Four years at Dartmouth have brought triumph and tragedy to the Class of 1996

by Jacqueline Rose | 6/9/96 5:00am

Four years at Dartmouth brought the Class of 1996 both triumphs and tragedy.

And even though little has changed since they stood on the steps of Robinson Hall before their Dartmouth Outing Club freshman trips, the events of these four years have shaped a common experience for graduates.

From fun in the sun sophomore summer to the suicides of two of their classmates last year, graduates remember the four-year roller coaster ride that comes to an end this morning.

Freshman year

Controversy struck the moment members of the Class of 1996 began its time at Dartmouth when Student Assembly President Andrew Beebe '93 proposed a plan for the coeducation of the entire Greek system at Convocation exercises in the Fall.

Panhellenic Council President Dani Brune '96 said students vehemently opposed Beebe's motion.

"People thought it was ridiculous," she said. "People definitely laughed at it. I didn't think it would happen at that time."

Panhell, the governing body of the College's six sororities is a council of the six sorority presidents.

The close of the Collis Center for renovations proved a nuisance during graduates' freshman year.

Amy Harman '96 said the original cafe was so tiny that students had to squeeze through the lines to get their food.

Meredith Martin '96 gave a more favorable impression of the old Collis. She said "it was a lot more cozy."

"There was a loft upstairs, and people just went and hung out there a lot," she said.

Martin said she purchased a t-shirt shortly before the Collis renovations which states, "I remember Collis Cafe when ... humus was a mere concept."

That same fall Big Green football won the Ivy League title and the men's soccer team made it all the way to the NCAA quarterfinals.

Winter term brought news of the death of former College President John Kemeny '22. Kemeny, a renowned mathematician who wrote the BASIC computer program, served as president from 1970 to 1981. He implemented coeducation and the Dartmouth-Plan at the College.

The College lost another kind of president with the resignation of Assembly President-elect Stewart Shirasu '92 in the spring.

Shirasu stepped down amidst allegations that he cheated during his campaign. Three days after winning the election, The Dartmouth ran a front page picture of Shirasu drunk and unconscious in a hallway of Butterfield residence hall, the College's substance-free residence hall.

Panarchy, the College's first undergraduate society, was formed that spring.

Sophomore year

During sophomore year the Class of 1996 enjoyed the product of the previous year's inconveniences, when the newly-renovated Collis Center opened its doors.

"People were psyched when Collis opened," Courtney Bell '96 said. "We are the only class at the College that remembered Collis as it was from when we were freshmen."

"The new building is infinitely better than the old," she said.

October 26 brought news of the suicide of Dan Boyer '94 in a Lebanon gun shop. The College planted four trees in his memory in front of Collis.

Amarna, the College's second undergraduate society was formed that year. Thirty-one students joined the new society, and the College gave them a house on East-Wheelock street.

That winter two members of Beta Theta Phi fraternity were arrested for allegedly violating a New Hampshire anti-hazing law, which went into effect less than a year before the incident.

The College suspended Nat Cook '94 for four terms and David Robb '94 for two terms and de-recognized the house for a year.

In February, several Assembly representatives unsuccessfully tried to impeach then-Assembly President Nicole Artzer '94.

That spring the Board of Trustees voted to keep the Reserve Officers Training Corps at the College, sparking protests in front of Parkhurst.

ROTC prohibits openly-homosexual students from participating.

At the year's end, Dean of the College Lee Pelton's First-Year Experience committee recommended drastic changes to the College's residential life system, including the establishment of first-year dormitories.

A summer in the sun

Members of the Class of 1996 spent their sophomore summer sunning on the Green, swimming in the river and searching for the campus's few air-conditioned places to study.

"The summer was a lot of fun," Martin said. "The weather was great. We all sat on the Green or took trips to the river."

"There was lots of sitting outside and bike rides," she added. "But it was more work than I expected."

Kishan Putta '96 made headlines when he was run over by a motorboat on the Connecticut River at Tubestock, the College's summer festival on the river.

Putta and the boat collided after he swung into the river on a rope swing.

"I definitely feel it was not my fault," Putta told The Dartmouth after the accident. "I definitely feel that there must be some fault placed on those boaters. They should have been more careful, especially considering the environment they were in."

Bell, a member of the crew team, reminisced about swimming in the river after practice with her teammates.

"After practice, I remember jumping into the river and swimming anywhere we wanted to and just being stupid with each other," she said.

Junior year

Graduates began their junior year in the midst of a controversy over the Hanover Police's practice of arresting students for "internal possession" of alcohol. Police were arresting intoxicated minors for the possession of alcohol. The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union became involved in the case, stating that the police's actions violated students' rights.

Bell said students were incensed by the law.

"People felt that it really infringed on their civil rights," she said.

Assembly President Danielle Moore '95 resigned amidst bickering and infighting Fall term.

In October, more than 1,100 students went to Thompson Arena to listen to Nobel Peace Prize winner Eli Wiesel describe his experiences during the Holocaust.

Winter term brought a meningitis scare to campus when several students contracted the highly contagious and often fatal disease.

College President James Freedman took a six-month sabbatical during Winter and Spring terms to recover from a bout with lymphatic cancer and write a book about liberal education.

When they returned senior fall, seniors had to deal with the recent suicide of their classmate Sarah Devens '96.

Devens excelled in field hockey, ice hockey and was named an All-American in lacrosse. She was awarded a prize for being the College's outstanding female athlete.

"Sarah's death in summer was very shocking," Bell said. "It was really difficult in the fall being seniors."

"There is a certain amount of self-reflection that goes on during that year here, and the deaths added to our sense of needing to think about things," Bell added. "I think it was a tragedy for our class as well as for the College."

The Dartmouth reported the suicide of Marcus Rice '94 October 6, and two weeks later another senior killed himself.

Philip Deloria '96, a former president of Native Americans at Dartmouth, took his own life in his Grantham apartment.

A fourth Dartmouth student, Anthony Lightfoot '92, committed suicide in a Seattle skyscraper Jan. 12.

"Sadly this class, like others, has been touched by tragedy," Dean of the Class of 1996 Sylvia Langford said.

She said she witnessed the class mature as they struggled to cope with the suicides together.

"This class has grown as it has been challenged," she said. "Most members of the class have matured significantly."

Joelle Lewis '96 said the suicides, especially those of her classmates, were very upsetting.

"I didn't know either of them personally, so they didn't affect me as deeply as they affected other people, but it was definitely very upsetting," she said.

That fall, members of the Dartmouth Rainbow Alliance held a candlelight vigil on the Green to protest the Colorado legislation denying gays, lesbians and bisexuals protection against housing and job discrimination.

With the New Hampshire primary Winter term, the College became a center of media attention as it played host to almost all the Republican presidential candidates.

On January 20, Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole campaigned on the lawn of Alpha Delta fraternity. Music Television covered the event.

In the winter, the women's basketball team made it to the NCAA tournament, and the men's team made a valiant effort against the powerful North Carolina Tarheels.

In response to hate-speech incidents which occurred Winter term, 400 students participated in a "Rally Against Injustice" in front of Parkhurst Hall. More than 40 students, faculty and administrators spoke to the crowd.

Langford said the rally shows the students' refusal to take intolerance sitting down.

"Students' responses over the past four years indicate that most will no longer tolerate a campus environment that is not welcoming to all students," she said.

Brune said she does not think the events reveal a trend toward intolerance.

"I think the overall level of the tolerance at the College has not changed," Brune said.

Dartmouth was in the spotlight again when anthropology professor Dale Eicklemann told newspapers he built bombs with the unabomber suspect when they were in high school together.

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