VERBUM ULTIMUM: Failure to Launch

by THE DARTMOUTH EDITORIAL BOARD | 11/30/10 11:00pm

In announcing the Dean of the College's "update" on the issues of alcohol and sexual assault, acting Dean Sylvia Spears said the presentation would include "new campus initiatives" and "specific programmatic initiatives" intended to combat these serious problems facing students at the College. Instead, the meager audience saw little more than recycled, vague proposals built on faint evidence of work and a significant helping of meaningless jargon.

Since the programs and resources Dartmouth currently employs to address the problems of binge drinking and sexual assault have proven not to match student needs in quality or quantity, one would have expected at least a few new innovative and serious ideas. Instead, Spears said the College should "increase" and "revise" current policies ("Spears sketches alcohol policies," Dec. 1).

"There's nothing new to create," she said. "It's just about making it better."

More specific ideas such as designing a DVD and providing a campus shuttle were overshadowed by the ever-nebulous "expanding" and "enhancing" of current programs.

Holding the event the Tuesday night of the last week of classes a time when most students are preparing for finals did not draw a large crowd; even Student Body President Eric Tanner '11 was not present. While we have previously reprehended our classmates for lack of involvement ("Involved@Dartmouth.edu," April 9), based on what was and mostly what was not said, this time we must admit that studying was a more productive use of the hour. When an ostensibly important update does little more than rehash discussions on actions that should have long since been implemented, how can the administration expect the greater student body to maintain enough interest to carry out new initiatives when they finally materialize?

As College President Jim Yong Kim has stated, proposed changes will go nowhere without the support of the student body at large. Spears may have put announcing more specific initiatives on hold to incorporate feedback of the student leaders she consulted this week, but due to the small turnout, Tuesday's discussion should have been used to garner feedback from a larger cross-section of campus.

It is evident that this event was little more than a public relations ploy to feign progress. We know the College is working to unveil proposals on initiatives that began months and in some cases years ago. The Student and Presidential Alcohol Harm Reduction Committee released its report to the public in May. Necessary changes to the College's alcohol policies have been pending since College officials developed the Alcohol Management Policy in 2008 to replace the outdated Social Event Management Procedures none of which have come to fruition.

In an e-mail on Monday, Spears encouraged campus to "Please come to hear the new initiatives," and yet after the event, Spears told The Dartmouth, "We are so close to being ready to announce the specific initiatives."

The meeting should have been cancelled if the administration had no substantive progress to report unless they were willing to address why so little has been done.

We hope 2011 brings stronger resolution.