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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

What’s on a Frat Basement Floor?

Two writers investigate the hygiene and upkeep of Greek spaces on campus.


Weekly, hundreds of students crowd Greek house basements to hang out with friends, play  games of pong, and dance. The sticky floors and crushed Keystone cans are classic staples of fraternity life. For most visitors to a frat house, the cleanliness of the floor is the least of their worries. But some of us may wonder: Just how dirty are frat floors? 

Despite Greek life’s reputation for being unhygienic, there is a lengthy process that ensures that the Greek houses are properly cleaned, regulated and taken care of. 

The job of managing cleanliness typically falls to the house manager within each house. House managers are one of the most important components in keeping Greek facilities clean. They organize cleans, repairs, and coordinate inspections with authorities on campus. 

Matthew Pfundstein ’24, house manager for Beta Alpha Omega, detailed the variety of roles his job entails. 

“[The role] involves the cleaning and the upkeep of the house,” he said. “That includes organizing cleans on a weekly basis, but also doing odd-end repairs and calling in people to do some more major repairs or house improvement projects.”

Emily Masuda ’24, house manager for Kappa Delta Epsilon, elaborated on the efforts that Greek houses put into keeping their spaces clean. She outlined a routine plan that KDE uses to ensure the upkeep of the house.

“We have some cleaning crews [of sorority members] come in four times a week and clean the house,” she said.

Pfundstein corroborated this, noting that fraternity members tasked with cleaning come in groups of four or five after on-nights, and are given a list of “chores” to complete to clean the house.

“First [we] start in the basement,” he said. “That’s picking up trash, putting everything away, and then a full flooding and cleaning of the basement floor. From there they move onto the common spaces: picking up any trash and mopping floors.” 

According to Masuda, typically the new recruits are the ones tasked with cleaning the house. Each member of the new rush class has required cleans. If the new member misses cleans, there are repercussions. 

“If they miss two cleans, then they have to talk to us,” said Masuda. “If they miss three cleans, they get a date taken away for a social event.”

These repercussions help incentivize Greek life participants to help in the cleaning process, and ensure that the cleaning system is successful, according to Masuda. 

“As long as my communication and delegation is on point, then the house seems to be in generally good condition,” said Pfundstein.

Despite all these cleaning procedures, the aftermath of every on-night is a cycle of stickiness and littered cans. Though members try their hardest to keep houses in order, it’s almost impossible to ensure the place is spotless. Therefore, the question stands — what’s actually on a frat basement floor?

To uncover the answer to this pressing inquiry, we took a hands-on approach. We swabbed the floors of three different Greek houses — one fraternity, one local sorority and one national sorority. We also swabbed the bottom of a pair of frat shoes worn to multiple Greek houses. Although there will clearly be additional contaminants on the frat shoes, they still carry some information about what may be present on fraternity basement floors. 

Each sample was grown on an agar plate for two weeks. The resulting bacterial colonies are shown below. 

Plate 1 - A Dartmouth Fraternity

Plate 2 - A Dartmouth Sorority - National Chapter

Plate 3 - A Dartmouth Sorority - Local

Plate 4 - The Bottom of Frat Shoes

All the plates are technically classified in the Amodeo lab as a Biosafety Level 2 hazard, given the unknown identities of the bacterial colonies. The Greek house samples grew a wide visual variety of bacterial forms. Plate 3 seems to have been entirely overtaken by mold. 

Of the two sororities represented, one demonstrated a far wider range of bacterial growth than the other. This sorority is a local chapter and can therefore host people frequently, while the other is a national chapter and under stricter regulations regarding bringing people into the house.

A more formal analysis of these swabs proved difficult to accomplish, but the visual data speaks for itself. Though it can’t be said exactly what is growing on those floors, it is certainly a wide range of things. 

Clearly, the floors are not spotless. While house members can’t sterilize all the surfaces in Greek species, they are still responsible for a fairly thorough upkeep, and there are formal procedures to ensure they follow through. 

Assistant Residential Operations facilities manager Bernard Haskell spoke about his involvement overseeing the safety and cleanliness of Greek Spaces.

“I do all the life safety on the entire campus with undergrad housing. That's the residence halls, LLCs, and the Greek houses … And then I work with the house managers in the private houses as well,” said Haskell.

Greek houses are inspected regularly to ensure they are up to health and safety standards. Alongside the fire safety inspections at the beginning of each term, there are also weekly general inspections. Haskell detailed this process.

“[We do] housekeeping inspections … every Monday and Friday … [in] all public common areas, egress. We also check the exterior as well. In the winter the challenge is keeping all exits free of ice and snow.”

According to Haskell, house managers are involved in inspecting each other’s houses, but not their own.

“Typically, each house gets inspected two to three times a term,” said Haskell “[House managers] don't inspect their own houses, but we set up teams.” 

The inspections sound a lot more daunting than they are in practice. After a walkthrough of each house, the process is essentially complete. Haskell and the house managers have a checklist of criteria that must be fulfilled.

“When you walk up to the house, is there any litter on the ground? We [check] common areas, we peek into bathrooms, and we … make sure that the trash isn't overflowing. And then [we check that] common areas have been cleaned and basements are clean,” said Haskell.

There is also an added bonus to having a house owned by the school, as opposed to private ownership. College-owned houses have access to a custodian, who comes every weekday, just as the janitorial staff does in each dorm building. In college-owned houses, the custodian will clean the bathrooms and other private spaces, leaving less to clean for the Greek house members themselves. Both sororities that were swabbed are college owned, while the fraternity is not. 

“We really only have to focus on the basement, mainly, and our meetings room, but [everything else] stays clean,” said Masuda.

Haskell also spoke to the differences in regulations of private versus college owned Greek houses.

“Life safety wise, there is no difference. They abide by the same rules [regarding] cleanliness and such … [But] we have more control in the college houses because [we] have card access,” said Haskell. 

The current systems of organization cannot always account for the difficulties of hosting and the chaos of on-nights. Ultimately, however, it seems that both Greek houses and school administration do the best they can when it comes to the cleanliness of Greek houses — leaving students to decide if they’ll brave the basement in their frat shoes. 

The swabs from the three Greek houses were each taken with permission of the houses.