New to campus and eager to learn about all that they may encounter at Dartmouth, many ’26s like myself often find themselves pondering the mystery that is the process of pledging a fraternity. “What could they possibly do to me? How far will they go?” we wonder. To our dismay, however, the hazing that has been fabled to accompany the pledging process, like the recipe for original Coca Cola, is a carefully guarded secret.
There are not a lot of hard facts out there about what one actually must do in order to successfully pledge a fraternity. I’ve even heard that some pledges are made to sign confidentiality agreements. Friends of mine on both varsity and club athletic teams have informed me of unusual hazing experiences, which sometimes seem to have few commonalities.
I appreciate the practical value of “door duty,” but I know deep down that there is more to pledging than that. Sometimes, I wish that someone would just give me a step-by-step process of frat hazing for which I could mentally, emotionally and physically prepare myself. In a way, though, I appreciate the beauty of its secrecy too.
Athletes are universally encouraged to be on their toes, to be ready for anything, to be unflinching in the face of any challenge — that is when an athlete is at their best. Is a frat house any different? I can almost appreciate the feeling of walking into a smelly basement, not knowing if I might encounter my greatest fear or the greatest party of my life.
This cryptic aroma has made frat hazing an alluring topic of conversation — and often the foundation for moral and ethical discussions — for curious Dartmouth first-years. So, I decided to investigate some of the discourse by asking ’26s what they think pledges are asked to do in order to prove their allegiance to their fraternity.
Eric Deeken ’26 is one of a handful of first-years who already has made friends with some members of Dartmouth fraternities. According to Deeken, he is pretty sure that hazing “depends on the frat.”
He said that one friend has to “wear a helmet and goggles for the whole term” — perhaps in case the flagpole on the Green makes unwanted contact with his nose.
“There’s no hazing at Dartmouth College,” Deeken said, to close out the interview.
There are certainly those that disapprove of the gut-wrenching, trig-pull-inducing hazing stories. Bea Sears ’26 is certain that pledges are “not always safe” with their bodies.
“Things that shouldn’t be said,” Sears said, permeate the pledging culture here at Dartmouth.
Maisie Pike ’26, another responsible first-year concerned for the safety of her friends, is virtually positive that pledges are forced to “lean against a wall, drink a lot of beer and then go swimming in the river.”
What might be considered a helluva Wednesday night for some Greek lifers was instead a subject of ridicule for Pike, as she said, “because that’s dangerous!”
Miles Opulauoho ’26 likened pledging to “being a dog for a couple months" — said with a smile and a wag of his tongue.
There are also many first-years who have nothing but good things to say about the process. Abby Sieler ’26 said that “they just take you to the pumpkin patch.”
A firsthand witness to a pledge required to sing while being an elevator operator at Berry, Alyssa Gagen ’26 believes that “pledges do entertaining things that keep spirits high.”
In terms of Dartmouth hazing specifically, Gagen said she is 100% certain that we will be subjected to a “mix of all the good hazing practices at other schools… and a little bit of the bad.”
Both Sieler and Gagen see the good that comes with some good-hearted pledge activities. Many ’26s, however, agree on the existence of “some other stuff involving frozen poultry,” in the words of Deeken.
Kevin Guo ’26 had only a few words to say when asked about the pledging system: “The turkey.” Even Sears, despite her precautions against the dangers of hazing, loved the idea of pledges wearing “a lot of flair and fancy costumes” — like an Ikea bucket hat to warm ears on a cold fall night, or a turkey to… well, you decide what to do with the turkey.
Correction appended (Oct.19, 2:27 p.m.): A previous version of this article misrepresented quotes by Deeken. The article has been updated.