to notice how I, together with other girls, had become the prey in an ongoing hunt as we walked our way through a few of the houses. Being spoiled with attention made me ignorant of these activities, but more importantly, it made me foolish and vulnerable. I fell headlong for the flaws of fraternity hierarchy without even realizing. By ignoring sexism, I indirectly supported the negative aspects of Greek life that I fundamentally opposed, as well as made myself submissive to values I disagree with. Differences in fraternity imperfections suddenly became clear to me: Dirty basements contribute to the inexplicable charm of fraternity life whereas sexist disrespect derives from antiquated values that ought to disappear from our campus.

Negative elements such as gender inequality and power hierarchies only constitute a part of Greek life. Being a clueless freshman girl, however, I still have much to experience in this branch of Dartmouth life. After all, I do find something markedly appealing in the gross basements and intellectually deprived games that I return to each night. It strikes me that the frats have had the greatest impact on me as a freshman, and have drawn more freshmen together than any other organization or network -- I have myself experienced numerous bonding moments in various basements around campus, which I am sure I would not have had anywhere else. Some of the nicest guys I have met so far are frat brothers and they have always treated me with the respect and behavior I expected to find in a Dartmouth environment. Being around them, flaws, such as gender discrimination, diminish in importance and make me resistant to grant sexist individuals the satisfaction of representing fraternity life.

I can only hope that Dartmouth fulfills its ideals, even in the darkest of basements, and that the culture of Greek life continues to evolve into a pure brotherhood that offers all students at Dartmouth the sense of a community. Dartmouth is unique in its openness and acceptance and I like to believe that this remains the case throughout campus -- dirty or not. Judging from this column, we might conclude that veneers are not always true after all. Dirty and nasty might be just as beautiful in nature as the architecture of the Baker Library and provide the same sense of community and friendship as the Hanover Croo's escapades. We have to remember that our utopia is non-existent and that all we can do is continue to evolve and abandon values that are unwanted in an atmosphere of companionship and community. Survival of the fittest in its true form -- survival of the greatest aspects of Dartmouth life.

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