What Green Key Means to Freshmen
By Connor Watumull
Published on Friday, May 18, 2012
While most Dartmouth freshmen are familiar with the history and traditions that distinguish the College’s Homecoming and Winter Carnival weekends, Green Key’s origins and purpose are more ambiguous, leaving many members of the Class of 2015 confused about what to expect from the weekend. Freshmen interviewed by the Dartmouth said they do not know what to anticipate but are excited nonetheless for a respite from school work, midterms and extracurricular activities.
For many freshmen, the mystery that surrounds the weekend’s purpose and activities serves as a source of attraction and excitement.
“When I first heard about Green Key, I was confused, because our other big weekends have themes,” Annie Fagan ’15 said. “Green Key seemed like a big four-day party just for the heck of it, and maybe it is, but I don’t mind at all.”
Joe Loftus ’15 said that Green Key will be a welcome period of rest from his demanding computer science course.
“I guess there really isn’t a reason behind it, but I feel like I could definitely use a break, and I really enjoyed the other two big weekends,” Loftus said. “Even though it doesn’t really have a point like Homecoming or Winter Carnival, I think it’s important to get people out and get people excited about something as the term winds down.”
To some first-year students, Green Key has assumed a legendary reputation as a weekend that changes the course of one’s college experience.
“But seriously, what is Green Key? No one knows,” Tobin Paxton ’15 said. “All I know is that it will change my life.”
Mike Haughey ’15 said he simply looks forward to the weekend’s laid-back, relaxed atmosphere.
“Apparently everyone just hangs out,” Haughey said.
Other freshmen, despite being excited for the weekend’s festivities, have not forgotten their academic responsibilities, noting that final exams occur just two weeks after Green Key. Fagan said she hopes that professors keep in mind that students won’t spend as much time studying during the weekend.
“Hopefully professors know to be merciful with work,” said Fagan.
Rob Meyer ’15 also acknowledged Green Key’s proximity to final exams, but he said he doesn’t think that academic concerns will prevent students from enjoying the weekend’s festivities.
“It seems like it’s cutting it a little close with finals two weeks later — not that that will stop anybody,” Meyer said.
Many freshmen have heard upperclassmen rave about the abundance of outdoor cooking during Green Key. Nick Gannon ’15 said he will take advantage of the barbecue events, many of which are free to the student body.
“I look forward to some barbecue replacing [the Class of 1953 Commons] in my diet,” Gannon said.
Dartmouth students have long associated Green Key with sunny weather and pleasant temperatures, which differentiate the weekend from Homecoming and Winter Carnival. Some first-year students said that the recent upswing in temperatures is itself a cause for revelry.
“It may not have some of the clear traditions associated with Winter Carnival or Homecoming, but I’ve realized recently that spring and warm weather merit celebration,” Gannon said.
During previous Green Key weekends, students have enjoyed attending musical activities organized by the College’s Programming Board. Hosting well-known musical acts has become commonplace at several big weekends at Ivy League universities, including Princeton University’s Lawnparties, Cornell University’s Slope Day Concert and the University of Pennsylvania’s Spring Fling.
Last year, Programming Board hosted a concert featuring rappers Talib Kweli and Immortal Technique, who performed in Alumni Hall. This year, however, Programming Board decided not to host a musical act in an effort to reduce the weekend’s costs, which occupy a substantial portion of the Board’s annual budget.
According to a Programming Board member, last year’s concert wasn’t as well-attended as the event’s organizers had expected, and this year’s members said they hope that their decision not to host a concert will reduce the weekend’s costs without affecting students’ Green Key experiences.
Although the decision to not have a Green Key concert represents a major change in the weekend’s programming schedule, members of the Class of 2015 said that not having a concert does not bother them.
“The concert’s not that important to me as long as there are other attractions and events,” Loftus said.
As the end of their freshman year nears, many members of the Class of 2015 see Green Key weekend as a chance to revel in what Paxton call “youthful exuberance.” The weekend offers freshmen the opportunity to make lasting memories of their first year at Dartmouth, which, to some students, represents their last bastion of youth.
“We are, like, growing up, and that sucks,” Paxton said. “But right now we have Green Key, so even if we don’t know what that means, we can sure try to make it something to reminisce about in 50 years.”