DOC strips prove popular

by Tara Kyle | 7/8/02 5:00am

Over 100 Dartmouth students spent the weekend hiking, paddling, climbing and biking around rural New Hampshire for Sophomore Trips, but funding challenges last spring threatened to cost them that opportunity.

Organizers of the four-year-old Strips program ran into major financial problems last term, when a number of sponsoring organizations Strips had depended on in previous years unexpectedly turned the program down for reasons including leadership turnover. The situation appeared "really touch and go for awhile" Co-Director of Sophomore Trips George Storm '04 said.

Co-Director Beth Rabbitt '04 expressed frustration with the lack of support, noting that some of the groups that had turned down requests are "specifically created to fund programs that are campus wide" and aid the SLI's goals of promoting non-alcoholic and inclusive events. Rabbitt and Storm declined to name these groups.

Fortunes changed when organizers sent Dean of Residential Life Martin Redman a request for funding, and he decided to provide Strips with $4000, a sum that met virtually all of the program's budget needs. The Office of Residential Life "basically made the program happen," according to Storm.

Despite the early adversity, both Storm and Rabbitt noted that the weekend's trips had succeeded beyond their expectations.

In contrast to the frenetic atmosphere of freshman DOC Trips, the mood during Strips leans toward the more casual; Storm described the scene as "a lot more relaxed."

While freshmen receive a greeting that Rabbitt described as "Welcome,we're all weirdos," all crew members and other organizers meet up with Strips participants in jeans and t-shirts.

Additionally, trip leaders are instructed to treat their trippees largely as peers, whom they are simply packing extra band aids for.

For student participants, Strips provides a chance to both get out into the wilderness under more laid-back circumstances than during freshmen DOC Trips and bond with classmates they hadn't otherwise met.

Canoeing trip participant John Kupiec '04 recalled finding a large inflatable tube on the Connecticut River and playing around with it all day, eating lunch with a Strips whitewater kayaking group his trip had run into and encountering raisin-throwing raiders on the second night.

Co-Director Rabbit and Storm noted that the experience seemed particularly positive for students who hadn't gone on a DOC Trip freshman fall. Such students are given first priority when trips are assigned.

"We got lots of hugs today," Rabbitt said.

Strips' safety dorks didn't have much to do over the weekend -- the list of accidents consists only of a scratched forearm and an ankle sprained at the Mt. Moosilauke lodge. Organizers conducted just one evacuation, and that came when a road biker blew out his tire.

Organizers ran into much more trouble last week with a spate of late cancellations. Originally 180 students had received a spot on a Strip (out of an applicant pool of over 200 that left over 50 students waitlisted), but only 115 students ultimately participated.

That complication presented a number of problems -- organizers found themselves with too much leftover food and transportation that they didn't need. Some Vermont Transit buses departing to take students to trailheads left with only 15 people onboard, a number of students that could have fit inside a DOC van.

A few other small problems did persist. A flatwater kayaking trip had too far to travel one day, and even after deciding to sleep at a campsite over five miles closer than the one originally selected, trip participants did not finish paddling until 8 p.m. Some other trips spent their nights at campsites overrun by mosquitoes.

Next year, organizers' goals will likely center more on fixing such problems than on increasing participation.

"The program wasn't really designed to grow this year," Rabbitt said. Both Rabbitt and Storm expressed doubts that Strips could accomodate more students than at its present size.

The number of students participating in STRIPs has grown substantially since the program's inception in 1999, when just 12 sophomores packed their bags for a few days of hiking during the interim between Spring and Summer term.

STRIPs also received funding from the DOC, Ledyard Canoe Club, the Programming Board, '04 Class Council, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Chi Heorot, and the Dean of the College's office.