Guest Column: Muckracking for a buck
I applaud Janet Reitman’s recent Rolling Stone article on Dartmouth hazing for at least attempting to present a more nuanced picture of Dartmouth’s “whistleblower” compared to other national publications. I applaud it for raising the points about sexual assault and Dartmouth’s continued issues regarding gender relations. As with the other articles, I applaud any spotlight on hazing. Dartmouth is an imperfect place, as are all the Ivies and indeed all colleges.
But I strongly disagree with Rolling Stone’s decision to take Andrew Loshe’s story and turn it into a symbol and vanguard for Dartmouth’s culture and Dartmouth’s soul.
The article demonizes many aspects of Dartmouth culture that actually make the College a phenomenal, unique place to spend four years. Most laughable is the attempt to demonize Dartmouth Outing Club First-Year Trips. Yes, eating green eggs and ham is silly, even childlike. But is it a form of hazing that attempts to remake freshmen into new Dartmouth clones? No. Trips allow freshmen to see that it’s OK to be silly, that it’s OK to wear funny clothes, that it’s OK to smell after not showering and hiking around the woods for days and that it’s OK to try new things.
Reitman also stereotypes Dartmouth students as corporate alcoholics-in-training with no souls and expensive taste in clothing and drugs. Let me first explain that it’s impossible to fit “the typical Dartmouth student” into a box. There is no typical Dartmouth student. We come from all over the globe. Some of us play football. Some of us build trails and cabins. Some of us run global health initiatives. Some of us study really hard. Some of us party really hard and may even temporarily lose sight of what is important in the long run. Most of us swim in more than one of these streams. Many of us wear a lot of secondhand clothes and flair from Goodwill and the West Lebanon Kmart.
When we leave Dartmouth, we traverse equally diverse career paths. I have friends who work in online retail, who teach in charter schools, who work for health non-profits, who go to medical school and who go to graduate school for art history PhDs or social work degrees. I have friends who go to law school, who work for the government, who work for campaigns and who work in fashion. I have friends that work for AmeriCorps, Teach for America, Partners in Health and KIPP charter schools, among other service organizations.
The picture Rolling Stone composes of the typical Dartmouth student is false. There is no one Dartmouth student. If Reitman intended to create a composite of the Dartmouth student body, the attributes she chose to describe this composite student are false, ridiculous and harmful.
Similarly, the article uses a narrow, biased and skewed lens to examine the Dartmouth Greek system. Yes, there are hazing problems that need to be addressed within the Greek system. Yes, there are even drinking problems that need to be addressed, in regards to both the Greek system as well as Dartmouth more generally. The only good that will come out of the muckraking spotlight created by the hubbub over these allegations is perhaps increased conversation and action on the part of the Dartmouth administration.
However, so many students have positive Greek experiences that do not involve vomiting on one another or forcing younger students to perform beastly acts. I gained great friends, a platform to develop leadership skills, a physical space to make my home for more than two years and some incredible memories — apple picking, Harris Cabin trips, dinners at the Lodge, barbecues, weekly meetings. I gained self-confidence and a better understanding of my identity. I credit my sisters with supporting me and helping me on my quest for self-understanding.
As Daniel Webster once said, Dartmouth “is a small college,” and “yet there are those who love it.” I love Dartmouth. I am blessed to have received such a tremendous education during my four years there. I admit that the College has major imperfections, but it is a far cry from the shallow cesspool of bodily fluids that Lohse describes. My Dartmouth is a place where a classmate you barely know would give you notes and go over concepts if you missed class. My Dartmouth is a place where everyone lies on the Green all day during the first warm spells of spring. My Dartmouth is a stunningly beautiful college.
Hopefully, Rolling Stone will be the last major publication to muckrake for a buck on this subject. Maybe Rolling Stone should interview me, or simply a larger cross-section of the Dartmouth community, to get a more nuanced and accurate picture of the College on the Hill. Until then, I hope educated Americans have enough experience with tabloid-style journalism to take this filthy, over-generalized rag of a story with a whole shaker of salt.
The Dartmouth, Dartmouth College via UWIRE