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The Dartmouth
April 16, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Shores: A Semi-Official Petition to End Dartmouth’s Puritanical War on Outdoor Drinking Games

The College’s rules regarding pong and other activities common in Greek Life are counterproductive.

The weather is warm, the birds are chirping and Dartmouth students are once more emerging from their respective dens of sin and iniquity to bask in the ephemeral glory of the New Hampshire spring. Just a few days ago, a few of the good brothers of Theta Delta Chi fraternity and I decided to play a game of pong. This game of pong, however, came with a twist. Instead of playing in the muck and squalor of the TDX basement, we thought, hell, why not go play pong outside? So we set up a table on our lawn, cranked up a speaker and got to work. It felt pretty innocent, perhaps even wholesome — just a couple of good friends having a few beers on a Saturday afternoon and enjoying the good weather. Or so we thought. As soon as they got wind of our outdoor pong game, Safety and Security officers arrived with a response time likely faster than the local police. After a cordial greeting, we were told by the Safety and Security officers that our game was, in fact, against the rules. Specifically, students are forbidden to drink “outside of, or on the grounds of, residence halls, Greek facilities, undergraduate and senior societies, academic affinities, special interest houses or other student organizational facilities and in any other specified areas including decks, porches, fire escapes and roofs,” to quote Dartmouth’s Official Alcohol and Drug Use Policy.

​Understanding that we were in fact dangerous criminals whose brazen idea to play a game of pong outside was in direct contradiction with the good Christian values of Dartmouth College, we poured out the beers and filled up our cups with water. We are, after all, reasonable people, and we would hate to endanger the public with such delinquent behavior. We were quickly rebuked once more, however, by the goodly Safety and Security officers. “Table games,” we were told, are not allowed outside, whether they involve alcohol or not. The officers likely spoke in reference to the Alcohol Management Program Policy, which says that “pong and other drinking games are never allowed to be played outside.” Realizing the gravity of our sins, my friends and I fell to our knees and each said five Hail Mary’s before we rose, dissembled our table and shuffled back inside with our tails between our legs. Then, not five minutes later, in the hallowed halls of Theta Delt, we reassembled our pong table and continued our game in the cold, dark basement, where we were a threat to nobody but ourselves. I’ll say this one positive thing about the administration: they have a knack for only letting the most determined kids into Dartmouth. If you don’t let them play pong out in the sun where they can enjoy the warm weather, they’ll go play their game inside.

​I tend to abstain from politics. When people get worked up over the various issues of the day, I usually adopt a policy of “smile and nod.” However, sometimes, there are issues which compel me to stand up for the values of liberty and justice just as our noble forebears did in the American Revolution. Here, I’ll take my stand. Dartmouth’s policies against outdoor drinking games are simply foolish. They are a prime example of a bloated and image-obsessed administration which enacts broad and sweeping policy with little common sense or regard for the student body. They are yet another act by an administration which wants to stamp out the traditional culture of revelry and sociability which has so long attracted students to Dartmouth. Don’t get me wrong — many of Dartmouth’s alcohol rules are positive, if somewhat overbearing. The much-reviled ban on hard liquor, for instance, greatly mitigates the risk fraternities incur when they host events and is surely instrumental in lowering the number of students who have to seek medical attention due to their — err — overindulgence. Similarly, Safety and Security walkthroughs, although they can be rather annoying, help ensure fraternities are able to maintain order at their parties. Rules such as these are not issues. The issues are the silly rules, such as the stipulation that if more than 20 members of a fraternity are present and drinking, they must register an event with the school. For example, there are 21 brothers living in the Theta Delta Chi house, meaning that if we all found ourselves, say, having a few beers and watching a football game, we’d be in violation of College policy. The outdoor drinking game ban is the most flagrant of such overzealous policies. It is time for the administration to reconsider these policies, which cause resentment among the students and provide little, if any, gain for the administration’s goals.

​It is difficult to think of any valid reason for Dartmouth’s puritanical campaign against outdoor drinking games. Rumor holds that the ban stems from the belief that returning alumni would not like to see students playing pong, or the scene that might occur should one require emergency medical treatment outside. While I’ve yet to meet an alum of the College who’d take offense to a few kids playing a game of pong on a Saturday afternoon, I can understand the basic logic: Dartmouth doesn’t want people drinking out in public all the time, and that’s all well and good. Nobody thinks we should be playing pong on the Green or setting up coolers and tailgating in front of Baker-Berry. But, when an alumnus walks down fraternity row, are they really going to be that insulted to find a few guys playing a game of pong on the lawn of a fraternity house? I struggle to believe that Dartmouth alumni are, on the whole, of such a neo-Victorian disposition that they would be offended by the mere presence of an outdoor drinking game. And if I’m wrong? Well, then, perhaps what those alumni need most is to join in a game of pong and relax a little. 

Ashby Shores is a member of the Class of 2023 and a member of Theta Delta Chi fraternity. Opinion articles represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.

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