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The Dartmouth
February 23, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

That Extra Special Something

One writer investigates what gives Dartmouth spirit.

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Dartmouth is a unique place. From the moment you step on campus, the lively, spirited feeling of “Dartmouth” is in the air — a sense picked up and carried with us through twelve hectic terms. 

In an effort to explore what exactly it is that creates the spirit — cult-like? Quasi-religious? — of Dartmouth, I interviewed three students about their experiences with Dartmouth spirit. 

Considering their track record this season, Big Green football has been eliminated from the running by a few of my friends — but Dartmouth football also creates the basis for traditions like Homecoming weekend, which is a necessary acknowledgement for my highly scientific study.

One tangible source of school spirit is Dartmouth cheer. Mia McClure ’24, a member of the cheer team, remarked on interest in the team and what makes Dartmouth’s cheerleaders excited to be a part of the tight-knit club program. McClure refuted the “misconception” that cheer only exists as a sideline to sports teams, describing how many cheerleaders join the program “for the joy that the sport of cheer itself brings.” McClure also mentioned that while “it’s that much more fun” to cheer on Dartmouth while we’re winning, the cheer team finds joy in every game — regardless of score — where they get to show the crowd the stunts and skills they’ve worked hard to perfect. 

If you’ve ever attended a Dartmouth football game, it’s hard to mistake the feel of a mid-afternoon Saturday matchup for the thrill of “Friday Night Lights” that students might expect. Knowing many friends who went onto the larger-than-life spectacles at UT Austin, for example, in my home state of Texas, it can feel hard to channel the same kind of enthusiasm embodied by the 4 a.m. wakeups for tailgate festivities common at many large state football schools. 

As I continued to search for this elusive source of Dartmouth spirit, Dartmouth traditions like Homecoming, Winter Carnival and Green Key came to mind. Lucas Gatterman ’23 has served on the Winter Carnival committee every year he’s been at Dartmouth, taking on the role of co-chair as a junior and again this year as a senior. 

Gatterman recalled that he had“no idea” what Winter Carnival was his freshman year, only joining the planning committee with a friend to occupy some time during the winter. Four years later — along with one “Oh my God, I’m so old” comment — Gatterman still contributes to this hallowed Dartmouth tradition. 

Gatterman’s sense of community with past classes contributes to his love of Sigma Nu fraternity, which he called “a really large part of [his] Dartmouth career.” Having the opportunity to talk to members of the Class of 1960 returning to the Sig Nu house, Gatterman appreciated his ability to have a natural conversation with them about the fraternity’s “lore” and “what has changed and stayed the same over time.” 

Between his experiences with Winter Carnival and the evolution of his fraternity, Gatterman emphasized the value of both a groundedness in Dartmouth’s history and a recognition of the challenge of adapting old traditions to modern times.

Aspects of campus-wide Dartmouth solidarity are continually changing. Viral posts on Fizz and a Class of 2026 phenomenon — Ranvir Deshmukh ’26 — are fresh additions to the arsenal of “just Dartmouth” knowledge. Just like the blitz/flitz/fritz lingo, the term “Ranvir Rager” has joined the Dartmouth vernacular — mostly for ’26s, but with enough recognition on Fizz to make Deshmukh’s celebrity recognizable to older students. 

Deshmukh commented on his expectations coming to Dartmouth and the source of his enthusiasm over his seven weeks as a matriculated student. He characteristically remarked that he “loves each and every ’26,” and the ability to “know everyone” was a vital part of his college search. The smallness of Dartmouth, Deshmukh remarked, allows him to witness “the intelligence and friendliness of his peers…combined with kind and generous professors.” 

Deshmukh’s glowing words certainly reflect his willingness to take the freshman pre-frat social scene into his own hands, making a name for himself right off the bat in 22F. These casual, unwritten parts of Dartmouth culture — like ’26s’ approach to creating a social community while they’re kept out of Greek spaces — are just as much a part of the spirit of Dartmouth as more formal, campus-wide traditions.

In ways small and large, Dartmouth students find community in the experience of living and learning in Hanover. In what can often feel like a bubble, haloed by leaf-shedding autumn trees and soon covered in snow, the Dartmouth experience is what the name implies — only captured by living out one’s time here, for better or for worse. 

Whether it’s football, the cheer community, planning the Carnival, belonging to a Greek space or partying hard as a freshman, Dartmouth students find a way to claim a part of the College’s centuries-old identity for themselves, leaving this campus with “Dartmouth Class of __” as a lasting piece of their identity.