You Can’t Sit With Us!
By Tyler Bradford And Gina Greenwalt, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, June 29, 2012
In case any readers are curious, interviewing Dartmouth students about whether they are a part of a “clique” on campus is difficult. Very difficult.
No one is eager to identify themselves as a member of any sort of clique. Perhaps this is with good reason — thanks to movies like “Mean Girls,” a clique is now thought to be any exclusive group of people who are only allowed to wear sweatpants once a week. The worst.
But if we look to the dictionary, we find a slightly different, more positive portrayal of this term. A clique under this definition is a “narrow exclusive circle or group of persons; especially one held together by common interests, views or purposes.”
Cliques, then, are simply groups of people who spend time together because they have something — anything — in common. Under this definition, no one even needs to wear pink.
Sam Farnham ’14 said that cliques are simply a social structure and not necessarily negative.
“Comfortable environments are naturally ones where people can relate to each other,” he said. “Relationships are more personal when there is some common interest.”
Farnham, who is unaffiliated, cited the Greek system as a convenient way to form these common interest groups and downplayed the often-criticized exclusivity of these organizations.
“Someone not getting into a fraternity might be indicative of an individual not being a good fit with that group of people,” he said. “In the long run, it can be for the best.”
Others like Amy Li ’14 said that parts of the Greek system exemplify the exclusive nature of a stereotypical clique.
“As someone who participates in the Greek system, but is not actually affiliated, it can be hard when all of your friends leave at a certain point to attend Greek events,” Li said. “Even though everyone’s still friends, there’s still sometimes a divide caused by the community.”
But the Greek system, arguably the dominant social structure at the College, is far from being the only organization that facilitates strong social bonds and can be perceived as exclusionary. Sports teams, a capella groups and other student organizations are also accused of displaying negative clique mentalities.
Jennifer Estrada ’14, an active member of the Dartmouth Outing Club, emphasized the challenges involved in joining a close community like the DOC. For her, trying to connect with people who have already formed strong ties sometimes proved to be a daunting task.
“[In the DOC] hanging out outside of trips is often where real connections are formed,” Estrada said. “Technically we’re pretty open since the trips themselves are public, but because we’re usually at people’s off-campus houses, there is a level of exclusivity in those social groups.”
Another negative consequence of both Greek and non-Greek cliques is the natural desire to categorize all members of a group under a few shared characteristics.
“People like to assume stuff about you because you’re part of that team or that organization,” Blake Heller ’14 said. “Even though most people do it, you can choose to not perpetuate that system.”
We will rarely admit that any group we’re a part of is exclusive enough to be labeled (or rather condemned) as a clique. But if we forget the negative images that this word brings to mind, it seems apparent that these groups “held together by common interest” can be a genuine source of happiness here in the New Hampshire woods.
“I think ‘clique’ just has a bad connotation because when I think of the group that could be considered my ‘clique,’ the word that comes to mind first is family,” Estrada said. “It’s a close community and I like that — now it’s somewhere I can always go. A home.”