Quick Takes

by The Dartmouth | 10/16/14 10:55pm

The Dartmouth asked campus an open-ended question: “What do you want the world to know about Dartmouth Greek life?” Their written responses follow:

“Coed fraternities were not considered by me to be a part of the Greek life system until I decided to join one. I now realize that having a gender-inclusive safe space is one of the most valuable parts of my Dartmouth experience.” — Jimmy Ragan ’16

“I would like to offer the perspective of someone who is not part of the Dartmouth Greek system. Firstly, I would like to say that hazing does exist at Dartmouth. I have not only spoken to students who have been hazed but also have spoken to countless students who defend the importance of hazing. This is brainwashing at its finest. Every student knows hazing exists at Dartmouth, but unless those who are part of the Greek system speak out against hazing it will never stop. Secondly, it’s a folly to say that students have a choice of whether to be hazed or not when 70 percent of those eligible to be a frat/sorority are in one. Finally, being part of the Greek system (either actually belong to a Greek house or hanging out at Greek houses) at Dartmouth is almost a social necessity. I recall how on Friday and Saturday night the dorms were completely empty. Everyone was hanging out at frats.” — Rohit Bhatia ’17

“The Greek system is not some devilish fountain that spouts sexual assault, binge drinking and racism/sexism/classism. Dartmouth, however, depends heavily on an improving Greek system to provide for the vast majority of social space and community on campus. This not only places a huge financial burden on fraternities and local sororities, but it also places an enormous pressure on each affiliated student to be a dual-headed beacon of academic leadership and social excellence. That goal in itself is impossible — but mark their backs with the consequences of a broken system and you have a recipe for disaster. Yes, the Greek system across the U.S. has had a history of racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia and gender identity intolerance, but Greeks on Dartmouth’s campus are some of the most open, most inclusive, most progressive Greek houses in the nation. Bones Gate fraternity and Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity were open to a non-gender conforming individual rushing their houses. Epsilon Kappa Theta sorority changed their constitution to allow anyone who identified with sisterhood, including transwomen and gender-queer individuals, to shake out. Not to mention people are constantly amazed at how easy it is to enter a Greek house and just have a beer — you can’t do that at other colleges! I am pro-Greek not because I believe in the history of the Greek system, but because I want to hold Dartmouth accountable for the social needs of its students. If we get rid of the Greek system, what fills that community vacuum? The large majority of us in Greek houses joined to find a community that we were otherwise lacking. We joined because we didn’t have the time or luxury to stake out a solid small group of friends like many at this campus are emotionally equipped to do. We joined because we felt our campus experience was missing something. We joined because our parents were in our houses, or went to Dartmouth themselves. Whatever the reason, we have found community under superficial letters and that is a valid form of community. Let us change our system from the inside with help from our allies. More importantly, though, let’s make College President Phil Hanlon be more critical in the solving of our social problems. Eliminating the Greek system is a cop-out answer for the chronic lack of investment in the everyday lives of Dartmouth students by the College.” — Calandra Jones ’15

“There is no place for Greek life in the 21st century. It is by nature an exclusive, single-sex organization that perpetuates some of the most dangerous behaviors on this campus including sexual violence and high-risk drinking. It is antithetical to Dartmouth’s academic mission as an institution of higher education. It is time to embrace and expand upon what makes our institution great. We can create an environment of radical hospitality centered on the values of a determined quest for knowledge, an insatiable desire to change the world and an unbreakable commitment to community. We can only do this if we’re all on board, because when we work as a team, amazing things happen.”— John Damianos ’16

“I often hear the argument that the Greek System is the ‘backbone’ of or ‘essential’ to a vibrant social scene at Dartmouth. Without it, there would be nothing to do here and students would not make strong, lasting friendships or develop character. As someone who is an active member of the Dartmouth Outing Club and who is very much not affiliated, I can tell you that all of these arguments are patently false. First of all, take a look at where our school is located. Although the town of Hanover may seem dull to some, one must look beyond Hanover to realize how lucky we are to be in a place like this. Vermont and New Hampshire contain such a vast wealth of outdoor activities to enjoy, and as someone who has lived in the Upper Valley since the age of 5, I am convinced that I could live here twice as long and still come up with new things to do. Second, strong friendships are more than possible without the Greek system. The students that I have met through the DOC are the closest friends I have ever had, and most of them are not affiliated, either. I think any of my friends would say something very similar. Finally, the club members that I know are, without exception, full of great character. The club has a reputation for fostering the development of leadership, and its members continue to uphold this reputation year after year after year. I know more people than I care to count that possess extraordinarily sound decision making capabilities, probably due to the fact that impeccable decision making is nothing short of a necessity when embarking on weeklong trips to desert wildernesses, raging rivers, high alpine terrain, or sheer rock faces (not to mention often being in charge of half a dozen other students). And these folks are only 18 to 22 years old! The Outing Club has been the defining facet of my Dartmouth career and plenty of others’, and yet it is often overlooked when discussing social spaces at this school. I can honestly say that if the Greek system had never existed, I would not have noticed.” — Benjamin Bauer ’15

“There’s a lot of talk about improving Greek life, but often little action. It’s extremely important to highlight the actions that take place in improving Greek life, because they often get lost in a sea of meaningless words and sentiment. In particular, I’m talking about things like local sororities offering full need-based financial aid and EKT leaving the rush process.” — Laura Bergsten ’15

“Greek life has given me some of the most meaningful relationships and experiences that I have ever had in my life. Meaningful relationships and experiences do happen independently of Greek life, as do hazing, binge drinking, and sexual assault. Greek life is not a determining, causal factor of those unfortunate occurrences any more than it determines whether or not someone will develop enduring friendships. Reducing Greek houses to dens of hedonism fails to confront the complexity of these issues, and so is a disservice to all students.” — Will Baird ’15

“‘Greek life’ is a bit of a misnomer. It’s more of a pastime — like baseball. Calling it ‘Greek life’ minimizes the lives that each brother and sister has outside of his or her respective house, while overstating the importance it carries in one’s collegiate experience. It’s an invaluable tool for some, and just a ball game for others, so don’t let FOMO culture be the Sorting Hat to happiness here at Dartmouth.” — Josh Perez ’17

“My brotherhood is the most supportive community on campus. I know that there is an entire house full of people who will have my back no matter what. This is an unbelievable support system that you can never experience anywhere else. It is so hard to understand the benefits of the system until you join a house and feel that kind of support.” — Jack Braun ’16


“One of the factors that informed my decision to apply early decision to Dartmouth two years ago was the fact that Dartmouth had a prominent greek system. I chose this school because I hoped to be a part of that system. I value fraternity and brotherhood because I have always been a part of a close community that has supported and inspired me to be the best person I can be. The continuing changes and dismantling of the greek system by the school makes me question the administration’s commitment to the students that love this school for what it is and came here to be a part of this extraordinary community.” — Eli Brewster ’17

“Greek life has been the hallmark of my Dartmouth experience: my mentors, my friendships, and my support systems all come from my Greek brothers (and sisters!).” — Noah Smith ’15

“Joining a Greek organization has been the greatest decision I’ve made since coming to Dartmouth. The lifelong bonds, personal growth and good times I’ve experienced within my house have been absolutely pivotal to my Dartmouth experience, and I know that I’m not even close to the only person on this campus who would agree with that. We live in a secluded bubble here, up in the mountains of New Hampshire. Because of that, often the issues that people choose to take up with the Dartmouth Greek System are so heartily magnified because the seclusion of our campus intensifies the imminence of these problems. As Dartmouth students, whether Greek or unaffiliated, we are lucky to call this place home. That seems to get lost on the many, largely because of the constant state of crisis a huge portion of our population regularly lives under. Life is not that bad here — some people would stand to gain something by realizing that.” — Kenneth Saer ’15

“Dartmouth Greek life is not evil. Dartmouth Greek life is not exclusive. Dartmouth Greek life is what you make of it, and if you want it to be a positive experience, then you can and will have that experience. As a minority student on campus, joining a Greek house has not only helped me get in touch with other minorities who have joined my house and other houses, but it has helped me see that even though Dartmouth is predominantly white, that doesn’t mean minorities aren’t accepted or treated as equals. By joining a Greek house, I have formed relationships with people from all over the U.S. (and the world), from all different circumstances. Relationships that won’t just die out when I graduate next year, but rather relationships that I can count on for the rest of my life. Since joining my fraternity I haven’t just had a lot of fun, but I’ve also gained a support system for any situation I find myself in. Struggling in a class? There’s someone around who can help me out, or at least point me in the direction of someone who can. Struggling with personal issues? There’s someone around who can spare an hour and talk me through it. The Dartmouth Greek system is what really sustains me while I’m here, because I know that the people I’ve chosen to surround myself with are there for me even at my lowest point. I can’t say that about all of my friends here at Dartmouth, and that’s why I need the Greek system.” — Nicolas Gutierrez ’16

“I have been hesitant to share my opinion on Greek life in the past because, as a ’17, I had not actually experienced being in a house myself — my experience with the Greek system was only what you see on a Friday or Saturday night. Now that I am member of my fraternity, I feel as though, even if my opinions have not changed much at all, those opinions are more validated.The Greek system has been an incredibly positive addition to my life since I came to Dartmouth. The inclusive nature of the system (open door policy, friendships maintained outside of houses) was a huge draw in my decision to come here, because I knew that I would be able to comfortably socialize with a large section of campus if and when I wanted to. The social life at every other college I looked at was more exclusive either because they lacked communal social spaces or those spaces were excluded to members and invited guests. Furthermore, I saw the Dartmouth Greek system as much more diverse, both intellectually and culturally, than that of any other school I visited.

My experience freshman year completely validated my preconceptions of the Dartmouth Greek system. My desire to relax through socializing was met in a way that was completely comfortable to me. The notion of Dartmouth as a “work hard, party hard” school didn’t really make sense to me, as I saw the drinking here as frankly tame in comparison to other schools I have visited (largely due to our preference for beer over hard alcohol). Furthermore, my sense that the members of Dartmouth fraternities were independent thinkers in the way that some fraternity systems don’t allow has been validated as well.

Not to say that there aren’t issues with the system here at Dartmouth. But it is my strong conviction that these problems do not arise from the Greek structure, but from the individual students that comprise it. Clearly, binge drinking and sexual assault are not Dartmouth-specific issues. So it’s my belief that eradicating the Greek system would do nothing to alleviate these issues. Instead I believe we should continue to use the system in place to combat the issues of sexual assault and binge drinking.

I am also against the forced coeducation of fraternities and sororities, simply because I cherish the safety in speaking my mind among fellow men. I think that interaction between sexes is incredibly important, but I also need a space where I don’t have to worry about what girls think of me/ what I do etc. I don’t think there would be the same comfort level, given my background, in a coed house.” — Andy Shea ’17


“Contrary to the cries of exclusivity that have monopolized this debate, Dartmouth Greek life is the most uniquely inclusive of any such system in the nation. At Dartmouth, a student ID guarantees access to any Greek house on campus. The mere fact that you are a Dartmouth student ensures that you will not be turned away from any party on this campus. How many other schools can say that?” — Jake Rascoff ’15


“Many people, including students at Dartmouth, have (very negative) preconceived notions of our Greek system based on the nation-wide stereotype of a Greek house. The fraternities and sororities at our College are very different than ones at big state schools. Some of those houses are actually exclusive, elitist, and racist — among other things. Just because groups of individuals are in houses that are grouped under one title does not make us fundamentally the same as every Greek system out there, and people have a hard time recognizing this. If any group of people, social club, or organization in or out of Dartmouth was looked at so closely with so much scrutiny, one would find an equal if not great amount of problems. There are a vast number of very positive things about Dartmouth Greek Life that have been overlooked in the conversations over the past few months. Increased regulations, standards, policing and aggression do not help mend the problems with the Greek system but rather increase the tension on campus. I had very similar preconceived notions about Greek life coming into Dartmouth, and I did not plan on joining a fraternity. Through my experiences, however, I quickly realized that the Greek organizations here are nothing more than places for a group of individuals to call home and cultivate life-long friendships at while integrating into the College and wider community with service and social events. Currently, I am very involved in my fraternity and have the pleasure of calling the members of it my best friends. Greek life can harbor positive, enriching, valuable experiences, and in the vast majority of cases I have encountered it has done just that.” — Evan Landau ’15


“Dartmouth Greek life is diverse, open to all, and a unique place to build lasting friendships that no other institution can match. Each house has its own identity, and within that house resides another mosaic of personalities, passions, and commitments. Take the time to carefully examine the system and you find a much more nuanced system that blanket statements about the system miss.” — Kevin Zhang ’17


“While I think the school is doing well to scrutinize some of the negative aspects of the Greek system, there are a lot of positive aspects that get overlooked all too often. The administration must be careful that new policies do not infringe on the experiences that make Greek houses unique.” — Brian Niehaus ’17


“Dartmouth Greek life has been attracting some bad press recently, and as a new member of a fraternity, I would like to offer my opinion. First of all, I would like to say that Dartmouth can be stressful. I am a very social person and usually sport a smile, but academic pressures along with social and personal pressures are a very real part of many students’ lives. After joining a fraternity, I was immediately greeted by over 70 brothers who were willing to connect with me on a personal level and support me, especially when I needed a person to talk to. I can safely say that joining a fraternity has already made my college experience much more enjoyable and healthy. Dancing and parties can be fun, but first and foremost, fraternities are about brotherhood and genuine friendships. While Greek life may not be for everyone, I do not regret my decision to join, in my opinion, one of the best organizations Dartmouth has to offer.” — Nathan Zhu ’17


“The Dartmouth Greek system is important to me. As an officer in a house with roughly 100 guys and a substantial annual budget, I’ve been able to have genuine leadership experiences where my decisions and actions have had real consequences. The overwhelming majority of men and women I’ve met through Dartmouth’s Greek system are outstanding people, and I know I’ll remain very close with my SigEp brothers for the rest of my life.” — Eli Derrow ’15


“I came to Dartmouth because of the Greek life. I’m an ‘18, but I already feel confident in saying that if it was removed or significantly altered, I would leave the school. And not because of its effect on the social scene, but because a significant alteration would indicate that the administration values public opinion and the demands of a vocal but minuscule minority over the desires of the student body as a whole. Greek life is what made Dartmouth special to me, with out it the school would just be a school, not the place that countless past graduates have come to love.” — Teddy Carter ’18


“As silly as it might sound, I’m unaffiliated because I don’t want to force relationships with people. I know that those spaces are places where people can bond and form new friendships, but I don’t want to have to pretend to like someone (and call them sister/brother!) if there’s nothing to base it on. I respect those who are affiliated (and do not doubt that they have genuine and loving friendships within their Greek houses), but I have found plenty of other communities that are less restricting, less money, and less pressure to be sociable/friendly/extroverted. I definitely encourage people to rush if Greek life is the social space that works best for them, but I also really don’t think it’s a big deal if people don’t.”

— Charli Fool Bear-Vetter ’15


“I was not sure, prior to rush, whether I wanted to “go Greek”. I decided to do it the Sunday before rush, and I could not be happier with my decision. My brothers are a special group of people who enjoy having fun and relaxing as well as building the strong bonds of brotherhood that Greek life creates. However, I’ve also seen how my brothers are also determined to make our house an example to the other houses by preventing sexual assaults, treating everyone who enters with the respect they deserve as a person, and standing up for what’s right regardless of the situation. I am so glad to be a member of the Greek community.” — Josh Alexakos ’17


“It’s easy to stay away from the Greek scene if you want to. There’s definitely some pressure to be involved, but ultimately it’s your choice where you want to expend your social time.” — Maieda Janjua ’17


“The most important facet of Dartmouth Greek houses is the brotherhood and sisterhood that is never presented to the wider community. When choosing a house to rush I was advised by an upperclassmen to rush the house I would most like to hang out at on a Thursday night. This excellent advice speaks to the nature of these communities. Their existence as spaces for parties cannot be ignored, but at heart these are communities in which friends can gather.” — Steven Povich ’16


“Being a part of Sigep has challenged me in many ways and forced me to think about many things that I would probably not be actively exposed to had I not decided to rush. Before being a part of a fraternity, my image of fraternity life was having a place to party, drink, and hang out with friends. However, I have found that the Greek life at Dartmouth goes beyond this image. Even though it would be easiest and most fun if parties were the only focus of fraternities, like perhaps it is at other schools, I have to say that Sigep truly helps me consider all types of alternative opinions and unique arguments in a way that I would never have been exposed to otherwise.” — Sean Howe ’16


“What’s most frustrating to me about this (never-ending) dialogue is the assertion of many affiliated students that Greek life is somehow essential to maintaining a social scene at Dartmouth, in the middle of the wilderness, where close social bonds can be forged. It is not. There are many excellent institutions out there, located far from major urban areas, which either do not have a Greek system at all or where the Greek system is much less pervasive. Students at these schools undoubtedly have fun together and somehow manage to make friends for life in the process. Perhaps we might be wise to draw a few lessons from them.” — Michael Beechert ’16


“Dartmouth Greek life is extremely unique because it is a completely open social space, the only Greek system of its kind that I know of. Anyone with a Dartmouth ID is allowed in any Greek house. Beyond that, Dartmouth’s Greek life provides lifelong relationships and a structured and organized vehicle for positive contributions to the Upper Valley community and the Dartmouth community. The hundreds of thousands of dollars raised, the countless hours of service, and the many initiatives that Greek students are involved in to better enact positive change on this campus are a few examples of the great things the Dartmouth Greek community does year after year.” — Samuel Todd ’15


“Being a part of SigEp has challenged me in many ways and forced me to think about many things that I would probably not be actively exposed to had I not decided to rush. Before being a part of a fraternity, my image of fraternity life was having a place to party, drink, and hang out with friends. However, I have found that the Greek life at Dartmouth goes beyond this image. Even though it would be easiest and most fun if parties were the only focus of fraternities, like perhaps it is at other schools, I have to say that SigEp truly helps me consider all types of alternative opinions and unique arguments in a way that I would never have been exposed to otherwise.” — Sean Howe ’16


“Dartmouth’s Greek life is a vibrant and integral part of the College’s mission to produce well-rounded and responsible students. However, changes to the system are necessary to address high risk drinking, sexual assault and inclusivity. For any changes to have a meaningful effect, the Greek system must realize its own flaws and enact changes themselves. Any dictated policy from the administration will likely have little effect, at the risk of disenchanting the student body.” — Ian Woon ’15


“My experience in Greek Life has allowed me to meet people all across campus, not just in my own house, in a way no other group has been able.” — Edward Wagner ’16


“Its reputation as a haven for drunken sexual assault and emotionally/physically harmful hazing is unearned. These things occur in all college environments, which is something that needs to be addressed, but the system of Greek life here is extremely inclusive, especially when compared to the Greek systems in other major colleges/universities. Its true that a huge portion of our student body is affiliated with the Greek system, but the consequences of that are a. a diversity of houses and that enables rushing students to sample different places and join one that makes them feel comfortable, and b. a check on the exclusive character which plagues other Greek systems in the nation: all students, affiliated or otherwise, are allowed into any fraternity not hosting a pre-scheduled private event, where they can enjoy themselves and associate with their affiliated friends. The Greek system is huge here for a reason: the students themselves love it. The solution to problems associated with fraternities are not administrative clamp-downs or short-sighted bans; rather it is reminding the students in the houses of the responsibility they have to conduct themselves safely, look out for the safety of their brothers/sisters, and provide hospitality and courtesy to any and all under their roofs. College-age students will naturally experiment with their limits in various respects, but empowering brotherhoods and individuals to act as their own guardians and reinforce personal responsibility is one of the major points of the real world which this school is supposedly intended to prepare us for.” — Eamon Murphy ’17


“The amount you learn about yourself being part of a frat is incredible. The fact the a large proportion of the school’s social life is in the hands of a few people is a huge responsibility that teaches you life skills that cannot be learned in another way and are a great asset moving forward in life.” — James Verhagen ’16


“If you are not happy with your pref night, wait until another term! The same thing with bids and even ‘new member’ term. If you are not happy, change it. You have the power.” — Penelope Williams ’16


“Coed houses can serve an excellent alternative to the single-sex Greek scene. As a whole, we are often overlooked. A prime example is the recent article about difficulty joining a single-sex house as someone who is gender nonconforming, an article which tossed coed houses to the side without even considering them (the explanation was along the lines of coeds being not mainstream enough). Yet coed houses are designed to completely safe for all genders, sexes, and lack/non-conformity thereof. It is unfortunate that people do not consider us to be capable of being mainstream — as it stands Alpha Theta is becoming far more mainstream. Many Phi Taus have been expressing interest in participating more with other houses outside of the coeds. Additionally, I feel like having people of all genders live together as siblings greatly changes the power dynamics single-sex houses bring, giving everyone power instead of only giving power to one gender. This also means that people will have greater respect for those that aren’t of the same gender as them, and respect is key for community. Overall, I’d love to see the college support other houses (particularly fraternities, as there are far more fraternities than sororities, so fewer sororities wouldn’t help the power dynamic problem) to go coed, and hopefully have some more mainstream Greek houses in the coed mix, making the coeds not just the ‘odd bunch’ but just another normal Greek model.” — Ryan Amos ’16


“Drinking and partying always takes a backseat to brotherhood and mutual respect.” — Ellis Guo ’17


“Dartmouth’s Greek Life is without a doubt the most inclusive and friendliest in the country. As an underclassmen male, at any other school I would be turned away from any sort of Greek event. However, not at Dartmouth. Dartmouth’s Greek life is what separates us from other schools and what allows us to continue to steal kids away from other Ivys. Most people here come for not only the great academics, but also a thriving inclusive social life. I am a ‘17 and though I have only been affiliated for a few weeks, I have only had a positive experience so far. I was lucky and was given a bid at AD, which was my top choice. Already I have formed a number of friendships, met dozens of new people, and participated in events that enhance the community that I would have not participated in otherwise such as the Selamta Project.” — Ben Breuer


“The current structure of the Dartmouth Greek system is the fundamental reason that our social scene is one of the most inclusive scenes of any college or university across the country. As a student, I am welcome at any house, any night, if I am able to present my school-issued ID -- a phenomenon foreign to many schools where students are regularly turned away from parties simply due to their physical appearance. Any radical changes to the Greek system, or an abolishment of the system as a whole, would send our social scene into dormitories and away to off-campus houses, thus destroying the inclusive sense of community that brings so many students, including myself, to Dartmouth.” — Max Parker ’17

“It is multi-faceted beyond measure. It can bring a lot of joy to Dartmouth students.

Many people who never envisioned themselves as a ‘sorority sister’ or a ‘frat bro’ become affiliated at Dartmouth because our Greek System brings to a student’s experience so much more than the people outside of the system could imagine.” — Georgi Klissurski ’14

"Only sophomores care about it.” — Reed Wommack ’14

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