Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism.
The Dartmouth
May 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Through the Looking Glass: A Different Take

Sunday morning sophomore fall. I walk down Mass Row.

"Sooo?!?!" an '11 enthusiastically asks me.

I raise one eyebrow and tilt my head.

"What?" As if I don't know what she is asking about. I know exactly what she was talking about, but this isn't exactly my ideal Mass Row conversation, or anywhere conversation for that matter.

"How'd last night go?" she gushes.

"Oh, right." The only thing I hate more than this question is its lack of a non-awkward answer.

"I'm not affiliated."

"All right! GDI!" As if I had chosen this for myself.

"Oh, yeah. I guess."

That term, I was faced with the reality that my Dartmouth experience would be drastically different than the one I had imagined. Despite all the talk of creating your own Dartmouth experience, I held on to the idea that there was actually just one "Dartmouth," and that I was well on my way to accomplishing it. Greek affiliation was just the logical next step.

I felt like I was doing everything right I had a fun and outgoing group of friends, I was involved in a few extracurricular activities and I went out and socialized with some sense of social aptitude. What could I be doing wrong?

But after not receiving a bid, I began to question all the decisions I had made during my first year at Dartmouth. Was I doing the wrong activities? Was I friends with the wrong people? Did I go out too little? Too much? What did I do wrong?

Everywhere I looked sophomore year, I became acutely aware that I was not in a house.

Not that anyone was intentionally singling me out, but with a system so pervasive and ingrained in our culture, anything that was not in the Greek system constantly felt out of place.

I finally learned how to study in my dorm room as I sought out a private place to hide from what I thought would be judging eyes every Wednesday night. I wasn't handed a social calendar that mapped out what I could be doing every Friday and Saturday night. I tried finding comfort in friends, but I struggled with whether or not I should burden them with my problems. After all, I didn't want to take away from the exciting, new, affiliated world they were experiencing. More so, I didn't want to let it show how much the rejection affected me. And it did.

The dominant discourse regarding men's rush at Dartmouth makes the whole process seem so casual: "Just hang out and get to know the brothers and you will be fine." Any well-adjusted guy should be able to get in a house.

Unlike women, men do not have a complicated rush system of preferences and rankings to blame if things do not work out. If anything does go wrong, the fault rests with the individual.

Being unaffiliated at Dartmouth is often oversimplified as the result of one of two scenarios: Some people are unaffiliated because they don't see themselves fitting into the Greek system or think that being unaffiliated will help them make a statement. Others, often through extracurricular groups or teams, already have a community that provides a social outlet and deem participation in the Greek system unnecessary. Trying to pigeonhole all unaffiliated students into one of these scenarios, however, ignores the very different story of those that sought community in the Greek system but were never allowed to find it.

Looking back, I wish I could say that I was able to rise above the hoopla of rush and the Greek system. I wish I could state unequivocally that I am glad I never joined, that it was easy to embrace my identity as an unaffiliated male.

But I can't.

While not having the immediate structure and community of a Greek house has challenged me to carve out my own sense of place, I would be lying if I said I never wished I could walk into a basement the dominant campus social scene and feel any sense of comfort or ownership. I still struggle on Wednesday nights when friends casually tell me to come over after meetings assuming that I will know exactly what time to come in order to avoid having to awkwardly stand around with a bunch of brothers or sisters.

No matter how many times friends tell me to crash their tails, that it's no big deal, I can't help but wish that I had my own to go to without worrying about awkward glances from people wondering why I'm there. And when I blitz a friend to eat lunch or get drinks, I can't help but think that building and maintaining relationships would be easier if I had a Greek house to help facilitate them.

I recognize the possibility that none of these insecurities are grounded in the opinions of anyone in the Greek system. Some might criticize that I only focus on the social aspects of the Greek system and not on any of the other intrinsic value it offers. But, having never been a part of the system, I can only speak from the experience of someone from the other side.

I still struggle to understand a system that is so pervasive at Dartmouth. I value the services the Greek system offers campus and the communities they help to develop. But I also think it's important to acknowledge the reality of the system we currently have: one that, through the current dialogue on campus, silently refuses to acknowledge the small but present part of the Dartmouth community who has unaffiliation decided for them.

**James Lee '13 lives everyday simply trying to make Mama Lee proud. He is a former member of The Dartmouth Senior Staff.*