Freshman fall. When we enter college, we bring with us our expectations, worries and high-school selves — who have been told that they are moving into the “best four years” of our lives.
Maybe we’re due for disillusionment when we realize that, as freshmen, we are initially barred from participating in Dartmouth’s primary social scene: Greek life. Due to the frat ban, freshmen are not allowed to enter Greek houses for the first six weeks of fall term — or until Homecoming, whichever comes later.
“I feel like I've been here six months. But obviously, that's not true,” Genevieve Schaefer, a fellow ’26, said.
Though only temporary, the frat ban is a long enough period to produce an alternative social scene among first-years, as classmates organize large-scale dorm parties within the Choates, the Fayes and other freshmen-dominated dormitories.
Especially to those charmed by Dartmouth’s reputation of being the “fun Ivy,” the quick migration of shmobs to the Fayesment or to some other dorm every on night might have been exactly what they expected. But to me, the freshman social scene doesn’t feel simple or intuitive.
Coming from Turkey, a country with different cultures around high school and drinking, I wasn’t expecting to have the same experience as everyone else. Even so, I was unprepared to be crammed up in a stuffy dorm room with forty people I don’t know on a Wednesday night or to witness a swarm of technically-legal adults running to avoid an awkward encounter with Safety and Security. Love it or hate it, the freshman party culture at Dartmouth is chaotic, odd and intriguing — and, despite how we promise ourselves that college is a new phase in our lives, it still represents many high school identities and desires bubbling to the surface.
“I kind of feel like this entire first month has been a repeat of early high school,” Schaefer, who tends to go out every on night, reflected. Schaefer said that hosts of parties tend to either “primarily be people who went out in high school, and were probably popular or well known, and ha[d] some sort of influence” or someone “who kind of randomly threw it out there like…trying to start something,” although they may not have partied before.
Ulgen Yildirim, a ’24 who is a UGA in the Fayes, also observed the lack of middle ground in the freshman party scene when it comes to the backgrounds of regular attendees.
“I think a lot of people were either at the top of the social hierarchy in their high schools and want to maintain that, or they were outcasts in their high schools and were not really appreciated. So they were missing out on having friends,” she said.
Still being emotionally attached to our high-school identities might explain why freshman parties feel like a big deal right now. Yildirim mentioned the pressure of moving into a different phase of life for many first-years.
“I think, once they come to Dartmouth people come in with a mindset of like, ‘Okay, this is my one opportunity to change,’” Yildirim said.
Yildirim highlighted the continuity of this social structure, reflecting on how social hierarchies follow you throughout Dartmouth.
“There’s a big culture of determining someone’s value or worth based on who they know, who they’re friends with, how many people they know and how many people they’re friends with,” she said. “There’s almost like an auto referral system based on popularity, which is a very abstract machine.”
Diego Perez, a ’23 and a UGA in the Fayes also noted the freshmen’s expectations of what social life at Dartmouth should look like influences their drive to create those social spaces for themselves.
“People are just trying to live that right away,” he said, referencing how freshmen parties imitate elements of Greek life. “Some of the alcohol that I’ve had to take away from people, it’s like, Keystone. That’s the most commonly used beer in Greek life, that’s the one that people get. It’s kind of odd to see that.”
It seems to me that the freshman party scene is, ahem, suboptimal. If so, why do we keep the party going under the miserable conditions of (not-so-)random dorms?
“Dartmouth is tough,” Schaefer said. “People grind and then they want to go have fun. But when there's nowhere to have fun, it can be kind of depressing.”
Yildirim attributed the hastiness of the freshman party scene to “your usual, very elevated fear of not being able to make friends. People who normally wouldn't even participate are inclined to participate because they’re like, ‘Everyone is going out, and people are meeting so many other people through this,’” she said.
This article is not an argument against the frat ban. In fact, every ’26 I have talked to about the rule unanimously agrees that it makes the going-out scene safer for freshmen. However, it is interesting to see how the alternative scene doesn’t accomplish what it was meant to — bringing the class together. Yet, was that ever an attainable goal?
“I think people create alternative exclusive spaces within their dorms. The frat ban doesn’t mean there’s no exclusivity just because there isn’t Greek Life,” Yildirim said. “But I think without the frat ban, [the uneven playing field] would be a lot more highlighted and accentuated.”
Maybe the shared confusion of freshman fall — dorm parties and all — is in itself enough to bring some shared sense of identity to the freshman class.
“We are all in this together, kind of,” Schaefer reflected.
Although we may never (at least, I truly hope not) see the entire class partying together, we may still form meaningful connections over our feelings of bewilderment and FOMO, or our processes of adaptation and progress. As the frat ban and freshman fall approach their respective ends, it is time to take our hopes of class connection out of the Fayesment once and for all.
No one really knows what’s going on yet, and that is okay.
We are all in this together.