For the first two centuries of its existence, Dartmouth was solidly and staunchly white, heterosexual, and male—the College did not go coed until 1972. Even among its fellow Ivies, Dartmouth has always been infamous for its hidebound sense of tradition. These days, the administration tries hard to soft-pedal Dartmouth’s storied past as a bastion of WASP privilege and exclusivity. The College gladly offers all sorts of special programming and opportunities to members of historically underrepresented social groups. Efforts to recruit Native American students, who are specifically mentioned in the College’s charter, are particularly vigorous. There is also a sizable and vibrant population of international students on campus. While female and minority students have long been proportionally represented at Dartmouth, many still feel like outsiders on a campus that is so steeped in the backwoodsy, fraternity culture of the old New England establishment. For instance, the ratio of sororities and coed social organizations to fraternities is still pretty alarming. Some students feel that ethnic minority groups tend to self-segregate by opting to live in affinity housing or ethnically homogenous Greek houses or by participating in too many special interest activities.
Race and ethnicity notwithstanding, Dartmouth is dominated by upper-middle-class students from the metropolitan East, especially New York and Boston. Open-minded Dartmouth students typically mix easily and make friends with people from all regions and socioeconomic backgrounds. Happily, friendships at Dartmouth cross many of the other traditional boundaries as well. Despite the occasional flare-up of tension on a particular racial, sexual, or political issue, a strong sense of community and school spirit generally prevails over individual differences.