Feb 12th 2008 05:05 pm

Our History

What is Amarna?

“Let me tell you one thing
Right from the start;
We’re not a Greek house
But some think we are;
If I try to explain
Well, it might be hard
But I can tell you for sure
We ain’t Asgard…”

As the above quote indicates, there’s a lot more agreement among Amarnites about what Amarna is not than what it is. One reason for this is that Amarna is constantly renewing itself to adapt to the changing needs of its members. The other, more crucial reason is that the core idea of Amarna is hard to capture in a few phrases, or even in a few pages. Is it “a place to kick back, have a beer and discuss Plato,” as Greg Obenshain once said? Sure. A house with, as Sarah Callies put it: “such diversity and so many different ideas”? Yes. How about a “revitalization movement” for Dartmouth’s social scene, as described by Janelle Garrett? Absolutely.

Somewhere in and around all these views, there’s Amarna - which is itself a complex and ongoing interplay of views and ideas. In this history I’ve attempted to give some shape to this interplay by selecting some of the ideas and people that contributed to it, and to Amarna. It’s by no means a complete history - no history would be - but I hope it approaches the essence of Amarna as closely as it can. Read it and judge for yourselves.

Many, many thanks to: the ’97s and others (John Strayer, Terry Osborne, Lee Pelton, Mary Turco) who consented to be interviewed, adding much-needed context to a mountain of information; to Anat Levtov, Danielle Benware and Marisa Kolodny for volunteering additional documents to add to the historical record. Last but not least: to all Amarnites for continuing to make history which, hopefully, will keep future Amarna historians busy long after we’ve passed from the scene.

Joseph Peters
Great Falls, VA
October 1998

Prologue to Amarna

“During a period in our lives when understanding different views and perspectives could not be more important, the last policy we want to continue is one that is isolating, instead of unifying, men and women on this campus.”

- Andrew Beebe ‘93 in his convocation speech.

The relationship between Dartmouth’s administration and the Greek system has never been easy, but in the early 90’s it was at a very low point. Newer, more restrictive rules had recently been placed on the Greek system and its housing policies, and when a new Dean of the College arrived in 1991, the general expectation on the campus was that Lee Pelton would try to do away with the Greek system the way he had eliminated the one at Colgate, his previous institution. Due to this unstable state of affairs and the lengthy silence by the administration about its future plans, voices up and down fraternity row called for a strong defense of the Greek system. It was a situation in which the administration was pitted against the primary social institution on campus, and in the uneasy truce after Pelton’s reforms, it was easy to get the impression that both sides were faced off, each just waiting for the other to blink.

Then, in the fall of 1993, a brother of Alpha Chi Alpha broke ranks and spoke out to advocate a radical overhaul of the Greek system. This in itself was surprising given the atmosphere. But what made it even more surprising - both to students and others; was that this brother was none other than Andrew Beebe ‘93, Student Assembly President, and the place where he made his proposal was at Convocation, directed at the newly minted class of ‘96.

In his speech to the freshmen, Beebe stated frankly that he thought single-sex organization were anachronistic, and proposed changing the current system to make it a completely co-ed one. “During a period in our lives when understanding different views and perspectives could not be more important to the holistic education, the last policy we want to continue is one that is isolating, instead of unifying men and women on this campus,” he said. “It is up to you to define your own social structure, but you can only do it by challenging the merits of the current one.”

Mary Turco, (former Dean of Residential Life) recalls that there was an extremely negative reaction to Beebe’s idea, and rather than ending the ‘cold war’ between the Greeks and the administration, it escalated it. “It was received really badly by the general student population, because most of students were Greek affiliated, and most students interpreted it not as Andrew’s independent thought, but rather to be some initial salvo in an attack on the Greek system,” she said. It wasn’t part of any grand plan - there is no grand plan. It was…one individual student coming to the conclusion that there was a better social opportunity out there, and you could find it. and he was trying to suggest to the general student population that they should embrace this notion of a co-educated social system - and he did that very courageously, knowing that it was going to probably get misinterpreted. My understanding is that Andrew took a lot of grief because of it.”

When I asked her if she thought Beebe was actually advocating a top-down approach to changing the system, she said, “No, I think he was doing the opposite. I think he was trying to use his own public speaking opportunity to open the ears and eyes of some of his peers, because he was in a leadership position and he felt that he could influence some of his peers. I believe he was advocating bottom-up.”

Though she agreed with Beebe’s position, she didn’t feel it was presented in the right manner given the circumstances. “I don’t think it was the right timing for [the speech] because there were perceived threats to the Greek system at that time, because we were either revising the alcohol policy or rethinking it or whatever…and a couple of years before that there had been some major judicial cases and some organizations had been sanctioned and a residual of all that was still there. People didn’t know what agenda Lee had - they didn’t know what kind of agenda he had been given by the Trustees - they didn’t know what he was going to do, and they didn’t know whether he was the top-down or bottom-up kind of person-either. They were waiting to see what Lee’s actions were going to be. That kind of ‘not-knowing’ makes people nervous, and I think a lot of people in the Greek system got nervous. There are a lot of students here who will fight like crazy to preserve single-sex organizations.”

And fight they did. In an editorial afterwards, Beebe tried to strike a moderate tone by saying, “For some time now people have been asking the question, ‘Why should the Greek system go co-ed?’ To them, I pose an answer in a question, ‘Why not?’ “ But it was too late for the die had been cast, and the hail of criticism drowned out the few voices of moderation. Most people seemed to be upset that the issue was even being raised. This prevailing point of view was demonstrated by students like Dan Richman ‘95, who wrote an editorial titled ‘Let Houses Remain Single Sex’ and concluded by saying, “Perhaps the most jarring aspect of this whole idea is people like Andrew Beebe make one think that Dartmouth is populated by politically correct people who spend their time pandering to everyone so as to offend no one. This is not true. The general population consists of normal people who want to spend four years learning and enjoying themselves.”

After a month of run-on debates and arguments, the issue largely died down. But for Beebe, his audacity had serious repercussions. He was eventually forced out of Alpha Chi Alpha by his brothers’ hostility and became somewhat of a social outcast afterwards. However, he never gave up the hope that the Greek system might, somehow, be altered to fit the times, and he gave another speech about this to the Board of Trustees on April 2 1993, a few weeks before his graduation. Apparently, at this point, he had given up trying to convince the system to reform itself and was now in favor of imposing change from the top.

He started by telling a story about one of his recent trips to the bookstore. While looking through a college guide, he found an evaluation of Dartmouth and a description of how Freedman’s vision of a new Dartmouth student had created ‘a battle for the very soul of the college.’

Continuing the theme, he stated: “What I would like to do with my last formal words to this institution is address this battle… From recent institutional history it is clear that you have taken an active role in guiding some overall themes of our Dartmouth experience…In all the areas in which you have played an active role, you have had the intent of building a strong, more inclusive, more intellectual sense of community, and yet all this is not enough to change Dartmouth’s image, both within and with the outside world….

“You continue to cower from the massive social and educational influence of the Greek letter system that flies in the face of all you are attempting to improve about this College. So many students, myself included, have come in the past and talked to you about the benefits of changing the Greek system…We have shown, both anecdotally and through reasoned arguments why the Greek system is standing like a brick wall in between the current and future Dartmouth.

“Instead of taking an active role, you insisted that it is the students who must decide these issues on their own and it isn’t your role to micro-manage the situation. You have done a great deal to intervene in student affairs, but now suddenly you become very hands-off…. And even if you are waiting for students to make a massive push for change, what kind of students are you looking for? Too many high school students interested in a diverse intellectual experience look past Dartmouth. Without these students coming to the campus, no change will occur. But without the change, these students won’t come. This catch -22 is exactly the situation that necessitates institutional action.”

Beebe struck a more hopeful note when talking about alternative solutions to the system, including the possibility of creating undergraduate societies:

“The blueprint of alternatives has been presented… The undergraduate societies offer flexible social communities while being distinctly different from the current Greek system. I urge you to [form a committee] to look at these alternatives and make a change for the future of Dartmouth. One that will change the way people look at the college, both while they are applying, and while they are here as students. Make a change, not just for the ’96s, but for the students of the year 2000 and beyond.”

In the term’s last issue of the Dartmouth on the day of his commencement, Beebe repeated his hopes for an open atmosphere of discussion, not only about the Greek system but also about other polarizing issues on campus. “I hope I am remembered for suggesting to students that there are a lot of things on campus that should be open to discussion, things that are typically taboo,” he said. “There is a protective layer that surrounds most of the tradition that needs to be lifted for the sake of Dartmouth’s future.”

Amarna - A Beginning

“Hey everyone, I want to [thank] those of you who came to the meeting on Friday. I apologize for any lack of organization as we abandoned work on the statement of purpose and began ruminating over names again. I was feeling a bit frustrated by the end, and finally there was a bright spot as we were leaving. Andrew had a sort of revelation, remembering the name of an ancient Egyptian city named Amarna. We have been looking for a name with some meaning, and this one has plenty…”

- A blitz from Duncan Hodge to the other founders, Nov. 14 1993

It seemed, with Beebe’s departure, that the idea of a co-ed social system was fated to vanish back into the shadows from where it came. Fortunately, a few people had been influenced in one way or another by the yearlong debate sparked by his ideas. Among them were Andrew Smith ‘94, Beebe’s vice-president; Terry Osborne, Alpha Chi’s faculty advisor; and Duncan Hodge ‘94, an Alpha Chi brother. In the intervening summer term, Terry had long discussions with the brothers in the house, and various other people, about the current system and ways it might be reformed. Since Duncan had also proposed forming some kind of organization that might be able to serve as a model for a more open social system, the two communicated over the summer, swapping ideas and discussing ways to make it work.

Early the next fall, two events occurred that drove the dream closer to reality. The first was an article by Terry in the Dartmouth. It proposed a revised version of the Beebe plan: instead of a completely co-ed Greek system, he suggested one in which co-ed houses would be the majority and single-sex houses an alternative.

However, people were probably paying more attention to the second event, reported in the same issue of The Dartmouth. Panarchy, a co-ed Greek house, had elected to leave the Greek system and become a co-ed undergraduate society, It had been recognized by the college and was now actively recruiting members, eagerly promoting the spirit of its new while openly challenging the Greek system.

Duncan had not been idle up to that point - in fact, he had been probing for allies among his friends and the administrators. But it was the Panarchy incident, according to Terry, that became the catalyst for him to act. “Duncan came to me after that and said you know, I really think I want to do this. And that was the beginning…everything just came together that first or second week in the fall.” Shortly afterward, Duncan, along with Terry, gathered together a group of people that would collectively come to be known as ‘the founders’: Andrew Smith, Christine Carter, John Peoples, Claire Unis, Auguste Goldman, and Rachel Perri. By all accounts, this was a strong group of idealists who were dedicated to the idea of an open social scene bringing together people of all ideas and types. None, however seemed to relish the idea of becoming a martyr for the cause, particularly after the Andrew Beebe debacle. Duncan, especially, was particularly cautious about how to present the idea of the house to the public. To start the ball rolling, then, they began working on a core concept that would define the organization. This was no easy task, as each person had very strong views about how and why a co-ed organization should function. The debates were lengthy and heated, and the possibility of reaching any kind of agreement seemed a far-off prospect. Eventually, however, they turned out something that is treated by later Amarnites as something of a cross between the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence - the Statement of Purpose.

Commenting on this period, Terry later said, ” It (the statement of purpose) has the great glow of legend now, like it came down from a voice in a bush - and it did not. I want to say how hard that was, how many fights there were, trying to defend the things they wanted. Namely there was a lot of work, a lot of trial.” Despite the difficulties - or perhaps because of them - the statement became a tangible symbol, a concrete goal that the founders could unify around to tackle the issues that lay ahead, like the constitution, membership, and the eventual hoped for but unlikely goal: a house. Before, during, and after this period they met with administrators, most notably Lee Pelton and Mary Turco, both of who voiced support for the idea. Pelton describes the initial meeting as follows:

‘As luck would have it, about the same time as we began in this office, drafting something called ‘Undergraduate Societies’ and trying to describe them, we got a proposal from a group of students to say that they were interested in creating an organization that was co-ed and had open membership. And so we met…From my point of view, [it was also] important that it could be a model of students living under these conditions where they could have fun.

‘In addition, the founding members were students who would describe themselves as ‘mainstream.’ A number of them were student leaders…and they participated in social activities that a lot of other students participated in. And so it did not have the stigma of being somehow peripheral to student interests - just the opposite.’ It was a welcome convergence of ideas and people at a fortuitous time: a grass roots effort to reform the social system at the same time administrators were looking for ways to tackle the issue.

The issue of the name for the new organization was also lengthily debated. Eventually Andrew Smith came up with an idea from a paper he was writing at the time: Amarna, the utopian society formed by King Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti in middle Egypt, the highlight of a renaissance in artistic, religious and political expression.

Eventually the news of the new organization and its approval by the college was reported in the Dartmouth. Some felt at the time that there was a little resentment from Panarchy, who, after all, had been their first; had ‘blazed the trail,’ in Terry’s words; and had not gotten nearly as much press or scrutiny as Amarna was getting. This could be attributed to a number of reasons, but probably the most important was that Panarchy, in the eyes of many, was still a Greek co-ed in a new cloak, and, as Dean Pelton later pointed out, still had their pre-undergraduate society reputation to deal with. Amarna, however, was completely new, an effort spearheaded by seven people considered being leaders in different spheres on the campus. From Claire Unis, ardent feminist and editor of Spare Rib; to Duncan Hodge, former president of Alpha Chi; to Andrew Smith, ex-Student Assembly president, all student constituencies seemed to be represented in one way or another, and that was what drew much of the attention.

The group then focused on attracting more members. Meetings were held wherever they could find a space; in the basement of the Hanover Room, Tabard, odd lounges round campus. They soon attracted, both by word of mouth and favorable press coverage, a respectable following.

In early February 1994, Amarna held its first retreat at the DOC house in Occum Pond, and 31 people signed up to become members. This began a chain of events that lasted all through winter term and culminated in the establishment of Amarna as a house: the beginning of a newsletter, The Weekly Papyrus, by Greg Obenshain; the election of John Strayer ‘96 and Claire Unis ‘95 as president and vice-president, respectively; and the College decision to give Amarna the house at 23 E. Wheelock Street.

Each event would have far-reaching effects on the new organization. For starters, The Weekly Papyrus, which consisted almost entirely of member input on things ranging from the mundane to the serious, served the same purpose for the members as creating the Statement of Purpose had done for the founders. It gave them ideas to rally round, as well as a forum to air their views. For instance, one issue consisted entirely of responses to the questions: “Why did you join Amarna?” “What are your hopes for Amarna?”

“I was looking for a social situation in which mean and women could interact equally, healthily, comfortably, AND TO HAVE FUN!! Hopes: great people, great fun. I hope we can all make ourselves feel good about each other. =)” -Susannah Schlicter ‘95

“I joined Amarna because: The Greek system sucks and definitely needs substantive change. I hope Amarna will show this campus that positive, intelligent social interaction is possible. I hope this doesn’t turn into another place to get wasted… Intelligent social interaction can occur. I have faith.” -Jason Brady ‘96

Later in the winter term, another issue contained a lot of excitement and brainstorming about the new house, mostly about how to make it a social space for the campus:

“How can I pass on how thrilled I am with what Amarna is shaping up to be? KUDOS (no, not the granola bar) to those who just dove in and got involved, to JOHN STRAYER our new fearless leader, to our OWN HOME (and to Kris for being house manager). While I can’t wait for spring (think BBQs, parties, puppy…) I’ll really miss everyone who’ll be off. Best of luck to all!” -Carter

“On the first floor, if there is some way we could knock down a wall, we could have a decent sized dance area… If we can’t do the dance floor upstairs, then maybe we could even reverse things. We could convert one room upstairs, the current study room, into a poolroom. We could redecorate the living room and give it a pubby feel. And in the basement (which we could still carpet) we could set up a dance area… The only problem with all of this is the boiler, which is smack dab in the middle of the room…” -Andrew Smith

“I really like the idea of having a place where people can sit down and talk … The pub idea(in the basement) sounds good to me. We could have a wall covered with books or something. Maybe even some student artwork…” -Greg Obenshain

The crucial nature of the election would become apparent in the first year as Amarna tried to find its feet. The officers elected, particularly Claire Unis and John Strayer, were soon to usher in a new era of debate and discussion about the nature of Amarna and its relation to the outside world. But that was still in the near future; for the present, the Amarnites were ecstatic, and justifiably so, about their new house. Terry expressed this sentiment best at a house meeting 3 years later: “Walking into the house for the first time - it was such an incredible feeling. We felt like we had kicked the world in the ass.” He paused to let that sink in, then went on: ” And you know what? We had!”

The speed with which Amarna received the house (in March 1994, scarcely 3 months after its recognition) left some Greek houses and other student groups crying favoritism. Even the members themselves could hardly believe their good luck. Mary Turco explained it as a fortunate coincidence, telling The Dartmouth, “A lot of things have really played out in such a way to favor this particular group at this particular time” but this did little to dispel the impression that the College was trying to mount a sneak attack on the Greek system through Amarna.

Despite this mini-controversy, Amarna ended the winter term on a highly optimistic note. With a good-sized membership, newly elected leaders, and a physical plant, it was well on its way to becoming a valid social option and even, perhaps, becoming the prototype for a new, alternative system of open, co-ed societies.

Amarna, The Balancing Act

At this point Amarna goes into a period of stability, and there are fewer major events to cover than in its first two terms, so the history from now on is presented as a series of phases. The first of them, ironically enough, was yet another period of re-definition and debate that lasted about two years.After the frenzied pace of the last two terms, most Amarnites were probably more than ready to lean back and take a break from revolution. True, the spring term was a time of settling in and bonding for the new membership; but as always with Amarna, this bonding came largely as a side effect of fierce debate, most of which raged around the best way to uphold Amarnite ideals.

In a sense this debate had been inevitable. After all, in crafting the Statement of Purpose the founders had been trying to come up with the best ways to convey their ideas in words. Now the challenge that met the fledging house was to find the best method, or methods, to act out those ideals. While there were almost as many ideas as there were members, the debate gradually organized itself around two schools of thought. For the sake of convenience, and because both personalities effectively demonstrate the similarities and differences between these two schools, I have depicted Claire Unis and John Strayer as the patrons of these two schools. As Lynne Ricketts once noted, Amarnites sometimes tend to deify the founders - yet I feel it is hard to over-emphasize the effect of these two personalities. They, and the modes of thought they represented, have played a large part in shaping Amarna from its earlier days up until the present time.

John Strayer felt it was important to co-sponsor activities with Greek houses and thus create a healthy mixing of both groups. Claire Unis was more inclined towards Amarna’s separate development, and firmly believed that anything besides the most minimal interaction with Greek organizations would compromise Amarna’s ideals.

As Lynne described it, “Claire and John both had different visions of Amarna…I think - I think - Strayer was very interested in Amarna being a cool place to hang out; that we weren’t the Asgard image. Claire was more like, let’s do more for the community, try to be a strong alternative to the Greek system and that we’re not just a Greek house.”

The debate goes to the heart of Amarna and will probably never be resolved, as Amarna itself is never completely defined but always contains within the potential to be renewed. The issue was this: Do we reach out to the Greek system and other part of the campus by co-operating with and participating in activities with them? Or do we wait and pursue our own agenda and activities, independent of any other organization?

This was not as trivial as it seems at first glance. On the one hand, co-sponsoring with the Greeks might seriously compromise Amarna’s ‘mission’ and render it vulnerable to the very influences the founders had sought to escape. On the other, some people thought it was crucial to avoid being labeled as a fringe organization, and co-sponsoring would be the equivalent of signaling to the Greek system ‘We come in peace.’ Quotes from a Spring issue of The Papyrus illustrate the debate:

” I would like to see out first party be cosponsored. I thought it would be a nice gesture to ask our neighbors at KKG, Heorot and AD to co-sponsor with us. This would (I hope) do the trick of signaling to the Greek system and prospective ‘97 members that we aren’t anti- Greek…” -Andrew Smith

“Our first party should be a house warming party!! We can co-sponsor later. Besides, we need to establish some sort of identity before co-sponsoring, even if it means not necessarily attracting as big a crowd.” - Susannah Schlicter

As Greg Lief later noted, to effect change, “you can’t be totally on the fringe - but you can’t become another Greek house either.” Amarna’s challenge, for most of its history, has been its attempt to tread the middle ground between the two extremes.

Transition - Which Way Amarna?

And there were men and women, women and men,
Trying bravely to make Amarna again;
Oh AMARNA! Let your sun
Shine on US!

The fall of 96, in retrospect, was a turning point for Amarna . On one side of the transition were the ’97s, who were still acutely aware of its newness and recalled that the recent struggle over Amarna’s mission and image were not too far distant. On the other were the later classes of ‘98 and ‘99, who had come to regard Amarna as something which, if not established, was definitely self-perpetuating enough to run on autopilot.The Achilles’ heel of organizations like Amarna is that, unlike their Greek counterparts, very few duties are mandated and so members contribute to the organization as time and other resources permit. The problem with the open approach, however, is that the organization is held together by a core of committed members who vary in number from time to time. In this way, what was once a vital organization can become merely a loose coalition of people held together by an ever-diminishing center. This has already happened to Panarchy, and may yet affect Amarna.

However, administrators do not seem worried about these problems, regarding them as growing pains. ‘If you measure its success by the number of members, it is quite successful,’ said Pelton while discussing Amarna. He also opined with regard to the imbalance in the male - female ratio, ‘these things have their own peculiar rhythms…Three years from now, it could be a very different situation.’ Turco is also optimistic for the same reason - that the number of people in the organization is large and there were ‘very few terms when they can’t fill their beds.’ Her view of the gender gap, however, was slightly different from Pelton’s. She sees it as reflective of the fact that the sororities are less established and thus women are more likely to join Amarna because they have relatively few other places to be heard or to feel comfortable.

For the most part, the ‘97 members I interviewed felt that this would be a time of transition but were not unduly worried about it. Greg Lief felt that the most crucial thing for Amarna was to avoid falling into complacency - to constantly keep the ideas paramount, and this ongoing re-evaluation would help breed committed members. Lynne Ricketts, though worried about the apparent lack of commitment by members, sees it as a tradeoff between the freedom Amarna offers its members and the restrictive measures of other houses. Both felt that the type of person attracted by Amarna’s continuation is inherent in its ideals - that the type of person attracted by those ideals won’t be the type of person to drift away from it. In discussing the gender gap, Lynne stressed that it is crucial that the ‘mission’ is not compromised in order to attract more men, since the ideals are paramount. Ranjit Ahluwalia, though he echoed those thoughts, felt that the more critical issue confronting Amarna was a possible loss of ties to the ‘mainstream.’ In his view, more than just a mixture of both sexes, Amarna was meant to foster ‘a mixture of those inside and outside the mainstream - to bring them together and show them that people are fundamentally the same.’

The ’97s on Amarna

While neither time nor space allows me to reproduce every single quote from the ‘97 interviews, here are a few memorable ones:

On idealism:

“Take some time out… if you want to live up to the ideals.. y’know, sometimes I feel like it’s a drag. But it’s definitely going to take a lot of effort. It’s not going to be easy.” -Pierre

Amarna’s future:

“If everyone’s just looking to be a satellite - yeah, we throw parties, we have formals- but is it worth it?” -Pierre

Claire Unis:

“I remember hearing Claire at the open houses; she was very instrumental in getting me to join. I really looked up to the way she thought about things, about the house.. I remember the one phrase which she stated in the open house, which was, ” The only thing we require of you at Amarna is an open mind.” That really caught me.” -Greg Lief

“I love Claire… She’s so strong. She’s very much… I guess you could call her a feminist but not anti-male. She was a very very strong personality, and a very strong personality in Amarna, with John Strayer…and the two of them clashed quite frequently.” - Lynne Ricketts

Communication between members:

“We had a big discussion…not long after the 99s had joined and I wanted the 97s and the 98s to talk about what Amarna meant to them ….because I felt that the 99s didn’t see that the house was still so young and could change - Amarna’s always supposed to be changing. And I wanted the 97s and the 98s to talk to the 99s about that. And what happened was there were only maybe 2 or 3 98s that came to meeting and the 97s were talking and talking and talking about the way things were and how they could do things in the way Amarna did them and the 98s felt like the 97s were attacking them and criticizing them, like they weren’t strong leaders.. they weren’t doing this and that… and that caused a lot of tension - and I didn’t know this which was a bad thing, because I was supposed to be the mediator and making sure things were OK.”
- Lynne Ricketts

“One thing we have a tendency to do is tell people to share and then we’re not quiet when they do - not respectful. So when we went around [at the '97 spring retreat] and it was very thoughtful, people shared stuff, really personal stuff - it was very neat… People really were very respectful. they shared stuff about their families, their fears, about being in love…that’s the kind of thing that I need.” - Nora Freeman


“I remember feeling immediately like I had a say in the house, and immediately got into arguments about what we should do, what we shouldn’t… and I became treasurer sophomore winter and spring. I remember hanging out at the house and discussion being really lively.”
- Greg Lief

“Grace (Kim) and I were kind of hemming and hawing, and we decided we wouldn’t tell each other our decisions b/c we were afraid it would kind of influence the other…and I then decided to join, and I told her I’d made my decision the next day and she told me she’d made her decision - and she’d joined as well. It was very neat.” -Lynne Ricketts


“I kind of have a problem with … we always, always talk about the founders like they were gods. And that bothers me because, they’re not and there are so many Claire Unises on this campus, Duncan Hodges, John Strayers that are going to be attracted to Amarna - and there are probably more here now than when the founders were at Dartmouth, because the college is changing. And that’s my big thing - I don’t want the 99s to get scared off b/c they don’t have large membership… that Amarna’s going to go down in flames. I really don’t think that’s going to happen because there are people that need a place like Amarna.” -Lynne Ricketts

Transition - how will it affect Amarna?

“My fear is that Amarna will become complacent. Because it’s not new anymore, old ways will be settled into, because it’s easier. I think it’s going to become more complacent and more settled into its ways and that’s what scares me - I’m afraid the house won’t keep challenging itself. I guess what I don’t want to see happen is that it stops trying to make a difference on campus.. that it stops trying to make a place for itself and for other undergraduate societies.”
- Greg Lief

On the changing face of campus:

“There are other factors at work [besides Amarna] There are people like Dean Pelton, and there’s a different recruiting style of incoming classes and that’s changing things.” -Greg Lief

“The Greek system is changing…but I think also that people that were once attracted to Amarna and joined were non-joiners. They didn’t want stereotype attached to their name…and when Amarna was young that didn’t happen because there was no stereotype to Amarna and that attracted [people]. And I think now that we have been around for a few years, that’s something we’re going to have to deal with.”

How to build an Amarna Armada:

“We just drew up a little plan of rafts (of inner tubes) and lashed them together - I think we ductape them - set up a big barrel in the middle. We took it down in sections -I think it was 3 sections; one big triangle divided into three small triangles. We tied and lashed them together. Make sure you put a tarp over them(tubes ) if you have them inflated for a while before assembling them or else they’ll warp… Get a trashcan in the middle, that middle section, fill it with ice, put drinks in it - it’s all good. Anchors, you don’t need too much. Get some cinderblocks, get some long twine…and you can probably figure out the rest.” - Greg Lief

“Man problems”:

“It’s early to tell. It could easily be a cycle (Amarna’s recent lack of male members), but we don’t know if it’s a four year cycle, or ten-year cycle, or what it is.” -Lynne Ricketts

Greg Obenshain:

“He was like the guy next door… non-aggressive, very easygoing…He kept putting pressure on himself to do more for Amarna…Greg was a good guy, he had a good handle on things.”
-Lynne Ricketts

Advice to later classes:

“Don’t be complacent. Keep re-evaluating, keep thinking - keep fighting amongst yourselves in order to keep the house alive to keep the spirit alive because that’s a lot of what Amarna is. Y’know just…don’t settle. Keep things going. Don’t settle into…into a rut or don’t settle into one certain way or another - make sure you provide the opportunity for people to evaluate [from time to time].” - Greg Lief

“Keep having fun. Be who you are, enjoy Amarna…give it a rush of adrenaline and don’t get tired or frustrated. It’s hard to be an idealist, but someone has to do it and Amarna is the place to do it. Just have fun, and don’t get frustrated.” -Lynne Ricketts

“…Take a second and think about what Amarna means to you…Amarna is a young place, it’s really dependent on our input for survival. People need to step back and think about exactly what they need from Amarna. What role does Amarna play in what you want from Dartmouth? And don’t think only about what you can get from Amarna, but give it as much as you can.”
-Ranjit Ahluwalia

“Just basically read the statement of Purpose like every week - or every day - or every time you sit down! It’s a very brilliant document - very thoughtful - and it really describes a place that Dartmouth needs and that we need in our lives - really an ideal community and it’s our jobs to live it. Not just in Amarna , but in our lives. And it’s good to get drunk and have fun, and play pong whatever - but it(Amarna) is more than the sum of its parts… and don’t get so caught up in work and other things that you don’t get time to get into it.” -Nora Freeman

“I’d just say, take a second and think about what kind of commitment you made. Why do I want to associate with these people? What is it that they represent? What do they offer me -and what can I offer them… and what’s my role in all this? That’s something that I think that everyone should do. Just take a few seconds to think about Why.” - Pierre Chanoine

Afterword (Or, odds and ends that don’t fit anywhere)

The first thought that came to mind after completing this was that this is not an end - it’s a beginning. There are so many tales and ideas that have come from Amarna in the last four years, and its unfortunate that they all can’t be put down here . Hopefully a more complete story can be told somewhere down the line; there’s certainly enough material and more than enough colorful characters to go around.That said, I’d like to hazard a guess at what this all means.

What is Amarna, anyway? In the final analysis, Amarna is the embodiment of an idea - an idea that people of all types and ideas could come together and interact as equals in an open, honest environment. This idea has been modified by many members of Amarna, with little in common except the belief that unity is a stronger force than division, and that diversity for its own sake was an idea whose time had come. Today, Amarna faces many challenges - not the least of them dwindling membership and funds. There’s no one solution to this, but perhaps the best place to start is to begin by reaching out to the people we know. Ideals are not enough to draw most people - the personal touch is crucial.

Amarna’s existence has been, and always will be, a struggle ; a struggle to tread the delicate balance between looking in and reaching out. That’s why every new class must remake Amarna - revisit the ideals which are the core and see how they need to be interpreted to survive one more year, one more time, until the ideal becomes an obvious reality. Yes, this is a history; but Amarnites aren’t stewards of anyone’s history, even the founders. They are constantly rewriting and remaking it again and again and again.

With a new administration in place, the Dartmouth social scene will probably soon be re-examined; and no administrator, or trustee, will give any support to strong curbs on the Greek system unless there’s a strong alternative ready to take its place. If it weathers this storm, Amarna may very likely be that alternative. Without being too melodramatic, this is a test - a test of whether a house so conceived and so dedicated in idealism can survive for long. (Thanks, Lincoln…)

If we can’t meet the test, this will just be a memorial to a brief, idealistic moment in this school’s history that made some people happy, raised some pertinent issues, and came to a close after four years. But I hope not. The idea is stronger than that - the house is stronger than that - and the people, both past and present, are stronger than that. And, as Lynne said, there are people out there that need Amarna. All we have to do is find them, and start another cycle of renewal. Hopefully, someday, someone will pore through the documents and write the sequel explaining how Amarna got out of its present crisis. At the very least, it should be pretty interesting….

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