Wheeler: Viable Variety
In elucidating their decision to rush, students often cite their desire to meet new people and even find a sense of brotherhood or sisterhood at the College. While I admit that I too had these aspirations in mind when I chose to rush, what ultimately forced my hand was a question for which I never could find a sufficient answer: “What else was there to do?”

On a Friday night at Dartmouth, your average not-yet-21-year-old student has essentially two options for going out and socializing: they can go to a College-sponsored party that is just about as appealing as a dance held in a high school gym or they can go to a fraternity to play pong and guzzle beer. Unsurprisingly, many students choose the fraternity basement time and time again. With the fraternity as the “obvious” social space, it becomes logical, even necessary, to join the Greek system as soon as one can. At a school where half of all undergraduates, or approximately two thirds of students who are actually eligible to rush, are affiliated with the Greek system, there is little incentive to exclude oneself from all of the “fun” that the majority of campus seems to be having, especially when there is no comparable alternative. An “alternative” social space is a problematic concept in itself, for here it is stigmatized as merely the next-best thing to the Greek system, the option for those who do not fit into the mainstream. But there is a real demand for legitimate “alternatives” from students who are uninterested in or dissatisfied with the Greek system or those who are simply looking for a change of pace. Supplementing the Greek system with other equally desirable social spaces, therefore, cannot continue to be an afterthought for the College. Non-Greek venues are crucial not only in diversifying social life at Dartmouth, but also in creating safer, non-alienating spaces that all can enjoy on equal footing. The most problematic element of Greek basements as social spaces is that they are controlled by students. Members of fraternities, i.e. male students with a disproportionate amount of power, are not sober employees with the obligation to be respectful and watchful of their guests. They have full discretion to be as sexist, racist, homophobic and classist as they please and, worse, gain an unwarranted sense of entitlement over the bodies in their own space. Binge drinking also makes many fraternity members, who ultimately have the responsibility to monitor their basements, less aware of concerning situations (severe intoxication, harassment, impending sexual violence, et cetera) and often hinders their ability to intervene when necessary. Last term, the College opened the Hop Garage Bar, a venue open on Thursdays that has been attracting hundreds of students each week. The Garage organizes a variety of themes for its events; one, for example, featured the “Tipsy Palette” (model and social drawing stations) as well as a selection of wines and cheeses, all paid for by the College. Its success lies in its creativity, novelty and location in a unique space (it is not, for instance, Collis Common Ground simply dressed up for the nighttime). The Garage is not just an “alternative.” It provides the sort of safe, mature and creative atmosphere that Dartmouth’s social life so desperately needs, and its operation should expand to other days of the week. As pre-rush events begin this term, I hope that students who question the superficiality, cost, gender inequality, hazing and general values of the Greek system will realize that joining it is not their only option (and, with the College’s increasing interest in providing viable “alternatives,” I am sure there are more legitimate options to come). Affiliated students should also explore these spaces and, at the very least, break away from the monotonous basement scene for once. And while underage students cannot drink at venues such as the Garage, this does not stop them from socializing with upperclassmen on an equal playing field. Now is the time for Dartmouth to truly diversify its social culture, and we students must recognize the unparalleled benefits that new spaces can offer.
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