Opinion Asks

by The Dartmouth Opinion Staff | 8/13/15 6:26pm

Do you think Dartmouth students engage enough with the Upper Valley?

I think that it’s hard to consider students as one big whole on this issue. In my experience, engagement with the Upper Valley happens on an individual basis and it varies from student to student. There are many of us that are constantly engaged in the surrounding area in activities ranging from volunteer work to diner tours to visiting local swimming holes. On the other hand, a good portion of students, including myself, seldom leave Hanover unless it is to visit somewhere a little further than the Upper Valley, like Boston or New York City. I think that the school as a whole should be more vocal about getting students involved in the Upper Valley, be it through getting the word out about volunteer opportunities like cooking at The Haven or offering incentives to students who come up with their own creative ways to engage with our surrounding towns and neighborhoods. However, it is also up to us as students to realize that there is a world outside of our little town, and the more we immerse ourselves in it, the more fulfilling our short time at the College will be.

Andres Smith ’17

When students walk from Collis to Dirt Cowboy, they are not crossing a political boundary. Dartmouth is an integral part of the Upper Valley, and to pretend that the two exist in different spheres is more than slightly off base. Of course it is important for students to get involved with the greater community – this is not exactly a controversial subject – since there are few, if any, downsides to becoming more engaged with the Upper Valley. Frankly, the only touchy point that comes to mind is the proverbial “Town versus Gown” relationship and the responsibility that students have to respect and be conscious of local residents.

It is necessary to recognize that College and the Upper Valley have a mutually beneficial arrangement. Dartmouth is one of New Hampshire’s oldest institutions and — particularly when combined with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center — is one of the Upper Valley’s biggest employers. In turn, these employees are an indispensable part of the College community — from the Dartmouth Dining Services workers who keep FoCo running smoothly to the Facilities Operations and Management staff that maintain Dartmouth’s campus and infrastructure. In return, it is important that students remember to be good neighbors. This could mean patronizing a local farm by picking up some produce at the Hanover Farmers’ Market, volunteering for an Upper Valley community project, or even participating in an annual charity run.

Paul Harary ’18

We often hear that we do not engage enough with the Upper Valley. While this might be true, I think “forced” engagement (i.e. engagement through a class or a required program for undergraduates) is a bad idea. It is both intrusive and unnecessary — intrusive because students go into town trying to find personal stories that will eventually be used for a class presentation, and unnecessary because students are inherently shaped by their environment over the college years. By living in Hanover, the student population gets to contribute to the life of the Upper Valley — from hiking the nearby mountains to trying out restaurants in West Lebanon.

Needless to say, it is important to recognize that Hanover is not representative of the Upper Valley and that the Upper Valley has its fair share of social problems such as homelessness, poverty, and alcoholism. And yes, it is admirable when students pursue issues of social justice near their academic institutions, but these connections must stem from individual interest, the same way that community engagement beyond college stems from one’s desire to contribute. It is equally admirable when students pursue issues affecting communities worldwide, whether that means volunteering in Peru or interning in South Africa. Saying that Dartmouth students need to immerse themselves in the community surrounding them is as frustrating as expecting Columbia students to engage with the problems of New York City.

—Reem Chamseddine ’17