Harwick: Home is Where the Heart (Of Campus) Is
Dartmouth students deserve a better solution to the housing shortage.
I retired from Dartmouth in the fall of 2020 after spending 28 years at the College as a coach for the track and cross-country teams. A major part of that job was recruiting, and one of our key strategies involved distinguishing Dartmouth from our Ivy League counterparts. Living on a walkable campus was a real draw, especially compared to the extensive shuttle bus system at Cornell University. We could tell potential students that Dartmouth’s athletic facilities were on campus — unlike Columbia University or Yale University, where students rely on shuttle buses to get to practices and competitions.
With that in mind, I was displeased to learn that Dartmouth is now contemplating building a large undergraduate dormitory complex a mile and half north of campus on Garipay Field, land that has been used for recreation for decades. Not surprisingly, the residents of that neighborhood, including myself, are strongly opposed to the idea. Our arguments revolve around the loss of green space and the significant increase of traffic on a street that is a residential neighborhood and includes a large day care center, as well as Hanover’s only elementary school.
Having said that, I would make the case that the idea of building a dormitory here is at least as bad for Dartmouth’s undergraduate students as it is for the neighbors. It is hard to believe that the 300–400 or so students who would live in the proposed building would not feel significantly more isolated than the students who live in the campus core. How many trips a day will students need to make to campus for meals, classes and meetings? Much of the Dartmouth experience revolves around interactions with their classmates, faculty and staff. Evening events like plays at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, guest speakers at the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy, movies at Spaulding Auditorium and athletic events will shift from an easy walk to a shuttle ride. On sub-zero winter days, it is hard to think of a less appetizing prospect than waiting in the cold for a shuttle bus.
I am sure that when College administrators describe the new dorms, they will do so in glowing terms, describing them as modern apartment-style units surrounded by green space. To this end, I hope that students will do some deep thinking about their response when the College asks for feedback. Is a decked-out, brand-new dorm sufficient compensation for being removed from the heart of campus?
I need to add that I, and the rest of my neighbors, understand the tremendous need for undergraduate housing and support further dorm construction. That was a key element of the “Call to Lead” capital campaign and should have already been addressed by now. However, there are simply other sites that are owned by the College that are also much closer to campus. The land next to House Center A (also known as “The Onion”), land abutting the Dewey Field parking lot and the already developing west end of campus are all potential dorm sites that can and should be prioritized over the proposed Garipay Field site. Parts of the former golf course west of Lyme Road, particularly the southernmost section, offer yet another possible building site. It seems that the only advantage of the Garipay Field site is that it is flat and thus relatively easy to build on.
Let me close by saying that I am a realist and I am aware of the fact that Dartmouth’s campus will and must expand. I live across the street from Dartmouth’s Rugby Clubhouse, a beautiful building that blends in with the landscape and, when built, preserved the playing fields and green space around it. The clubhouse represents the type of expansion that makes sense, as it fits in with the environment around it. Building a large dorm on Garipay Field — which would destroy the green space, create more traffic and be a nuisance for both students and residents — fails that test.
If any of this message strikes a chord, I would encourage you to reach out to College administrators and student leaders on campus as quickly as possible. I think Dartmouth‘s Office of Campus Planning would be a good place to start. Currently, Dartmouth shows every intention of trying to push this proposal on a fast track, intending to break ground later this year. We must not allow the College to negatively impact both the surrounding neighborhood and one of the College’s biggest assets under the guise of solving the housing crisis. There are other, less intrusive, more logical means of addressing the housing shortage. Allowing our desperation to compromise our sense of reason would be a real shame.
Barry Harwick is a member of the Class of 1977 and the former Director of the Dartmouth men’s and women’s track and field and cross country teams.
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