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The Dartmouth
March 2, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Ley: Let the Pong Players Play; the Masters Tradition is Here to Stay

The administration is wrong about Masters and their crackdown delegitimized their other safety efforts.

Dartmouth is responsible for many great contributions — the BASIC computer language, collegiate ski racing in the United States and the Rassias method, to name a few. But none of these gifts are more fun than pong, the classic drinking game Dartmouth introduced to the world. Students play most nights of the week, and every summer, Dartmouth devotes an entire weekend to the Masters pong tournament. Over the years, Masters has become an important part of the sophomore summer experience, contributing to the culture of fun that Dartmouth is known for.

This summer, 24 sorority and 26 fraternity teams competed in separate brackets of five rounds each. All matches took place on Saturday and Sunday and were standard games of pong, with men playing with six beers and women with four. Pong at this level isn’t just a rowdy drinking game; Masters players have been practicing all summer and are talented at what they do. Masters games had referees and hundreds of spectators.

Last weekend, however, the Dartmouth administration cracked down on the tournament. Department of Safety and Security officers patrolled Webster Avenue and forced their way into fraternity basements, telling spectators to leave and threatening fraternities with probation and suspension. In one instance, an officer pulled a fire alarm to compel students to leave the fraternity. In another, they asked Hanover Police to arrest attendees at matches hosted by unrecognized fraternities.

But the crackdown on Masters was not a safety measure — it was an attack on Dartmouth culture. In an email to summer-term students, Dean of the College Scott Brown expressed the College’s concern about the tournament because of the risk he felt it posed to campus. But the administration was wrong — Masters is a beloved tradition, the administration’s risk assessment was unrealistic and their focus on the tournament delegitimizes their other safety efforts.

I am grateful for DOSS, and I acknowledge that their presence makes our campus feel safer. Despite their negative reputation, I believe that DOSS has had a positive impact. Initiatives like the Good Samaritan policy, the freshman fall frat ban and even the rule against hard alcohol are effective, non-arbitrary policies that don’t compromise tradition. 

Though Greek Life has many problems, Masters is not one of them. The tournament brought our class together in a way that no other event has. The fact that hundreds of ’25s spent their sunny weekend in dark, sweaty basements is a testament to this event’s importance to Dartmouth’s culture. Masters did not present a risk to campus, and the overwhelming DOSS presence on Webster Avenue last weekend was unnecessary.

Only 50 people played in the tournaments on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The other hundreds of students happily watched in relative sobriety, which likely made Masters one of the safest weekends this summer. In addition, around half of Masters participants lost their first match and did not drink more than three beers each in total. The teams who did advance didn’t have to drink all of the beer because their opponents didn’t sink all of their cups. Nobody, aside from eight talented pong players who made it to the final four, was drinking in excess. Unlike Green Key, Homecoming and other big weekends, students did not drink BORGs — blackout rage gallons — try hard drugs or attempt to touch a raging bonfire. The crackdown this weekend was a disproportionate use of public safety resources. 

The administration’s crackdown additionally had an exclusionary effect on the tournament. Because of DOSS and Hanover police’s threats to Greek houses, few fraternities and only one sorority offered to host matches. This meant that some of the fraternities brave enough to host had to limit their spectators to avoid DOSS. This is not to say that Masters was an exclusive event — it was not. But, it certainly wasn’t congruent with the administration’s vision of an open and inclusive campus party scene — or the spirit of Masters.

Furthermore, Brown’s email expressed concern about hazing and “psychological injury.” Masters had no element of hazing; all participation was voluntary and enthusiastic. Brown’s email is evidence of the administration’s lack of understanding of the tournament. Masters players knew what they were in for, and they wanted to participate — they signed up for this. 

The administration’s crackdown on Masters also delegitimizes other safety efforts. By stopping matches and asking Hanover Police to infiltrate unrecognized fraternities, the administration allocated public safety resources against a beloved Dartmouth tradition. The crackdown this weekend enforced the narrative that the Dartmouth administration is less concerned with student safety than they are with stopping fun.

Students shouldn’t have a contentious relationship with DOSS; we need their help, and they need our cooperation. Their unnecessary attack on Masters worsened an already tense relationship. Their focus on Masters was particularly inappropriate in the context of other ongoing problems that are actually harmful. The administration should direct their attention to activities which are dangerous and negatively impact the student body — issues like sexual assault, real hazing and mental health.

The administration should embrace the Masters tournament. Pong is a relatively safe, camaraderie-building Dartmouth tradition that is also a lot of fun. Dartmouth students will always find a way to hold a Masters tournament — even if it needs to be live-streamed from an undisclosed field in Vermont. If the administration truly cared about “safe, healthy, and welcoming social spaces” per Dean Brown’s email, they would accept the open and exciting tournament instead of driving it further underground.

Carter Ley is a member of the Class of 2025 and a member of Chi Gamma Epsilon fraternity. Opinion articles represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.

The Dartmouth welcomes guest columns. We request that guest columns be the original work of the submitter. Submissions may be sent to both opinion@thedartmouth.com and editor@thedartmouth.com. Submissions will receive a response within three business days.