Reflecting on the Freshman Frat Ban

by Maria Hidalgo | 10/31/18 2:00am

We are often attracted to uncanny situations. Stories with ghosts, the reanimated dead and unexplainable mysteries have become a vital part of our popular culture during this time of the year. During special days such as Halloween and Friday the thirteenth, people intentionally create unsettling environments. For example, they may organize events such as haunted houses in order to be fully immersed in discomforting surroundings. Similarly, Dartmouth students may find interactions scary or unsettling at places such as Greek houses. Even though Greek houses are often stereotyped as being a place for parties or social gatherings, these houses do sometimes create a somewhat troubling environment for students who are not used to a scene of hard partying.

Stephanie Rivera Ithier ’21 said she thinks it is important to not go out alone, but rather with some close friends. 

“It will be overwhelming regardless of where you go, either a pong scene or a dance party,” Rivera said. “I think you should really go with someone you trust, especially for women.”

When she goes out, Rivera discusses her expections for the night with her friends beforehand. Once out, she and her friends like to stick together.  

The College prohibits first-year students from attending Greek houses throughout the majority of their fall term, a policy which may facilitate a smoother transition to Dartmouth’s social scene.

Brandon Guzman ’22 believes that the Greek house ban helps freshman focus on their academics during their first term at the College.

“I believe the frat ban is fair, because freshmen are set up with the expectations that they have to drink and they have to go out all the time,” Guzman said. “While it does not completely eliminate it, the frat ban does inhibit some people and impose limits so that they focus more on academics than on going out to drink.”

International exchange student Yuriko Gonda shares a positive view on the frat-ban, given that she believes that it can protect freshmen from the sudden transition to the social scene at the Greek houses.

“I think Greek life is very unique. It can be very fun, but it can be quite dangerous. Therefore, I think it is fair, in order to protect freshmen who just got into the College,” Gonda said. “They should get used to the college and the social life for the first weeks, then get into the workings of Greek life.” 

Many students do believe that the Greek house ban does offer a good way to meet people that one would not have known otherwise. In addition, it may encourage students to focus more intently on their studies.

Daniel Torres ’21 agrees that it allows first-year students to spend time on their school work.

“It gives them time to adjust to the College environment, especially on the academic side,” Torres said. “It is good to have a set amount of time to socialize with people, but it also pushes you to meeting others in classes or in other activities.” 

The lifting of the Greek house ban does offer the opportunity for freshmen to better understand the party scene at Dartmouth. 

“When I first went to a party in a Greek house, it was exactly what I was expecting, which is hardcore parties,” Torres said. “It kind of shows a sad truth of the Greek system that exists here at Dartmouth, but there was nothing that surprised me specifically.”

There are often times when the traditions seem somewhat restrictive. Therefore, it is somewhat doubtful whether Greek organizations can effectively impement the proposals for change. Some of these institutions are working to create a more comfortable environment for their members and the community at large.  

“I feel that Greek life in itself is evolving as we go with the opening of other social spaces on campus,” Rivera said. “I definitely believe that it dominates Dartmouth socially, which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, when we talk of sexual assault statistics and hazing, these problems are being currently dealt with. As an affiliated member, these conversations are happening, and these matters are being brought to light more and more often.”

However, on a similar note, the repeated misconduct of these Greek houses and their subsequent “forgiveness” from the College leads some students to see the improvement of Greek houses as futile.

“I feel that everyone says, ‘Yes, it can change for the better,’ but does it really change?” Guzman said. “Yes, I think they are capable of change, but that does not mean they will. They are able to change some things, like having more gender-inclusive houses. But I believe that, at the end of the day, people are somewhat not that into change.”

These questions sometimes lead to the inevitable overruling one, “Is Greek life at Dartmouth obsolete?” This question is oftentimes a tricky one to unpack, given how popular these organizations are among the student body.

Every time, I mention that I go to Dartmouth, someone usually asks me, “Isn’t that the College that inspired Animal House?” Even though the fraternity scene at Washington University in St. Louis was also an important source of inspiration for the movie, you have to admit that there is some truth to that question. These stereotypes may start to define the College for some outsiders, which may damage our reputation by presenting a distorted and erroneous version of the truth. For example, not all Dartmouth freshmen eagerly await the rush process, but some take comfort in other student activities. 

“Some people have suggested me to join a Greek organization, since not all of them are stereotypically frat-based or homophobic,” Guzman said. “However, I am not a fan of forced socialization or mixers, and I think it takes away from the College experience. Given that when you live in the dorms or even the Living Learning Communities, you are interacting with other people, but once you get to frats and sororities you limit yourself to only hang out with those people.”

In addition, the rise of the house system may, over time, create another sense of community on campus. Greek life provides some students the sense of community that some of our fellow Ivies had in their residential house systems. The introduction of the house communities in 2016 attempted to create some sense of alternative social space, where students who would rather not join Greek life can still find a house organization. Even though this policy has faced quite a lot of backlash in the years after the implementation of the policy, some in the newer classes that have been attending Dartmouth have started to embrace these communities as their own. 

Greek organizations continue to dominate the social scene, given the years of power and influence they have had over the college and the student body. 

Even though an organization is Greek does not mean that it is an inherently biased organization, there is truth in the statement that they should be a place where you should be more aware of your surroundings. Therefore, in this season of unnerving and unsettling environments, when you go to a Greek house, keep your friends close and your common sense closer.