We asked our Opinion Staff to reflect on Dartmouth's new "Citizenship Pledge."
Beginning this year, all incoming students will have to sign the “Citizenship Pledge,” which encapsulates the College’s goal of educating students who value honesty, responsibility, a diverse community and intellectual engagement. While I agree that these qualities are critical to any education and I respect the pledge’s meaning, I am disappointed that administrators feel the need to coddle students by spelling out the obvious. Because of its reputation as one of the country’s top schools for undergraduate education, the College naturally attracts students who are looking for intellectual growth and engagement with some of the best minds in the world. Yet, the College still felt the need to dedicate time and resources to formulating this redundant pledge.
This seems to be a part of a larger trend that has been becoming more and more obvious — administrators do not appear to trust students. Based off the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” policy initiative, for example, it seems clear to me that administrators do not trust the students with alcohol, and now with this pledge, they seem to not trust the students to meet the College’s standard of what a student is and should be. By immediately reminding incoming students of why they were accepted to the College and what they are expected to contribute to it, administrators give the impression they are not only questioning the morals of its students before they have even enrolled, but also to be questioning the College itself — and its ability to attract students worth having. For all its pretty words and admirable meaning, the pledge’s purpose is unclear at best and seems to be evidence of the College’s distrust of its students and growing inferiority complex at worst.
— Nicole Simineri ’17
The pledge is an unfortunate reminder that we live in an increasingly infantile young adult culture. It reads more like something a private preparatory school would create for its students, not a document from one of the very institutions to which many of those schools aim to send their students. I think it will likely prove counterproductive because it will, at best, embarrass students and at worst, push them into a defensive crouch.
— Julia Ceraolo ’15
As active members in the Dartmouth community, it is important for all of us to apply the principles in the text of the “Citizenship Pledge.” The “Citizenship Pledge,” however, is unlikely to have any tangible impact. Students who embody the qualities outlined in the pledge do so regardless of any signature. On the flip side, students who wish to violate the terms of the pledge can do so despite their previous endorsement of the pledge. This is not to suggest that the pledge is pointless — it serves a symbolic value by reminding the incoming class of their responsibilities toward their classmates in this new community. It is a nice touch, if you will, to the list of pre-matriculation tasks.
— Reem Chamseddine ’17
Although I think the new “Citizenship Pledge” sounds good on paper, I do not think it will make a significant difference in the behavior of most students. As adults, the majority of students already know how they should behave. I can not envision that a pledge will make a difference in their intrinsic morals or values. Rather, the pledge essentially states the obvious without doing anything substantial. Unfortunately, many people often need strict rules and regulations for any change to be enacted. So while I think the “Citizenship Pledge” has good intentions, it is not concrete or tangible enough to make a difference.
— Caroline Hsu ’18