Dartmouth Outing Club makes strides to increase diversity and inclusivity
Since the Class of 2022 arrived on campus four years ago, the DOC has undergone various changes with the hope of becoming a more welcoming and equitable organization.
This article is featured in the 2022 Commencement & Reunions special issue.
Over the last four years, the Dartmouth Outing Club has undergone numerous changes to promote diversity — including creating and expanding its Diversity, Inclusion, Justice and Equity subclub, renaming one of its subclubs for people of marginalized gender identities and hosting more discussions around ways to improve the club’s culture.
According to the DIJE newsletter, the club is committed to addressing “the structural and cultural barriers to inclusion afflicting the DOC” to make the Outing Club “welcoming and accessible to all.” The subclub was founded by former Ledyard Canoe Club president Gab Smith ’22 during summer 2020. Smith said she started DIJE to help diversify the DOC.
“Because I had a leadership position, I thought that would be a good time to [start DIJE] — especially because that is when all the [Black Lives Matter] protests were happening and everyone was concerned about [COVID-19], so people were more receptive to having change,” Smith said. “I had a lot of support.”
Smith said that prior to the creation of DIJE, the DOC held a termly diversity and inclusion discussion for the entire club, though she noticed that Greek houses and other social spaces paid attention to the issue of diversity and inclusion year-round. She said these factors inspired her to approach the DOC president at the time, other DOC officers and Outdoor Programs Office assistant director Rory Gawler about the idea, who helped her obtain resources and spread the word to the greater DOC community about DIJE.
In addition to increasing the DOC’s diversity, Smith also wanted to make the student organization more inclusive to people who lacked experience in the outdoors.
“I came in as a freshman, and I didn’t have that much experience outdoors, so I wanted to make people who didn’t have that experience feel welcome by having activities outside that they could enjoy,” Smith said.
According to DOC president Abigail Johnson ’23, DIJE meetings are open to anyone. Johnson said that typical DIJE meetings consist of group conversations in which anyone can address concerns about diversity, inclusion, justice and equity within the DOC.
Johnson said that DIJE’s project groups work on ongoing initiatives for the duration of each term. One project group works on planning a termly event focused on diversity and inclusion in the DOC or the outdoors more generally. There is also a newsletter team, which creates the termly newsletter that highlights events, students and outdoor media to share with students and alumni.
Over the last two years, DIJE has also been working on a demographic survey to figure out how many students are involved in the DOC, Johnson said.
Former DOC President Abby Wiseman ’22 said that DIJE works with all of the DOC’s subclubs to address relevant concerns.
“They do a really good job of reaching out and working with specific subclubs to identify what challenges those subclubs have — whether that’s a higher barrier to entry or there is a tight-knit community, which is great but doesn’t really lend itself to new people getting involved,” Wiseman said.”
In May 2021, the Women in the Wilderness subclub also changed its name to Viva Harding Outdoors Club (VHOC) to become a more inclusive space for people of all marginalized gender identities.
“We are just trying to get more people involved in a space where they feel safe… I think subclubs in general have become more receptive to diversity and excited about doing it,” Smith said.
Ledyard vice president Jordan Paff ’23 said that she joined the DOC during her freshman fall, but she did not think that the climate was welcoming.
“The president and vice president were both men, and I felt like the space was very male-dominated, which made Ledyard a little bit less approachable,” Paff said.
Paff added that since Smith started DIJE, she has been inspired to support women and people of color through her leadership role in Ledyard.
“The efforts of [Smith’s] presidency were really around getting women and people of color involved in paddling, and I’ve kind of carried on the torch with that. Obviously, as a white person, a lot of my experiences are more applicable to women, rather than focused on women of color,” Paff said. “However, I’ve been focusing on both of those in terms of how I lead my councils, which has been a huge emphasis of my term as VP thus far.”
Ledyard has representatives from its subclub attend DIJE events to speak on Ledyard’s behalf, according to Paff. Ledyard also hosts its own events focused on diversity and inclusion, such as Conservation on Tap. The event is held once per term in One Wheelock in the Collis Center for Student Involvement and shows films about river conservation projections, which often coincides with preservation of native lands where Indigenous cultures previously thrived.
Paff said she sees the changing culture of the DOC reflected in the increased number of active female members in Ledyard from the Class of 2025 – a sharp change from her first-year in Ledyard, during which there were mostly male members.
From April 13 to 19, the DOC held its first-ever “All Outside” conference with the purpose of making the outdoors more accessible and inclusive, gathering a turnout of approximately 90 people. The conference consisted of panels, beginner outdoor skill sessions, workshops, beginner outdoor trips and more.
The DOC has also increased socioeconomic diversity by changing guidelines surrounding funding for break trips and individual outings, such as allocating a certain amount of money for food for each person on the trip. Smith said this adjustment is meant to ensure more people can get into the outdoors without finances being a barrier.
However, Smith added that individuals in subclubs must also take initiative when it comes to further increasing diversity and inclusion in the DOC.
“It’s important to remember that just because there is a diversity and inclusion division doesn’t mean that people can’t be doing the work on an individual scale or within their respective clubs,” she said.