Between Loyalty and Fanaticism

by Evan Meyerson | 5/13/08 12:29am

Twenty-six days are all that separate this writer from joining the hallowed ranks of Dartmouth's alumni network. As the tragic inevitability of graduation fast approaches, seniors must ask themselves, for the first time, one simple question: What kind of alumnus would you like to be once your days as a Dartmouth student have concluded? With the "War for Dartmouth" being waged throughout the Association of Alumni and the Board of Trustees, such a question has never been as relevant as it is now for the Class of 2008.

There are innumerable paths one can take as a Dartmouth alum. From the graduates who will readily renounce any allegiance to the College the moment they receive a diploma to those who will someday run as petition candidates for the Board of Trustees, there is no precise formula when it comes to one's involvement with Dartmouth post-graduation. While a commitment to and love for one's alma mater can be a wonderful preoccupation, there is a line of obsession that, for the sake of Dartmouth's future, must not be crossed.

While I respect the choice of those who disassociate themselves with all things Dartmouth once their time in Hanover has come to an end, this is not the approach I plan on adopting as an alumnus. Dartmouth has not been a perfect experience, but it has undoubtedly been the most exciting of my 22 years. I will be eternally grateful for the education (inside and outside of the classroom), friends and post-graduate opportunities this fine institution has bestowed upon me. I look forward to becoming an active alumnus who aspires to give back in any way possible to the school I have come to love.

In what ways could I contribute? I would hope to have the means to make financial donations on a consistent basis. I would relish the chance to continue my involvement with campus organizations that truly enhanced my Dartmouth experience -- organizations like the Rockefeller Center, my fraternity and this very newspaper. I would enjoy being a part of reunion planning and fundraising efforts, as well as joining the local Dartmouth network wherever I may live.

With all of these options for maintaining a direct connection with one's school, we must acknowledge that there is still a limit to Dartmouth devotion. Joining the Board of Trustees, for instance, should not be a goal as much as an unexpected honor. To treat a seat on the Board as a position of status and power, or as a platform for certain ideological leanings, abuses the very purpose of our most influential collection of alumni. Running a no-holds-barred political campaign laden with dubious rhetoric to "win" a spot on the Board is a vastly objectionable tactic. Some alumni have seemingly forgotten that becoming a member of a private institution's Board of Trustees is a privilege, not an entitlement.

Alumni must all remember that they are no longer Dartmouth students and unfortunately never will be again. Everyone wants to think their time in school was "as good as it gets," yet the world of progressive liberal arts education is defined by moving forward -- academically and socially. Dartmouth alumni who are decades removed from their days as undergraduates must be conscious of the fact that it is impossible for any of them to have a flawless grasp on what is, today, in Dartmouth's best interest. Yet it seems that many of our most involved alumni have forgotten that the Dartmouth experience, in all its exhilarating complexity, has rightfully advanced since their graduation.

Unabashed over-involvement by agenda-driven alumni will always be detrimental to Dartmouth's wellbeing. Filing a lawsuit against your former college because the state government is seeking to turn it into a public university is warranted; suing Dartmouth because you disagree with a decision to increase the Board's membership with unelected alumni, however, is not. In reality, such litigious-minded alumni are merely demonstrating a warped set of life priorities rather than a genuine love for Dartmouth.

Dartmouth alumni are unquestionably unique in their everlasting dedication to the College and its traditions. It would be difficult to find a group of graduates who have more enthusiasm for their alma mater than ours do, and it is my hope that the next generation of Dartmouth alumni embrace the same timeless fervor. Our beloved College deserves passionate supporters. Yet alumni must remember that the students of the present will always be different in their cultural makeup from the alumni of yesteryear and that such an evolution is precisely what makes Dartmouth so exceptional. Most importantly, alumni must always be mindful of the fine line between loyalty and fanaticism.

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