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Tonight, the streets of Dartmouth’s campus will be uncharacteristically quiet. The throngs of students that normally populate Webster Avenue and Wheelock Street will be absent. Instead, various social spaces will hold public and private conversations on their complicity in and perpetuation of a perennial outrage at the College as well as universities across the country: sexual violence and assault. This reckoning is long overdue and all too necessary. Pledges to curtail and prevent sexual violence must not be confined to the month of April. To have any chance of success, Dartmouth must be sincere and relentless in the reformation of its social spaces.
Last Friday, 15 current and former Dartmouth athletes and two head coaches marched in the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang, South Korea. Undergraduates Tricia Mangan ’19 and Alice Merryweather ’21 were added to the U.S. Alpine ski team just days before the official start of the games, while Paralympian Staci Mannella ’18 is scheduled to compete in March. In total, 18 Dartmouth representatives will participate in the Olympics this year, the most in a single Games in College history. This is an exciting time for the Dartmouth community, but it is also an opportunity to embody the spirit and values of the games while fostering a more welcoming atmosphere as a campus.
The Dartmouth that students enter in half a decade may look very different from the College we know today. Last fall, the College’s leadership announced the creation of a task force to consider increasing the number of undergraduates on the campus by as much as 25 percent, or roughly 1,000 students. The task force’s final proposal is due in mid-March. If implemented, such a change would represent a shift at the College that would likely necessitate large-scale faculty hiring, massive building initiatives and a fundamental change in campus culture. Both proponents and opponents of the proposal deserve a chance to weigh in before any final decisions are made.
BarHop, a College-sponsored program that provided students with weekly social events at the Hopkins Center for the Arts from February 2014 through May 2017, was suspended indefinitely last November. The program, which utilized three rooms of the Hopkins Garage to offer an arts and crafts space, host regular performances from student bands or groups and provide a dance club-like area, also served alcohol to students of legal drinking age free of charge. The hiatus, brought on due to staffing and space issues, according to an email statement from Joshua Kol ’93, director of student performance programs at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, has closed down one of few successful alternative social spaces at the College.
Last year, three professors of psychology and brain sciences were placed on paid leave amid investigations of sexual misconduct allegations. The investigations are ongoing, and no findings have been disclosed but the initial allegations — which are not public — have been expanded upon anonymously by 15 current and former students and by two other academics, Jennifer Groh and Simine Vazire. These allegations came during a time of extreme upheaval across industries and society, with numerous powerful male figures coming under fire and facing professional, personal and, at times, legal repercussions for patterns and behaviors of sexual abuse, misconduct and assault.
The Homecoming bonfire is a quintessential Dartmouth tradition, but it is also a dangerous one. With the bonfire, after all, comes the yearly calls for first-years to touch the fire. If nobody does, the class is dubbed the “worst class ever” — a title that seems to have enough of a negative connotation that no class in recent institutional memory has been risk-averse enough to claim it.
Vice President Mike Pence was apparently among the last people to learn that former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had lied to him about his contacts with Russian operatives. Pence read about Flynn’s deceptions while reading the newspaper. “That’s comforting: at least our next president reads the newspaper,” Seth Meyers quipped.
As if questions of so-called fake news could not get any more lurid and absurdist, on Tuesday night Americans were treated to a report published by Buzzfeed news that, amongst other things, claimed that President-elect Donald Trump paid a slew of Muscovite prostitutes to defile a bed used by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama while Trump watched. Whether the claim is true is, ultimately, relatively immaterial: millions of Americans will hear it and believe it, many millions more will dismiss it as propaganda regardless of its provenance or any process undertaken to confirm or rebut the accusations.
Judging from internet memes, press coverage and the national election, 2016 was the year the world went mad. To paraphrase the Broadway hit “Hamilton,” the world seemed to have turned upside down. One piece of unity amongst a year of division came from grief, however. Celebrity death after celebrity death marred 2016 — and, as the baby boomer stars of our youth age, that trend will likely accelerate.