A Dartmouth Nightmare

by Marcia Yablon | 11/6/97 6:00am

Last year was my first experience with Homecoming. I vividly remember the excitement of the freshman sweep and the anticipation of the bonfire. During the running, laughing and the scrambling to find my friends I recall being dimly aware of a crowd in front of Dartmouth Hall. I was slightly curious but more interested in getting a front row view of the bonfire than anything they could have been doing up on the hill. This year as a slightly less impatient sophomore I decided I would take part in the songs and speeches I had missed the year before.

As I expected the singers were great. I finally heard some of the famous Dartmouth drinking songs and as generations of Dartmouth students held hands and sang the alma matter I felt a sense of coming home. President Freedman's speech was everything I have come to expect from him, excluding his "Beat Dartmouth" Freudian slip, and the two team captains got me psyched for the game. What dismayed and embarrassed me was the speech given by the president of the Dartmouth alumni organization, Sherri Oberg '82. I have not been witness to such a long-winded, self-approbatory speech in a long time.

Like a conceited sorority girl out of Animal House, Oberg proceeded to tell the audience about her "captain of the football team" husband and her million-dollar business. Her first statement was to inform the crowd that "once again an Oberg" was speaking at Dartmouth Night. As far as I could tell the only people impressed with that fact were the Obergs. I used to wonder what type of warped people buy the class of 2015 banners the Dartmouth co-op sells; Oberg cleared that up for me. In addition she settled any doubts I might have had about her Forbes rating, her tax bracket and her children's IQ scores.

What was most annoying about Oberg's speech was that it was a tribute to herself -- a long tribute to herself. The increasing noise of the audience and the crowd rolling freshman did not seem to faze her. She persevered, simply talking louder. Even the alumni standing around me were getting annoyed and bored with the length and content of Oberg's speech. Many of these men and women had similar success stories and were not impressed. They had come back to be impressed by the bonfire, by the heat of the flames, the enthusiasm of the freshman, and the general excitement of homecoming.

Dartmouth Night is supposed to be about celebrating the spirit of Dartmouth. It's about blending the old with the new as we introduce the new freshman class to one of the most historical and unchanging traditions of Dartmouth. The alumni come back to share their Dartmouth experiences and to enrich ours. When I listen to the alumni talk I am usually proud to be part of the Dartmouth tradition, but Friday I was not. I cringed as my friends and family were exposed to a self-adulatory Dartmouth that I did not want to be a part of. Hopefully next year we can have someone who conveys the spirit of Dartmouth I know -- a spirit of friendships and learning, not connections and credentials.