The Lost Art of Respect

by Evan Meyerson | 2/25/08 3:21am

I am convinced there is an epidemic at Dartmouth: there must be some medical explanation for how some of the nation's brightest students transform into Neanderthals each and every Friday around 8 p.m. Call me misguided, but I refuse to believe that Keystone Light alone justifies the utter lack of respect Dartmouth students have for any social space outside of their own bedroom.

College is a time for occasional brainless behavior. I certainly understand, and at times, subscribe to this principle. As graduation approaches, I appreciate more than ever the notion that college embodies the last stand of our youth. Yet why -- for so many Dartmouth students -- does a night out symbolize a return to infancy?

The "I don't care, it's not my dorm" syndrome is felt most directly by fraternities and local sororities. With hundreds of guests cycling in and out of a house on any given party night, a mess can and should be expected. Yet the day-after damage suffered by Greek houses that open themselves up to the public has reached mythical -- and intolerable -- proportions.

It is a troubling sign when vomiting in the middle of someone else's hallway, leaving fecal matter at the bottom of a washing machine or carving a personal message to your boy 'Pookie' into the wall of a basement that is not your own becomes acceptable.

Above all other locales, bathrooms tend to be the place where Dartmouth's population of young adults demonstrates the bodily control of a two-year-old. Every one of us was potty-trained prior to entering College (most of us well before we came to Hanover). Why does having a few drinks force so many Dartmouth students to suddenly disregard two decades of toilet-using experience and mistake the floor for a fluid receptacle? With perhaps a few exceptions, none of you would walk into your parents' bathroom drunk and urinate on the window, so why do it in a frat?

Two weekends ago, I walked into my fraternity's bathroom a few minutes past midnight to see one non-member relieving himself in the sink while his unaffiliated friend used our shower. As if this absurd display wasn't enough, the two did their business while having a conversation about how disgusting the bathroom was! This moment of thickheaded hypocrisy fully encapsulates the crisis of carelessness ravaging Dartmouth's social spaces.

Some would argue that this is exclusively a male problem, but this belief is flawed. Last week, I watched two female students lock themselves in a bathroom stall with a 30 rack of Keystone they stole from the basement of a fraternity and drink 16 beers between them. I can recount the exact number of drinks they had because each empty can was left in the toilet bowl.

Why then do we act this way? It is an issue of environment more than it is a matter of maturity. While intoxicated 18- to 22-year-olds may not be renowned for their pristine judgment, there is a marked difference between the way Dartmouth students treat their own homes -- or even their dorm rooms -- and how they treat public social spaces on campus.

The general state of filth for which fraternities, especially, have built a reputation surely contributes to the contagiously inconsiderate mindset of visitors. Undoubtedly, certain members of the organizations that open themselves up to public social events add to the wreckage that envelops their own places of residence each weekend. Some of the onus is indeed on the Greek houses to -- literally speaking -- clean up their act.

Nevertheless, using the excuse of, "well, the brothers do it," only carries so much moral weight. There is, of course, the theory that if you pay rent and pay for beer, you are more entitled to act as you want within your own house. Guests, who are invited into houses and offered an unlimited supply of alcohol free of charge, have no right to abuse this hospitality. It seems that Dartmouth students have a tendency to forget that people actually live in Greek houses.

Stop keying doorways. Aim for the toilet bowl rather than the floor. Realize that pulling another house's fire alarm because you're drunk and bored is objectionable. Even if the basement you walk into smells like a conglomeration of mud, stale beer and bodily fluids, you are still a guest.

Make no mistake, college should remain the last time we can truly act our age. But if, after four years, you've learned nothing about how to treat others' belongings and homes, you'll leave school as immature as you came.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!