Tough Love

by Janelle Ruley | 11/18/98 6:00am

So I was thinking ... about how to reconcile my mixed feelings about Dartmouth. How can I love a place so deeply that challenges me as a person every single day? As I'm sitting at my computer right now, alone in my room, looking out my window at the snow falling majestically on newly bare trees and the well-landscaped ground, I can't help thinking this place is wonderful. It's perfect.

From the third floor of Mid Fayerweather Hall, looking down on Alumni Gym and the Sphinx and Rip-Wood-Smith and Alpha Delta fraternity, with East Wheelock and Heorot in the distance, with fresh, clean snow falling at a deliberate pace, Dartmouth is flawless. Even when I step outside of my hall, I am greeted with that silence that is so unique to the snow season that emanates Dartmouth's wonderfulness.

Yet there remains something nagging at me in the back of mind. I'm working, thinking and worrying too much for Dartmouth to be so perfect. Contrary to the blind bliss that was Freshman Fall, I now see the College through entirely different eyes and from a very different perspective. During all the craziness that has characterized the past almost two weeks now, I was very tempted to take the easy route and start hating Dartmouth and everything that the College and its deified tradition represent. Emotionally, it would have been a relief to just write off Dartmouth and walk away shaking my head. But somewhere deep inside me, the fact remains that I love Dartmouth.

I love that Dartmouth is completely open and frank about its shortcomings. Members of this community, when they make mistakes, acknowledge them, and then are willing to engage in a dialogue about why what was done was wrong and how it can be corrected or avoided in the future. We are extremely open about what goes on here. You know that report we get every fall from the Committee on Standards that includes sexual abuse numbers? Well, very few other colleges -- and none of our peer institutions, so far as I know -- release that information.

What Dartmouth does is say "Ok, here are some problems that we have on campus. Here are some trends of things that are happening. Now, let's talk about why they are happening, and what we can do to fix them." I admire that attitude so much in the College and its leadership, and it gives me faith that we are moving toward being a better, safer College. Students also do this. We hold each other accountable for the things we do and the mistakes we make, and we talk to each other about them.

I love that we have a president of the College who is accessible and available to students and who continues to show his support in very genuine ways. I must admit that when I was in Washington, D.C., last spring, and I heard that Jim Wright was named to be former President Jim Freedman's successor, I was disappointed. I thought that the search committee would decide on a "big name" -- someone who would bring national attention to Dartmouth -- and that was what I thought the College needed. And, I also wanted to be here when the first woman president was named. But from the very first moment I met President Wright, I knew that he was overwhelmingly the right choice. He has this incredible presence that reassures me every time I see him that things will be ok at Dartmouth and that someone high up cares fundamentally about students. President and Mrs. Wright have set a standard of involvement and caring that will be difficult for their successors to achieve.

I love Dartmouth because the people who I love and trust and respect most love Dartmouth. This place is all about people -- we live in a community whose size is conducive to making individual connections that act as support networks when times are tough. When I get down or frustrated or sad, all I have to do is stop for a second and look at the people around me. Our dean of student life is a woman who has been here for 24 years and worn a whole lot of hats. Holly Sateia loves Dartmouth College with a passion that is infectious -- so how could I not love it? My friends are a constant reminder of what is good about Dartmouth, and they keep me going when times aren't so good and especially when they are.

I love that we had a gentleman from the Class of 1938 talk at a speak-out about diversity. It is encouraging to know that that alum, 60 years removed from his college experience, still loves Dartmouth and its students. My grandfather was in the Class of '36. Had he been in Hanover last Friday, I don't know that he would have said what the '38 said.

My grandfather, similar, I would guess, to many alums, doesn't hold diversity in the same regard that I do. What I've learned form him, though, is just how far we've come as individuals and as an institution.

When I go to sleep at night, I wear a Dartmouth t-shirt. The College has become ubiquitous in my life, and, despite my day-to-day frustrations, I love Dartmouth. It's tough love, but I know that I will continue to love this place 60 years after I graduate.