This article is featured in the 2021 Homecoming special issue.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, as the United States led a wave of unprecedented international reforms, Dartmouth College had a revolution of its own. Witnessing the horrible failures of diplomacy that contributed to the deaths of 75 million people across the globe, John Sloan Dickey, president of the College from 1945 to 1970, vowed to foster a generation of global-minded youth. He proclaimed the immortal words, now featured in the Common Application and admissions literature: “The world's troubles are your troubles…and there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings cannot fix.”
Dickey believed that fostering global awareness fosters global solutions. True to his cause, he committed himself to introducing students to international issues in his capacities as professor and president. He taught a course titled “Global Issues,” aimed at introducing students to the problems of the world. During his tenure as president, Dickey expanded our campus beyond the wilderness of Hanover by founding a Northern Studies program, a Russian Civilization department and multiple foreign study programs. Even in death, president Dickey continued to inspire generations of Dartmouth students through the Dickey Center for International Understanding, an institution dedicated to his memory and values. The center offers grants for students to “travel the globe to participate in a wide range of internships and fellowships,” giving participants the opportunity to “craft their own international experience.” Over the last few decades, such programs have elevated Dartmouth to a small but significant force on the world stage. Today, however, while international issues have become no less important, the College seems to have forgotten Dickey’s noble mission.
Last winter, The Dartmouth reported that the Frank J. Guarini Institute for International Education was forced to “slash funding for off-campus programs and scrap a significant number of its study abroad trips” due to budget cuts. This decision sparked outrage among students, alumni and faculty, and rightfully so. In an interview with The Dartmouth, Spanish and Portuguese department chair Isabel Lozano-Renieblas — who, along with other faculty, was not consulted prior to this decision — explained, “I think that off-campus programs are essential, it’s the core of the education at Dartmouth and many of these testimonies state that it is probably the best experience in the College.” Further, she warned that the “main ramification [of the program cuts] — and the most important — is the attack [on] our mission as educators of global citizens.” Today, the Guarini Institute is struggling to preserve the essence of its global mission by restructuring some of its programs and combining others.
Having applied to Dartmouth for its emphasis on global learning, this development alarmed me. My peers and I had sought to expand our cultural knowledge and deepen our understanding of global issues — international conflict, environmental crisis, pandemics, human development — because, as the admissions department promised, “erasing boundaries leads to transformational learning, and Dartmouth students are forever changed by their study off campus and abroad.” Reality has not lived up to this promise. The loss of these foreign and language study programs illustrates the College’s general trend away from global learning.
Despite this, Dartmouth students continue to prove their interest in international issues, founding advocacy groups and coordinating demonstrations across campus. Last year — with the help of some friends — I was able to put together an exhibit in protest of Turkish and Azerbaijani aggression in the south Caucasus and bring attention to it with my first-ever article in The Dartmouth. This past May, the College’s Palestine Solidarity Coalition and Vermonters for Justice in Palestine held a well-attended protest to bring attention to the eruption of violence in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The protest integrated other social movements, such as Black Lives Matter, because, as one protestor explained, “We are telling our story through the connection of our struggle and Black and brown people’s struggle.” Such engagements are vital for success in an increasingly interconnected world full of different socio-political settings.
In the days following these demonstrations, The Dartmouth reported that the protests sparked debate across campus. Some expressed concern that it placed too much blame on Israel and neglected to acknowledge, as one student interviewed put it, the Jewish people’s “right to self-determination in their ancestral homelands.” Others condemned both sides. Regardless of how one may feel about the Israel-Palestine conflict and other issues, the fact of discussion, dissent and debate is positive in itself. Such conversations increase the intellectual depth of all who engage in them and, thus, enhance students’ preparedness to address what president Dickey called “the world’s troubles.”
During the pandemic, students continued to interact with the world around them, contributing novel perspectives and informing discussion with their unique backgrounds. The College must support these interactions: The role of any self-respecting educational institution is to satisfy the intellectual curiosity of its students. As former vice president of the U.S. and member of the Dartmouth Class of 1930 Nelson A. Rockefeller asserted, “It is essential that we enable young people to see themselves as participants in one of the most exciting eras in history and to have a sense of purpose in relation to it.” These words — which line the halls of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy — aptly describe the standard we must hold Dartmouth accountable to. Students would greatly benefit from an institutional recommitment to study abroad and the creation of additional programs aimed at developing Dartmouth as a global community. After all, the world’s troubles are our troubles, and the College has it within its power to adequately prepare us for these challenges.