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The Dartmouth
June 23, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Verbum Ultimum: Fall Back — to Winter Term

The frat ban must be extended to better reflect the spirit of the policy — to promote community and mitigate risks for first-year students.

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Dartmouth’s “Greek Life Social Responsibility and First Year Student Policy” — more commonly known as the “frat ban” — is regularly in effect for the majority of the fall term. The policy, which was implemented in 2013 at the request of student leaders in Greek life, is meant to promote safety and community and decrease risks among first-year students as they transition into the College’s social scene. The frat ban forbids first-year students from attending events at Greek houses where alcohol is served until “noon on the Monday after Homecoming weekend, or the seventh Monday of the term, whichever is later,” according to the Greek Life website. It also hands out lofty punishments to students and Greek organizations where infractions occur — including preventing individuals from joining a Greek organization until after their sophomore year. According to an email sent to students on Friday, Sep. 16, this year’s frat ban will end on Monday, Oct. 31.

This Editorial Board unanimously supports the frat ban and the spirit behind it. That said, we also agree on something else: The Frat Ban ends too early, and the College must extend it to truly achieve the goals behind the policy.

The frat ban aims to promote safety and reduce risks among first-year students, and with good reason: Dartmouth research from 2017 shows that 34.1% of undergraduate females had experienced nonconsensual physical touching or penetration since entering college, and a 2015 national study finding that 15% of college women reported being raped in their first year. What’s more, a report by the National Institute of Justice found that one in five women report experiencing an instance of sexual violence at some point throughout their college careers. Concerningly, the same report found that most sexual violence incidents occur where alcohol or other drugs are involved.

In limiting access to the locations on our campus where drugs and alcohol are used most frequently, the frat ban — in theory — helps mitigate these risks by moving the locus of first-year social life out of Greek houses. Sure, many first-years simply end up partying in dorms instead, but these parties usually happen with other members of their class, removing the power imbalance that seniors possess over first-year students who are unfamiliar in these spaces. What’s more, dorms are equipped with undergraduate advisers who can provide support and access to resources if and when risky behaviors are present. Moving students’ early formative social experiences out of Greek spaces and into dorms means that they may be more likely to have positive experiences and form healthier habits. This is particularly relevant when Greek spaces pose heightened dangers, as a 2014 study found that “males who joined a fraternity increased their high-risk alcohol use and this in turn increasedtheir likelihood of engaging in sexual aggression.” Thus, it makes sense that the current frat ban ends after Homecoming — as first-year students should not be exposed to the high-risk behaviors and hazardous environments of upperclassmen, alumni and visiting guests created by the first big party weekend of the academic year.

This tends to mean that the first big “party weekend” for first-year students revolves around Halloween. By the time the frat ban ends, students are often itching for their time to shine in Greek houses, and the spooky parties surrounding Halloween make it seem like the perfect time to do so. But is it really? Members of this Editorial Board shared that the social scene during Halloween — in which festivities in recent memory have been known to start on a Wednesday and continue through Saturday or even Sunday — is one of the most overwhelming weekends of the entire school year. Coupled with disguises and costumes, Halloween can be a time when people can hide behind another identity, offering an excuse for risky behavior. 

Not only is Halloween always a time of concern on campus, but this year the holiday caps off Homecoming weekend, a time when many alumni converge onto campus and relive their social roots in Greek spaces. While normally the frat ban allows these two big weekends to be celebrated separately, this year they are molded into one — increasing the likelihood of hazardous activities and violating the spirit of the frat ban itself.

Ending the frat ban during fall term also presents unique safety and logistical challenges for Greek houses themselves. Fraternity rush and sorority recruitment end sometime in early- to mid-October, just a couple weeks before the frat ban ends. That leaves little time for new members to get acclimated to the culture of the houses they now have power over or ownership in or to learn the safety roles they are expected to hold as new members — including important jobs such as door duty and risk monitor. Limiting entry into Greek houses to older students — who are more likely to know their limits with alcohol and have had plenty of time to get acquainted with safety practices — makes life easier for Greek chapters and promotes safer social spaces.

For these reasons, the frat ban should extend to the entire fall term, ending on the first day of winter classes. This would allow the frat ban to have the same benefits it already has in terms of safety, while ensuring that progress is not lost by its premature end — and gives Greek houses more time to onboard new members in a less stressful environment.

That said, we do recognize that this year’s date for the end of the frat ban has already been announced. Therefore, we instead ask for something simpler for this year’s ban: extend it by just 24 hours.

Combining both Homecoming weekend and Halloween with the end of the frat ban — as is currently the plan — is a recipe for disaster. Given the intense parties that will happen on campus during Halloween, it is also possible that alumni will stick around to enjoy Halloween on-campus. What’s more, rush was delayed by one week in most houses, giving new members less time to become acclimated to the culture of Greek life and safety practices. By allowing the frat ban to lapse at noon on Halloween, first-year students will be exposed to an incredibly dangerous environment as they enter alcohol-filled Greek spaces for the first time. Delaying the end of the frat ban by 24 hours to noon on Nov. 1 will decrease risks and increase students’ capacity to promote safety.

We recognize that extending the frat ban will feel like pouring salt in a wound for many members of the Class of 2026. We apologize if this editorial feels paternalistic or condescending. But, safety is not an individual enterprise. It is a collective responsibility, and one person’s safety — or lack thereof — affects each and every member of the Dartmouth community. Many of us have benefited from the tight bonds that Greek life can help procure, even for new members, but we have also seen Greek life at its worst. For that, we recognize the need to extend the frat ban this year and beyond, and we hope ’26s get a sense of where we are coming from.

Dartmouth has the important responsibility of providing safeguards to protect its students. Allowing the frat ban to end in the midst of a particularly dangerous time on campus is nothing less than the College shirking this responsibility. For the safety of everyone — most especially the ’26s — Dartmouth must extend the frat ban, both this year and for years to come.

The editorial board consists of opinion staff columnists, the opinion editors, the executive editors and the editor-in-chief.

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