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The Dartmouth
June 19, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Show Me The Money!

Sometimes, poverty is kind of a romantic opportunity. Once you get over the taste of rice and beans, ramen and repression, you realize that losing wealth forces you to disregard some of the distractions of opulence and cling not to guns or religion (Hi Barack!), but instead to your core values and priorities.

Recent market troubles are forcing Dartmouth to come to this realization. But I don't want to get lost in hyperbole -- we aren't poor. The fact that Dartmouth can cut $40 million out of its budget, shrug its shoulders and sigh as if it's just going to buy non-organic for a few weeks is pretty remarkable.

But we are facing real challenges. In them, Dartmouth has the opportunity to find itself. The College has outlined budgetary priorities that rightly protect financial aid and the academic experience, but changes will still have to be made.

Budget cuts are not bad. Cuts are reflective of priorities, strategies and philosophies concerning what is important and about the recognition of success and failure. In a letter to the Dartmouth community, President Wright and the Board of Trustees outlined these priorities: Make 10 percent reductions across many departments to cut costs and leave financial aid and the academic experience untouched. The goal should be to restructure our educational experience to do more with less. This is no simple task, but it is not outside the realm of possibility.

Still, I think we can go further. We need transparency and a complete overhaul of the way we do business, academically speaking. The pathetic flat-screen TV in Food Court has already been lambasted for its uselessness ("Rem's Final Thoughts," Nov. 21). In this time of financial turmoil, there isn't a better symbol of financial mismanagement. All we need now are giant LCDs, powered by human waste and made out of human hair, to replace every environmentally unsustainable cork bulletin board on campus.

Ignore the sarcasm. All I really want for the day-after-Thanksgiving-celebration-of-consumerism is some transparency. We all pay tuition, some more than others. We are all members of this community, and I think we have some stake in the way our money is being spent. I don't propose our budget goes up to a student vote; we do not and should not have veto power over the way Dartmouth spends its money. I do propose transparency, so that we can see and discuss the College's priorities with the facts in our hands. The College could easily disclose its internal data on departmental expenditures, areas of financial growth and other accounting trends. Currently, access to these numbers is virtually impossible, save for tidbits on the AskDartmouth web site.

When the time comes to make a cut, we are going to have to make some hard decisions. Deciding what to cut is complicated, and students should continue to be involved in the process. Do we fund offices and academic departments in relation to the number of students they serve or to their importance to the College's mission? Do we cut athletics? Will we restructure the way our departments allocate funds?

Funds to the College's programs and departments may already be perfectly allocated by virtue of the wisdom and experience that Dartmouth's budgetary team possesses. So show me. When the College articulates its foundational principles and priorities, plans the budget in accordance with them and engages students in the process, everyone wins. Dartmouth's Finance and Administration web site is currently accepting submissions from students and employees regarding budget priorities. This is a step in the right direction. Holding additional forums, events or dinner discussions to plot a financial course will also pay dividends.

Dartmouth will endure. We are here for an education and these times are opportunities for learning. I call on the College to make its finances as transparent as possible, so we can plainly see where money is spent and where shifts in spending occur. I applaud the College for its engagement of students thus far to discuss budgetary cuts and priorities. The College should try to do even more. The discussion of our financial matters and priorities is far from over. In this time of crisis, let's hope that Dartmouth can find itself to weather the storm.