MDF among notable changes last year

by Parker Richards | 8/11/16 10:34pm

Moving Dartmouth Forward

The past year has seen the continued implementation of the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” policy changes announced by College President Phil Hanlon in January of 2015 in addition to administrative turnover and numerous student and faculty petitions recommending change at Dartmouth.

An external review panel tasked with evaluating the progress of the MDF policy changes — which include a hard alcohol ban, new residential housing communities and a four-year sexual assault program — found in November that most of the new initiatives were on track. Only the creation of an online consent manual was behind schedule in November, the panel — headed by Tufts University president emeritus Lawrence Bacow — found.

The MDF policy changes have been met with some student dissatisfaction, however. In May, a petition launched by senior class president Danny Reitsch ’16, senior class treasurer Michael Beechert ’16, Paleopitius senior society moderator Robert Scales ’16, Student Assembly vice president Dari Seo ’16 and junior class president Elisabeth Shricker ’17 called on College administrators to “depart from the realm of student life” and garnered over 1,500 signatures.

The petition criticized a “lack of fiscal discipline” at Dartmouth and pointed to a rapid increase in non-faculty staff without stated justification. It also expressed concern with rising tuition and attendance fees, while dubbing administrators “paternalistic babysitters” who have become too involved in students’ social lives.

Tuition, mandatory fees and room and board was raised by 3.8 percent by the Board of Trustees in March, increasing cost of attendance from $63,744 in the 2015-2016 academic year to $66,174 in 2016-2017. The increase exceeded the national inflation rate of 1.4 percent.

A survey conducted by The Dartmouth from July 5 to July 9 of the sophomore class found the MDF policy shifts to be broadly unpopular. The policies had a net approval rating of -66 percent in the survey, lower than Hanlon’s -58 percent approval rating but higher than the -76 percent approval rating of the administration as a whole.

The petition released in May cited, amongst other concerns, the recent downgrading of Dartmouth by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which changed the college’s free speech code rating from “green light” to “yellow light” in November. The non-partisan group believes the College’s bias reporting policies could be used to suppress free speech. The College had held a “green light” rating since 2005, when the school was upgraded from a “red light” rating.

Social justice

Issues surrounding social justice, race and the College’s history with Native Americans played a major role at Dartmouth over the past year. In November, a large piece of plywood with the Dartmouth Indian head painted on it and a sign that read “WE stand with [Native Americans at Dartmouth]. We say ENOUGH” were placed own the steps of Dartmouth Hall.

Use of the Dartmouth Indian, an unofficial mascot used until the 1970s, has been criticized by many as racist. In October, flyers were posted advertising Dartmouth Indian-branded apparel, prompting an email to campus from Provost Carolyn Dever and Dean of the College Rebecca Biron condemning the symbol as “cowardly and disrespectful.”

In February, in direct response to the incidents, the Greek Leadership Council amended their code of standards and greater by-laws to ban Greek houses from displaying the Dartmouth Indian.

In early November, a “Blackout” demonstration was hosted by the Dartmouth chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The demonstration — which began at Dartmouth Hall and later migrated to Baker-Berry Library — allegedly turned violent, according to posts on the anonymous messaging app Yik Yak and in an editorial published by The Dartmouth Review. No police officers witnessed any acts of violence, however, and only one incident was reported.

Several bias incident reports were filed alleging feelings of intimidation or disrespect at the hands of the protesters, however. Others filed reports expressing concern about false accusations of violence. NAACP leaders denied all allegations of violence.

The incident drew rebukes in the national media and on several Dartmouth-focused websites.

A group of almost 200 faculty released a letter supporting the library protest and student activism generally in the beginning of winter term.

In May, a display by the College Republicans was put up in the Collis Center for National Police Week featuring the slogan “Blue Lives Matter.” The display was removed and replaced by Black Lives Matter posters that read “You cannot co-op the movement against state violence to memorialize its perpetrators. #blacklivesmatter.” The next morning, Collis employees removed the posters to repost the College Republicans’ reserved display. On the adjacent board, several Black Lives Matter posters were put up.

In a campus-wide email, Hanlon called the removal of the “Blue Lives Matter” posters “an unacceptable violation of freedom of expression.”

Several days later, students and faculty reacted to the denial of tenure to Aimee Bahng — an English professor — with criticism of the Committee Advisory to the President, the organization responsible for approving tenure. Bahng became a rallying point for the “#fight4facultyofcolor” movement on campus, with a petition requesting her tenure denial be overturned garnering thousands of signatures online. Bahng is currently appealing the denial of tenure.

Significant changes

In September, longtime dean of admissions and financial aid Maria Laskaris left her post to become special assistant to the provost for arts and innovation. Laskaris had served as dean since 2007 and had been with the admissions office since 1987. Laskaris was replaced as dean first by Paul Sunde, the former director of admissions, and later by Lee Coffin, formerly of Tufts University, who also took on the new post of vice president for enrollment.

English and African and African American studies professor J. Martin Favor was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison in July after pleading guilty to a federal child pornography charge on March 31. After his release from prison, he will be subject to seven years of supervised release. Favor resigned his post in the English department in early July before the sentencing.

Following months of preparations, Chi Delta sorority was officially created from Delta Delta Delta sorority, its former national governing body, in September. The sorority became a local sorority with the start of the school year, the first to make such a change since Epsilon Kappa Theta separated from its national organization in the early 1990s. The College promised to compensate the sorority for roughly $90,000 in assets it lost when it separated from Delta Delta Delta, although Chi Delt representatives declined to comment in September on whether the sum had ever been paid.

Another local sorority, Kappa Delta Epsilon, opted to change the theme of a major annual party this spring following a protest at the event the previous year. The party, formerly a Derby-themed event, became Woodstock-themed following a near-unanimous vote in April. The party, which is invite-only, is a major social event in the spring term and faced protests in 2015 — along with the concurrent Pigstick party hosted by Alpha Chi Alpha fraternity — in relation to exclusivity and the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement.

Several Dartmouth students passed away over the past year. Summer Hammond ’17 died of cancer last summer at 20. Tate Ramsden ’17 died last December in Florida following a swimming accident, aged 21.

Most recently, the Dartmouth community mourned the passing of Alana Donohue ’18 on June 23. Donohue — who died of an allergic reaction at her home in New York — was 19.

The College raised substantial funds in donations, including meeting a $100 million fundraising goal to establish 10 new interdisciplinary faculty groups, known as “academic clusters.” Fully $150 million will be spent on the new clusters.

In May, Barry MacLean ’60 Th ’61 donated $25 million to the Thayer School of Engineering, the largest gift in the school’s history. The funds will go toward construction of a new building at the school and a challenge grant aimed at creating more endowed professorships. The new building is expected to cost $200 million.

The College created the new School of Graduate and Advanced Studies, which officially opened its doors in July. The new school will oversee postgraduate fellows and graduate students within the arts and sciences.