A Dartmouth Daydream
In the past year, Dartmouth spent about $132 million littering our campus with fancy, new buildings. Every time we pour a new foundation, it feels like we are moving away from our roots. If we want our campus to become a spectacle, why haven't we invested our millions turning Dartmouth into a real tourist trap? We will be Colonial Williamsburg but with students.
Forget logic, suspend reality and enter the dream. Just imagine bustling Lebanon Airport and her mighty runway, the gateway for humanity. Picture hordes descending on Hanover from the four corners of the world to see Dartmouth College in all her glory.
Our guests will enjoy tours of the Hovey murals, the tower room, the Baker Tower, Bartlett Tower and the birthplace of the tower of boot. Families will learn to use words like legit, ballin', sicknosaurous and bro' while watching demonstrations of ultimate frisbee and "table tennis." I will mention to passers-by that Louise Erdrich '72, the esteemed Native American poet, used to live in the room down the hall from mine. Others will brag of how John Ledyard fashioned a 50-foot canoe from a New Hampshire white pine. All will regale in the marvel and history of this place, our home and empty their pockets in reverence!
Buy-in pong tournaments, thousand-dollar-a-plate dinners with the College president and Mrs. Wright, and a bustling gift shop will further offset costs.
Students, unshackled from the burden of tuition, will be the plebs of this operation, working to earn their keep. We will all wear matching green smocks and display our nametags proudly. Depending on ability students will work serving tater tots in the dining halls, mopping Baker Library's hallways or restoring old buildings. Professors will offer classes for those who are interested and spend their idle time writing and studying.
And at some point our visitors will leave us. They will return to their homes, near and far, their suitcases weighed down with expensive souvenirs. Boy and girls will brag by quoting Daniel Webster or singing excerpts from Men of Dartmouth. Mom and Dad will thunder dome on Christmas Eve whilst the children are sound asleep (Dad will boot first).
But we back in Hanover will have our fun too. Once our guests and customers are gone and our tourist attraction is no longer novel, the bacchanal will begin. Our parties will make Chris Miller seem trivial; our rage will make Achilles seem feeble.
And once our nest egg runs out, we will thirst for money. Our landscape will be as barren as that of the Thneeds of Theodor Geisel '25, Dr. Seuss. Tuck's brightest minds will be troubled by meager financial capital, civil disobedience and endemic drunkenness. One promising student will come up with an idea to restore Dartmouth to her previous glory. A band of thugs will be employed to turn our campus into a casino!
Every dormitory and academic building will be leveled. The Green and the soccer fields will become parking lots. Frat row will be gated off and converted into tenement-style housing where the crumbling buildings will hide the gluttony and disorder of the student slaves. All faculty will be dismissed without pay.
What was once a noble tradition will be brought under the tyranny of alcoholism, minimum wage and gambling addiction. The students will take breaks in the parking lot to smoke menthol cigarettes and gossip between shifts at the craps table. The strong among us will sober up, save their pay and buy freedom. Heart-broken parents will use unredeemed tuition money to rescue their children from eternal bondage. The rest of us will rot in Hanover.
Ridiculous daydreams aside, it is important to remember that our campus was created around a fantasy. New England towns such as Hanover do not occur naturally. Our green, our Main Street and, to some extent, our student body are like props on a movie set. Our reality seems authentic to the untrained eye, but maybe our obsession with progress hints at an underlying dissatisfaction with the way things are. We are constantly trying to become better than ourselves. We are and we always have been a voice crying out in the wilderness listening to a fading echo.