Beechert: Sophomore Bummer

by Michael Beechert | 7/7/14 7:16pm

At this point in my collegiate career, I have resigned myself to the fact that a major part of Dartmouth’s long-term fiscal strategy is to suck every possible cent from its students. This realization has come to me as a result of a steady exposure to things like fines for checking in late, exorbitant transfer-credit fees, the Dartmouth Dining Services monopoly and an overall cost of attendance that inexplicably ranks among the highest in the Ivy League. I have also resigned myself to the fact that the institutional inertia caused by a swelling bureaucracy is unlikely to lead to any sort of meaningful policy change. That said, the absence or reduction of certain services during the summer term has disappointed me, especially when I check my tuition bill and notice that it has not — surprise!- — been lowered accordingly.

The dearth of classes offered during the summer term is the College’s most egregious reduction in services; students are charged the same amount in tuition as a fall, winter or spring term and have approximately a third of the number of course offerings from which to choose. As Vivien Rendleman pointed out in her July 1 column “Struggling With Selection,” a certain reduction is allowable given that there are fewer students on campus. However, she notes that summer term courses are more likely to be larger classes than their counterparts during the rest of the year, leading to an academic experience that — for the same price as a “normal” term — potentially suffers with respect to both flexibility and quality.

As I often must explain to surprised friends or family members, New Hampshire in the summer can be unpleasantly warm. “Well, at least you have air conditioning indoors!” they invariably reply. This assumption, I then point out with a smile, is incorrect. I’m asked for clarification: “You mean the dorms don’t have air-conditioning systems?” My smile grows larger. Certain dormitories, I explain, actually do have air-conditioning systems already installed. Apparently, however, the College believes that the cost of operating these existing systems in the summer is too onerous to justify. This is beyond me. It’s 90 degrees out, there’s an endowment of more than $3 billion lying around somewhere and we’re skimping on the electric bill? Students who offer to purchase their own window units learn that doing so is also not allowed, barring medical need — and possible heatstroke doesn’t count.

During the “normal” year, the Safe Ride service can ease fears about walking alone late at night. The program’s existence is a useful expenditure that addresses a legitimate need; the College should do whatever it can to promote student safety. Yet, Safe Ride does not operate during the summer. Why? Even if students can’t make any late-night jaunts to the Hop for food (because, of course, it’s closed!), does the threat of being victimized by a crime somehow disappear from June to August? As Hubert Clark III ’13 found out the hard way, it does not. He was, as has been publicized in recent days, subjected to an assault and robbery directly on the Green at around midnight last Wednesday. While the absence of Safe Ride certainly can’t be blamed for this crime, its occurrence demonstrates that such an absence is unacceptable.

In addition to resisting heat and violent crime, students in residence during the summer should also be able to avoid illness. At least one would think so — our own campus clinic, Dick’s House closes its all-night and weekend infirmary from June to September. While the reduction in staff at Dick’s House is understandable during regular hours, failing to provide even basic on-site care during weekends or to observe seriously ill students overnight is inexcusable. Students in need of urgent attention are instead taken to DHMC, where they can incur additional medical expenses or go without treatment or, I suppose, try to wait for the College to resume full functionality in September.