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The Dartmouth
February 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Financial concerns led to College’s purchase of Casque & Gauntlet property, C&G Trust members say

Economic issues caused the Casque & Gauntlet Trust to sell its property to the College. Proceeds from the sale have been donated to the College to go toward the Dartmouth Dialogues initiative.

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On Jan. 24, the College announced in a press release that it purchased the property at 1 South Main St. from the Casque & Gauntlet Trust. According to the statement, the building — which sits at the southwest kitty-corner of the Green — served as the residential space for the student members of the Casque & Gauntlet senior society from the time of its acquisition by the C&G Trust in 1894 to 2020.

The press release stated that the C&G Trust donated the sale proceeds of $2 million and an “additional $250,000 in gifts” back to the College that will go towards the Dartmouth Dialogues project. 

According to C&G Senior Society Board president Doug Chia ’93, C&G “consists of a few different entities,” including the C&G Trust, which “technically owned the building,” and the Senior Society Board that governs the senior society. Chia said that the Senior Society Board was preceded by the C&G Inc., which was dissolved in 2020.

“When C&G was formed, it was formed as a senior society,” Chia said. “At some point, they decided they wanted a house for the senior society members to live in, and so the house was purchased. The purpose of the C&G Trust was to own the house, and the house was meant for the exclusive use by [the] Casque and Gauntlet senior society.”

The C&G Trust had been facing “growing financial problems over the course of 15 years” before the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered campus in 2020, according to C&G Trust member Tig Tillinghast ’93.

According to Tillinghast, the C&G Trust originally relied on the revenue generated from the rent of senior society members to cover expenses. However, Tillinghast said that this model became unsustainable as “costs rose” and “taxes rose.”

“We were brainstorming, ‘how do we make this financially work?’” Tillinghast said. “Part of it was financial and cost brainstorming, [and] part of it was, ‘how can we get the College involved?’” 

Tillinghast said that the attempts to adopt a different operating model for the C&G Trust were unsuccessful, but the outreach and fundraising efforts were “successful to some degree.” 

“[C&G, Inc.] went from raising a few thousand dollars a year in alumni donations to twenty thousand dollars in donations a year,” Tillinghast said. “That solved things for a couple [of] years, but the costs kept on going up like the revenues.”

An email from C&G Trust members Tillinghast, Ed Kania ’79 and Tom Tomai ’79 to C&G alumni announced the sale of 1 South Main St. and said that the C&G trust “spoke with multiple Dartmouth administrations” about various ideas and options.

“The [C&G] Trustees came to believe that the only way for the house to remain a sustainable asset serving its mission would be through strong financial involvement with the College,” the email stated. 

Tillinghast added that the conversations with prior administrations, though unproductive, “[set] the seeds” for College President Sian Beilock’s administration to approach the C&G Trust in December 2023. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020 and students were no longer allowed to live on campus, the C&G Trust lost the revenue from undergraduate student rents, according to the C&G Trust email to alumni. The C&G Trust email wrote that the Trust was “forced to close the house and lease it off to the College.” According to the College’s website, the College began leasing out the property to graduate students. 

“The College paid for … all of our out-of-pocket costs,” Tillinghast said. “… It didn’t have to pay for all of those costs that happen[ed] over 50 years. It got us out of the immediate going-into-bankruptcy kind of problem, but it continued to be a problem. That worsened over time because the deferred maintenance kept on growing and growing.”

At the same time, there were questions within the C&G, Inc. about the ability to continue the C&G senior society during the pandemic, according to Tillinghast. According to the C&G Trust email, the residential senior society was shut down after the Trust had to lease the property to the College. 

Tillinghast said that the C&G, Inc. believed the C&G senior society needed to go on hiatus for a few years. Instead, a few members of the 2021 C&G delegation approached the C&G, Inc. and proposed that the senior society continue as a nonresidential society rather than a residential society, according to Tillinghast. 

“The rational thing was, if when we come back it can’t be residential, and all the numbers pointed to that, why not let the students continue on now in this nonresidential way?” Tillinghast said. 

According to Tillinghast, the students also wanted a governing structure that gave the students more control. Tillinghast said that the C&G, Inc. accepted the students’ proposal and began the process of dissolution. According to Chia, while the C&G, Inc. had “one student each year,” the C&G senior society “consists of half alumni and half current students.”

Chia said that without C&G students living in 1 South Main St. and without revenue, “the Trust needed to decide what to do with the house.” According to Chia, the C&G Trust charter had a provision that stipulated that the sale proceeds from the property return to the College. 

“We were fortunate in getting the best trust law firm in New Hampshire to look at the original documents and tell us what we need to do,” Tillinghast noted. “And they essentially said, ‘Well, you [have] got to convince the College to take it because the Trust is written so that it has to go back to the College. But before the Beilock administration, the College wasn’t really interested.”

The C&G email said that Beilock’s administration “approached the Trust to ask if a way could be found to deploy its assets in a manner that might support the new Dartmouth Dialogues Project.”

“It was never a question of whether the house could go back to the student society or the money could go to the student society,” Tillinghast said. “That was a preordained thing when the Trust was written by hand. We were pretty impressed with the relationship that built very quickly with the Beilock administration.”

According to Tillinghast, three trust members of the C&G Trust spoke directly with Beilock and members of her administration to line up the sale of the property. 

Tillinghast said that the initiatives of Dartmouth Dialogues reflected the C&G missions of open and respectful dialogue. 

“It was some real talk about the mission of Dartmouth and the mission of C&G, where those things coincide,” Tillinghast said. “And this was where it coincided. The Venn diagram overlapped right here.  

The C&G Trust email wrote that the “similarity of purposes between the Dartmouth Dialogues Project and the Trust’s charter mission allowed for an agreement to quickly take shape.”

While the C&G Trust chose not to request where the sale funds would specifically go to work, there was an understanding that the money would go towards Beilock’s Dartmouth Dialogues project, according to Tillinghast. 

Chia — who lived in the house when he was a student in C&G — said that it is “disappointing to see the house no longer be a part of C&G.”

“I think people understand the economics of the situation, but I think people are really sad that there wasn’t a way to keep the house at the end,” Chia said. 

Chia also expressed hope that the C&G senior society will “be able to have some use of part of the space” and “be part of the Dartmouth Dialogues project, as it very much represents the same ideals as C&G has over its entire history.”

Tillinghast — who also lived in the house — said that he is also disappointed that “students today aren’t going to have that kind of experience” that he had in 1993. 

However, he added that he thinks that “Dartmouth has an opportunity to give some of the great experience we had in C&G to everyone.”

Two current C&G senior society delegates in the Class of 2024, who requested anonymity, also spoke about their feelings about the sale.

One delegate said that while “all members are equally disappointed that the house was sold,” the property “will always be there for us to look at.”

“What’s most important is what we share — as a delegation and our relationships — to our living alumni,” the delegate said. 

Another delegate said that while a lot of alumni talk about the property because “that was a big part of their experience,” the property did not make up the C&G experience “really that much for us.”

The second delegate added that the delegation hopes that they “can still have a relationship with the house depending on what the College does.”

“C&G is very much alive regardless of the sale of the house,” the first delegate said. “We’re Dartmouth’s second oldest senior society, and we hope to stick to our values of chivalry and community service in whatever way serves the students at the College.