The Student Voice

by Miles Harrigan | 11/27/02 6:00am

I have to say that I am honestly appalled to see what our College administration has done now. Continuing its tradition of unilateral action with a lack of student input, the administration (mainly Dean of the College James Larimore, Director of Athletics and Recreation Joann Harper and her staff, with the tacit approval of Provost Barry Scherr, the chair of the College's budget committee and our President James Wright) has decided to cut the men's and women's varsity swimming and diving programs.

A bit of background first. As far as I can determine from talking with various swimmers, the athletic department announced Monday "the elimination of [the College's] varsity men's and women's swimming and diving programs effective at the conclusion of the current competitive season in March 2003."

Sure enough, look at the Dartmouth website and there is the link to a press release telling everyone the news. What I find almost laughable about the whole matter is the fact that this press release wasn't just news to the community outside of Dartmouth this was news to us, the students. There was absolutely no student collaboration in this process. No inclusion of any students, athletes or otherwise, in the body that met and decided this issue for us. Even more incredible is the fact that the teams' coaches found out barely five minutes before the teams' members did that morning. What an audacious move.

Now those are the facts. Taking a more cynical look, one sees that the timing of the announcement -- a couple of days before the Thanksgiving break -- proved to be quite the advantageous time for a dialogue-averse administration. Preparation for finals occupies our thoughts as students, as do our plans for the upcoming holiday. How convenient that a decision regarding such an obviously controversial subject was handed down at a time when students are most ill-prepared to even attempt to voice their views on the matter.

As your average Dartmouth student, I find this newest budgetary development galling. I'm not on a sports team. I'm not in a fraternity. Yet I know that this announcement affects me personally. It's emblematic of a larger phenomenon here at Dartmouth: the fact that we have an administration that feels it can rule by virtual fiat. (And keep in mind that the "administration" is not some faceless body, but instead is made up of people like Jim Wright and Jim Larimore, people that live and work on campus.) These people have lost sight of the fact that they are here because we, the students, are here. They are not some all-knowing, all-powerful demigods, but instead, at least in principle, our employees.

To the rest of my fellow students: At the very least, think about and realize our place at Dartmouth. Think about how much say any of us has in the way our College is run. Use this swim team announcement as an example. If you find yourself scratching your head in amazement at the way the administration conducts itself, do something about it. Talk to people about it. Sign a petition. Blitz a swimmer to ask what you can do. Or better yet, blitz a Jim or a Josie and tell him or her what you think. Or even better yet, next time you see one of the Jims around campus, instead of just ignoring him or affecting a complacent, doe-eyed smile, make a direct and astute comment about the way you think he is handling things.

To the administration, and particularly Jim, Jim, Josie and Barry: Shame on you all for not including us -- the students -- in this decision-making process. Shame on you for effectively muting our voices in the matter. Shame on you for doubting that we, as 18 to 24-year-olds, are worthy enough to have a say in the way our College is run. I am tremendously disappointed.

It baffles me that you would make a conscious effort (and being intelligent people, this had to be a conscious effort, as one does not accidentally forget thousands of undergraduate students) to exclude us from something that affects us most directly. I realize that the inclusion of students would have made the process a lot more arduous. I'm saddened to see that you took the easy way out, by leaving us out, instead of being forthright and honorable regarding the difficult budgetary decisions that affect us all.

President Wright, as I understand it, you have yet to make the "final decision" regarding the issue. I challenge you to admit that you and your colleagues have gone about this the wrong way. I challenge you to do what's right and begin the process again, this time incorporating us. This will be a difficult step, both logistically and in the fact that no one really likes to admit being wrong. Our thoughts and feelings and ideas regarding Dartmouth are every bit as relevant as are yours, and I challenge you to realize this and act accordingly.

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