During day after day of freshman orientation events, not only was I physically exhausted, but believe it or not, left thinking about a few things. Various speakers, students, administrators and alums reminded us that the Class of 2004 would make a tremendous impact on this school during a pivotal time in its storied history. My first reaction was of course, since we are the smartest, most diverse, coolest, most amazing class in Dartmouth history this was a no brainer. But after I got over the admissions office propaganda I discovered the substantial truth in this statement. I have been here only a few exciting weeks and have already observed that change is in the air. From the opening or at least attempted opening of Berry Library (a.k.a. the hospital behind Baker) to the dismantling of that architectural gem known as the Kiewit Computation Center, the College is embracing tremendous amounts of physical change. It is apparent this is merely the framework for a much greater plan to change various institutions within Dartmouth as we know them.
It does not take a genius to realize that these veiled comments on it being a pivotal time in the College's history are in regard to the Student Life Initiative. I remember reading about the announcement of the Initiative two winters ago while in high school. The announcement made national headlines, and I even recall reading an article in The New York Times Magazine about the social scene at Dartmouth. Simply stated, I knew what I was getting into when I came here. I believe constructive change is of vital importance for any academic institution and would proudly work to make this place better. What disturbs me is the hostility which seems to exist between students, faculty and administration on the issues at hand. The situation lacks both diplomacy and teamwork. As a result, statements such as "end the Greek system as we know it" cause outrage. Furthermore, despite countless committee meetings and feedback reports there still seems to be a lack of communication. There should be little suspense or surprise when announcements are made because everyone -- students, faculty, administrators and Trustees -- should be on the same page. This is obviously an extremely difficult task, and I assume (and hope) it is something that has been a priority. If communication is not possible, how is meaningful change ever going to occur?
Dartmouth students are reportedly some of the happiest in the nation and the school is regarded as one of the best in the world -- not to sound like a nave 'shman, but what's the problem? I rightfully acknowledge that academia is the last place that one wants to be complacent and that there is always room for improvement. It seems like conditions would be ideal for sensible, level-headed changes which could occur as a result of cooperative efforts between all parties.
I have learned quickly, that what drives this school is not merely amazing faculty, great facilities, and tremendous amounts of money, but people. The people I have met are quite simply amazing individuals. In addition to being great athletes, artists and scholars, they are something far greater. They are welcoming, compassionate and sincere -- they are good people. Whether it be receiving advice about classes or how to sneak into parties, the upperclassmen have truly extended a warm welcome to our class, something which I hope we will do to future Dartmouth classes. Student organizations from club sports to campus publications have anxiously opened their doors to this year's 'shmen, providing countless opportunities and making us truly feel at home. This sort of thing might not appear in any rankings, but in my short time here, I have come to realize it is Dartmouth's greatest asset.
In a place full of such dedicated students, faculty and administrators it seems to me that a productive exchange of ideas and cooperation would be abundant. However, there seems to be a sense of fear in the air which undermines this relationship. Fear not so much of change but that in reform and progress part of the Dartmouth spirit will be lost. I believe that change if done sensibly can be a source of strength. I suppose that is the Class of 2004's greatest challenge. We have the opportunity and duty to work with the Dartmouth community to make this place better but at the same time be guardians of the spirit which makes this place great.