Yes to First Year Plan
To better the sense of community that is fundamental to Dartmouth's academic setting, the recommendations of the Committee on the First-Year Experience released last May should be approved by the Trustees for implementation.
The report recommends that three residential clusters, including the River and the Choates, be dedicated to freshmen; that a senior faculty member reside near the freshmen clusters to "stimulate intellectual exchange;" residence assignment so that students in the same First-Year Seminars and English 2/3 and 5 classes live within the same cluster; that the seminar leader be the faculty adviser for students taking the seminar; and lastly, that 100 additional beds be constructed.
Currently, freshmen and sophomores comprise over 70 percent of the dorm population -- interaction between juniors, seniors and freshmen is already minimal. But under the new system, freshmen will still live aside upperclass UGAs, as well as a number of other upperclassmen who desire to live in the freshmen dorms. By adding 100 beds and giving upperclassmen separate housing, the College can solve its annual housing crunch while making sure its beds won't go to waste, by attracting upperclassmen living off-campus into the best dorms. While faculty accessibility at Dartmouth is strong, the advising system is weak, criticized by both faculty and students; these recommendations will address the weaknesses. If the results for intellectualism match the confidence of the plan's proponents, it will be a success. But the positive implications for class unity and students' residential and social lives over four years look even more certain.
The D-Plan allows academic flexibility and opportunity, but fragments our residential and social community. Students are forced to redefine and adapt relationships as enrollment patterns separate friends for sometimes terms at a time. The creation of first-year clusters would enable freshmen to establish a happier, more permanent place within the community from the outset of their Dartmouth career, through residential and intellectual experiences shared with students of the same class year. After freshman year, support will continue. The Committee's proposal to guarantee all upperclass students a choice of cluster affiliation is a long overdue step to encourage closer knit residences, so all students living in dorms can enjoy a greater sense of place and stronger ties to those sharing their Dartmouth experience.