How do Dartmouth’s ‘infamous’ frat parties compare to those at other schools?

Are we really that bad? We asked other students about inclusivity at their frat parties

For years Dartmouth has received negative media attention with regards to its frat parties. Many speculate that the link began after the movie Animal House was released in 1978.  The movie, based off the screenwriter’s experiences at Dartmouth’s Alpha Delta fraternity allowed Dartmouth to become an easy media target, taking on the role as the poster child for criticisms of Greek Life and elitism at American universities.

But is this image that has been painted of Dartmouth’s Greek system fair?  Rather, is it even accurate?

Alpha Delta Fraternity, inspiration for the movie 'Animal House'

Alpha Delta Fraternity, inspiration for the movie ‘Animal House’

After several scandals over the past decade regarding Dartmouth frats there has been a definite push from the administration and the board of trustees to correct a Greek system they feel is off course and to provide alternatives to those who choose not to participate in the system. Phil Hanlon’s initiative to establish residential communities is meant to do just that.

While the Greek system is by no means perfect and undergoes constant reform to better itself and the greater community, the benefits offered by fraternities seem to get lost in the discussion. Dartmouth’s Greek system is overwhelmingly portrayed as the black sheep of American Greek life. In talking with friends at other schools, and realizing that at many places it is hard to even get in to a party at a fraternity, The Tab decided to take a closer look at this issue…

The Tab asked students from a variety of Universities across the US several questions about their Greek systems. Together with the responses collected from Dartmouth students asked these same questions, we see a stark contrast highlighting the positive aspects of Dartmouth’s Greek system that are rarely given any attention.

This is an informal, unofficial and thoroughly unscientific poll. This is not statistically significant. However, if read anecdotally, these accounts can allow us to make informed opinions about our own experiences at Dartmouth in relationship to other universities across the US. In the interest of brevity we have not included the full responses to every question, but the full responses are available to anyone interested.


How hard is it to get into a frat party where you aren’t a brother?

Colgate female: “Basically impossible unless you’re really good friends with an upperclassman.”

Wisconsin female: “A lot of the time you can only go to parties at your own frat, but sometimes frats let guys from other frats come to their parties.”

Penn State male: “It’s all about who you know. If you’ve got a friend in another house he can help you get in a side door if you’re not getting in [otherwise]. Sometimes it doesn’t work.”

Wake Forest female: “Not hard as a girl. If you are a brother in a different fraternity it is usually pretty easy as long as you know someone in the fraternity you are trying to get into.”

Bucknell male: “If you aren’t a brother, walking up to the doors when they’re having a party normally isn’t going to work unless you have someone inside who told you to come.

Cornell female: “Not hard at all if you’re a girl and if you’re a guy you have to have a good ratio. So if you’re a freshman boy, you find a group of girls and stick to them if you want to get in. If a [party] doesn’t have a good [guy to girl] ratio, or [the boy doesn’t] know someone at the frat, it’s pretty hard to get in.”

UVA female: “As a boy, it’s pretty hard to get into a frat if you’re not a brother especially when you’re younger. You need to be friends with a few brothers to get onto the list. All fraternities have lists for their parties… You need to be on the list or have a wristband for every fraternity party.”

“Certain sororities and other girls and boys friends with brothers will consistently be on the list. First years are pretty much not on any lists and can work their way in after waiting outside for a while if the party isn’t too packed. First year girls can more easily do this by flirting and what not.”

Charleston male:“GDI’s (God Damn Independents- i.e. a student not involved in Greek life) [and brothers of certain fraternities] never come [to my frat’s parties], and if they do we kick them out usually. But brothers in our brother fraternity are always more then welcome.”

UPenn female: “If the party is open, it’s not hard to get in…However, some parties do require wristbands that need to be obtained from friends in the organization prior to the event.”

Furman female: “If you are a boy that isn’t a brother it is very hard to get into the fraternity party. They don’t usually allow non-brothers to attend their parties.”


Dartmouth male: “It’s extremely easy, and that’s the beauty of fraternities at Dartmouth, all you have to do is show the brother on door duty your college ID and you are good to go.”

Dartmouth female: “You can basically get in anywhere — I’ve never had a problem. Sometimes if you show up late they won’t let you in at the door, but that is because they are “at capacity.”

Dartmouth male: “The hard part is getting up the energy to go out, not getting in.”

Dartmouth male: “Not hard at all. As long as I show them my Dartmouth ID so they know I’m a Dartmouth student, they’re gonna let me in. There is a new rule of max capacity though, which makes things more exclusive because you have to turn people away after a certain number of people.”

Dartmouth female: “It is very easy for me to get into essentially whatever frat I want…I don’t think it’s a problem for boys to get into frats that aren’t their own. Because we wait so long to rush, I think people spend freshman year making a lot of different friendships, and it’s unlikely that all of someone’s friends will get into the same frat. This causes people to have friends everywhere, making it very simple for anyone at Dartmouth to hang out anywhere regardless of their affiliation.”


How hard was it to get into any frat party before you were affiliated?

Colgate female: “Easy for me as a girl but basically impossible as a boy, only second semester freshman year can they sometimes get in.”

Wisconsin female: “Very hard- unless you are a pledge you can’t get in.”

Penn State male: “Very hard to impossible unless you have a friend from home who’s in the house that is working hard to get you in.”

Bucknell male: “As a freshman when I couldn’t join a frat, especially at the beginning of the year, it was nearly impossible to get into the frats. You honestly had to wait around outside and either pray the guy at the door randomly lets you in, [or] you bribe him, or you [try and] befriend him.”

Cornell female: “Not hard if you’re a girl, but you have to know who is having a party and when. If you are a guy though and aren’t affiliated, it can be a struggle.”

Duke male: “At the beginning of the year most of the frats had open parties where everyone could attend. The open parties are just a way for the frats to meet freshmen guys. Once the frats get some general idea about who they are interested in, it doesn’t make sense for them to keep paying to have these large parties if they only like a fraction of the freshmen who attend. So after about a month, frats begin to have invite only parties where guys need wrist bands to attend (girls never need wrist bands). If you don’t know anyone in the frat you obviously won’t get invited to their party.”

UVA female: “This is where you see a huge divide in in state vs. out of state. The-in state people clearly know more people and thus get into parties more easily while out of state kids have to tag along (I literally grabbed onto my in-state roommate as she walked into parties and would say I’m with her).”

UPenn female: “Before I was affiliated, it wasn’t hard to get in as a woman. Depending on where boys were rushing, it could be extremely easy or relatively hard for them.”

Indiana male: “If you are not affiliated it is be hard to go party at a fraternity.”

Richmond female: “Not hard at all, first semester freshmen year is when [the brothers are] trying to meet the guys [to potentially recruit them to their frat], so it’s a ton of guy- flirting going on.”


Dartmouth male: “Same as number 1, extremely easy.”

Dartmouth female: “I would say not hard at all.”

Dartmouth male: “Really easy. In fact, most of the time brothers in the house were really excited to see freshmen who weren’t in a house yet because they were excited to get them to potentially join their fraternity.”

Dartmouth female: “I don’t think this was a huge issue, my guy friends last year were virtually always out the same places I was.”


How segregated are the frats in terms of race/ethnicity/religion?

Colgate female: “The frats are predominately white, but so is the school. Haven’t noticed religion.”

Wisconsin female: “Segregated with religion. There are certain frats that are predominantly Jewish.”

Penn State male: “My house is almost all white with one black kid mostly catholic kids. Two popular houses on campus are almost all Jewish [and] there is a black frat.”

Furman female: “At Furman, the frats are extremely segregated in terms of race, ethnicity, and religion. Some fraternities here require people to be of a specific race or religion in order to receive a bid.”

Wake Forest female: “There are frats and sororities that are strictly for races such as African American, but very few. Most fraternities don’t usually have a problem with racism [and] all have members [of different races]. However, some fraternities are known to only have white people.”

Bucknell male: “I personally have felt an attitude among brothers that no one cares about your background, race, religion, etc.”

Cornell female: “The frats have very different personalities and over time have become segregated with certain religions and/or ethnicities representing a majority of their brothers.”

Duke male: “A couple of the frats are traditionally Jewish or black but most of the frats are fairly diverse.”

UVA female: “Frats are extremely segregated here. I know of maybe 1 or 2 fraternities that I affiliate with that have black guys but that’s pretty much it… there are traditionally black fraternities as well as a Jewish fraternity so those minorities often opt to do those instead since they are much more welcoming.”

Charleston male: “I would say it’s extremely segregated. We have one black kid in our frat and everyone else is from an affluent town. There is all African American fraternity and the people that go to those parties are all black usually…But religion is mixed for sure.”

UPenn female: “There are some frats that have a high percentage of Jewish people, and there are other frats that have more international than American students.”

Indiana male: “There are some fraternities that are primarily Jewish but for the most part there are multiple ethnicities and religions.”

Richmond female: “They are noticeably segregated by race, but not by religion.”


Dartmouth male: “Frats are not really segregated intentionally at all in terms of these things. However, since people are choosing what house they want to spend the next 3 years of their lives in, it’s clear that they will pick a space that has brothers with similar backgrounds and life experiences as them. This can help to explain why some houses appear more diverse than others.”

Dartmouth female: “I would say the frats are somewhat segregated, but not in a discriminatory way. A lot of houses are commonly filled with players on the same sports teams, so that does cause a bit of homogeneity. However, I don’t feel that anyone would ever be denied membership in a fraternity based on their race, ethnicity or religion.”

Dartmouth male: “Some are more diverse than others, but in general they seem to be pretty heterogeneous.”

Dartmouth male: “I wouldn’t say they’re very segregated. There is some self-selection that goes into the rush process so most houses kind of have a similar demographic and some houses are more diverse than others. But I would say within each house there’s a pretty diverse showing of ethnicities, religions and races.”

Dartmouth female: “I don’t think any of the frats are segregated. Yeah some frats have different groups of people / generally different mixes of people, but I don’t think (and hope) that any person, no matter their race or ethnicity, would feel uncomfortable in a frat basement.”


What percentage of women would you say go to the frat parties.

Colgate female: “Maybe 30% or less.”

Wisconsin female: “Almost all women that are involved in Greek life themselves.”

Penn State male: “Almost all go to frats whether [they’re] in a sorority or not.”

Wake Forest female: “60-70%.”

Bucknell male: “I would be unable to say exactly what percentage overall, but seeing as frats are the only real social life around here I would assume that practically 90% of the girls who actually go out on weekend nights go to frats.”

Cornell female: “70% (just a guess). Even if you aren’t in a sorority a lot of girls are still friends with or go to frat events and open parties.”

Duke male: “Parties are almost always open to girls so a fair number attend. As a freshman I would say probably half of the freshmen girls go out to frats and only about 20% of upperclassmen women.”

UVA female: “I think probably around 30-35% of UVA women would go to frats since that’s the portion of people involved in Greek life plus a bit.”

Charleston male: “Well it’s like 7-0 Girl to Guy ratio here so I would definitely say there are always double [the] girls than guys at a party. Like an average party we have is like 200 people or under and its 60-70% girls and 30% brothers.”

UPenn female: “Whoever goes out goes to parties hosted by frats at some point.”

Furman female: “I would say about 20% of the women.​”

Indiana male: “I would say around 40% of girls go to fraternities.”

Richmond female: “Probably like 70% of women go to frats.”


​Dartmouth male: “A strong majority.”

Dartmouth female: “All the women I know go to frats! And if not frats, there are now local women’s sororities and even some local organizations you could go for social events if you felt uncomfortable at a frat.”

Dartmouth male: “A lot. At any given frat party I would say half the people there are female. So probably equal representation of guys and girls.”

Dartmouth female: “I would say about 55% of women on campus attend frats.”


How many alternative social options are there apart from the frat parties?

Colgate female: “I haven’t noticed any [besides] this bar called the jug that a bunch of people go to.”

Wisconsin female: “Not many. 1-2 Maybe. Bars or non-frat houses.”

Penn State male: “Besides Greek life there are other parties that take place at apartments, don’t really knowmuch about these but most of the school is [involved in] Greek life.”

Wake Forest female: “Honestly not too many, a large part of the social scene is at the fraternities however there are bars in Winston-Salem and events thrown by Wake Forest.”

Bucknell male: “There are many options that the school pushes out but honestly I don’t think many people take advantage of them, and therefore feel as if there is nothing else to do socially outside of frats.”

Cornell female: “Cornell offers a lot of different options, but the big alternatives are club and varsity sports teams, different club activities, co-ops, and bars in Collegetown.”

Duke male: “Duke has Student Living Groups (SLGs) which are kind of like coed frats. They throw a decent number of parties and are generally more inclusive than frats.”

“On Wednesday and Saturday nights a lot of people go to Shooters, which is a local bar. On Thursdays people go to another bar called Devines. Also upperclassmen like to explore the bar scene in Durham.”

UVA female: “There are a few bars in an area known as The Corner, which is kind of the social strip of Charlottesville. Beyond that, there are definitely a lot of people who aren’t into drinking even though it feels like everyone at UVA parties. There are a bunch of religious organizations (primarily Christian) that arrange for social events for their members. There is also another group that does things like movie nights and other late night activities to give those people who don’t go out some other options.”

Charleston male: “There are different clubs and sports parties…There are like 10 thousand people here and it’s 20% Greek so there are definitely other options.”

UPenn female: “Frats typically have the most resources to host parties whether on campus or downtown. If you’re at a club downtown, a frat, society, or club will sponsor it. Sports teams also hold parties of their own. There are bars on campus as well that everyone goes to, regardless of affiliation.”

Furman female: “There are a lot of other social options apart from the frats because downtown Greenville is only a few miles away. There are also a lot of organizations on campus that host alternative social events.”

Indiana male: “Not many, there is a good bar scene, but they are pretty strict with IDs.”

Richmond female: “There aren’t too many, but sometimes there are parties hosted by the sports teams, or they’ll do joint parties with the frats.”


Dartmouth male: “I have always felt that if a person truly wanted to find other alternative social spaces on campus they would be successful in this endeavor…Being in a Greek house is simply one small, albeit important, aspect of their overall Dartmouth experience.”

Dartmouth female: “I have to admit that I am not very informed on the alternative social spaces at Dartmouth, probably because I’ve never gone looking for them. I know that Collis hosts activities, but nothing has ever caught my eye that seemed more appealing than going to the frats.”

Dartmouth male: “There are many other social options, but they aren’t necessarily as constant. They also certainly aren’t as easy to find.”

Dartmouth male: “Not a lot. Fraternities are definitely the dominant component of the social scene here and, being in the middle of nowhere, you’d be hard-pressed to find exciting things to do if the fraternities didn’t exist.”

Dartmouth female: “Honestly not many. Well, I guess you have clubs, and sports teams, the HOP has a lot of stuff, and Collis after Dark, but I think if you are looking for to have a beer and hang out with a bunch of people over the weekends, your best bet would be a frat.”


animal-house

We took a few things away from these answers…

First, it seems that at most of the schools surveyed, it’s harder for guys to get into frat parties than it is for guys at Dartmouth.

The answers indicate that at schools where it isn’t “impossible” for non-brother guys to get in, they need to do things like bribe their way in, show up with girls to maintain the male:female ratio, or make a connection with someone ahead of time who can get them either a wristband, on the list, or in through a side door.

Dartmouth guys, on the other hand, called it “really easy,” “extremely easy,” and “not hard at all” to get into frat parties both before rush, and post-rush at houses that aren’t their own. One thing mentioned that I found interesting is that Dartmouth frats are potentially becoming more exclusive with their new “maximum capacity” rules.

It appears that a large percentage of women attend the frat parties at all the schools I surveyed, though it seems that a stricter male:female ratio is enforced at other schools. None of these results seem to be correlated with the number of alternative social options present at the schools.

While the questions posed are certainly not exhaustive and there are many other issues that were not covered, this brief survey does clearly highlight some misconceptions about our Greek system. Anecdotal evidence isn’t considered as reliable or actionable as a statistical approach, but we should not ignore the findings nonetheless.

Overall from our own experiences and from these responses, we feel like Dartmouth frat parties, are, in fact, more open than frat parties at other schools.  We should seek to embolden these positive aspects of Dartmouth’s Greek system while reforming the areas that need work.

There is a serious perception problem at Dartmouth surrounding our Greek life. Can we blame the administration for its response if the discussions on campus and in the press have focused on the worst parts of Greek life?

There should be more consideration for what we are doing well. We have the power to foster a fair-handed dialogue that considers the definite pros and cons of our traditions regarding Greek life.  In doing so, we can correct the perceptions of outsiders to our community and hopefully spur reform that does not abolish our strongest positive differentiating factors – our strongest points of pride at Dartmouth.

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