Title: Dartmouth Housing System Initiation
General Information about Item:
- Initiation Ritual
- Dartmouth College
- Informant: Trevor Ballantyne
- Date Collected: November 1, 2018
- Trevor Ballantyne is a close friend of mine who was born on March 31st, 1999. Trevor attended elementary school in Hopkinton, Massachusetts where he grew up and he then attended Rivers Academy for high school. After graduation, Trevor matriculated to Dartmouth College where he is currently a sophomore. Trevor is involved in a fraternity on campus, and he is on the Dartmouth Varsity Lacrosse team.
- Cultural Context: I personally interviewed Trevor in the Collis Café at Dartmouth College. Trevor was first introduced to the housing community when he arrived on campus for freshman orientation. Trevor was surrounded by all incoming freshman who were all going to their specific housing communities at the time. After that, Trevor was first introduced into South House when he attended a South House dinner at a professor’s house who was affiliated with South House. During this, Trevor was surrounded by all of the other members in South House, including me. The process of being initiated into a housing community always occurs during freshman orientation
- Social Context: Trevor is a first-generation Dartmouth student who planned on being affiliated with a fraternity from freshman year. Before Dartmouth, Trevor was unaware of the housing system and did not expect the housing system to have an effect on his time at Dartmouth. This initiation occurs during freshman orientation which involves a countless number of activities and traditions that allow students to bond with other members of their class
- As Trevor arrived on campus during freshman orientation, he was first initiated and welcomed onto campus by fellow South House members excitedly cheering for their house. Trevor went to the South House desk and was given a black South House shirt and water bottle. Trevor felt this initiation ritual to be welcoming due to the hectic nature of the day as all freshman arrived on campus. Days later, Trevor was further initiated into the South House community when he attended a South House dinner at a professor’s house. Trevor ate food, met fellow South House members, and signed a book that all South House members signed. Trevor was especially grateful for this initiation ritual because he was able to meet other freshman in South House and start relationships with kids that he would one day possibly live with.
- Initiation rituals consist of three stages: separation, transition, and incorporation. For the South House dinner initiation, the separation stage occurs when South House members leave campus and the rest of the student population and go to a house with only South House members. The transition stage occurs when students enjoy food and meet their fellow South House members. Finally, the incorporation stage occurs when students sign the South House book and officially join South House.
Meaning and Interpretation
- Every Dartmouth student is a member of a specific housing community. Many students feel a strong sense of pride regarding their house, and the initiation ritual into South House acts as the first way for students to officially join South House.
- Comparison within the subgroup: In this sub-group, we focused on Dartmouth College social initiation rituals. One similarity between most of these rituals is that they are experienced by freshmen. A student’s freshman year is a time to learn about his or her new community and the traditions that form its unique culture. Freshman year is also the time that most students join the clubs or sports teams that they will be most involved in throughout their Dartmouth careers. Therefore, it makes sense that so many of the Dartmouth social initiation rituals take place during the freshman year, such as the homecoming bonfire ritual. One difference within our subgroup is who initiates and runs each initiation ritual. Sometimes these rituals are set up and funded by the Dartmouth administration, and sometimes they are student-run. Another difference is the duration of each ritual. Some social spaces take a while to initiate into or involve a few different rituals that initiate new members, whereas others only require one short ritual.
- Comparison with the rest of the subgroups: The subgroups differ dramatically across the board. Some of the subgroups focus on various ethnic groups while others focus on groups within Dartmouth. The initiation rituals of the groups within Dartmouth usually have the purpose of welcoming new members into their community and are symbolic. Ethnic-based group rituals have the purpose of testing the new members. Additionally, ethnic groups’ initiation rituals tend to be related to religious practices. Initiation rituals of Dartmouth groups are not religious in character. What all groups have in common though is the fact that the process of initiation creates closeness with the rest of the group and makes one feel completely immersed into the group.
- Trevor Ballantyne on the South House initiation dinner, “It was a good way to meet everyone and there is a huge book that you sign your name, say you were there, everyone from the house does it and you can tell it’s the foundation of a tradition that’s going to go on for a long time.”
Collector: Reg Anderson, Dartmouth College, Russian 13, Professor Valentina Apresyan, Professor Mikhail Gronas, Fall 2018
- Housing System
- South House
- Initiation Ritual