Woodward: Taking the Plunge

by Aylin Woodward | 1/8/15 10:50pm

Coming back from the last long break many of us will have for a while, I can’t help but notice how subdued our campus climate seems. More than a month of traveling, resting at home and enjoying a holiday devoid of papers or problem sets seems to have made us all more calm and collected. In many ways, winter term — the shortest term of the year — represents the epitome of our ability to focus and keep our Dartmouth experience in perspective. With such a short while on campus, we simply cannot afford to waste any time on unnecessary “excess,” whatever form that excess might take.

This term also represents the beginning of Dartmouth’s rebirth and renewal. We must now focus on those questions of purpose that, quite frankly, have been lost in the storm of outrage that characterized fall term — who are we as a community, what is our mission and what does Dartmouth aim to be and achieve? What values do we embody as students and as an elite institution of undergraduate education? President Phil Hanlon’s plan of action, created as a part of Moving Dartmouth Forward, is the herald of that renewal, and when announced on Jan. 29, it will hopefully allow Dartmouth to return to a clean slate.

It’s our responsibility as students to try to be open-minded, to approach this impending announcement with clear heads and optimism. After all, Dartmouth’s capacity for change does not lie in the hands of bureaucrats and administrative figureheads — people with pictures to take and hands to shake. Rather, the responsibility to change rests on each and every one of our shoulders, not only in our receptiveness to this top-down initiative and willingness to have faith in those decisions, but also in our decisions and everyday actions. We need to remember to keep these decisions in perspective and consider Dartmouth’s long-term future.

I have no doubt that some part of President Hanlon’s announcement will spark unrest and malcontent in various circles on campus, perhaps with good reason.

Regardless of the announcement’s content, it is imperative that the student body recognize it as legitimate, and should any of us seek a means of recourse against it, we must do so in a respectful and rational manner. We cannot afford to repeat the events of last winter and spring. Another headline splattered across media outlets like “Student Sit-In At President’s Office” could cripple Dartmouth’s reputation for students, present and future. At such a critical juncture, any sort of sensational uproar will likely prove even more devastating to the College’s legitimacy than previous incidents.

Clichéd or not, it is our responsibility as Dartmouth students to leave this school better than we found it. We must ensure that those who come after us enjoy a better quality of student life than we did. The presidential steering committee has been tasked with achieving that goal to the best of their ability. President Hanlon’s mission with Moving Dartmouth Forward this past year, though overly nebulous and suspenseful at times, aligns with students’ mission of improving campus life. Even if we all don’t agree with his ideas of what the best way forward will look like, we need to demonstrate our respect and support for that mission. Student solidarity with the administration will be imperative in the coming months, as the lens of media scrutiny may once again focus on Dartmouth and, ideally, our collective efforts to change it for the better.

So enjoy the January calm while it lasts. When the time finally comes to take the plunge into a newer — and hopefully superior — Dartmouth, take a deep breath and jump in wholeheartedly. Here the onus is squarely on us. It’s about time we step up and act like the adults we are all so desperate to be. As adults, it’s our responsibility to have faith in the engine of change — even if the proposed changes don’t wholly align with our own wants and needs — and find common ground with those who ultimately share our goals. Only then can we truly improve Dartmouth, for fellow and future students.