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The Dartmouth
April 23, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Faculty discusses tinkering with D-Plan

Despite recent discussions concerning the future of the Dartmouth Plan, most faculty members agree that no action will be taken to modify the D-Plan in the near future.

A recent initiative to investigate the D-Plan was "shelved" by the Committee on Organization and Policy, according to Religion Department Chair Hans Penner.

French and Italian Department Chair Lynn Higgins said the divisional councils plan to meet sometime this week to specifically discuss possible D-Plan modifications, but no recommendations for change are expected.

COP Chair Richard Barff said his committee's initiative came from Dean of the Faculty James Wright. According to Barff, the COP "booted around the topic" in a meeting and the department chairs then discussed the state of the D-Plan in its last meeting. But both groups decided to end the discussion.

Despite tabling the subject -- which has been debated at various committee and departmental meeting in recent weeks -- faculty opinion of the D-Plan remains extremely mixed, and the question of whether or not to modify the D-Plan shows no signs of being resolved in the near future.

Future modifications?

Psychology Department Chair Robert Kleck said the recent department chair meeting offered a series of suggestions to modify the D-Plan, one of which suggested the College encourage juniors to spend Fall term off campus.

By not offering a select choice of classes, juniors would have little incentive to be in residence, Kleck said.

According to Barff, the COP presented another option -- a "common junior year," which would require students to be in residence Fall, Winter and Spring terms of the junior, not senior year, as is currently mandated.

Still, despite the prospect of possible D-Plan modifications, most department chairs said the widely-circulated talk is not heading in any radical direction.

Classics Department Chair Jeremy Rutter said the talk is "nothing I haven't heard before. There is nothing definitive, no plot afoot."

Associate Dean of the Faculty for the Sciences John Walsh said he doubted "anything dramatic is going to happen quickly."

Anthropology Department Chair Hoyt Alverson said there was an interest in "tinkering" with the D-Plan, but no interest in "fundamentally" modifying it.

Associate Dean of the Faculty for the Social Sciences George Wolford said any talk of modifying the D-Plan has "died out completely."

Wolford said he did not sense any particular enthusiasm for a major overhaul of the D-Plan, adding that the COP committee only discussed the plan to ensure that "things were going was well as they could be going."

'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'

Barff said the COP did not want to rearrange the D-Plan because too much time has already been spent creating the current curriculum, much of which has been arranged around the D-Plan.

Many faculty members said there is no pressing need to change the D-Plan.

Kleck said the sentiment among the faculty and COP regarding the D-Plan is, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." If the COP suggested change, it would "give a lot of people pause," Kleck said.

Mathematics Department Chair James Baumgartner also said he does not think the D-Plan should be changed. Despite some problems he has with the D-Plan, Baumgartner said "it's doing all right. I wouldn't want to second-guess Mother Nature."

Rutter said he believes a majority of the faculty supports the D-Plan, and feels any current problems with the plan have existed for years. "It's not getting any worse," Rutter said.

Barff said he feels if change is to come, it will come through student, not faculty, pressure. Barff said the D-Plan offers the faculty a unique flexibility, which a majority of professors do not want to lose.

Personal opposition

Barff, who said he is "in the minority" of professors that raised a voice in question of the D-Plan, said the conditions at Dartmouth have changed since the D-Plan first came into effect in 1972.

Due to the significant growth of dormitory space since Dartmouth became coeducational, Barff said the College is only "one big dorm away" from housing the entire student body in residence. This fact, coupled with the low faculty-student ratio, could enable the College to effectively run a "normal" trimester year, Barff said.

Reverting to a semester system would be a "disaster," Barff said, yet the short quarter system makes it difficult to schedule courses involving lengthy projects. Barff said he would prefer to go to the three-quarter system.

Baumgartner also said he would prefer a three-quarter system. "If we didn't have a summer term to worry about, life would be easier from the point of view of scheduling classes," he said, citing several courses the math department offers that many students are unable to take due to the D-Plan calendar.

Alverson said he would be interested "to think about a year-round term, lengthening courses four or five weeks."

Rutter also said the D-Plan calendar prevented in-depth study of reading material or projects. "For the humanities, it's a real problem," he said.

But though many department chairs said they had personal problems with the D-Plan, most said the faculty as a whole seems to be very much in favor of it.

Penner said he believes nearly 80 percent of the faculty support the D-Plan.