Gart: The Cohesion Enigma
The Class of 2025 may have less in common with each other than any freshman class in Dartmouth’s history — and yet, it’s up to us to restore normalcy to the College.
I love the Choates.
The residents have tremendous personality and enjoy a fantastic location, and strangely, we’ve even become a social hub for frat-banned freshmen. Sure, our dorms might be the size of prison cells, but what we lack in shower cleanliness, we make up for in giant spiders and broken washing machines. There is, however, one strange dynamic about my dorm: The students living in it simply don’t have that much in common.
Some members of my floor are athletes, forced to limp through an extremely awkward recruitment process during the pandemic. Others have just endured a senior year hosted almost exclusively through Zoom, while still others have contracted COVID-19, or had family members contract the disease. While one student might’ve had a glorious, post-pandemic senior year, their roommate might’ve suffered a year chock-full of jittery frustration. Then, of course, there are the gap year kids. For me, my year of adventures was incredible, but it was also virtually incomparable to the experiences of any other gap year student. Some people worked on farms in Hawaii, others went club-hopping in Europe and many completed fascinating internships at a wide variety of top-notch companies.
We’ve all had noteworthy years, but here arises the problem: Never before has a class taken such different paths to reach the same destination. Beyond our identity as Dartmouth freshmen, the Class of 2025 has virtually nothing in common with each other. We may have the majority of our college experience unaffected by COVID-19, but the brunt of the virus’s social impact landed on our heads in vastly different ways. While the Class of 2024 was able to commiserate together over awkward Zoom icebreakers and dysfunctional quarantines, we all had to battle through the struggles presented to us by the virus without the support of each other. Not only did COVID-19 deeply alter our senior year, but it fundamentally changed our personal lives in a litany of different ways. Now that we’re all on campus together, we’re beginning to mesh — but our varied reactions to the events of the past 18 months have made forging class unity notably harder.
Of course, we’re also an incredibly privileged class, at least compared to those at other schools or in other grades. We may have had to sacrifice a normal high school experience, but most young adults would gladly trade in a mediocre senior year for the chance to live the glorious college life we’ve all dreamed of. Even in the wake of annoyingly long lines at Foco and a still-lingering indoor mask mandate, we’re living the lives of normal college freshmen. We can fall asleep in class, lose a shoe in a frat basement, and join eight clubs for no particular reason. We can enjoy the in-person presence of our classmates and bask in the beautiful, fully-open campus we now call home. Life is, generally, pretty good.
However, Dartmouth is also sprinting headlong into a looming problem. The last class able to experience the College in its entirety, the Class of 2021, has already graduated. Our current seniors were unable to experience sophomore Summer, and lost over a year to brutal restrictions. The Class of 2023 had their freshman year abruptly severed by COVID-19’s original outbreak back in March 2020, and are only now experiencing a full year of residence at Dartmouth. And the Class of 2024, well, where to even begin. Regardless of how it’s broken down, the shock waves of COVID-19 have radiated through all three of the other classes in the undergraduate student body. In short, every other class has had their definition of the normal Dartmouth experience warped by the pandemic — they either don’t have memories of a pre-pandemic Dartmouth, or if they do, those treasured experiences lie years in the past. As the first class to enter Dartmouth following the loosening of almost all pandemic-era restrictions, it’s up to us to bring back normalcy to Dartmouth. However, we also won’t be able to fully complete this task without the help of the Class of 2022. The seniors may have had their Dartmouth experiences severely altered by COVID-19, but they’re also the only class to have experienced a full, pre-pandemic year on campus. While the ’22s bear the responsibility to pass down their experiences and traditions to the next set of students, this isn’t possible without the receptive participation of the Class of 2025. After all, we will likely be the first class with the opportunity to experience every aspect of the Dartmouth education in four years. If we don’t live our freshman year to its fullest, Dartmouth may not be able to fully weather the storm of the pandemic, and maintain the incredibly rich culture it has fostered for so many years.
Traditions are the lifeblood of this school. Little stands more iconic in the minds of Dartmouth alumni than the roaring Homecoming bonfire, flair-clad First-Year trip leaders, first-snowfall snowball fights, and countless other unique, quintessentially Dartmouth traditions. If we aren’t able to continue these hilarious, wacky, beautiful rituals, then the Dartmouth experience will simply not remain the same. So, the responsibility falls to us. The Class of 2025 has an incredible opportunity ahead: We alone can restore true normalcy to one of the greatest colleges in the nation. As long as we pay careful attention to what the College was like before the pandemic, including the conservation of institutional knowledge contained in the senior class, we can bring back the old Dartmouth. Sure, us freshmen may be culturally and experientially divided, but if there ever was a class capable of reigniting the spark of our college, it’s us. The hardship we’ve encountered over the past year and a half has made us more determined than any class before us to sink our teeth into everything that Dartmouth has to offer. Yes, we’re incredibly varied in our backgrounds, but that just makes us even more diverse, with more perspectives to offer and more life to bring to Hanover. Dartmouth’s strength lies in its community – and for the exact same reasons that our class is so divided, we have the potential for the greatest unity this school has ever seen.
There’s one memory that has been stuck in my mind since I’ve begun college. Over a year ago, when I’d first been admitted to Dartmouth, I quickly slapped a bumper sticker onto the back of my car. The next day, after pulling into the parking lot at my favorite lunch spot, I noticed a woman briskly walking towards my window. With bright eyes, the woman peered into my car and cheered, “Go Big Green!” She was, predictably, a Dartmouth alumnus, and the first of many people to approach me solely thanks to the green “D” on my bumper. Before departing, the woman hesitated. Looking me straight in the eye, she stated, “just remember — it is a staggering gift to be a part of the Dartmouth community.”
And of course, she’s right. Just like any other student to attend this college, members of the Class of 2025 have been given a staggering gift. We have the potential to be one of the most impactful classes that Dartmouth has ever seen. All it takes is careful fostering of the freshman community, deliberate focus on the Class of 2022’s college experience, and a dedication to bringing back the vibrance, quirkiness, diversity and excellence that this college is so well known for.
And, well, a bumper sticker or two can’t hurt.