Rendleman: Taking A Step Back

by Vivien Rendleman | 5/21/13 10:00pm

I first heard about Green Key during First-Year Trips. Naturally, my trippees and I wanted to absorb as much information as possible about Dartmouth's traditions and big weekends. Upperclassmen mentioned Homecoming and the bonfire, as well as Winter Carnival and its ski races, but Green Key apparently lacked a central event. It seemed to remain a big weekend just as an excuse to kick back and take a break from school.

As the year went on, I experienced the other two big weekends and their traditions for myself. The night of the Homecoming bonfire was the first time that I felt like I actually went to Dartmouth, and Winter Carnival's human dogsled race and polar bear swim reminded campus that being outside during the winter can actually be fun. Yet as Green Key approached, I didn't hear any of the hype about certain traditions that I had in the days before Homecoming and Winter Carnival. Still, I was told that Green Key was magical the best big weekend by far.

Then the weekend arrived, along with a blitz from Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson and a special issue of the Mirror. In an article titled "Green Key Perceptions," most of the student interviews reinforced the idea of Green Key as the big weekend without a purpose. The blitz from Dean Johnson urged students to "redefine Green Key weekend" by making it something other than "simply a party weekend.'" I worried that Green Key would not be as community-focused and would be simply about drinking. After the weekend, though, I see Green Key as having just as much meaning as the other big weekends.

If Green Key has a purpose, then what is it? Johnson described the weekend as "a time when campus can celebrate the spring." I saw that this truly is the purpose of Green Key, and a celebration of the spring does not, and did not, necessitate constant partying.

I am not arguing that Green Key did not or should not entail drinking. Just as with the other big weekends, Safety and Security saw an increase in reports filed, 14 of them related to alcohol. Similarly, day drinking sets Green Key apart from other big weekends because it takes advantage of the spring weather. What I am arguing, though, is that drinking is not the sole purpose of Green Key. It is only a part of the weekend's overall aim: appreciating Hanover in the springtime. Dartmouth students spent the weekend renting canoes, hiking, holding barbecues, completing the Lou's challenge and playing sports on the Green. They probably consumed a lot of Keystone, but I would not be surprised that many non-alcoholic activities were far more fun than a few blacked-out hours in a basement.

The outdoor focus and pleasant weather helped students address another portion of Johnson's blitz. Johnson called upon students to redefine Green Key by respecting and including each other this weekend. Green Key, perhaps more than other big weekends, facilitates this respect and inclusion, as when students attended Block Party and concerts held by the Programming Board en masse. I have not seen larger groups of Dartmouth students assembled since the Homecoming bonfire. Furthermore, during the bonfire, there was a divide between students, whereas during Green Key, students were assembled for the same purpose. They gathered to enjoy the term and each other.

My favorite moment of Green Key was jumping into the river on Saturday morning. I was surrounded by friends and acquaintances, and remained on the docks to appreciate the weather and the fact that we finally had time to relax. It disparages Green Key to call it purposeless, when the weekend's nature facilitates the community for which Dartmouth students like to pride themselves. Its lack of more prominent traditions unfairly lends Green Key to being easily misidentified as merely a reason to party. I hope that future Green Keys will stop getting labeled as pointless big weekend so that more students will take the time to celebrate spring and their community.