Party atmosphere during Green Key weekend a concern for some

by Anne George | 5/17/19 2:35am

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Green Key is one of the most anticipated weekend of the year — the Programming Board’s concert featuring national headliners, the Frat Row block party and free food from local restaurants can feel like a much-needed reprieve from the monotony and isolation of attending college in the woods. 

However, since the first Green Key concert in 2013, the town of Hanover has expressed concern about concert security, crowd behavior and pressure on emergency services, according to a message published online by the Programming Board.

Because of these concerns, town manager Julia Griffin said that in 2017, Hanover mandated that there must be a physical enclosure around the concert venue and a method of limiting access to Dartmouth students and their guests.

The Programming Board began giving out wristbands in 2017 to students and their guests that would allow them to enter and exit the concert grounds as they please. Concert director Monica Lee ’19 explained that this year, students can pre-register non-Dartmouth students and claim up to three guest wristbands. She added that each guest wristband is associated with a student in order to deter them from selling their wristbands to high schoolers in the area, a practice that has been common in the past. 

Griffin said that parents in town feel like the party culture that surrounds Green Key can have detrimental impacts on their children. She said she believes that these fears are not unfounded because unsafe situations that involve high school students arise every year. 

“They worry that their children will somehow sneak out of their home or say they are going to a friend’s and then turn up at a Green Key event,” she said. “The next thing they know, they’re getting a call from the Hanover Police Department that their intoxicated child is in the emergency room.” 

Lillian Daley, a town resident, said that when she was a Hanover High School student, a number of her peers attended a Green Key performance by Kesha in 2009 by obtaining tickets through the College, and said that looking back she regrets not attending. 

However, Daley added that she understands why the College has made the event exclusive to Dartmouth students. She recalled that her alma mater had a similar concert weekend and that it was a great experience to share with her peers. 

“I am really glad that I was able to participate in a lot of sporting events through the College growing up, but I can understand why it would be nice for the Dartmouth student community to have this [to themselves],” she said.

Griffin also said that parents in the area don’t appreciate how visible illicit activities are during Green Key weekend. 

“Parents drive by the front lawns of fraternities and sororities and see the pong tables out front with red cups strewn everywhere,” Griffin explained. “It spells alcohol. We hate to see the College portrayed that way. What we worry about is the image of drunk students and pong tables and raunchy parties.”

In addition to the safety concerns, Griffin said that there are always noise complaints because of the amplified sound from the concerts. The town has required the College to revise its procedures significantly over the years. Any student organization that wishes to host an event during Green Key has to first have its proposal vetted by the College and then submit a permit to the town for approval. 

Griffin said that this year the town denied concert permit requests from the East Wheelock housing cluster, Psi Upsilon fraternity and Theta Delta Chi fraternity. Griffin said the East Wheelock cluster did not understand that it needed to approach the College for approval first and wanted to host performers on Thursday night. Psi Upsilon and Theta Delta Chi’s Saturday night concert proposals were rejected because of its proximity to the School House neighborhood, which already deals with noise from the Thayer School construction project, according to Griffin. 

“We have also had some real problems with the outdoor concerts hosted by these two fraternities in the past, sort of blowing people right out of their homes with the level of sound,” she said.  

Daley said she is surprised to hear that there have been noise complaints during Green Key. 

“I grew up a mile away from downtown Hanover, and the noise was never an issue where I lived,” she explained. “Now, I live closer to town and I have actually never heard anyone complain. My guess is that people that live right next to campus might be impacted, but the vast majority of Hanover doesn’t really hear that Green Key is going on.”

Griffin added that she does not understand why the College chooses to have one “big, blowout weekend,” and explained that despite it being a tradition, Green Key weekend has evolved from its origins.

The Green Key Society was formed in 1921 “with service to Dartmouth as its sole function and purpose” and began hosting a Spring Prom in 1929 because the College felt that there were not enough social events in the spring. According to the 1951 Green Key handbook, the College refused to allow the event anymore after a number of student organizations mishandled it. Once the Green Key Society was given the responsibility to organize the Spring Prom, it created a student loan fund from the proceeds.

“Every year there are discussions about what is the purpose of Green Key,” Griffin said. “The Green Key society is originally a service society, and the weekend used to be focused on the community service aspect of Dartmouth. The College has wrestled with that.”

Despite these concerns, Lee said she believes that Green Key is what students make of it and that the entire campus should not have to face repercussions for some of their poor behavior.

“The Programming Board’s contribution to Green Key Weekend is the concert, and we want to continue to bring great musical talent and put on a great event,” she said. 

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