From Discussion to Action

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 11/17/98 6:00am

Several recent incidents of insensitivity and ignorance on campus have highlighted the need for increased community understanding.

In the wake of these unfortunate events, the Dartmouth community has mobilized itself to speak out against hatred and ignorance. However, while words have an undeniable power to heal and unite initially, concrete actions are the only means by which the community can find long-term solutions.

It is now essential that members of the community move from discussion to action.

The best way to convert current campus energy into positive change is to generate ideas for improving campus relations and encouraging multicultural understanding. For example, certain minor changes to current academic and social aspects of Dartmouth could lead to change on a larger scale.

As the Student Assembly and other student organizations have pointed out, the "Non-Western" distributive requirement is an overly simplistic and ethnocentric means of encouraging students to broaden their cultural understanding.

Both the name and the definition of this requirement should be changed to reflect a more inclusive multiculturalism.

The College should require that students take a course in subjects such as Asian-American Studies, African-American Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Native American Studies or Women's Studies to broaden their exposure to diverse perspectives -- each of which represents a segment of the Dartmouth community.

Another means of encouraging understanding is requiring different campus groups to sponsor social and cultural events together.

But sponsorship should mean more than monetary support. Members from all sponsoring organizations should be encouraged to attend, even in exchange for financial support.

In addition, providing an open forum for students to voice complaints would allow the community to deal with problems when they occur rather than waiting until a significant backlog provokes massive response.

A community resource center where students could go to write down their thoughts in a campus diary, talk to peer advisors or attend cultural events would be a step in the right direction.

Although these are nothing more than suggestions, ideas for concrete actions can allow the community to channel energy into understanding.

Instead of letting the ignorant actions of a few divide the whole, the Dartmouth community should use this as an opportunity to implement creative solutions to ongoing problems.