Verbum Ultimum: Real Term, Real Education

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 5/5/16 5:30pm

One of the most interesting characteristics of a Dartmouth education that distinguishes us from other similar institutions is the famous — or infamous — D-Plan. Not only well known as a death sentence for college romances, the D-Plan even serves to set us apart from other schools that use a quarter system. The strangest part of our system, which has prompted many a question like “Wait, you have to go to summer school?” is Dartmouth’s sophomore summer.

Started as a way to alleviate the strain that a growing student body puts on limited facilities, the College-mandated sophomore summer has become a time-honored tradition. Lovingly referred to as Camp Dartmouth, the summer is seen as a time to relax, reconnect with your class and get outside to enjoy the beautiful New England weather. Sophomore summer often features a lighter course load. While it’s a choice for some as they take advantage of more time at the river, the reality is that many take fewer classes because there are not enough worthwhile courses from which to choose. The College needs to make a concerted effort to improve educational opportunities during sophomore summer, from class offerings to the professors who are on campus.

Many other schools have optional summer terms during which students can earn a few credits to catch up or get ahead on their degrees. In programs such as these, it would make sense that those schools offer very limited courses taught by inexperienced or visiting professors. But since we are required to be here sophomore summer, save the small minority of students who are able to successfully appeal to the administration the school should take the term seriously. The courses are 10 weeks long, just like any other term. They count towards our majors, just like any other term. They can have a significant influence over our overall GPA, just like any other term. Perhaps it is unreasonable to expect the College to put as much time and as many resources into summer as they do to a jam-packed term like spring, but that doesn’t mean that the current system should remain completely unchanged. Students are required to pay the same steep price for sophomore summer, not to mention the opportunity cost of not being able to secure a summer internship or spend time with friends and family at home. Many of us commit to this term just as much as we do to any other, and we should expect the school to do the same.

Instead of offering the bare bones course selection that has made sophomore summer a designated “Let’s knock out our distribs term,” Dartmouth should strive to ensure that it offers useful and challenging classes. Instead of a diminished faculty featuring mostly visiting or untenured professors, Dartmouth should pony up to keep as many of our esteemed faculty on campus as possible. If this is unrealistic, the College should then reach out to esteemed professors from peer institutions who may not be working during the summer and have them come as visiting professors, offering courses and perspectives that we may not be privy to at any other point in our college careers. If the College can’t make sophomore summer as academically rewarding as other terms, they can at least make it academically unique.

We understand why sophomore summer has to exist. We want as many qualified people as possible to have access to the Dartmouth experience, but Hanover is small and the College is smaller. It would be virtually impossible to have the entire student body on campus at once. However, if the school is going to require us to be here over the summer for a real term, they should treat it as a real term. Perhaps some of the recommendations outlined above aren’t immediately feasible because of financial or logistic issues. If that is in fact the case, and Dartmouth can’t make sophomore summer any more than it is now, than it should lower the price of tuition for that term. We currently pay exactly the same as we do during a regular term for fewer courses, fewer professors, fewer dining options and worse living accommodations. If Dartmouth can’t make this term as valuable as every other term, then we shouldn’t have to pay as much as we do every other term. When a product becomes less valuable, it should be discounted. As it stands now, sophomore summer just isn’t giving students a fair bang for their buck. We are asked to treat sophomore summer as a real term, both academically and financially. If Dartmouth isn’t going to do the same, we should at least get a decent discount.

The Editorial Board is made up of the Editor-in-Chief, the Executive Editors, the Publisher, and the Editorial Director.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!