Class of 2025 subject to frat ban this fall, but not Class of 2024

The policy, which aims to ensure a more communal and safe transition to college, bars first-year students from entering Greek houses during the first six weeks of term.

by Daniel Modesto | 9/7/21 5:25am

by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

This article is featured in the 2021 Freshman special issue.

After a long year characterized by virtual classes and COVID-19 gathering limits, the fall term will mark the return to a more traditional college experience — and social spaces.

Among the most popular spaces that students will return to in the fall are the basements of Webster Avenue. Greek houses held virtual rush during the winter term, but the pandemic impacted Greek life in other ways as well, including sororities’ financial difficulties due to insurance premiums and increased calls for diversity and inclusion

One aspect of Greek life that was absent during the pandemic was the Greek First-Year Safety and Risk Reduction Policy — more commonly known as the frat ban. The policy creates a period during which freshmen are prohibited from entering and attending events at Greek houses until either after Homecoming or the seventh Monday of the fall term — whichever occurs later. 

According to Greek Leadership Council chair Brandon Zhou ’22, the frat ban, originally implemented by the GLC, dates back to 2013 as a way to “promote” events outside of Greek life, including more dry events. 

“I think that [the frat ban] is a beneficial policy that gives first-year students the space that they need — a safe and comfortable space for them — as they’re transitioning into college,” he said. “I think that this policy allows first-year students to form a community, especially with members of their own class, outside of the social pressures that exist in the Greek system.” 

Furthermore, the frat ban aims to address the safety of freshmen, especially during their first term on campus. In an emailed statement, Title IX coordinator Kristi Clemens wrote that although the Title IX office does not have any data on the policy’s effect at the College, the frat ban policy is “consistent” with a “student affairs approach based in years of research.” She highlighted an article from Anthology, a higher education solutions company, stating that the first six weeks on campus for first-year students present “the potential for high-risk alcohol consumption, drug use, hazing, sexual assault and suicidal ideation.” 

According to Zhou, the frat ban was technically in place for the Class of 2024 last year — although redundantly, as Greek spaces were out of reach for most students due to COVID-19 guidelines — and there will not be a frat ban for members of the Class of 2024 during the upcoming fall term, as the ban is only intended for freshmen. 

Marissa Gourd ’24 said she “definitely” felt like she missed out on a typical college experience last year, adding that “basically all of last year felt like the frat ban.”

“I feel like I’m still in my first year with [regular college] experiences just because last year only gave us academic experiences,” she said. “We didn’t have as many social experiences as other [class] years.”

Trace Hilbun ’24 said that despite the limited social spaces in the fall, he felt that he and many in the Class of 2024 were able to make “pretty good friends.” Furthermore, he was able to meet affiliated upperclassmen through virtual pre-rush events during the spring term.

In the past, freshmen under the frat ban have found alternative social spaces to Greek ones. During the fall of 2013 — the year the frat ban was first instituted — the Collis Center introduced Collis After Dark as a substance-free alternative to Greek life, which remained popular even after the frat ban for freshmen ended. Furthermore, Zhou noted that certain Greek house events, if dry and approved by the GLC, are open to freshmen even during the frat ban. 

According to Gender-Inclusive Greek Council chair Tanvir Islam ’22, GIGC houses such as Phi Tau coed fraternity and Alpha Theta coed fraternity offer dry events such as “Milk and Cookies” and “Mellows” that are open to campus and offer an alternative social space to traditional Greek parties.

Islam, a member of Alpha Theta, said that he “didn’t mind” the frat ban during his freshman fall because the transition from high school to college was already an “overwhelming” one, and he didn’t go to Greek houses until the following winter term.

Other upperclassmen echoed similar sentiments in support of the frat ban. Ian Stiehl ’22 said he believes that the frat ban is a “positive” policy for freshmen, as it allows them to build connections within their class.

“By the time you actually get to go to Greek spaces,” Stiehl said, “you have a better understanding of what they’re like and have friends that you can be with in those spaces, which is important for safety.”

Tanner Randall ’23 said that the frat ban “does a lot of good” in that freshmen get to know their class, noting that he “enjoyed the social scene of purely [’23s]” that the frat ban period encourages. However, he noted that he sees having less interactions with upperclassmen as a downside of the ban.

Furthermore, according to Randall, the frat ban gives rise to parties in residence halls, which may not be as safe for activities like drinking.

“From my personal experience, you don’t know where someone’s coming from, how many dorms they’ve stopped off at, and what they’ve been doing,” he said. “And so it’s interesting because I definitely heard more horror stories from the first six weeks in the dorms than I did for frats later on.”

In an email statement, Office of Greek Life program coordinator Jessica Barloga said that for the upcoming term, OGL will continue to offer training programs such as the Alcohol Management Program and Sexual Violence Prevention and Response workshops for Greek house presidents and other executive board members.

In light of the lack of a frat ban for members of the Class of 2024, Zhou recognized that many have a “lack of experience” with Greek life. He added that the GLC has had “discussions” about how to introduce sophomores to Greek life in a way that is “meaningful for them, meaningful for their peers and also safe for everyone involved.”

For sophomores and freshmen alike, many of whom will enter Greek spaces for the first time in the near future, there are many aspects of Greek life unknown to them. Islam said that sophomores should “prioritize what [they] want to do,” noting that “FOMO [the “fear of missing out”] is very big here, and it really shouldn’t be as big as it is.” 

Since many sophomores haven’t had much experience with Greek life, Randall said they should “go in with a blank slate when [they’re] judging fraternities,” but also urged caution due to “a sexual assault problem in Greek spaces.”

This summer, all eight Dartmouth sororities implemented “mandatory, non-negotiable” requirements for Greek houses hosting social events, designed to be a first step to combatting sexual assault on campus and making Greek spaces safer. For example, under the new policies, hosting organizations must provide non-alcoholic drinks and post the contact information of house risk managers and resources such as Title IX throughout the house.

Addressing the freshmen, Stiehl said that it’s important to recognize that “the social scene at Dartmouth does not have to be exclusively defined by Greek life, [which is] sort of what the frat ban is getting at.” He added that first-years should “enjoy” the time with their classmates outside of Greek spaces.

“It shouldn’t be the objective every night to violate the frat ban and get into a Greek house,” he said. “The frat ban is not a set of rules meant to be broken, and there will be so many nights that [you] will be able to get to Greek spaces when [you] want to later on.”

Interfraternity Council president Danny Gold ’22 and Inter-Sorority Council president Molly Katarincic ’22 did not respond to requests for comments. Chapter presidents of Bones Gate and Sigma Nu fraternities and Alpha Phi and Epsilon Kappa Theta sororities did not respond to requests for comments.