Verbum Ultimum: Out with the Old

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 10/3/13 10:00pm

On Wednesday, The New York Times published an unflattering portrait of the status quo here at Dartmouth. It was no secret that the Times' higher education reporter was visiting campus last week. He was spotted sitting in front of Collis, walking through Baker Hall and taking pictures of fraternities' beer can-filled trash heaps on Webster Avenue. Unfortunately, the net result of the visit was a barely newsworthy story that unfairly implies that College President Phil Hanlon is in over his head.

Save for several details, such as July's "Bloods and Crips" party and the fire that broke out at Chi Gamma Epsilon fraternity last month, this article could have been written months ago. In spring term, the Dimensions protest and the day of canceled classes made headlines in plenty of other national news outlets. Today, there is very little in the way of new dirt for the Times to dig up. We have known for over two months that Dartmouth is under investigation by the Education Department. Even a total outsider could glean that sexual assault and binge drinking are frequently discussed simply from a quick perusal of The Dartmouth's news and opinion sections. In that regard, the Times piece is mostly space filler, merely recounting old events and even paraphrasing a four-month-old Verbum Ultimum with its description of the College as "rudderless."

Even if we allow that these details all provide relevant context to the average Times reader, the article still could have provided a more balanced picture of campus. It downplayed or ignored key details, including Dartmouth's national leadership in addressing binge drinking and the College's hire of a new senior vice president for public affairs, Thomas Bruce.

Finally, the article hints that Hanlon is unable to rectify an alleged morass of problems, when nearly all of the events in question took place before he even arrived. While we recognize that there is still much work to be done, we will give Hanlon the benefit of the doubt before judging his performance. He has expressed a commitment to addressing underlying problems such as sexual assault and binge drinking. Moreover, we realize the importance of promoting a strong institutional reputation, an effort which will be bolstered by Bruce's arrival, but we would nonetheless encourage the administration to primarily focus on the underlying issues rather than public relations.

Overall, the Times does Dartmouth a disservice by painting an inaccurate and overly dramatized picture of campus climate. Let's give the new administration a chance we would be remiss to simply write it off.

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