Casler: Green Key, in Perspective
By Don Casler, Staff Columnist
Published on Friday, May 18, 2012
Green Key 2012 – it’s finally here! Freshmen, this is the weekend without rules that upperclassmen have bragged about. And everyone else, well, you should know the drill by now: pre-gaming breakfast followed by day-raging at Block Party and then Keystone for dinner, right? Because if there’s one Dartmouth event that embodies the harsh criticisms recently leveled at the College’s drinking culture by a certain magazine that shall not be named, Green Key must top the list.
For what is Green Key without drinking? Once upon a time, it was a weekend based at least loosely on the sort of tradition that we normally reserve for Homecoming and Winter Carnival — ostensibly a celebration of the College’s mantle passing from the senior class to the juniors who were to replace them. Over the years, the weekend has morphed into its modern incarnation — one of the biggest and most renowned college spring weekends in the Northeast, with revelry drawing musical acts as divergent as The Dean’s List and Blue Mountain Bustdown. Its three signature parties (Gammapalooza, Block Party and Lawn Party) see our fraternities throw down untold sums of money on entertainment and alcohol. Webster Avenue will even be closed to vehicle traffic on Friday afternoon to protect the hundreds of students who will congregate in front of Phi Delt, water bottles in hand.
Considering all of this, an outsider might be quick to label Green Key as an exhibition of the College’s worst excesses and cliches — binge drinking, “booting and rallying” and general debauchery. To some extent, this outsider would be right, given that a solid majority of campus, and probably most affiliated students, embrace Green Key as an excuse to ignore normal standards of behavior and drink like there’s no tomorrow. I won’t lie and say that this wasn’t my philosophy last spring — in a wholehearted embrace of the weekend’s do-it-for-the-story mentality, I allowed a friend to convince me that we should stay up through Friday night into the following day to attend a certain “Convention” that was to begin at 5:55 a.m. on Saturday. We accordingly spent the hours from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. gallivanting around campus gathering more friends to join us.
Green Key is indeed a weekend like no other at Dartmouth — it is a far cry from “real life,” to employ the popular cliche. But objectively speaking, is it really such an absurd outlier, especially when compared to other schools? In my very unscientific research on Facebook and in talking to high school friends, I’ve deduced not only that many colleges have spring weekends, but also that each of them revolves around alcohol consumption and live music. On a national level, Dartmouth students are far from unique in their desire to celebrate the arrival of spring.
Take the University of Pennsylvania, one of our fellow Ivy institutions. Penn’s Spring Fling is undisputedly the “largest college party on the East Coast” and is even formally sponsored by the university’s Social Planning and Events Committee. Its carnival games and food are staged on Penn’s main campus green while its quad has hosted musical acts like Third Eye Blind, Ludacris and Kid Cudi, along with this year’s guests, Tiesto and Passion Pit. Its fraternities, which typically consist of a chapter house plus two or three off-campus sites, sponsor additional events at off-campus venues. To be sure, Fling is both more prominent and more beer-soaked than Green Key and certainly receives a greater deal of official support from the university’s administrative coffers. Compare this to our College on the Hill — can you imagine if we tried having a concert on the Green? Programming Board couldn’t even book Leverone when Avicii came to Hanover last term.
There are two important things to remember heading into this Green Key. First, simply embrace the atmosphere and have fun. Second, just like with lots of issues on this campus, it is time that we get off of our high horses and recognize that many of the problems that we often whine about in Collis and on the pages of this paper — binge drinking, in this case — are not isolated phenomena. When one combines thousands of college-age kids with great weather, freely flowing alcohol and live music, the result is literally intoxicating fun.
So if you are still standing (in a basement) by 10 p.m. on Saturday, I salute you. Enjoy the awesome beast that is Dartmouth’s Green Key.