Dean Larimore speaks on campus overcrowding
Editor's Note: This is the third in a multi-part series on the College's senior administration and the issues facing Dartmouth today and in the future.
The Dean of the College oversees the most diverse and student-centered departments of the Dartmouth administration. From dining services to outdoor programs, alcohol policy and the Department of Safety and Security, Dean of the College James Larimore has a multitude of issues on his desk any given day, most of which directly affect students' daily lives. Larimore spoke with The Dartmouth on the issues and student concerns most prevalent at this point of Fall term.
In recent weeks, students have grown accustomed to long waits in long food lines at campus dining facilities.
Larimore said he expects students to adjust their daily habits by mid-term, alleviating some strain on the dining system. Despite his assurances, Larimore admitted he remains concerned.
"Our ideal would be for people to be able to eat when they want, where they want, and to get their food more quickly."
At the moment, cost constraints are keeping the College from accomplishing this aim, but Larimore was quick to add that planning for a new dining hall for the campus continues, and announced that the College is leaning in the direction of demolishing the antiquated Thayer Dining Hall and replacing the structure with a facility designed with student input.
Last spring, Larimore and Greek leaders gathered in widely publicized closed-door meetings to discuss the prospect of a return to fall rush, changed in 1999 as a consequence of the Student Life Initiative. Fall rush began two weeks ago, and Larimore said he has been pleased by the events.
"By all indications I think it went extremely well," he said.
Larimore praised Greek leaders' diligence throughout the process, citing strong participation numbers and a desire to follow up with student organizers.
When asked whether the success of the compromise might create a precedent for further talks and consensus on issues between Greek leaders and the administration, Larimore was optimistic.
"Any time you have a good experience working together it gives everybody more confidence," Larimore said. "It gives people a track record in working together that they can build on."
Last year, widespread reports of Safety and Security officers probing intoxicated or seemingly intoxicated students to divulge where they had been drinking raised a siege of protest from both Greek houses and the Student Assembly, which revamped students' rights cards and distributed them throughout the College in response. Larimore denied that he had heard direct student complaints but said College Proctor Harry Kinne had relayed complaints students reported to the Department of Safety and Security.
Larimore defended Safety and Security and its efforts to safeguard students and stressed that students have the right not to respond when questioned by officers. He added that in cases when students do reveal information on where they have consumed alcohol, he prefers for his staff to deal with the matter constructively with Greek houses so those groups can review their policies.
"That was an issue we tried to respond to pretty quickly last year," Larimore said. "I think we're now at a point where we're generally doing better with that, though I'd encourage anybody with concerns to speak with Harry Kinne at Safety and Security."
Last week, College President James Wright told The Dartmouth that he does not find "alcohol policies that deal more with counting and estimating" useful, and that he has encouraged Larimore and the Dean's office to simplify the College's alcohol policy.
Larimore confirmed that the College's Social Events Management Procedures are under review by a panel composed in part by students, "for the express purpose of trying to come up with a more simplified and more streamlined and user-friendly approach to event management and planning."
He added that other aspects of the alcohol policy were reviewed a few years ago, and that his office implemented recommendations from a similar committee.
"The main focus is really on trying to find the right balance between several different competing interests or needs -- on the one hand the College's main priority is on the health and safety of its undergraduate students."
Larimore cited residential life disturbances and unwanted sexual advances as some of the negative consequences of alcohol on campus.
"I think what we should try to do is come up with a set of policies and practices that give the maximum amount of freedom to the students to have a good time, to have social events where alcohol can be served and at the same time balance that with a concern for individuals' health and safety," he said.
He cautioned, however, that there was an external world that "we also need to be aware of."
"We are in an environment where the state legislature and local law enforcement authorities are paying more attention to drinking on this campus and others. We have to recognize we are not isolated from the rest of the world."
Larimore said he believes the best course of action, in this light, is to present the image that the College can self-mange so that third parties do not feel the need to become involved.
When asked whether Larimore believed Dartmouth had an image problem with alcohol, he answered plainly.
"Yeah, I do. I think there are people who know Dartmouth only superficially who I think may have a view of the place that is really distorted," he said. "I also think we have people who know the place fairly well who are still concerned about the role that alcohol plays in the lives of some people here. Most students drink responsibly, but perception and reality do not always perfectly match."
Last spring, a major campaign item in Student Assembly elections concerned adequate funding for club and intramural sports. That issue, for now at least, has remained off the Student Assembly's agenda.
Larimore said that he is aware of mounting interest in these athletic programs and remains enthusiastic about that growth. He believes that funding for the groups remains a constant problem and is encouraged by the upcoming capital campaign, which has a section for a general athletics endowment.
"The hope is that through the capital campaign, as we raise money for the general athletics endowment, we can support athletics -- including club and intramural funding sports."