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The Dartmouth
May 19, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

‘They Don’t Want Me to Have Fun Here, Mom!’: Deconstructing the Freshman Frat Ban

We speak with students about their feelings on the infamous freshman frat ban.

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Dartmouth is a school with many quirks, the six week freshmen frat ban being one of its admittedly less charming traditions. 

The logic behind the Greek Leadership Council’s Greek First-Year Safety and Risk Reduction Policy, as instituted in 2013, checks out, in theory: When freshmen form meaningful connections with their classmates outside of the chaotic Greek environment, they will enter the frats with a stronger, safer support system. Studies have shown that the first six weeks of college — referred to as the “red zone” — have heightened rates of sexual assault and alcohol abuse.​ In response to this disconcerting national pattern, the frat ban can be understood as a necessary precaution against sexual assault rather than an unwarrented punishment. 

The important rationale behind the policy, however, did not make my first six weeks on campus any less frustrating. For the first month and a half of college, I — along with the rest of the Class of 2025 — operated in a dystopian reality where dorm parties at some dude’s fourth floor suite in the Fayes comprised collegiate nightlife. On a campus where “going out” consists of dorm hopping, networking (I swear some prospective economics major tried to exchange business cards with me in the Fayesment) and meaningless small talk, Dartmouth’s party scene — if we can even call it that — was massively disappointing to me. And as the rest of my high school friend group was busy documenting their thriving college nightlife on social media, I couldn’t help but feel jealous. 

These feelings were not unique to just me. 

“They don’t want me to have fun here, Mom!” senior Zoe Wortzman ’22 recalled exclaiming to her mother during a particularly distressing phone call her freshman year. 

Upon reflection, Wortzman admitted that the frat ban was somewhat effective in facilitating a bond between her and her classmates — but at the cost of having what she described as a miserable first six weeks of school.

“I view the frat ban as a form of hazing in the sense that you have this collective, worse experience freshman year as a class that you are supposed to bond over,” Wortzman said. “I guess it works — but should we do that? Freshman fall is hard enough and I don’t think that the frat ban makes it any easier.”

“I view the frat ban as a form of hazing in the sense that you have this collective, worse experience freshman year as a class that you are supposed to bond over. I guess it works — but should we do that? Freshman fall is hard enough and I don’t think that the frat ban makes it any easier.”

For some, the opening of frats quickly became a symbolic beacon of hope — the light at the end of the tunnel — for many bored and struggling ’25s. Many freshmen kept obsessive daily countdowns until the end of the ban. “Only ____ more weeks until frat ban is over,” was a common conversation starter amid the otherwise dull banter of your typical Friday night dorm party. 

Of course it would be negligent to ignore the safety component of the frat ban: that this policy is enforced to protect vulnerable freshmen from sexual assault. 

While it may seem like the frat ban merely postpones instances of sexual assault, rather than directly preventing them, Sarah Birnbaum ’22, a member of the Sexual Assault Peer Alliance group, articulated the value in the frat ban from a SAPA perspective.

“The frat ban is one piece, a small piece, of a big picture of things that we can do to help prevent sexual assault on campus,” Birnbaum said. “Having the time to establish relationships with your peers, who will look out for you, learn about resources and get a better sense of Dartmouth culture and your place in it is really important before entering the Greek scene.”

Birnbaum acknowledged how dorm parties carry some of the same risks as frats — excessive alcohol consumption, crowds of unknown people, etc. — but noted a key difference between the two social spaces:

“The frat ban eliminates the risk of the age differential and the power dynamics associated with Greek spaces,” Birnbaum said. “And hopefully delays that risk such that you have a support system before entering a space where there are power dynamics of age.”

Kleigh Carroll, a freshman at UC Berkeley, had a much more typical collegiate nightlife experience. Within the first week of college, she was frequenting various Greek houses. While she appreciated the frats as an easy outlet to make friends, the vulnerability of being a girl in a foreign basement with ample alcohol was not lost on Carroll.

“It’s weird because you are in a completely new place with complete strangers, and you’re basically putting your trust in them,” Carroll said. “Coming from high school parties where you knew basically everyone, it’s weird to look around in the middle of a frat and realize that you’re with complete strangers.”

Some Dartmouth students appreciate the frat ban, including Chandini Peddanna ’25 who said she liked Dartmouth dorm parties for the safe, intimate and inclusive environment that they provided. 

“A lot of people come into college having never been drunk before,” Peddanna said. “Everybody is at their own level, and I feel like finding your limits and testing your limits in a dorm, with a small group of people [is safer], versus, getting drunk and then continuing to drink while you’re at a frat with a bunch of people who you don’t know is a lot more dangerous.”

Peddanna wholly attributes the creation of her friend group to the frat ban, which allowed her to form meaningful connections with a smaller group of first-years. To this day, she continues to go out with the same handful of freshmen that she met at a random dorm party during her first month on campus. 

Birnbaum had a similar experience to Peddanna and fondly reminisces over the memories she made with her freshman year floormates during the frat ban. 

“In hindsight it was really great to have the opportunity to bond with them before we entered the Greek scene in all of its chaos and make those friends that I’m still really close to,” Birnbaum said.