Dartmouth Warily Eyes Spring Party

Recent Incidents Prompt Plea To ‘Redfine’ Annual Event

Hanover — Dartmouth College’s “frat row” was a scene of jubilation yesterday.

Hundreds of students were dancing and drinking on Webster Avenue between Beta Alpha Omega’s red brick house and the live band planted in Phi Delta Alpha’s yard, celebrating the rite of spring known as Green Key Weekend.

Green Key Weekend — one of the college’s four annual celebratory weekends — is officially a three-day event where students can take a break from studies by going white-water rafting, taking in one of the comedy shows and concerts put on around campus, or even pitch in on community service.

But for many Dartmouth students it’s a party weekend of intense drinking — last year, 17 people were arrested during the famed weekend, the student newspaper The Dartmouth reported.

At Phi Delta Alpha’s annual block party yesterday, students were clad in sundresses, tank tops and pastel-colored shorts, taking in the day on rooftops and yard sofas.

Scattered among the revelers were crushed cans of Natural Light beer and officers from Dartmouth College Safety and Security and the Hanover Police Department. Hanover Police Department Lieutenant Michael Evans said he and his fellow officers were there yesterday to help campus officials keep the partying safe.

“This has happened for years,” Evans said. “We’re here to make sure things don’t get out of control.”

Indeed, unlike other Green Key Weekends, this year’s event comes at a time when Dartmouth is under particular scrutiny for what many say is a culture of drinking, intolerance and sexual assault.

Last month, a group of Dartmouth students interrupted Dimensions weekend — a recruiting program to persuade undecided admitted students to enroll — with protests over the college’s handling of incidents of homophobia, racism and sexual assault. Administrators subsequently cancelled a day of classes in order to reflect on intolerance. And Thursday, authorities arrested a freshman Dartmouth rugby player for allegedly raping a student.

It was clearly with such recent incidents in mind that Dean of the College, Charlotte Johnson, on Thursday sent an email to the “Dartmouth community” challenging the campus to “redefine Green Key Weekend.”

“Respect and inclusion are not antithetical to enjoying ourselves,” Johnson wrote. “The next few days present another opportunity to continue to demonstrate that we know how to have fun in ways that are safe and respectful. We are a community that has the courage and will to step in when we see others in risky or unhealthy situations.”

During the weekend, Dartmouth’s Department of Safety and Security will have a larger presence on campus and will be working closely with Hanover police to conduct extra patrols, Amy Olson, Dartmouth College’s senior media relations officer, said in an email.

“Dartmouth is deeply committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of students and has implemented numerous new and strengthened initiatives over the past few years to reduce high-risk drinking on campus and incidents of sexual assault,” Olson said.

But some Dartmouth students questioned how effective the administration’s efforts have been to curb incidents of discrimination and sexual assault.

“The problem is that the administration says it is against racism, homophobia and sexual assault and the position is that our school doesn’t tolerate sexual assault, but it really does,” senior history major Dani Valdes said.

Valdes is a member of Real Talk at Dartmouth, the group that organized the protests during Dimensions weekend in April.

Valdes said she plans to leave town today and skip out on the Green Key Weekend festivities, which she said are far too entrenched in the Greek scene.

Dartmouth junior Anna Winham, another member of Real Talk, said she was sexually assaulted last year on the Wednesday of Green Key Weekend. Although she cannot be sure because she didn’t report the assault to police right away, Winham believes her drink was drugged at the party she was attending.

“I don’t and I didn’t like the idea of punishing someone,” Winham said of her decision to wait a few days before reporting the assault. “I’m less interested in being vindictive and more interested in making sure it doesn’t happen to other people.”

Across campus on The Green, students played frisbee and basked in the afternoon sun. The tunes of a band on the steps of the Collis Center for Student Involvement overpowered the echo from Webster Avenue while the unmistakable waft of barbecue from Stinson’s Village Store in Hanover filled the air.

A group of three friends sat together, relaxing before a weekend of catch-up studying before finals in a few weeks.

They said they weren’t planning to party on frat row, but hoped to attend the concerts scattered throughout the weekend.

“What happens past midnight is a lot different that what happens the rest of the time,” junior Dennis Wu said.

He said that although he’s not sure the push for tolerance and respect will change the atmosphere that pervades the college, Wu nonetheless has detected a slight change in attitudes.

“I feel like the amount of conversation proves that,” Wu said. “To say the very least, everyone is talking about it.”

Katie Mettler can be reached at 603-727-3234 or kmettler@vnews.com.