Beechert: Unnecessary Hostility

by Michael Beechert | 2/9/16 6:20pm

On Feb. 5, The Dartmouth Review published a response to articles written by myself and Matthew Goldstein criticizing the state of news at the College. On the whole, it was a fair defense of some of the Review’s current practices and displayed an admirable sense of mission. Although I believe that a couple elements of my piece were mischaracterized — the conservative image and spirit of the Review, I feel, are of central importance to the paper’s efficacy but should not rely on inflammatory invocations of the Indian symbol — it is encouraging to see that someone on this campus is thinking seriously about how to properly do journalism. I am happy to have helped spark such thinking, and I am sure that Goldstein feels similarly.

The most interesting part of the Review’s “apology,” however, dealt with how the publication sees itself with respect to the relationship between the student body and the administration. In light of what was described as a “permanent tension between students’ and administrators’ interests,” the Review went on to describe its role as such: “Picture the dynamic between wageworkers and management at a big company. They share the same overall goal, but they’re opposed on almost every detail. At Dartmouth students want a rich social life, while our administrators want good publicity and are often willing to steamroll student life to get it. In this metaphor, the Review does its best to play the labor union. It’s our job to ‘stick it to the man’ when our distant overseers make changes that dampen the student experience.”

Although it was a bit surprising to see the Review compare itself to a labor union, I think the comparison is more or less accurate. Students and administrators alike all want Dartmouth to thrive; everyone on this campus wants the College to have the distinguished place in higher education that it is wholly capable of occupying. The two parties, however, seem to have radically different ideas about how to accomplish this. I don’t believe that the ideological separation between students and administrators is marked by a solid line — there are an unfortunate number of students who buy into the administration’s disastrous belief that diversity and inclusiveness are the panacea to all problems, and there exist a handful of administrators who have the right priorities — but it is impossible to live on this campus without sensing the basic divide that the Review references. I have come to accept this sad state of things in my time here, which is why I have written column after column criticizing the administration for allowing the poisonous tentacles of bureaucracy to wrap themselves around an increasing number of things that should either be left alone or treated differently altogether.

As my time at Dartmouth draws to a close, I can’t help but wonder why it must be this way. Plenty of my friends at other schools have complained about administrations that adopt a questionable policy once in a while, but the deep and pervasive sense of adversarialism that characterizes student-administration relations at Dartmouth seems to be the exception. I wish there were an easy explanation for the gulf between students’ desires and administrators’ actions, but I can’t find one. Although many of the administration’s decisions have been misguided, it’s too discouraging to think that the people responsible for reaching those decisions are simply lacking in intelligence. I find it similarly hard to believe that the administration’s intentions are malignant; it would make no sense to purposefully alienate students. But the poor management and toxic relationship continues, and the College suffers for it.

I don’t have a solution to offer, but rather a plea to Parkhurst: Please, for the love of God, make a good-faith effort to listen to us. We were admitted to this College because, apparently, we have the capacity to be leaders. Start treating the entire student body this way instead of engaging exclusively with the few groups that subscribe to your misguided vision of what higher education should entail. Dartmouth, as an institution, exists for our benefit, not yours — so trust us to help you shape the future of the College.