Dartmouth on a Different Plain?
As the senior class comes one term closer to its final date with graduation, and the snow begins to blanket our home on the hill, I sat back during one long, sleepless/study-filled night last week. Discontent with the way things went this past term, I was intent on finding some sort of resolution.
The '96 class has seen a lot change in our years here. We are the last class to remember the old Collis, the last class to have a "Freshmen Book," and I wonder if we are the last to remember the school for which I came here. The average Dartmouth student has changed a great deal since we saw the '93s graduate. As a prospective, I chose Dartmouth because I saw people who I felt represented the kind of life that I valued: Active, athletic, intelligent people who enjoyed the company of others and the outdoors, a "strong mind and a strong body."
Now, as I look around, I fear that we have lost the feeling for the essence of Dartmouth. Students who are so indulged in their own "lonely acts of writing poetry, or mastering the cello, or solving mathematical riddles or translating Catullus" keep their activities and their aspirations to themselves. To call this a diversification of the student body is wrong; instead it has the opposite effect. It has segregated students into groups who share their specialized interest solely amongst themselves.
While I was at the Dartmouth-Princeton football game this past weekend, I looked over at the partially filled section where the Class of '99 should have been. The interest in Dartmouth has faded. I am astounded at how quickly the pressure and influence of the administration and its admission policy has completely changed the Dartmouth that I thought I knew. Each year, in order to improve our National Ranking, we accept students with higher GPAs, higher SATs and higher class rankings. I realized that I might not have gotten in if I were applying this past year.
Dartmouth has always had an active student body; in sports, the outdoors and the humanities. This is what makes our school different, and I would argue, better than the rest of the Ivies. But certain pressures are changing this quality, and consequently, many of the recent, important improvements are being obscured by self interest and self involvement. The student is valued more than the person. To love Dartmouth is to love and enjoy the people who make up our daily lives, who give us something to think about, something to laugh about and new things to learn. While the administration has the greatest influence on who gets in, we as students can do what we want with the opportunity.
At Dartmouth, our curriculum and everyday experience teaches us how to solve problems. The ability to communicate, work in groups and express ideas is integral to this process. Skills like these are learned in an interactive setting, a place that I am afraid we are losing in this mad rush to compete with Harvard and Yale Universities.
So when you return to your homes during the holiday season, and you are asked the generic question, "How is college going?" think about it. Are you making the kind of impact that you want to? Are you being the kind of student, participant and person that will make Dartmouth its best, something we can all be proud of?