Verbum Ultimum: A Call for Clarity

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 1/28/16 8:00pm

From the summer of 2016 onward, Dartmouth will be offering classes at some new times. One of these new periods, 6A’s, will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:20 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays while the other, 6B’s, will run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays. In addition, class times have been shifted to leave 15 minute intervals, compared to the current 10 minute windows, between classes. The reaction to these changes has been strangely quiet beyond Yik Yak. We aren’t behavioral psychologists (even though one of us is taking “Social Psychology” this term), but we think we may be able to attribute this lack of a student response to the fact that Dartmouth hasn’t actually clearly informed us of the change. The new schedule was released as a PDF on the “Calendars” page on the Office of the Registrar’s website on Nov. 2 according to the timestamp on the website’s source code. We have not yet received an official announcement, campus-wide email or real notice of any kind. Although we could discuss the potential merits and faults of this new schedule, we find a more important issue at stake here: the lack of communication between the College and its students.

The Registrar’s office has been sharing information on the shift with departments and programs internally to allow them to plan their course schedules, according to College spokesperson Diana Lawrence. They plan to make a broader announcement after Spring course election “so there is no confusion about when the new schedule takes effect,” she wrote in an email to the Dartmouth.

We feel that this change is significant enough that it should have been communicated with the students when it was decided. If the information is to be made public, as this schedule was, the change should have been communicated clearly.

This isn’t the only or the most important example of the administration’s lack of or untimely manner of communication with students.

In March of 2014, the administration chose to wait until the night of Thursday, March 6, to respond to the Freedom Budget, which had been released almost two weeks before. This response also happened to come on the night before the last day of classes, leaving students little time to react before nearly everyone went home for break. The response was disseminated in an email that evening, which could easily be lost between lecture announcements or a cappella blitzes.

Earlier this year, Dartmouth decided to end need-blind admissions for international students, citing the increase of international applicants as the primary reason. However, the administration did not release an official statement to campus announcing the policy, nor did they clearly outline how the decision was reached until it came under significant pressure from the student body.

The College seems to be prioritizing managing student response rather than informing its students. The information that is not clearly communicated is often potentially controversial. As soon as the College, say, gets a $100 million donation, the student body is probably going to hear about it in a press release, a campus wide email, an article on Dartmouth Now and an article in this newspaper.

However, when the information is something that can be expected to elicit a negative reaction from the students, it ends up buried deep on the Registrar’s website, or in an email sent out on the last night of the term. This leads to a huge proliferation of misinformation. People operate based on rumors, rumblings and Yik-Yak, spreading lies and half-truths as they have little else to go on.

Whatever the cause may be, the administration needs to be held to a higher standard when it comes to the dissemination of information. Information that doesn’t shine the best light on Dartmouth, which seems to be what often gets obfuscated, is also often the most important. Informing us all directly — through a clear campus wide email at a time of day where people are likely to actually see it — about major changes would be a good start, but even that isn’t going far enough. The College should also be expected to make clear who is responsible for these decisions and the reasoning behind them. Dartmouth has a responsibility to be as transparent with us as possible, and at this point, it doesn’t seem like it is. Purposefully hiding information, or presenting it at a time and in a form that means it will have less impact, is problematic. Our relationship with the College cannot be unilateral; the channels of communication need to be opened and improved. With all the time, energy, money and love that we put into this school, we think that it owes us transparency at the very least, even if we are not happy with the information they share with us. One important role of this newspaper is to hold the administration accountable by bringing facts to light in our news coverage and separately voicing concerns as an editorial board. We now eagerly await the administration’s response, and hope that it doesn’t come the evening of March 8.

The Editorial Board consists of the Publisher, the Editor-In-Chief, both Executive Editors and an Opinion Editor.