Cipparone: Bottom-Up Accountability
By Charlotte Cipparone, Guest Columnist
Published on Friday, July 20, 2012
When I matriculated at Dartmouth, I had never tasted alcohol. I was intimidated by the Greek scene and unsure about getting drunk. Luckily, upperclassmen took me under their wing and kept an eye on me — just in case. Unfortunately, many freshmen are not as lucky to have such guidance. They take shots of Zhenka in their dorms and charge boldly into the fraternities, only to find themselves drunk and more or less alone. They might need help, but are too intimated, as I was, to ask for it.
This is an important role for Green Team to fulfill. For those unfamiliar with the program, Green Team is an alcohol harm reduction initiative that began with a handful of students and a great idea, originating at Haverford College. After being piloted in February 2011, the program exploded onto the Dartmouth social scene. Within months of its first party, every frat and local sorority had requested Green Team presence at least once. A true grassroots, student-designed and student-run program, developed by a collaboration between the Student Alcohol Harm Reduction Committee, Student Assembly, the Interfraternity Council, the Panhellenic Council and other campus leaders, Green Team is designed to monitor partygoers and intervene before a situation becomes dangerous — and to be there in case it does.
But more than that, Green Team exists to lay the foundation for a culture change that the campus sorely needs. The program acknowledges the realities of college drinking but also seeks to change these realities by instilling responsibility and accountability in students to look after one another. In the year since its inception, Green Team has trained over 500 students to be proactive bystanders and to intervene in situations that could potentially become dangerous — including sexual assault — regardless of the kind of alcohol being served and regardless of whether the party has been registered. Many of those trained are Greek leaders themselves, who believe in the potential of Green Team as a way to improve the safety of their events.
I am outraged by the College’s decision to eliminate funding for Green Team at unregistered parties. The changes to the alcohol policy are allegedly aimed to improve the safety of students — precisely the goal of the Green Team program. Reducing Green Team’s ability to operate at unregistered parties, which can often be the riskiest events, is counterproductive to the goals the College has outlined.
Like any program, Green Team has its challenges. It is expensive, and it relies on a measure of trust between the administration and the students both in charge of Green Team and working for Green Team at parties. Reducing funding for the program not only violates that trust, but also eliminates the possibility for an initiative still in its first years of development to become an incredible force for change and improvement at Dartmouth.
Without being able to staff sober monitors at unregistered parties, Greek houses will no longer consider Green Team an important part of their risk management strategy. Over time, many houses have shown an incredible initiative to keep their party guests safe by requesting Green Team presence at every one of their events — both open and closed, registered and unregistered. Under the new policy, requesting Green Team will become an afterthought to registering a party and, eventually, the trust built between Green Team and Greek houses will crumble. Unlike a top-down, administration-driven policy, Green Team works from the bottom up to encourage accountability within Greek houses. It employs people to be there for students — not only freshmen but all students — just in case. Limiting the ability of Green Team to work toward its mission of harm reduction is not only counterproductive, it is hypocritical. I urge the administration to reconsider their recent actions against the program.
Charlotte Cipparone '12 is a guest columnist and the former co-chair of Green Team.