Picture this: You’re at tails, and you’re about to head to the basement for a game of pong. You leave your cup before you make your way downstairs, but have you ever thought about where you put it down? That’s probably a fraternity brother’s desk, and the first drawer is where he keeps his Economics class notes. And that brilliant drunken idea to hide your fracket in the oven? A brother cooked his dinner out of that oven last night. Oh, and that morning club initiation in a sorority basement last month? The booming music woke up a sorority sister at 7 a.m. Welcome to living in a Greek house.
With over 60% of eligible students affiliated, Greek life is a prominent force on Dartmouth’s campus. To most Dartmouth students, the over 25 Greek houses at Dartmouth are seen as the location for the next disco night or student band concert. But to certain members of these organizations, they serve as residential buildings — and the opportunity to live in them can be competitive.
Emily Pommier ’22, a member and resident of Alpha Xi Delta sorority, and Bailey Hand ’22, a member and resident of Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority, both described how residency in a sorority house is based on a points system. Points are awarded for sorority involvement — like being on the executive board, attending meetings or going to events.
“I remember I signed up to do everything because I really wanted to live in the house,” Hand recalls. “I was like, ‘Oh my god, I have to do all of these things and hold all of these roles in order to get a place in the house.’”
For some fraternities, the housing selection process is slightly less structured. Robert Doherty ’22, a resident and member of Alpha Chi Alpha fraternity, explained that the chance to live in his fraternity is “based on your seniority in the exec board and then it’s randomized, where people who haven’t had a chance to live [in the house] usually get preference.”
As this selection process suggests, the desire to live in a Greek house is second nature for most affiliated students. Hand loves the idea of a communal, social and home-like space to share with her friends, so it was “definitely a pretty easy choice” to decide to live in the house. For Connor Seeley ’22, a resident and member of Chi Gamma Epsilon fraternity, the choice to live in his fraternity was all about brotherhood.
“Especially coming back from COVID, there were just so many people I hadn’t seen in a while and missed a lot,” Seeley said. “This was the best way to see all the people I could, as frequently as possible.”
Coincidentally, everyone I interviewed began living in their Greek house in fall 2020, when students lived in forced singles due to COVID-19 restrictions. During that term, all of them felt that living in their Greek house made for a less isolating term, as they were able to see their friends in passing and utilize outdoor spaces.
“I think [COVID] really isolated people, but living in a house with nine girls, no matter what, we were going to interact with each other,” Hand said. “I remember us spending our nights up in the ‘frattic,’ playing cards, and hanging out on the porch. That was one of the first times where I truly felt like a member of KDE — it really facilitated relationships for me and just made me a more confident member.”
Although COVID-19 restrictions increased the amount of time house residents spent together, the return to social normalcy allowed those living in Greek houses to grow even closer. Doherty described how this year, living in his fraternity allows him to see his best friends every day.
“[Greek house residents] always have an option to do social things, like get a meal with somebody, play pong, whatever,” Doherty said.
Pommier feels “closer to everyone living in the house” and expressed that she is a bit more likely to go to her weekly Wednesday meetings now that they are just one flight of stairs away from her room.
However, living in an inherently social space as a student can have its drawbacks, particularly when it comes to sleep. Doherty lives on the first floor of his fraternity, and he can distinctly hear basement music from his room. In response, he began using noise-canceling earbuds, and he now feels like he can “sleep through most things, unless it’s people screaming outside [his] door at 4 a.m.”
Even on the third floor of his fraternity and in the room “furthest away from the basement,” Seeley can still clearly hear music on an ‘on’ night. Hand, although she has had limited issues with noise, lives right above her sorority basement’s speaker and will sometimes hear music at “rogue hours” when KDE hosts club socials, making any night’s sleep an unpredictable affair.
In addition to forfeiting quality sleep, living in a Greek space can also make it difficult to differentiate work and play. Pommier has always found it difficult to get work done in her room, but living in her sorority can make it harder to skip out on in-house events if she has too much work.
“If I have to do work, I’ll just go right to the library,” Doherty explained. “[Living in the house] definitely makes getting work done harder, but that’s not as much of a problem during senior spring.”
Furthermore, partygoers are not always restricted to the basement — many Greek houses open up house members’ bedrooms during ‘on’ nights, which may feel fun or invasive depending on the inhabitant. Seeley admitted that it can sometimes feel intrusive when a group of strangers are in his room, but he understands “it’s also something that you just sign up to do” when you live in a fraternity house.
On the other hand, Hand enjoyed hosting partygoers in her room during Tackiez — a termly KDE event.
“I had a whole group of people in my room and I loved it,” Hand said. “I don’t care — the more the merrier.”
Despite the loudness and the occasional lack of privacy, each person interviewed wholeheartedly recommended living in a Greek house.
“I don’t think there’s ever going to be another time in my life when I’m living in a house with 20 of my friends and only 20 of my friends,” Seeley said. “I think it’s a perfect way to finish off your Dartmouth experience.”