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Amidst the many proposals from the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” presidential steering committee on housing arrangements, choice of alcoholic beverage and fraternity parties, I was happy to finally see a heading — albeit far down the list — dealing with the College’s central mission of education. The report suggested increased rigor, deflated grades and early morning classes.
Regardless of whether you think the entirety of the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” plan is a treasure chest or a dung heap — and campus opinion has swung in both directions — there is at least one crown jewel in College President Phil Hanlon’s slew of proposals to improve student life. It’s what the presidential steering committee calls Dartmouth Thrive, a holistic program intended to promote student development and wellness. The committee’s vision for the program is lofty, targeting every dimension of students’ lives — mind, body and spirit — to create a more engaged and reflective student body. Like many of the other proposals in the committee’s report, however, the details have yet to be hashed out.
When students reference the Greek system, it includes more than two dozen organizations compromised of both fraternities and sororities. Yet, while Greek organizations encompass an array of students and interests, references to the “Greek system” often regard the system itself as a singular entity. This seems only fair since, for better or for worse, credit and blame for the actions of various houses are often attributed to all Greek houses, regardless of who is responsible. This essentialist view of the variety of Greek organizations as one body, however, is also the Achilles’ heel of the system. Sharing the blame for the actions of others can drive wedges between houses and aggravate tensions between those with existing disagreements or organizations that do not necessarily like each other. Now, more than ever never before, it could be the greatest undoing for affiliated students.
A campus hard alcohol ban was perhaps the most significant policy change that College President Phil Hanlon announced in his Jan. 29 “Moving Dartmouth Forward” address. Since then, colleges and national media outlets alike have debated the merits of the ban. Beyond the College’s talking points, there does not seem to be widespread agreement that this is indeed the way forward. The justification and arguments for the ban leave us unconvinced that this was the best possible tool at administrators’ disposal to ensure student safety and well-being.
I can see why banning hard alcohol would seem like a sound solution for binge drinking, but it seems unclear what makes administrators believe it is feasible. It is already against state law and Dartmouth policies for underage students to drink, yet this clearly does not stop them from accessing alcohol. It is absurd to expect older students not to consume hard alcohol in College-owned housing, when such a practice is very legal just a few hundred feet away in downtown Hanover. Enforcing this policy will undoubtedly be a challenge.
Over the past few weeks, it has become increasingly clear that the College’s attitudes toward alcohol and underage drinking are misinformed. I would like to believe that this institution — more focused on the undergraduate experience than many of its peers — would have taken the lead in putting students first. Alas, the tenor and rhetoric of administrators lead me to believe that those making policy decisions are either primarily concerned with public image or are shockingly unaware of the way that college-aged people interact with each other and alcohol.
An intense focus on a single issue once again dominates popular discussion on campus — this time “Moving Dartmouth Forward,” arguably the biggest announcement by a College President in recent memory. There are some, however, that question the characterization of College President Phil Hanlon’s new plan as groundbreaking. The proposed changes, hard alcohol ban aside, appear are unlikely to be the biggest changes to hit the College since coeducation. Instead, what I see is a campaign of smoke and mirrors.
As far as I have witnessed, most expressions of dissatisfaction with the status quo on campus coming from marginalized groups have been met with one swift rebuttal — “If you don’t like it here, leave.” This is a popular response, especially when the Greek system and the College’s culture are being questioned. Not only is this largely unfeasible, it is offensive to the notion of progress and equality.
College President Phil Hanlon’s “Moving Dartmouth Forward” plan fails to address sexism, racism and other forms of exclusivity. Rather, the hard alcohol ban exacerbates them, creating situations in which binge drinking and sexual assault are more likely to occur. The policy targets women and shifts the blame for sexual assault from misunderstandings about sex and consent to alcohol, essentially making this policy another form of victim blaming.
While there may be no scheduled classes today, on any given day it’s likely that at least a few students have pulled an all-nighter to finish an assignment or exam. Enter Baker-Berry Library at any time throughout the term and you will see hundreds of students studying for hours on end. While College President Phil Hanlon has asked faculty “to consider a number of ways to increase the rigor of our curriculum” through unilaterally curbing grade inflation or having earlier classes, he should instead look to increase rigor by fixing structural inadequacies in the academic resources Dartmouth offers its students.
In last Thursday’s “Moving Dartmouth Forward” speech, College President Phil Hanlon stated that the presidential steering committee had concluded that the Greek system itself is not the root of Dartmouth’s problem. The committee’s research compared schools with Greek systems to those without them, and their findings reported that both grapple with high levels of harmful behaviors, such as binge drinking and sexual assault. These findings evidently shaped the decision not to significantly reform the College’s Greek system.
In the wake of College President Phil Hanlon’s presentation of the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” plan last Thursday, I am surprised and disappointed to see students, faculty and national media fixate on the hard alcohol ban — a relatively minor part of the overall plan — rather than pointing out some of its glaring inadequacies. Given the amount of scrutiny that the College has come under for failing to meet its obligation to protect students under Title IX, it boggles the mind to see how paltry the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” policies on sexual assault prevention and response truly are.
When it comes to avoiding alcohol abuse, moderation matters more than the choice between “hard alcohol” and beer and wine. Keystone Light may not get a student drunk as quickly as Grey Goose, but it causes its share of problems on campus.
College President Phil Hanlon’s decision to eliminate hard alcohol on campus has dominated the conversation surrounding Thursday’s speech. Some observers have rallied around what they consider a bold way of curbing underage drinking. Many students have instead rallied around their Captain Morgan handles, laughing off the ban as a quaint throwback to the Prohibition era.
Although administrators have framed Dartmouth’s policies in terms of student safety, this is not the bottom line for the College. They calculate their decisions in the interests of the institution itself. I assume most readers already have an understanding of some of these interests, centered on things like institutional financial stability and college rankings. Last April, then-Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson responded to the criticism of College President Phil Hanlon during the Freedom Budget protests by characterizing the his primary responsibility as fundraising. Despite Hanlon’s newfound passion for student affairs, we have no reason to believe that his priorities have changed in the past few months.
While the actual implementation and results remain to be seen, the Moving Dartmouth Forward plan announced by President Hanlon seems to adequately address many of the issues that the administration sought to fix, including sexual assault, exclusivity and the lack of an alternative social spaces on campus. Unfortunately, it really missed the mark on the issue of binge drinking. The plan does not take a realistic view and accept inevitability of collegedrinking (and underage drinking, specifically) by encouragingstudents who choose to drinkto participate in safer practices such as drinking beer and wine over hard liquor, and consuming alcohol gradually over the course of a night.
Yesterday, College President Phil Hanlon announced his “Moving Dartmouth Forward” plan to combat binge drinking, sexual assault and exclusivity. The plan includes a variety of measures that address sexual violence prevention, alcohol policy, residential life and academics.
It seems that few are completely happy with College President Phil Hanlon’s speech, but likewise, few appear completely unhappy. Yesterday morning, he presented a comprehensive — though perhaps not as far reaching as it could have been — plan to “move Dartmouth forward.” He started his address with a story about College President Emeritus John Kemeny and his visionary guidance of the school into coeducation. At this point, and based upon the fanfare leading up to the speech, I expected some drastic changes to be proposed that would fundamentally alter the course of our school and entirely reinvent the social system. I expected a set of changes that would be second only to coeducation, a visionary plan that would restructure the school’s very mission. He delivered lofty goals and ambitions for Dartmouth’s future that we can all agree with, but in terms of sweeping changes, Hanlon left something to be desired — that is, if sweeping change is what you were desiring.
College President Phil Hanlon’s “Moving Dartmouth Forward” address certainly has a number of noble ambitions, most prominently the effort to reduce high-risk drinking — but as the old adage goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Not only does his proposed ban on hard alcohol create a number of possibilities for dangerous situations with regards to risk-management, it will have the effect of increasing campus social stratification and further privileging those with access to alcohol.
Dartmouth’s strengths are in education and research. Our weaknesses are an overconcern with reputation and appearance. Although I applaud the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” presidential steering committee for its work and many of its recommendations, I’m afraid that when it comes to their initiative on alcohol, they have played to our weaknesses and ignored our strengths.