A Not-So-Rude Awakening
As the door screeched open, I barely needed to look up to comprehend the whirlwind entering my room — a wake-up. Half asleep, I gestured toward my roommate’s bed as the voices shouted her name, yelling brief instructions before dashing from the room. My third roommate and I celebrated for our friend before drifting back into sleep — this rude awakening was not so rude after all, as it signified her acceptance into a campus organization.
Wake-ups are an accepted and beloved tradition on Dartmouth’s campus, and many groups have embraced them as a way to welcome new members into a variety of clubs, including Tucker groups, sports teams, Ski Patrol and a cappella groups.
Due to new policies on hazing, however, these groups are proceeding with caution in their wake-up routines. Despite the murky policies surrounding wake-ups, many students do not see the tradition as hazing — the events are perceived as fun, wholesome ways to welcome new members into an organization.
The policy states that this definition applies even if participants see the behavior as being voluntary.
Tucker Foundation program officer for local service Tracy Dustin-Eichler has witnessed two Tucker programs — Outdoor Leadership Experience and DREAM — plan wake-ups for new members during her 11 years at the College. Dustin-Eichler said that while DREAM has only engaged in wake-ups for a few years, OLE has conducted them since she arrived at Dartmouth.
She said a potential historical root of this initiation strategy is that early morning has likely been the easiest time to find Dartmouth students on campus.
Dustin-Eichler said she does not consider wake-ups to be hazing because they are optional and focus solely on fostering group dynamics and building a congratulatory experience. Because wake-ups are optional and therefore are not a condition of membership, Dustin-Eichler said they are not hazing by the College’s definition.
Dartmouth College’s hazing policy follows New Hampshire law and states that hazing is “any act directed toward a student, or any coercion or intimidation of a student to act or to participate in an act, when such act is likely or would be perceived by a reasonable person as likely to cause physical or psychological injury to any person, and when such act is a condition of initiation into, admission to, continued membership in or association with any organization.”
(Greek Letter Organizations and Societies director Wes Schaub declined to comment.)
“People want to find ways to celebrate acceptance into competitive programs,” she said. “They want people to be excited about being mentors because they want that excitement to rub off on the kids that they’re working with.”
She said that Tucker student directors are thoughtful about ensuring safety measures in the wake-ups, which she reviews before the groups run the activity.
OLE student director Tara Roudi ’15 said that to conduct a wake-up, returning members of the organization enter a student’s room, a location that they know from that new member’s application, loudly cheering a rousing chorus of “Ole” and dressed in a hodgepodge of flair. The new members, blindfolded, leave with returning members on a bus and taken to do some sort of activity outside. Finally, the new and returning members share a breakfast together.
To prepare for the event, Roudi said that, after selecting the new members, her group lays out a road map to plan their strategy for the next morning. The group rents one Vox bus, so they can approach dorms in the same area simultaneously before moving to a different cluster.
It is important to get as many current members involved as possible to show new members how excited they are to have them, Roudi said. During wake-ups, the group of students tries to remain fairly quiet to respect those sleeping in the building.
Different organizations set different tones in their initiation ceremonies, Roudi said, but generally, wake-ups have become safer and more welcoming, especially with the increase of anti-hazing policies.
“It was really, really fun to see that these upperclassmen in an organization were excited enough about me getting into that organization that they wanted to wake up early and do a fun activity with me,” Roudi said. “It meant a lot to me as a freshman, who really struggled freshman fall with feeling like I had a place at this school.”
Rosie Oppenheim ’18 was awoken by both OLE and Ski Patrol this year. For OLE, the wake-up notified her that she was accepted into the group, while for Ski Patrol, it was more of a bonding activity after new members had been accepted.
For Ski Patrol, Oppenheim said that patrollers came into her room, yelled at her to wake up and gave her curt instructions to dress in flair, bring $5 and meet them outside. She and the other “apprenti” were driven to the club sports fields, where they had a raucous dance party with older Ski Patrol members, she said. Finally, the group shared a hearty and exhausted breakfast together at The Fort.
As part of the breakfast, the sophomores in Ski Patrol introduced the new apprenti one by one, sharing with the whole group fun facts about each new member.
Oppenheim said that she does not consider wake-ups to be hazing or malicious.
“It’s definitely a very fun first welcoming experience to an organization,” she said. “I think it gives a very positive first impression to all the students in the organization. It definitely gives a great group dynamic right from the get-go.”
Though Oppenheim said she did not form new relationships during the wake-ups themselves, they helped set the foundation for friendships that she made later.
Many a cappella groups also welcome new members into the group with a wake-up, which typically follows the night-long auditions and deliberations process. Ben Rutan ’17 was awoken freshman fall to the singing of the Aires.
“It was one of the highlights of my freshman year, immediately being waken up and being surrounded by this new group that had accepted me and are now some of my best friends on campus,” Rutan said.
Zoe Brennan ’16 is on the hockey team, which has an annual fall wake-up tradition. Unlike other organizations, the team’s wake-up does not follow the selection of new team members, as most of the team is selected before the school year even begins. Instead, the seniors on the team coordinate a secret date for the wake-ups with the coach.
On the day of the wake-ups, the seniors gather together, pooling their flair and preparing for the excitement of the early morning. One by one, the women wake up every other member of their team, from juniors to freshmen, and the group slowly gets larger. Though most members of the team expect a wake-up at some point, none know the exact date and the freshmen have no idea that one is coming at all. Once every team member has been collected, the seniors take the entire team to The Fort and buy them breakfast.
“I think the reason we do it now and continue to do it is just because it’s a fun and creative way to bond as a team and go and find out where our teammates live,” Brennan said. “Later in the year, if someone needs help with something, we know where they live and how we can help them.”
Though negative impressions of wake-ups are hard to come by, I know bad experiences exist — in fact, the worst wake-up story that I’ve heard is actually my own. Last fall, my roommate and I applied to the same organization. This organization aligned with my exact values and interests, and I was crushed when I was not accepted.
However, I was not notified of this rejection in the traditional sense. Instead, I found out when my roommate was excitedly woken up and escorted from the room, leaving me alone in my bed, hopeful that the wakers had potentially forgotten me. I watched with sadness out my window as the accepted ones entered a microbus and drove away. A few hours later, I received the official rejection email.
Despite my own negative experience, I cannot help but love the tradition. When applying to a new group, I am always a little hopeful that their decision will come via a startling wake-up. Though negative experiences, of course, exist, I hope that traditions such as these will not ever be overshadowed by fear of hazing new members of organizations.