Pass the Valium

by Dan Galemba | 5/9/00 5:00am

I've been doing lots of apologizing lately -- as well as lots of re-evaluation of exactly where the blame lies. You see, in my supreme arrogance, I repeatedly tried to explain to the four friends with whom I plan on blocking next year how, with one of the best numbers in the class, we are guaranteed to get some sort of decent housing. After all, I know of sophomores living in every cluster on campus this year -- why wouldn't the same hold for next year? Especially considering fewer rooms will be taken by freshmen next year since they're all being crammed into the River (the poor '04s never got a shot!).

I was so naive. I thought it would be impossible for there to be absolutely no sophomores anywhere in Mass Row, Hitchcock, the Gold Coast or even Russell Sage next year. But, lo and behold, with only two nerve-racking days left till my group goes to meet our fate (I'm writing this on Sunday), ORL bulletins serve as constant reminders that it really is possible for there to be room for only about two percent of our class on campus in the fall.

For the last week things have been pretty tense. Members of my group were reaching unprecedented levels of paranoia, panicking that we'd have no options available and would end up sleeping in a box on a street corner. I chose to take it easy, simple-minded as I am, thinking that if there were 1,000 '03s choosing after us, then we would definitely not have a problem. But now I, too, have succumbed to my share of paranoia, which, come Tuesday night, I'm hoping and praying is unfounded. And even if it is, I won't be spared the extensive amount of time spent visiting friends packed into McLane, the Lodge and the Choates. I never would have thought that housing could be deprived to virtually our entire class -- I guess I never realized what a crunch it really is.

What strikes me most about the situation is that a school of such repute can get away with not guaranteeing housing -- especially considering the relatively small student body, the fact that we're in the middle of nowhere, and the fact that we have what I've heard to be the second-largest endowment in the country.

What I really want to get at is the fact that all the time spent of late worrying about the future of the school was a waste. All that Student Life Initiative business was pure nonsense -- it's a non-issue. After all, there's no shortage of people attracted to Dartmouth, testified to by the fact that next year's freshman class will be one of the largest ever. (Of course, I have no journalistic integrity so I can't really proclaim that to be based in fact.) So people want to come to Dartmouth. Moreover, a student from my high school has chosen Dartmouth over Stanford and at least one prospective I met is coming here over Princeton. So we'll be getting more of those "high-ability" students too -- the '03 class, which was supposed to be the best and brightest the school had ever seen, will be put to shame.

In short, we need some serious priority evaluation. All this time, money, and effort spent on trying to attract better students has no justification. I'm thinking a better plan would be to put some focus on the students who actually already go here and give them some place to live. And by doing that, we'd be killing two birds with one stone because all this "residential cluster" garbage would be thrown out as well. If everyone were living on campus, after all, there would be a much higher level of social interaction in which more students could take part. The SLI is a bust -- it's time to forget about it and spend some of that endowment cash on undermining the hysteria surrounding room draw.

This is all pretty timely sentiment -- when the room draw is over maybe we won't think the housing shortage is such a problem. Then again, the hundreds of '03s left out in the cold will keep us from forgetting it. Either way, the issue now is housing, and while we're here recognizing the problem we should take note and do what we can to solve it. Just start building indiscriminately -- no time to think about it. When Kiewit and Bradley get torn down there will be some prime real estate available for building. Or the BEMA -- sure, it's a nice place, but it could be put to better use. That pesky Parkhurst building could surely be converted into some luxury suites. Or maybe just admit fewer students.

But either way, it would be horribly unfair to subject future Dartmouth students to the stress and uncertainty of the room draw. Forget about worrying about school rankings and attracting the best students -- it's all taking care of itself. But housing is one concern that we can't afford to keep talking about and must actually act upon -- it's a disgrace for a college of this caliber to be suffering from such a serious illness. But if you'll excuse me, I have to tend to someone's frantic housing-induced anxiety.

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