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The Dartmouth
June 19, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Fundamental Questions

To the Editor:

The shape of the eventual budget cuts being discussed on campus now will reveal the priorities of the College as it moves forward. It is therefore critical that students -- reporters and columnists for The Dartmouth and others interested in maintaining Dartmouth as the premier liberal arts institution in the country -- begin to examine critically the big questions raised by the leadership of President James Wright.

Unlike proposed changes to the social organization of Dartmouth, Wright's pledge to strengthen the "research university" aspect of the College has gone virtually unchallenged. Pressure from students opened up the decision- making process involved with the Student Life Initiative and led to its current dead-letter status.

There has been no such student input in the much more dramatic shift in College policy signified by President Wright's drive to create a Dartmouth that competes with Harvard as a research university. In fact, this change of course has been made in complete secrecy. About a year ago I called the president's office and asked if there was any sort of document, a committee report, a request from the Trustees, anything that outlined the reasoning behind President Wright's agenda. His assistant expressed befuddlement.

Is it possible to maintain Dartmouth's liberal arts tradition while strengthening its reputation for research? Wright has said so many times, but he has not been challenged to justify this belief.

The budget cuts under discussion will reveal how much is lost with this shift in emphasis. Will library cuts focus on services used by art history and English majors? Is the faculty-student interaction symbolized by Sanborn Library a relic in the new research university? Beyond the scope of the current cuts, will philosophy majors soon be enriching their understanding of science under the tutelage of 22-year-old teaching assistants?

These questions have been brewing since President Wright was named to replace James O. Freedman, a man whose commitment to the liberal arts was unquestionable. The Trustees picked James Wright for a reason. It is time for Dartmouth students to start asking why.