Smith: Sharing the Burden

by Andres Smith | 2/15/15 7:26pm

While much ink has been spilled over the College President Phil Hanlon’s “Moving Dartmouth Forward” plan — primarily about the hard alcohol ban — some changes to the Greek system have been largely glossed over. The new rules concerning third-party bartenders and security at events are going change the Dartmouth social scene — and it may not be a change for the better.

According to President Hanlon’s plan, the school “will require third-party security and bartenders for social events.” Given current College policies regarding registered events, it is likely that Hanlon’s proposition, as far as Greek houses are concerned, will apply primarily to any gathering in which more than 50 people are in attendance and at least one of those is a non-member. This doesn’t sound like a bad idea, especially where Greek social events are concerned — a third- party individual would be more likely to remain levelheaded when a difficult situation arose at a party because they have no house loyalty, enabling them to prioritize safety over reputation. This measure, however, will likely increase exclusivity on campus, particularly within the Greek system — in direct opposition to the well-intentioned goals of “Moving Dartmouth Forward.”

Right now, our undergraduate social life is largely dominated by the Greek system. New policies that seek to change this may be successful, but it will take years before their full effects are seen. Inclusivity has always been a contentious issue — unaffiliated students should be able to enjoy the social scene just as much as their affiliated classmates. If this balance is already skewed in favor of the affiliated, it seems the third-party bouncer and bartender policy will only shift this imbalance further. The financial burden that this policy demands will likely cause houses to become more closed off to the general student body — and unaffiliated students are going to suffer.

Throwing a large social event is already expensive, and many Greek houses are on relatively tight budgets. Requiring them to spend more money to hire these third-party bartenders will add another hurdle to organizing social events. If it becomes more difficult or cumbersome to prepare for hosting guests, the number of large events — which are the ones that are the most open to campus — will presumably shrink. Instead, houses will likely opt for smaller gatherings of just members and their close friends. Parties require formal registration — members and their friends playing pong in the basement does not. New regulations for hiring additional help will only make it more difficult, or at least time-consuming, for houses to organize registered events. Hosting parties, for some houses, may soon reach a point where it no longer seems worth the trouble.

I understand the appeal of third-party bouncers and bartenders. We as a community must do all we can to ensure that our social space is, above all, safe. Therefore, I propose an alternative: establishing a system where each house “lends” bouncers and bartenders for other houses’ registered events. If a house wants to register an event, they must be willing to commit a certain number of members to work another house’s registered event later in the term. In exchange, they get members of another house to work as bouncers and bartenders. Since non-members have more freedom to monitor an event without considering or privileging possible negative effects on the hosting organization, more of the impartiality that would come with the third-party bouncers and bartenders is preserved without any of the monetary cost. Houses could surely convince a few members to sacrifice some of their time if it meant that they then did not have to worry about security and alcohol service during their own events. This support system among houses would increase security and keep costs low, but it would also expand cooperation among houses and forge inter-house relationships that may not have existed otherwise — and create a sense that students are accountable to one another.

We have to do everything we can to keep our social scene safe, but that does not have to come at the cost of inclusivity. These new rules will likely to dissuade Greek houses from having registered events, which will, in turn, further exclude non-members from the Greek system. A cooperative and interdependent system of bouncers and bartenders, however, will make it easier for houses to hold large, open events.