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Fifty years ago, the Dartmouth student body was completely male. In typical Dartmouth fashion, there was resistance to change. But with considerable effort over the years, that demographic has changed: since 2012, the student body has had equal representation of both genders. To this day, Dartmouth continues to redefine what it means to preserve tradition without excluding deserving students on the basis of race, gender and socioeconomic background from the opportunities of a Dartmouth education.
With his announcement of the College’s $3 billion capital campaign, “The Call to Lead,” College President Phil Hanlon acknowledged an obvious truth: Dartmouth is distinct. The College maintains a unique identity and educational opportunity among universities. In “The Call to Lead,” Dartmouth has shown it is intrepid enough to strengthen those aspects of the College that will further distinguish and advance the school while also acknowledging Dartmouth’s current shortcomings and steps for improvement. Regardless of the campaign’s self-congratulatory tone, this declaration exemplifies the direction and spirit that Dartmouth needs if it is to thrive. A confident vision for the future of the College has been set forth: will alumni and students be willing to answer?
In its current mission statement, Dartmouth declares its commitment to preparing students for “a lifetime of learning and of responsible leadership,” qualities that have been integral to Dartmouth’s mission in one form or another since its founding. As a liberal arts college, Dartmouth achieves this by encouraging engagement with a wide range of subjects, often in intimate and dynamic contexts. In many ways, the College fulfills this successfully: Dartmouth has a student-to-faculty ratio of seven to one, boasts the highest participation rate in study abroad programs of any Ivy League institution as of 2014 and offers a plethora of opportunities for innovative learning and experience in and out of the classroom.
Sustainability has long been a major goal and a central subject of conversation at Dartmouth. Sustainability-minded organizations, communities, initiatives and opportunities on campus, many of which have been pioneered by the Dartmouth Sustainability Office, have made the issue highly visible. The efforts made on the part of the College and the students involved have not gone unrecognized: Dartmouth was ranked 10th in the Green Universities Report last year by SaveOnEnergy.com, a Texas-based energy consulting firm. The report stated, “At Dartmouth College, sustainability isn’t just a campus initiative — it’s a way of life.”
Mindy Kaling ’01 is a Dartmouth legend — not because she is a two-time New York Times best-selling author; not because she was the first woman of color nominated for an Emmy in writing for her work on “The Office”; not because she produced, directed, wrote and starred in her own comedy series “The Mindy Project”; and not because she made it on to TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People List in 2013, to name just a few of her accomplishments. She is a legend because she grew a successful career in entertainment out of a Dartmouth degree.
Tonight, the streets of Dartmouth’s campus will be uncharacteristically quiet. The throngs of students that normally populate Webster Avenue and Wheelock Street will be absent. Instead, various social spaces will hold public and private conversations on their complicity in and perpetuation of a perennial outrage at the College as well as universities across the country: sexual violence and assault. This reckoning is long overdue and all too necessary. Pledges to curtail and prevent sexual violence must not be confined to the month of April. To have any chance of success, Dartmouth must be sincere and relentless in the reformation of its social spaces.
On Saturday, March 24, thousands of people marched on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. for the March for Our Lives, a demonstration in support of tighter gun control regulations. The march was accompanied by over 800 corresponding protests in cities around the world. Announced in the wake of the tragic mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the march was the culmination of weeks of activism and outcries mostly by students and youth.
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.
For many, college is a period of self-discovery and newfound independence. This freedom is a blessing, but it can also seem like a curse — with little oversight on how to act and with many influences capable of pressuring students, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Add to that the common assumption that most students seem to be doing fine and some can end up believing that they are worse than others for struggling, that they are missing a spark that must be inherent in others.
Last Friday, 15 current and former Dartmouth athletes and two head coaches marched in the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang, South Korea. Undergraduates Tricia Mangan ’19 and Alice Merryweather ’21 were added to the U.S. Alpine ski team just days before the official start of the games, while Paralympian Staci Mannella ’18 is scheduled to compete in March. In total, 18 Dartmouth representatives will participate in the Olympics this year, the most in a single Games in College history. This is an exciting time for the Dartmouth community, but it is also an opportunity to embody the spirit and values of the games while fostering a more welcoming atmosphere as a campus.
This editorial was featured in the 2018 Winter Carnival Issue.
The Dartmouth that students enter in half a decade may look very different from the College we know today. Last fall, the College’s leadership announced the creation of a task force to consider increasing the number of undergraduates on the campus by as much as 25 percent, or roughly 1,000 students. The task force’s final proposal is due in mid-March. If implemented, such a change would represent a shift at the College that would likely necessitate large-scale faculty hiring, massive building initiatives and a fundamental change in campus culture. Both proponents and opponents of the proposal deserve a chance to weigh in before any final decisions are made.
Last Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Trump’s first year in office has been marked by an aggressive agenda of attempted policy changes, some sweeping and others less so, some successful and others defeated. The political turmoil nationwide has inspired a similar — if somewhat subdued — change in Dartmouth’s campus culture, an effect that supports the notion that universities are microcosms of society.
BarHop, a College-sponsored program that provided students with weekly social events at the Hopkins Center for the Arts from February 2014 through May 2017, was suspended indefinitely last November. The program, which utilized three rooms of the Hopkins Garage to offer an arts and crafts space, host regular performances from student bands or groups and provide a dance club-like area, also served alcohol to students of legal drinking age free of charge. The hiatus, brought on due to staffing and space issues, according to an email statement from Joshua Kol ’93, director of student performance programs at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, has closed down one of few successful alternative social spaces at the College.
Last year, three professors of psychology and brain sciences were placed on paid leave amid investigations of sexual misconduct allegations. The investigations are ongoing, and no findings have been disclosed but the initial allegations — which are not public — have been expanded upon anonymously by 15 current and former students and by two other academics, Jennifer Groh and Simine Vazire. These allegations came during a time of extreme upheaval across industries and society, with numerous powerful male figures coming under fire and facing professional, personal and, at times, legal repercussions for patterns and behaviors of sexual abuse, misconduct and assault.
Last month, Congress signed a sweeping new tax bill into effect. Allegedly designed to benefit the middle class, this bill includes a 1.4 percent excise tax on the investment income of private colleges and universities with at least $500,000 in assets per student, which will likely come primarily from schools’ endowments. Dartmouth, along with over 30 other wealthy private schools ranging from Harvard University to Swarthmore College to the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, will likely be affected by this tax, which is expected to bring in about $1.8 billion over a decade and help offset the large increases in the national debt the tax bill is expected to produce.
Dartmouth recently announced the appointment of computer science professor David Kotz ’86 as interim provost while a search committee begins its hunt for outgoing Provost Carolyn Dever’s replacement. As one of the most powerful administrators at Dartmouth, second only to the College president, the provost oversees close to 30 offices, support centers and programs ranging from admissions and financial aid to information technology services to environmental health and safety.
Dartmouth, like most higher education institutions in America, is a funnel that sifts through its applicant pool, systematically favoring those of a higher socioeconomic background. Before access to higher education was extended to more people regardless of race or gender, this funnel also greatly favored the sons of College graduates, who were often white and male. Though there is now more diversity and access to higher education nationwide, the practice of giving preferential treatment to the children of alumni still exits in the form of treatment extended to legacy students.
Writing 5 is a requirement and rite of passage for most Dartmouth students. While some students are required to take Writing 2-3 and others may opt to take the Humanities track, the majority of first-years are divided among sections of Writing 5 in the fall or the winter, with 36 in the former and 34 in the latter. There, the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric notes that students are introduced to “the writing process that characterizes intellectual work in the academy and in educated public discourse.”
Dartmouth should serve its students’ interests. The College needs to take in some revenue to survive, but it should not do so on the backs of its students. Dartmouth Dining Services would be a better business, and students would be happier and better off, if dining options at Dartmouth were made more competitive, if student meal plan requirements were relaxed or abandoned and if declining balance account funds could be spent at off-campus eateries.