The Forgotten Class: Reflections on the Authenticity of ‘The Dartmouth Experience’

Members of the Class of 2024 mourn missed traditions but find solace in the fact that their unique start to Dartmouth unites them as a class.

by Arielle Feuerstein | 9/29/21 2:20am

24s-away-final
by Lila Hovey / The Dartmouth Staff

Earlier this month, we welcomed the Class of 2025 into the Dartmouth community. Upon arrival they embarked on First-Year Trips — albeit a modified version — just as every class has done for the past nearly 90 years, with the exception of the Class of 2024, for obvious reasons. The ’25s attended their matriculation and twilight ceremonies and began classes having completed all the initiatory prerequisites that Dartmouth requires.

A week later, the Class of 2024 attended their own matriculation and twilight ceremonies. I signed my name in a book with the other members of the class of 2024. I lit a candle and struggled to keep it from blowing out as I walked to Bema. I listened to remarks about our class’ resilience in the face of adversity. Phil Hanlon congratulated me on officially becoming a Dartmouth student.

I couldn’t help but wonder: Was I less of a Dartmouth student before I had signed my name in that book? Before I had listened to the College alma mater in Bema?

Several ’24s acknowledge that our class occupies an uncertain space in Dartmouth’s storied history. Jayanth Uppaluri ’24 described the class as “in limbo.” Kaitlyn Anderson ’24 said she feels the ’24s have been “misplaced.” 

“It’s just this weird space where we’re like ghosts in our class,” Anderson said. “Instead of having all these foundations, people and memories about the school, we were just in our rooms, and some people didn’t even get to come to campus at all.”

Katelyn Hadley ’24 was one of those people who took classes remotely all last year. Living on campus this fall, she echoed Uppaluri’s description of feeling “in limbo,” particularly as she saw posters welcoming the Class of 2025 while she was a year into her college experience and moving into a dorm for the very first time. 

“I was jumping into a sophomore year without really having that freshman experience,” Hadley said. “[It] kind of felt like when we graduated without having a graduation [in high school] — that feeling like there should be something more, but there wasn't quite.” 

Some, such as Ethan Dixon ’24, have even begun to question the validity of their claim to the Dartmouth experience. 

“Dartmouth is an institution based on tradition, and if one class doesn’t get that tradition, when we graduate, are we truly Dartmouth graduates?” Dixon asked.  

Every ’24 I spoke to expressed happiness that the ’25s were able to experience traditions like Trips. Yet, hearing about these experiences and seeing the new class get a glowstick-free Twilight Ceremony still opened old wounds.

“It just emphasized what we missed, because last year was kind of fine in a way,” Hadley said. “We were all having the same things going on and we didn't really know what we were missing. Now we know what we were missing.”

Seeing the Class of 2025’s more-normal entrance to Dartmouth reminded Anderson that the Class of 2024 may be permanently out-of-place in the wider Dartmouth community.

“It's complicated to explain,” Anderson said. “I think it’s maybe not a sense of jealousy but just a sense of grief or nostalgia because yeah, you went through kind of the same things as them last year, but it wasn’t all the same. Just the fact that we matriculated after the ’25s tells you that we’re not going to be in the same place that we were supposed to be a year ago.”

It’s difficult to know for sure whether the experiences we missed as freshmen will continue to haunt our class. Dixon believes they might, saying these traditions were “crucial, simply because they’re the things that unite every class.” 

To their credit, the administration has made efforts to revive some of the traditions we lost — like matriculation and the Twilight Ceremony — even if those traditions were late. Most ’24s, including Nicolas Macri ’24, said that they appreciated the attempt, but the belated ceremonies were still not enough to “erase the effects of the whole past year.”

Dixon also expressed frustration that the administration has made little effort thus far to recover the First-Year Trips experience, even though he still thinks it could still be beneficial for building community within the Class of 2024.

Anderson, on the other hand, doesn’t believe it’s the tangible events we missed that are alienating our class from the institution. Rather, he turns to our lack of experience with any sense of normalcy on campus. 

“I don’t think it’s as much about the events, but it’s more that everybody’s so anxious and unclear about everything that we’ve gone through and are going through right now,” Anderson said. 

Uppaluri feels that although we missed key components of freshman year, our experience isn’t less real than every other class — it’s just different. He added that he believes the differences that divide our class from the others will fade over time.

“I think as we become juniors and seniors, it’ll get more and more [normal],” Uppaluri said. “But this year especially is going to be very different.”

Macri echoed this sentiment, and said that though he is excited for life to return to normal, he hopes that the Class of 2024 does not forget its unique roots.

“I hope we don’t lose our sense of being ’24s,” Macri said. “Obviously the pandemic was a bad thing, but we were able to create our own special space in our own society — a whole new Dartmouth culture — during that year. And I think it was special. I think you can definitely make a strong argument that the ’24s are the most different from any other class, and I think we should hold on to the unity that that can provide.”

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!