Hill-Weld: Belonging Responsibly
On the two sides of Greek life and social spaces at Dartmouth.
As a brother of Bones Gate fraternity, I don’t make a habit of talking to the press, but we all make exceptions sometimes. And the rush process is one such exception. It plays a crucial role in determining which individuals on this campus will be endowed with the abilities and resources to facilitate major social spaces at Dartmouth. Granted, across campus there is a mixture of rushees who have had varying opportunities to acquaint themselves with the full body of the house they are joining. But regardless of whether they enter a house after terms of building credentials and connections or if they come with none at all, rushing a house gives every member the privileges of affiliation — and it is the scope of those privileges that I would like to address.
Those reading this could be current members of a house, new members or anyone in between, if affiliated at all. Regardless of the amount of time someone has spent in a Greek house, whether they are a member or as a guest, the weight of one’s entitlement to that space in its function as a social space on Dartmouth’s campus does not increase. For fraternities, being chosen to be a member has to do with current members of the house assessing both your persona and personality by getting to know you over a long period of time — or so we like to think. It is a validation of the idea that someone in the house wants you, the human being that you are, to be a part of their community. This is a powerful feeling, one that may lead people to believe that they are entitled to the space they occupy with their brothers. However, that feeling of belonging should not counterbalance the degree of responsibility carried with membership. Greek houses do plenty to cultivate that feeling of belonging in their members — but they do not do enough to cultivate that sense of responsibility.
Fraternities and sororities are both multidimensional spaces, but the aspect I am most concerned with is the space the house is to its visitors. The role of the house as a social space, and not simply a private community, creates a new kind of obligation for members. In addition to the already existing requirement to engage with the fellow members of one’s house, rushees are also compelled to consider their role as creators and generators of Dartmouth’s social spaces.
It’s not “the boys” or “the girls” who are in a house, but the continued attendance of its visitors that gives our institutions their power. I doubt anyone would agree that an oversimplification such as “we come + house pays” accurately describes the exchange between hosts and guests. There are so many other dimensions to the interactions that happen in a house during an on-night. A person’s experience at a house won’t vary that much based on the kind of drinks they get (for the most part), but it will vary in accordance with all the things the house isn’t spending money on. The attitude of the brother or sister on table in their basement reflects not just on themselves, but on the house’s overall demeanor. The availability of information regarding house officers for safety concerns or a dark crowded basement with no sober brothers in sight supervising can have a huge impact on someone’s ability to let go and enjoy themselves.
Whether someone knows the visitors in their house or not doesn’t change the fact that those visitors’ comfort matters. Everyone has the exact same right to their space and autonomy. And this is far from a request to reach out to every new face you see. I know Bones Gate wouldn’t be the same without our good old inhospitable spookiness, but what I do urge is for members of Greek houses to be intentional in their interactions with visitors.
To simply stumble through our social calendars with no plan or vision for a larger campus and community is a terrible disservice to the platform we affiliated students have lucked our way into. We get to decide, both actively and passively, what we want to model for generations of Dartmouth students. We spend our time at Dartmouth learning how to socialize and conduct ourselves in explicitly nonprofessional environments, and we ought to capitalize on it rather than let it slip through our hands. It’s now or never.