The Green Key Society's bonfire committee is leading a number of new projects aimed at replacing negative traditions with more positive ones, Ramirez said. The society is generally involved with traditional campus events such as Commencement and Winter Carnival, he said. Its bonfire committee, led by co-chairs Jose Rodarte-Canales '16 and Amanda Winch '16, has been organizing the group's Homecoming plans.
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The bonfire has always been a highlight of the weekend, according to Peter Prims '77.
Greek affiliation makes little difference in students' experiences over Homecoming weekend, as the celebration is largely dedicated to welcoming the new crop of first-year students to campus, according to students. Homecoming centers on what it means to be a part of the College community as a whole, rather than on being a member of a particular house.
Homecoming is one of the College's busiest weekends of the year, Dirt Cowboy Cafe owner Tom Guerra said.
As weekend revelry ramps up, it is highly important that students be aware of the potential dangers of sexual assault during Homecoming weekend, according to students and College staff. Due to high attendance rates at parties and easy access to alcohol, Homecoming weekend creates an increased risk for incidents of sexual assault, according to Elizabeth Hoffman '13, the chair of the Special Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault, a council that facilitates collaboration between students, administrators, faculty and alumni on issues related to sexual assault. "Usually sexual predators find vulnerable people to prey on and use alcohol to make people more vulnerable and less able to resist," she said. "Because alcohol plays such a role in our social spaces, especially on big weekends, it's even easier to access this predatory tool." Homecoming brings both registered and unregistered guests, as well as alumni, to the College, increasing the likelihood of sexual assault, accoding to Holli Weed '14, co-director of Mentors Against Violence, a peer education group that works primarily within Greek organizations to raise awareness of sexual assault and provide prevention training. "There are people who go a little bit crazy over the weekend, and that kind of situation gives perpetrators an opportunity to [commit sexual assault]," she said. "There's a lot of people on campus and there's not a lot of accountability." Sexual assault, along with hazing and alcohol abuse, is one of the College's biggest concerns, according to Sexual Assault Awareness Program co-coordinator Amanda Childress. "The problems are really the same on every college campus," she said. "The difference is the culture around how to go about attacking some of the problems." One in four women and one in 33 men nationally are victims of sexual assault over the course of their college career, Hoffman said. "That number is for attempted or committed rape, whereas harassment or non-penetrating assault is much more common," she said. "I would say probably every woman at this school has been touched in a way she didn't invite or want." Dartmouth's statistics are much higher than the national average, but the Clery Act numbers officially reported statistics of sexual offenses on campus every year are hard to interpret because reporting rates are low nationally, Hoffman said. Higher numbers could be a positive indicator that students are seeking help instead of staying quiet about assault, according to Childress. "Anyone within this field would attribute higher numbers to the fact that more people know about the resources so they actually utilize them, which also indicates that students on our campus feel safer coming forward than they might on another college campus," Childress said. Increased awareness of sexual violence and a strong support structure for victims of sexual assault generally lead to higher Clery Act numbers, according to Weed. "Clery numbers do not necessarily correspond to how many actual cases [of sexual assault] there are," she said. "That is why it is so hard to get an accurate picture of this issue." SAAP co-coordinator Rebekah Carrow said that embarrassment, fear of reputational damage and loss of social status, shame and confusion can all prevent victims from reporting cases of sexual assault. "Creating a safe environment for survivors of violence to come forward and get the support they need is the number one priority of the SAAP office and this administration," Carrow said. Most sexual assault cases are initiated in social spaces and are not committed by a "stranger in a dark alley," according to Hoffman. Because Greek houses are the primary social spaces for a majority of students on campus, the houses perpetuate sexual assault on some level, she said. "There are dynamics to our social spaces that I think really facilitate abuses of power and enable some violent behavior, especially exclusive ownership of spaces and controlling what is in different drinks and who gets them," Hoffman said. Weed agreed that the Dartmouth social scene combines risk factors by having many people in an enclosed space with alcohol, which makes sexual assault more likely to occur. However, the Greek system itself is not necessarily responsible for this, according to Weed. "Colleges that don't have Greek systems still struggle with sexual violence, but our social system combines a number of risk factors," she said. There are many programs in place at the College to address sexual assault on campus, but these programs are mostly geared toward response, not prevention, according to Hoffman. Instead, students have to take responsibility for preventing this problem, she said. "The College should provide the right resources, policy and infrastructure, but we need to adopt higher standards for ourselves, especially in our social spaces," Hoffman said. "Ultimately, I think it's a failure on the students' end." The Dartmouth Bystander Initiative, a new College bystander intervention program which will train students to recognize potentially risky situations and intervene to prevent sexual assault from occurring, will be launched in the winter, according to Carrow and Childress. "Right now a lot of our time and resources are going into the bystander initiative," Childress said. "If we can prevent these things from happening, then we don't have to put as much time, effort, money and resources into [response] services because assaults won't happen as often."
While many students look forward to Homecoming weekend as a time of celebration and much-needed rest, most professors said they do not plan to alter syllabi or class schedules to accommodate student participation in the festivities.
Many students expressed interest in the bonfire's construction and the prospect of running 116 laps around the fire, as Dartmouth tradition dictates.
"There will be around 30 officers working during the bonfire instead of the usual two or three," Giaccone said. "We pay special attention to students running around the fire because first-year students are often egged on to touch the fire." Despite recent changes in the College's harm reduction policies, Hanover Police and Safety and Security anticipate that this year's Homecoming will not be significantly different from those of previous years. Since the implementation of the new policies on Sept. 21, Safety and Security officers have been conducting random and unannounced walkthroughs of Greek organizations. However, because of the high volume of registered parties during Homecoming weekend, officers will conduct party checks rather than increase the number of walkthroughs, according to Kinne. Beta Alpha Omega fraternity president Michael Burbank '13 said he would not be surprised if Safety and Security officers conduct walkthroughs during Homecoming weekend. "Even though the walkthroughs are now random, Homecoming seems like a logical time to have one," he said. "In any case, we always want to be adhering to the rules so that even an unannounced walkthrough won't catch us off guard even during a big weekend like Homecoming." Kinne and Burbank both said that it is important for fraternities to staff their front doors and keep track of students entering their physical plants, especially during big weekends. Greek houses need to be cognizant of the risks that accompany opening their houses to everyone, according to Burbank.
In addition to traditions such as the bonfire ceremony and rushing the field during the football game, many students are looking forward to Greek-sponsored events over Homecoming weekend. Ranging from pig roasts to dance parties, these events have become an integral part of the weekend's atmosphere.
Ah, it's Friday of Homecoming weekend a day that is mostly centered on all you freshmen out there. As you march up Main Street, many of us from '15s to '13s to alumni will be there to affectionately welcome you to Dartmouth as the "worst class ever." Though I'm sure there will be some out there who think you're not that bad. I don't want to take away the intrigue that surrounds the bonfire, but you'll see a wide gamut of reactions from cheering to jeering. Personally, I'll probably be informing all of you who are running the wrong way to turn around. There are always a few of you.
One day in August, I shadowed an alumnus physician at his clinic. I sat in his examination room as unobtrusively as possible, jotting down notes as he tended to his patients. Between his appointments, we passed the time by comparing notes about our experiences at Dartmouth. Like most other alumni whom I have had the pleasure of meeting, he reminisced about his undergraduate years with warm fondness. He asked about the current makeup of students, the local eateries and the professors. We were surprised to discover the sheer number of similarities between our narratives, despite the nearly two decades that separated our respective classes. We attributed this phenomenon to the College's strong adherence to traditions.
Although certain Homecoming traditions such as a freshman-sophomore tug-of-war and the practice of building the bonfire higher each year have faded over time, the many Homecoming traditions that remain bring alumni and students of the College together each fall.
Verhagen, Briggs and bonfire committee co-chairs Amanda Winch '16 and Jose Rodarte-Canales '16 have met every Thursday in October with officials, including Collis Center for Student Involvement advisors Eric Ramsey and Juliann Coombs, Hanover Police and Safety and Security representatives and Greek Letter Organizations and Society Director Wes Schaub, according to Winch.
New events for alumni and their families this year include a special panel on military experience with former College President James Wright and trustee Nathaniel Fick '99, moderated by economics professor Andrew Samwick, and tours of new campus buildings including the Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center, the Class of 1953 Commons and the Black Family Visual Arts Center, according to Lawrence.
Friday night of Homecoming weekend arrived sooner than he expected, but his decision never wavered. After 31 laps, Duckles knew it was time. He might not make it out of the circle of spectators without getting arrested, but that didn't matter to him. He ran toward the fire, dodged policemen and Safety and Security officers and placed his hand on a burning piece of wood for a split-second before he was tackled to the ground.
With the implementation of a new academic calendar that started the school year earlier than ever before, there is a six-week gap between Homecoming weekend and the start of classes this year. In the past, there have been approximately four weeks between Convocation ceremonies and Homecoming weekend.
Tonight's Dartmouth Night ceremonies signal the traditional beginning of Homecoming weekend. The massive bonfire serves as the capstone of the night, symbolically serving as an initiation ritual for the recently matriculated Class of 2016. We, like the College administration, support this tradition as a testament to the strength of this college and its rich traditions. However, we find it extremely difficult to square the College's continuation of the bonfire ceremony and its associated freshman sweep with its narrow-minded crackdown on similarly harmless public initiation rites for fraternities and sororities.
Amherst College President Carolyn Martin has created a new committee on enhancing sexual respect at Amherst and has met with sexual assault victims in response to an article written by former Amherst student Angie Epifano, Inside Higher Ed reported. Colby Bruno, managing director of the Victim Rights Law Center, said that Amherst is not unique in its problems addressing sexual assault and believes that other schools should model the proactive response Martin took after the issue was brought to light. Martin said her goal is to "integrate discussions about issues of this sort into the intellectual growth of our students in a fundamental way," Inside Higher Ed reported. On Oct. 17, The Amherst Student published Epifano's story about her rape and subsequent mistreatment by the college, according to Inside Higher Ed.
When Akash Kar '16 arrived at his alumni interview after submitting his application to Dartmouth, he did not realize how much the interview would impact his college decision. Kar said his alumni interviewer's enthusiasm for Dartmouth contributed to his decision to attend the College.
Andrew Smith Tu'07 and ATDynamics, a company he founded while a student at the Tuck School of Business, hope to save the environment one tractor-trailer at a time with the TrailerTail, a rear attachment that saves fuel and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by making trucks more aerodynamic. Smith created the prototype of the product on his living room floor using tape and cardboard during his second year at Tuck.