February 8, 2011

DFM: Dance Floor Make-Out

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Greetings readers. Since we kind of jumped right into it in our last Shorthand column, and since you might be looking at this week’s article title with some puzzlement, allow us to explain our raison d’etre. The two of us decided to use our column to comment on campus life, current events and other relevant or intriguing bits of information, and we’ve decided to do it all through the medium of the abbreviation. This week’s, an acronym, is a lesser-known moniker for a phenomenon we are all, for better or worse, familiar with to some extent …

First semester of freshmen year at Cornell is marked by treks to and from North Campus, late-night trips to Nasties and awe at the power of Big Red Bucks. In an effort to find friends and have fun, freshmen flock to weekend open parties at fraternities, often in huge groups comprising their entire Donlon floor. Upperclassmen, you remember those Friday nights, don’t you?  While now the idea of leaving Collegetown only to end up at a small, crowded frat basement, filled with sweaty people you don’t know spilling beer on you, doesn’t seem worth the trip (and after all, what are bars for?) for many of us, these parties were a hallmark of our first semester at college.

Open frat parties are the stage for the DFM: the dance floor make-out. If you haven’t been there yourself, you’ve certainly seen it. You look up from your Keystone to see two people slowly shift from dancing to a sloppy, grimy (no offense, but come on), proudly-PDA smooch. Some pros will even multi-task and keep up with the D.J.’s beat as they do it. The pair may part ways at the song’s finale, or find each other again when the next Rihanna song plays.

Regardless of the DFMers destinies, open parties continue to be a breeding ground for whatever form of love they embody for those bright-eyed freshies. When second semester rolls around, though, these parties still rage on, and for those who have opted to enter Greek life, they are complemented by mixers between one sorority and one fraternity. The prospect of a DFM is by no means eliminated, but attending these mixers allows for, at the very least, a chance to be able to talk to someone and hang out in a less claustrophobic setting. For current freshmen pledge classes however, new rules instituted this year by Cornell’s Panhellenic and Interfraternity Councils mean that they will have to wait until they can attend these events. Moreover, even for those unaffiliated with the Greek system, within a few years, that freshman weekend routine of open parties will cease to exist.

The councils’ spring semester 2011 guidelines address the first three weeks of the “new member period;” that is, the new pledge classes’ first three weeks as parts of their respective Greek houses. For boys, these rules stipulate that for social events where alcohol is present, any new members of a frat will be branded with an “X,” indicating that they are not to be served. Girls don’t even get this Scarlet letter; rather, they cannot attend social events where alcohol is present at all.

We won’t use this moment as a time to beat down too harshly on the new rules, especially since only next week does the three-week period end. However, suffice it to say that there are some glaring inconsistencies (Why are the rules for IFC and Panhel different?), rather short-sighted assumptions (Are fraternities really the only places freshmen can get alcohol?), and even conflicting goals (Why does an organization that advances leadership and development in young women opt for decidedly prohibitive, arguably sexist policies?).  We’d like to instead bring to light just how profoundly the freshman experience, for Greeks and non-Greeks alike, will be changed.

To be sure, these policy changes come from a place of truly good intention. Joking aside, it is of utmost importance for Cornell to promote the safety of its students and to implement rules that will further that goal. Moreover, in terms of the current implementation, there truly is nothing wrong with non-alcohol-related activities or some single-sex bonding events. It would be completely inaccurate to say that neither can be fun. That said, since the goal of the new rules is to foster excitement about membership in new organizations, it seems counterintuitive that new members join houses only to have fewer privileges than when they were unaffiliated, thereby losing the freedom they were so excited to gain leaving home. In a few years, when the proposed changes are fully implemented — when completely dry pledging is in effect, and freshman, affiliated or not, are not allowed at open parties — life for those on North Campus will be very different. Gone will be the days of entire-dorm ventures into the mysterious backroads of campus, so often a bonding experience. No longer will the X on one’s hand become a mark of shared understanding and an icebreaker to meet a new friend … and just what will happen to the DFM?

Jane Mermel is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at jmermel@cornellsun.com. Hilary Oran is a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She may be reached at horan@cornellsun.com. The Short Hand appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.

Original Author: Hilary Oran