This week, the College will host its annual Green Key music festival. Concerts will kick off early this afternoon at Phi Delta Alpha fraternity and Collis Center, followed by the Programming Board-sponsored show tonight featuring headliners Neon Trees and Cochise. Festivities will continue throughout the day tomorrow, with live music offerings practically every hour after 11 a.m. This Editorial Board hopes that students will take a well-deserved break from their studies to get outside, enjoy the music and soak up the sunshine with friends. However, we also hope students will keep in mind the potential risks this weekend brings, and we ask that everyone does their best to keep themselves and others safe.
Because Green Key is often thought of as the one of the biggest weekends of the year at Dartmouth, some students may feel pressured to drink more than usual or choose to experiment with new or larger amounts of drugs. To ensure the health and wellbeing of our campus community, as well as the sustainability of our beloved Green Key tradition, we encourage students to exercise caution this weekend. When safety is sacrificed, situations that start out fun can quickly turn miserable, or worse, outright dangerous. We want to stress that we cannot have fun if we are not safe. More specifically, we recommend that students consider the types and amounts of drugs and alcohol they consume, take particular care in crowds and assess how their choices may affect others before they act.
During big party weekends like Green Key, Dartmouth students are especially at risk of consuming dangerous amounts of alcohol. Students shouldn’t feel pressured to “keep up” with others, or buy into the common belief that “everyone is drinking a lot.” For their own safety, students should consider what they are drinking and avoid mixing or drinking beverages when they don’t know what’s in them. According to CDC guidelines, one standard drink is equivalent to 14 grams of “pure alcohol,” which is found in 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces — equivalent to one shot — of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (such as vodka, tequila or gin). Students should be especially careful when drinking “batch” — mixed drink concoctions often served at parties. If another student is making or pouring your drink, they’re probably not a bartender or a chemist, which means that the alcohol content could be higher than you’d expect. If you are going to drink batch, do so slowly and with caution, or ideally, avoid the batch altogether and open up a canned drink.
We also hope students stay aware of their own alcohol tolerance — and recognize that just because others are drinking a certain amount does not mean that amount of alcohol is safe. The CDC defines “binge drinking” as alcohol consumption that brings blood alcohol content to a level of 0.08% or more — for men, this typically means consuming five or more drinks on one occasion, while for women, this number is only four. However, students should note that the intensity of the effects of alcohol are different for everyone and can relate to factors such as someone’s size and whether one has eaten recently.
The prominent drug culture at music festivals like Green Key also puts Dartmouth students at risk of encountering fentanyl. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, is sold illegally for its pain-relieving, heroin-like effects, according to the CDC. It can be mixed with cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, MDMA, cannabis and other commonly used drugs — with or without the user’s knowledge — to increase the effects of the drug. With the rise of student drug use during Green Key, we want to stress the dangers of fentanyl and encourage students to take precautions to minimize the risk of an overdose.
According to the National Institute on Drug Use, fentanyl’s effects can include drowsiness, nausea, confusion, sedation, unconsciousness, arrest, coma and death. Last year, New Hampshire recorded its worst year for overdose deaths since 2017. Officials confirmed 434 deaths from overdose, with a majority involving fentanyl. Deaths involving illegally manufactured fentanyl are on the rise, according to the CDC. The National Institute on Drug Use adds that 2021 saw 70,601 overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (primarily fentanyl) — an increase from 2020. Fentanyl and other opioids are the most common drug involved in overdose deaths. Fentanyl’s high potency greatly increases risk of overdose, especially for people who are unaware a drug they are taking contains it: If they underestimate what they are taking, this can result in an overdose.
If you suspect someone has taken fentanyl or is in need of medical assistance, call 911 immediately. According to the Student Wellness Center, all Hanover first responders, including DOSS and EMS, can be reached by calling 911 and are trained in the administration of Narcan — which can be used to treat fentanyl overdoses when administered right away. The Student Wellness Center also states that New Hampshire and Vermont have Good Samaritan Laws, which prevent the prosecution of drug offenses if emergency responses are called.
While the Editorial Board does not condone drug usage, we know drug usage at Dartmouth is inevitable and therefore believe strongly in measures that can minimize harm. We urge students who are planning to take drugs to purchase Narcan as a preventative measure: Students can get Narcan from the Student Wellness Center for free from 8:30 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. Students can also purchase Narcan from the CVS Pharmacy on Main Street in Hanover or at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center Pharmacy at Centerra in Lebanon without a prescription. Narcan will not cause harm even if it is not needed, so in a situation where an overdose is suspected, it is better to be safe and use Narcan than to be sorry.
The presence of large crowds at concerts like Green Key also creates potential for harm — and we ask students to learn to recognize when a crowd becomes dangerous and how to stay safe in such a situation. According to The Washington Post, some signs of a crowd becoming too dense include but are not limited to: the crowd moves, then suddenly slows; people in the crowd complain of discomfort or there is a feeling of confinement without a clear way out. The article also states that if the crowd ceases to move and people get stuck, there are some strategies to stay safe, such as moving with the crowd rather than against it and staying upright in a “boxer stance” with legs staggered, knees slightly bent and arms out. It is also helpful to grab your forearm with your opposite hand to create a chest-shield. These tactics can help prevent you from being trampled or suffocated by the mass of a crowd.
We also hope that students head into Green Key weekend with an awareness that their actions directly affect others. In past years, Green Key has placed a strain on the Upper Valley community. If too many emergency calls are placed due to the overuse of substances, all of the ambulances in the Upper Valley will respond to incidents at Green Key, which means people outside the Dartmouth community may not be able to get the emergency care they need. We encourage you to think about the quantity of alcohol or drugs you’re consuming to keep yourself out of danger and ensure that medical resources remain available for those who also need them.
This same care should also apply to the way you treat fellow concertgoers. Although some events, including the Programming Board concert, require a wristband and Dartmouth ID to enter, many Greek house concerts and other events have far less security, which could allow local high school students to sneak in. This year’s guest policy permits any student to invite a registered guest, so students may bring visitors into the concerts. Many alumni also come back for Green Key weekend and may participate in the programming.
This combination of guests unfamiliar to the current Dartmouth student body could lead to risks: High schoolers are even more vulnerable than college students at events like these because they may have less experience navigating an environment with prevalent drug and alcohol use, making them more likely to push their limits and over-consume. In addition, the presence of alumni at the events could lead to interactions with even more severe power imbalances, and alumni also may feel less accountability for their actions than current students. Due to these risks, we want current students to ensure the environment is as safe as possible for younger or less experienced guests: Be careful about who you serve alcohol to, and watch out for others. If it seems like someone is uncomfortable or in danger, don’t hesitate to step in.
While Green Key is an event that brings the town and the College communities together, we must recognize the burden we place on the Town of Hanover, as well as the liability that the festival is to the many organizations — including the Programming Board, sororities and fraternities, the Dartmouth Organic Farm and others — that host these concerts for us. It is possible for us to recognize these truths and simultaneously have a weekend filled with peace, joy and, of course, tons of fun.
Let’s make this weekend the best it can be. Here’s to this Green Key, and the many more to come.