Graduate students are not needed in dorms

by Ethan Ostrow | 11/18/93 6:00am

Dartmouth dormitory life has been disturbed by the nuisance of uninvited guests. The Office of Residential Life's pilot program to house graduate students in undergraduate dorms has stealthily infiltrated the domain of students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

What was a contested proposal last year has quietly become a reality, and in the process Dartmouth has lost some of that celebrated collegiate ambiance.

The personality of this school is derived from the notion of undergraduate education itself. From lecture halls to living quarters, Dartmouth's attention is primarily fixed on the development of undergraduate life, both academic and residential. Either something has distracted that attention, or Dartmouth has consciously decided to go the way of a university.

This graduate residence program is by no means a malignant evil which threatens the foundation of the College, it is merely undesirable and inappropriate within the context of what Dartmouth purports to be. The benefits of such a plan exact the high price of changing the character of the school, and the change is not for the better.

The focus here is on undergraduates, so integration with graduate students on a residential basis could be justified if it enhanced undergraduate life. Yet it fails to do this, and only couples together students who are at vastly different points in their academic careers.

If undergraduate students wish to seek the academic or even general advice of graduate students, this does not necessitate or even imply the desire for a change in residential life.

The credibility of such a program is at stake when one considers that its predecessor 10 years ago was a plan to establish faculty offices in student dorms. Imagining a more ill-conceived arrangement would be difficult.

Why does it seem like such a crime to leave the undergraduate students alone, especially in the buildings where they must live? As thoughtful as it is for the Office of Residential life to provide us with "mentors" in our dorms, it is sufficient to provide us with a desk, a chair and a bed mattress as standard equipment.

The inane "faculty masters" program which was attempted 10 years ago might have been intended to bridge the gap between students and faculty, but this can be and could have been accomplished through student initiative outside the dormitories.

Go up to your professors after class and have a conversation with them, but don't invite them to set up a permanent office next to your room.

If you consider the prospect of having your history professor work down the hall from where you live, you wonder how any proposed program could be so out of touch with student preferences.

Your professor is grading your exam and writes, "Your essay demonstrates a clear understanding of the Civil War. And by the way, I commend your taste in music. Can I borrow your Fugazi CD sometime?"

The present Graduate Students-in-residence program is not as outwardly ridiculous, but it seems like it has been applied to a situation that did not need fixing.

The students themselves certainly did not express modified living arrangements as one of their own priorities, with or without the need for mentors to give guidance to their lives or academic careers.

Students certainly appreciate any assistance available, yet that assistance should not bear down upon their homes. If any part of the undergraduate experience should remain inviolate, then it is residential life.