Verbum Ultimum: Dartmouth 2022
If Dartmouth makes the right choices, how will it look in four years?
The Green looks the same. The students are still in ubiquitous black gowns. The speeches are still full of hope and opportunity. But the College is reflecting — reflecting on four years of good leadership, good choices and an agenda of renewal that has built upon Dartmouth’s successes and helped the school, in a short time, become a better place for its community.
It is a sunny day in June, and the Class of 2022 is graduating. The College had elected to scrap proposals for an increase in its undergraduate population. Rather than moving away from its liberal arts focus, the College redoubled attention on undergraduates, committing itself wholeheartedly to offering the best undergraduate education in the country — and the world. An increasingly interdisciplinary view of education has fostered a stronger culture of creativity and resourcefulness, one that prizes student art, research and political engagement even more than the Dartmouth of 2018.
Of course, students are not alone on campus. Faculty salaries, which have lagged behind many of those at Dartmouth’s peer institutions by around $15,000, are up. The College has also committed itself to reducing its current seven to one student-to-faculty ratio to five to one or lower, which would put the College on par with Princeton University, the University of Chicago and Yale University. These initiatives have helped to recruit and retain the most talented professors possible, including talented faculty of color. Those hired by Dartmouth are individuals who, in the best tradition of the College, put undergraduate teaching first and focus on building positive and rewarding classroom experiences.
Maintaining the size of the student body has helped Dartmouth address the housing issues that plagued campus in 2018. By 2022, the process of replacing the Choates and River clusters is well underway: A wrecking ball tore through the last of the River dormitories in summer 2019, paving the way for the construction of new dorms that are almost ready to house the incoming Class of 2026. Older dorms on Massachusetts Row and Gold Coast are being renovated. The College is working to create more classroom space and alleviate strain on dining halls.
The College has a new mission to become truly global, increasing the number of off-campus study opportunities. Without global understanding and learning, there can be no global impact. A focus on transnational issues has led Dartmouth scholars to the forefront of new and expanding fields of study, and Dartmouth’s graduates — increasingly equipped with new global learning opportunities — are achieving ever greater things. The College has restored need-blind admissions for international students and increased the amount of scholarships and financial aid to qualifying students to reduce the need to take out additional loans to attend Dartmouth.
But the College has not neglected issues at home. Robust sexual assault policies are making campus safer, with students taking the lead to change Dartmouth’s culture and stamp out sexual misconduct. Numerous trainings against sexual assault are now mandatory for all students, and the College’s reporting and adjudication process has been streamlined to separate perpetrators from campus while ensuring that due process concerns are fully addressed.
To build a healthier campus environment, the College has also provided students with the resources to form and grow social spaces as they see fit. The students of the Class of 2022 who are assembled on the Green for Commencement are members of myriad social clubs and organizations. These include student-led iterations of the house communities system to Greek houses, all of which are available as inclusive, welcoming spaces for those interested in membership and none of which monopolize the campus’ social sphere. But social organizations hold themselves to ever-higher standards, refusing to tolerate in their living rooms, basements and social circles any hint of sexual misconduct or hazing.
By 2022, Dartmouth’s administrative apparatus is lean and efficient. It tackles problems head-on, reaching for broad student and faculty input to build the best possible solutions. It has reinvested in mental health resources and focuses on building an inclusive campus where all communities can feel at home. This Dartmouth fully welcomes diverse perspectives, ideas and debates.
What can this small college be, with the help of those who love it? It strives, as it enters the third decade of the 21st century, to maintain a close-knit community, to build a mutually supportive and collaborative student body, to advance the liberal arts in a pure and innovative form, to build close student-faculty relationships and to prioritize the education of deserving, qualified undergraduates. The Dartmouth of 2022 continues the best of its traditions, those that prize community and undergraduate teaching, while endeavoring to grow as an institution of learning and camaraderie.
The Class of 2026, just admitted as the Class of 2022 walks across the stage before Baker Tower, is better than the Class of 2025, which was better than its predecessor, which was better than the Class of 2018. So it should be each year, and so it has been. By advancing diverse perspectives, respectfully hearing diverse ideas and committing to expansion of the intellect and of understanding of each other and those across the girdled earth, Dartmouth students are continually becoming global scholars — and global leaders.
When the Class of 2022 walks across the stage at Commencement, will Dartmouth be a better place? The College’s leaders and students have to make choices, and if they make the right ones, Dartmouth can and will prosper as an institution that leverages its strengths to become a school of the 21st century. That is the vision. Let us make it so.
The editorial board consists of opinion staff columnists, the opinion editors, the associate opinion editor, both executive editors and the editor-in-chief.