Verbum Ultimum: The Homecoming We Want
Students will give to the College if it gives back.
This column was featured in the 2017 Homecoming Issue.
This Saturday, Yale University’s football team will arrive in Hanover to compete against the Big Green in our annual Homecoming football game. For students, it is a time for camaraderie and excitement. For alumni, it’s a time for nostalgia and tradition. It is also a moment of reflection. Long after the game ends, we must remember what makes Dartmouth exceptional. Football is great. Tradition is great. But Dartmouth, hundreds of years from now, will not be remembered for how many touchdowns it scored or how many bonfires it hosted. As an institution, its claim to exceptionalism is marked by the value it adds to the world. Being a small liberal arts college, Dartmouth is not solely the breadth of research published each year. Our measuring stick is, and should be, the number of societal stewards and leaders we send forth after Commencement.
We must acknowledge, though, that when our future leaders enter the classroom halls of Dartmouth for the first time, they are not all on equal footing. Those who are first-generation college students or from low-income families, for instance, may face challenges navigating an extremely affluent landscape. Similarly, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Latinx, Native Americans, LGBTQ and other minorities may feel isolated in lecture halls dominated by traditional students. This is why Dartmouth has initiatives like the First-Year Student Enrichment Program and the Office of Pluralism and Leadership. These systems of support provide resources and communities for those who, because of their backgrounds, may feel unprepared for the intensity of college.
While it is important that Dartmouth continue these programs, it must also try to implement others. Inclusivity must be prioritized if Dartmouth is to attract and cultivate talent across all spectra. One way it can start to do so is by retaining faculty of color. A report by Dartmouth’s Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity and Inclusion last year found the attrition rate for faculty of color to be 85 percent between 2007 and 2012. A petition from the group #Fight4FacultyofColor said that as of 2016, 36 faculty of color had left the College in the 15 years prior, making them 2.5 times more likely to leave than their white counterparts. Furthermore, a climate survey commissioned by the College reported that 21 percent of tenure-track professors experienced “exclusionary, intimidating, offensive or hostile conduct” during their time at Dartmouth. Of these professors, 16 percent felt that their experiences were related to their ethnicities. This exclusion must be met with fierce opposition. Not only is it unfair to scholars of color, but it is equally unfair to students who are robbed of the opportunity to work closely with them. The College must find a way to improve retention among faculty of color if it is to provide adequate support for students identifying as non-white.
Another opportunity to improve support can be found in improving financial aid packages. Even though Dartmouth guarantees to meet 100 percent of demonstrated need in financial aid, it remains one of the few top tier schools with a loan policy. Brown University, which has both a larger student population and a smaller endowment than Dartmouth, recently committed $120 million in an effort to drop loans from aid packages. Dartmouth’s endowment can be used to both reduce the financial burden on low- and middle-income families while simultaneously giving these students the freedom to pursue higher education without the concern of repaying debt after graduation.
Besides providing institutional support to different socioeconomic and ethnic groups, Dartmouth must remain true to its liberal arts mission by supporting a wide array of interests. Currently, Dartmouth presents a disproportionally more robust offering in a select amount of majors. The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy provides many opportunities for students to do internships, conduct research and interact with high-profile leaders of government, but other departments may not be as developed. The Ethics Institute, established fairly recently in 1982, is one example of a subject area that is still lacking in resources.
“We really don’t have any institute at Dartmouth that is focused on understanding the law from a liberal arts perspective,” said Sonu Bedi, the institute’s director, in a previous interview with The Dartmouth.
It’s easy to feel that finance and consulting are the mainstream career paths for graduating seniors — because they are. Fifty-two of the 105 companies at a recent career fair hosted by the Center for Professional Development represented the finance and consulting sectors. Forty-seven percent of the Class of 2017 went into finance and consulting after graduation, according to Dartmouth’s 2017 cap and gown survey.
This is not to say these industries are bad. Indeed, we need Dartmouth students to become leaders in finance and consulting. However, Dartmouth’s reputation is not just its Wall Street or K Street presence. It does not just need hedge fund managers. It needs artists and philosophers. It needs both the Shonda Rhimes ’91s and the Kyle Hendricks ’12s — the Mindy Kaling ’01s and the Dr. Seuss ’25s.
Dartmouth needs to establish more systems of support for people of disadvantaged backgrounds to reach those heights. A black woman accepted to Dartmouth should be able to imagine herself as a successful litigator. A Latino man should be able to achieve his dreams as an engineer. A low-income or first-generation college student should be able to graduate debt-free. Dartmouth is for them as much as it is for any other student, and the College should support traditionally disadvantaged students in whatever way possible.
This is the Dartmouth we want. After Homecoming ends, the excitement will draw to a close — and the cleanup will begin. Let us perpetually critique our current system, imagine new systems of support and remain optimistic about the future. Our task is not finished until we can say, in the spirit of Dwight D. Eisenhower, that “this is what a college should look like.”
The editorial board consists of the issue opinion editor, the issue editors, the opinion editors, the executive editors and the editor-in-chief.