D-Plan committee hits bump

by Rachel Osterman | 10/19/00 5:00am

When the Trustee Initiative report last year recommended a campus-wide discussion on revising the College's D-Plan, two committees were formed to consider such a change. One at the administrative level was charged with completing a feasibility assessment, and one, made up of Student Assembly members, had the task of collecting and analyzing student opinion on Dartmouth's unique quarter system.

While the administrative committee's recommendations were finished in time to help the College in its decision, announced by College President James Wright on Tuesday, to postpone any major changes to the D-Plan, the Assembly is still working to devise its report.

Now it is left to incorporate the College decision into its recommendations.

Though the conclusion to relegate D-Plan reform behind such projects as building construction is, at least for the time being, final, the Assembly is still working to insert influence in the D-Plan assessment process.

At a time when student opinion is divided roughly evenly between those who favor continuing the required Summer term and those who favor its elimination, the Assembly's approach has been to embrace small but, members hope, meaningful changes to help alleviate some of the social and academic discontinuity caused by the D-Plan.

While their recommendations have yet to be finalized, the working group will likely propose that the College maintain better contact with students who are off-campus; that the College help students move in and out of their dorm rooms more easily; that offices such as the Registrar and the Office on Residential Life inform off-campus students about important deadlines; and that academic departments offer a better variety of courses during Summer term.

"We're really just trying to look at ways to creatively improve the D-Plan without eliminating it," said Assembly Student Life Chair Molly Stutzman '02, who has worked closely on the issue.

"We're going to be influenced by what Wright said; it's something that we're going to be aware of," she continued. "But we weren't going to recommend getting rid of Summer term."

The window of opportunity to significantly reform the D-Plan was brought to an abrupt close when the administrative committee reported to the Trustees in August that eliminating the Summer term would cost the College approximately $33 million.

Though Dartmouth's endowment experienced a 46 percent return this year, to reach a record $2.5 billion, his administration decided the College would better benefit from other facilities.

"It's still important, but it's farther down on the overall list of priorities," Dean of the College James Larimore said of the D-Plan.

Larimore added, though, that discussion on the D-Plan will continue, albeit through less direct channels. He said already existing committees on academic advising and residential life will examine the discontinuity caused by the D-Plan.

Though serious in its recommendation, the Board of Trustees was by no means proposing a new idea when it considered an overhaul of Dartmouth's calendar system.

Virtually since its implementation, the College has examined the status of the D-Plan, though no high level committee has ever called for its complete elimination.

In 1978, Wright himself -- then a full-time history professor -- chaired a committee that recommended the College move toward a trimester plan. The committee proposed two longer 14-week terms during the regular academic year, and one 12-week term during the summer.

That plan, of course, never came to fruition. Instead, students and faculty opposed the idea, arguing that it would decrease foreign study options and raise tuition.

Despite the popularity of the D-Plan, recently it has led to the very housing shortages it was intended to prevent. Since 1995, the College has faced housing crunches during the Fall and Spring terms, forcing some students to choose less favored D-Plans.

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