Finding Community

by Daniel Ng | 11/24/03 6:00am

This College has a bad habit of overusing the word "community" to give people warm, fuzzy feelings of group solidarity. Student groups have community dinners. Dorms have community directors. Collis holds a weekly "Community Hour." The student handbook lays out a "Principle of Community" for the whole campus. The word "community" is like an overused teabag that has lost its flavor. We keep hanging the teabag out to dry so that others can use it for yet another soak at the next event.

Beyond the rhetoric, very little "community" actually exists at Dartmouth. Sure, every student is part of some network of friends and sketchy acquaintances, but while these networks overlap, they are not as closely intertwined as college administrators would like. We may be living in a community, but Dartmouth students are still human. Selfish, inconsiderate and downright mean behavior is still common on this campus.

Some of this takes place in Collis, our "community center." Walk into Collis Cafe after the breakfast or lunch hour, and you will find tables cluttered with discarded newspapers and used trays. We can have community meals, but we don't know how to clean up after ourselves. Fortunately, we have people from outside of the Dartmouth community to do that. The staff at Collis Cafe work everyday to ensure that we don't live in our own rubbish.

Walking over to Baker, the same behavior is found where our community learns. Here, students stake territorial claims that will put any imperialist to shame. We have all seen the generic semi circular arrangement of books, files, and papers around a computer that is one Union Jack short of a colony. Some students have perfected the art of these land (or computer) grabs with towering stacks of books that they know they have no fighting chance of ever reading. Especially if they spend the next few hours having a leisurely lunch, going for meetings, basically doing anything but use the computer they have just claimed.

Of course, there are those students who do use the computers that they have claimed. In fact, some students need to multitask on two computers. These students use the humble Dell in the library for mundane word-processing while their 15 inch Titanium Powerbook serves as a glorified MP3 player. Hey, iTunes comes free, but you actually have to pay for Office X.

There is also the perennial blitz torture that members of this community subject other members to. Some students think nothing of hogging public blitz terminals while they open and view every last freaking enclosure. They are either blind or truly believe that the line of students behind them are happily checking out his or her butt while they wait. Actually, we are contemplating where a well positioned kick will render the most pain.

The activities described here occur on a daily basis at Dartmouth. In a way, there is nothing unusual about them since this is what you get when you have a diverse bunch of people living together. Diversity of race, class and social background also imply a diversity of personality and social conscience. Just as we have white, black, rich and poor students, we have selfish, inconsiderate, mean and uncivil folks.

A recent spat of campus incidents from offensive skits to graffiti on mirrors has once again renewed calls by the administration for students to live according to the principles of "community." That old teabag is being enlisted for another brew. Parkhurst seems to cherish the lofty myth that as long as "hate incidents" do not happen, Dartmouth is one big happy family. Reality suggests otherwise. People looking for community at Dartmouth should first try the dictionary at Sanborn library.