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The Dartmouth
May 28, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Thirteen trustees, little disagreement at student question forum

Thirteen members of the Board of Trustees addressed concerns of class size, financial aid and facilities, in the first student-trustee open forum in College history, held Friday night in Filene Auditorium.
Thirteen members of the Board of Trustees addressed concerns of class size, financial aid and facilities, in the first student-trustee open forum in College history, held Friday night in Filene Auditorium.

The forum was sponsored by a group of students from several organizations.

Several students at the forum, including Emily Mirengoff '10, were concerned with Dartmouth classroom dynamics. When a student asked how many of the board members had read the professor reviews on the Student Assembly website, only trustee Jose Fernandez '77 said he had.

"Hiring a faculty member is a lot like getting married," trustee Al Mulley '70 said, responding to a question about class size and the tenure process. "There is an engagement and you have to be sure the match is right because we are talking about tenure here. We are talking about a long-term commitment."

Mirengoff said she was pleased the trustees agreed to hear from students because of their significant role at the College, but added that the trustees at times avoided directly answering.

"I felt the trustees did some skirting [of questions]," Mirengoff said. "They did a decent job answering my question by portraying how hard it is to hire quality professors and that the school has a lot of priorities, but it was a little frustrating hearing their answers to some other questions."

Only students were permitted to ask questions at the forum among a crowd of faculty, alumni and administrators. The trustees refused to address the ongoing lawsuit by the Association of Alumni, citing the delicate legal situation surrounding it.

Board chairman Ed Haldeman '70 served as moderator of the forum, which one of the event organizers, Jennifer Bandy '09, said "took away from the discussion."

"Ideally we would have had a student moderator," Bandy said. "There are obvious advantages having the chairman do it, but it would have been better to have trustees jumping in on a whim."

Students at the forum also focused on the College's financial aid policies. Other peer institutions, including Princeton University, offer grants instead of loan packages to students. The trustees said that Dartmouth currently cannot compete with these programs.

"We need to reduce our over reliance on student loans," trustee Stephen Smith '88 said. "This is a competitive issue. We can't afford to lose highly talented students to other schools because they lose their loans. President Wright is very supportive of this. We have already done a lot to make it more affordable and I know this is a passion of his."

The forum drew to a close at 6:00 p.m., leaving nearly a dozen students lined up at the microphones with unanswered questions. Despite the inability to hear from every student, Smith still said he thought the event went well and demonstrated the unity of the board, despite its members' differences of opinion.

"I thought it was positive, there was a high turn out of trustees, which shows how committed we are to the College and students," Smith said. "In campaigns it looks divisive, but we all have a lot of common ground. We all want what is best for Dartmouth."

Similar events may be held in the future, Haldeman said.

"The [board's] student affairs committee will be working on what is the best way for us to have interaction and communication with students and that could well include forums like we had last night," Haldeman said.

The invited trustees not in attendance, Michael Chu '68, Peter Robinson '79 and T.J. Rodgers '70, all of whom live in California and who could not attend the trustees' meeting this weekend, sent their regrets.