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The Dartmouth
June 17, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

College social life task force completes report

A task force on undergraduate social life created Fall term by Dean of the College Lee Pelton released the report of its recommendations earlier this week -- calling for later hours and more creative use of space in College buildings on weekends, diversification of social options and the creation of a residential Common House or Unity House.

The Social Life Task Force Report, written by task force co-chairs Kristin Canavan '97 and Director of Health Resources Gabrielle Lucke, was based on an extensive survey administered during Winter term registration to over 1,000 students.

Nearly 70 percent of students reported their social life on campus was "good" or "excellent," and only four percent responded their social life was "poor" or "terrible."

However, students seem to think their own social lives are better than the social situation in general at Dartmouth, as only 56 percent said they thought most students at the College had a "good" or "excellent" social life.

According to the task force report, "these [misconceptions] about social life at Dartmouth could lead students to conclude that the situation is worse than it actually is."

The survey results indicate younger students were more satisfied with their social lives than upperclassmen. Over 70 percent of freshmen and sophomores reported to be satisfied with their social lives, while only about 65 percent of upperclassmen said they were satisfied.

Dean of Student Life Holly Sateia said she was surprised to see these results, because she "would have thought it would be the other way around."

"The next issue we have to look at is why students get less satisfied with their social lives the longer they are at Dartmouth," she said.

One of the most interesting results of the survey were the differing views Dartmouth students have about the importance of alcohol at a social event.

Only 41.8 percent of survey respondents said it was "somewhat important" or "very important" to them to have alcohol available at a party, but 93.5 percent said they thought it was somewhat or very important to other students to have alcohol available.

Lucke said the survey showed a "clear desire from students" to have places like the Lone Pine Tavern to "hang out in a low-risk drinking environment." She said students suggested the College offer more settings like Lone Pine, perhaps with a dance floor or more of a sports pub atmosphere.

Canavan said she sees a dichotomy on campus between "high-risk drinking environments and non-alcoholic events," and said she sees very few low-risk drinking events.

"The only think I can think of that happens regularly is the Lone Pine Tavern," Canavan said. "I feel the College is not complete educating students on alcohol -- it is either no alcohol at an event or a more high-risk environment."

She said part of the lack of low-risk drinking atmospheres on campus is partly based on precedence.

Pelton said when he initiated the task force, he was particularly concerned at looking at first-year students, who are not yet part of an established social organization.

In addition to looking at freshmen, Lucke said the task force tried to look at the concerns of some of the students who said they were least satisfied with their social lives at Dartmouth. One such issue was the lack of recreational areas, especially ones open late at night.

Lucke said one of the most shocking pieces of the survey to non-students was that 70 percent of Dartmouth students are awake at 2 a.m. on weekend nights.

"What places are open at that hour?" she asked. "A lot of students have joked that the only options are CFS houses having parties and Foodstop."

But Lucke said although students are looking for places to go late at night, she does not think they are looking for the College to plan events at those hours.

She added organizations at the College have become "overprogrammed" because there is such a lack of space for events that unless the event is planned in advance, there will be no space to hold it.

Pelton said the hours of the Collis Center have been extended on weekends, showing some of the committee's recommendations are already underway.

Another task force recommendation proposes the creation of a residential Unity House or a Common House for use by all students on campus.

A Unity House would be open to upper-class students and serve to promote community and foster race relations. A Common House would be "organized and run by live-in students in a communal manner" and contain programming space for campus organizations, according to the task force report.

Shauna Brown '99, who was a participant on the task force, said she has been working on the idea of a Unity House and has discussed it with Pelton and other administrators.

Other residential changes the task force recommended were the creation of residence hall councils and improving residence hall lounges.

Over 1,100 students responded to the survey, and the sample was representative of the demographics of the student body in terms of year, sex and ethnicity. But only 27 percent of survey respondents were Greek-affiliated, compared to 42 percent of enrolled students Winter term.

Not only was the committee co-chaired by a student, but there were more student representatives than administrators on the committee, Canavan said.

Other student contributors to the task force were Norma Andrade '99, Kate Berkeley '99, Jennifer Constable '97, John Dooley '97, Case Dorkey '99, Curtis Dozier '00, Tikia Hamilton '98, Trevor Hart '98, Anne Jones '97, Phil Lord '97 and Chris Miller '97.

Director of Student Activities Linda Kennedy, Assistant Dean of Residential Life Mary Liscinsky, Director of Dining Services Pete Napolitano, Evaluation and Research Coordinator John Pryor and Assistant Dean of Residential Life Deb Reinders were the administrative representatives on the task force.