Initiative resets admin agenda

by Julia Levy | 11/24/99 6:00am

Although the Student Life Initiative has forced the College to put off decisions about door locks, new Greek Houses, fees and fines and building projects, administrators say it has also brought other issues and plans to the forefront.

According to Associate Dean of the College Dan Nelson, who was acting dean last year when the Initiative was first announced, much of his time over the past year has been dedicated to Initiative-related activities.

"There's probably not a day that goes by when many of my colleagues and I don't have some sort of conversation or meeting that's somehow related to the Trustee Initiative," he said.

Nelson said although last Spring term he was particularly busy as the chair of the Initiative task force -- meeting with administrative colleagues, faculty members, students and alumni to gather opinions and feedback -- the Initiative has also kept him busy this term.

However, while Nelson talked about the Initiative's effect on the schedules of administrators, he emphasized that the issues the Initiative has raised -- housing, social space, social options and alcohol -- are issues that administrators at the College would deal with on a regular basis regardless of the existence of the Initiative.

"If anything, there's more that's been done in the area of student life, not less," Nelson said.

He said examples of this progress were certain programming efforts and enhancements to first year orientation program.

Dean of Residential Life Marty Redman agreed that the Initiative has been a positive contributor to campus progress over the past year.

"That the Initiative is out there has given everyone the opportunity to look at things from a much larger perspective," he said.

He said the Initiative brought some student dissatisfaction with the discontinuity of living space into the public light. Because of this, he said Director of Housing Services Lynn Rosenblum has begun the process of reorganizing the process to better serve students' needs.

"It's kind of a mixed bag," he said. "In this issue we've actually moved forward probably more actively than we would have."

However, he said the fact that the College's future social and residential life is largely unknown by administrators has prevented the College from making other key decisions.

He said the College has not been able to answer Panhell's multiple requests -- both last year and this fall -- to create a new sorority.

Similarly, Redman said the College had to alter its 15-year refurbishment plan to accommodate possible changes the Initiative may cause.

He said the original plan called for the Choates to be renovated this coming summer, following last summer's work on of the Gold Coast. However, because numerous proposals to the steering committee have brought up the possibility of changing the Choates entirely to create more residential space, the College decided to alter its plans to renovate Russell Sage this summer.

"To spend several million dollars to tear them all out in a few years didn't make sense," he said. "We've modified our approach."

He emphasized that this schedule alternation will not set the College back on its 15-year agenda, but just assures that changes will not conflict with possible decisions that stem from the Initiative.

Nelson added that the College has gone ahead with some plans that will not interfere with the final Trustee decision. He said building plans that the College was already committed to, such as the addition to the East Wheelock cluster, the review of fees and fines and the construction of academic theme houses for Latino studies have progressed on schedule.

In early November, Dean of the College James Larimore told the Dartmouth that changes in administrative fees and fines and campus cable television offerings had been postponed because of the time commitment necessitated by the Initiative.

"It's just that we've been spending every waking moment with the Student Life Initiative committee," Larimore said.

Nelson said the College's decision on whether or not to install door locks in the residence halls was put off last year because of the Initiative as well.

"Decisions should be made in the context of what our residential system is going to be like," he said. "There are some decisions that are so directly related to the principles articulated by the Trustees that it makes sense to wait and see how those principles might be implemented so that those decisions are consistent with them."

Nelson said he thinks Winter term -- when the steering committee's final recommendation is scheduled to be issued -- will be an eventful continuation of campus dialogue.

When asked about a potential timeframe for the decisions that have been postponed, both Nelson and Redman said they will have to wait to see what the steering committee's recommendation says and what the Trustees finally decide.

Redman said real decisions based on the Initiative will not happen until at least March and will follow a period of community discourse and feedback.