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As a child, I always pictured sayings in my head. When people claimed something was the “best thing since sliced bread,” I’d picture sandwiches being made between two huge half-loaves. For some reason, “break a leg” was a chair, lopsided due to a snapped leg. But a more significant phrase had a very specific picture, and it was one I had to face in many important moments of my life. The phrase was “let it go,” and the picture was a small girl hanging off the edge of a cliff.
The comparisons were too easy to make. The world watched a charismatic leader and advocate of democracy released from years of confinement by an authoritarian government, who went on to win the country’s first openly-contested elections. Many people, including myself, firmly believed that Aung San Suu Kyi’s impact on Myanmar would mirror Mandela’s reformation of South Africa, that she would eliminate the draconian restrictions of the established military government and herald a new era of Burmese democracy. This, however, has not come to pass. Tragically Suu Kyi, now the country’s de facto leader, has overseen the erosion of democratic potential in Myanmar. The country that so recently carried the hopes of the international community has regressed.
“Thank you for trying out … unfortunately, we are unable to offer you a place this year.” Over the past few weeks, such blunt statements have had a dominant presence in my inbox. Yet despite experiencing so many rejections in my first month on campus, I couldn’t be happier.
The Brett Kavanaugh hearings felt like rock bottom. They won’t be, of course — if we know one thing, it’s that scandals will keep rolling in. Still, there’s something deeply concerning about a Supreme Court hearing turned to partisan theater. Every hour came breaking news about scandalous details of high school yearbooks and binge drinking. Not that those things aren’t serious and relevant given the assault allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. But still, reality-television style politics dominated the confirmation process.
Before coming to Dartmouth, everybody had something to tell me about the Greek system: it’s the campus social scene; one can find friends outside of it; it’s pervasive; it’s a great community; it’s overbearing. Most of my peers told me that despite my reluctance, I’d probably end up joining a sorority — it’s just what Dartmouth students do.
Two phrases every Dartmouth student knows and loves: “distrib” and “NRO.” These terms epitomize the unique Dartmouth experience — a wide range of knowledge gained through 14 required courses, colloquially known around campus as “distribs,” and the safety net that comes along with learning a new subject, the Non-Recording Option. Dartmouth prides itself on its liberal arts focus, claiming to offer students (albeit forcibly through graduation requirements) a “breadth” of knowledge. The College encourages its students to take advantage of this breadth through the NRO — a relieving way for students to exclude a grade from their transcript if it doesn’t reach their selected threshold. Unfortunately, Dartmouth does not allow these two aspects of its curriculum to work together. The NRO, if used on a distrib, will bar the distrib from fulfilling its graduation requirement. This has deterred many students from choosing a distrib by interest, and has caused them instead to fill their distribs using course-difficulty indicators, such a past medians, syllabi and Dartmouth’s version of RateMyProfessor: LayupList.
This past week, the Department of State announced that the U.S. will deny family visas to same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats or employees of international organizations who work in the United States. This means that those who are already in the country must either get married or leave by December 31st this year. Since 2009, same-sex partners were considered family under the G-4 visa policy. This rule reversal, according to a State Department official, was made to “promote and ensure equal treatment” for both same and opposite-sex couples. Though this new policy grants exceptions for the partners of diplomats who are from countries where same-sex marriage is illegal, the caveat is that the other country must recognize same-sex spouses of U.S. diplomats posted there. This most drastically affects same-sex partners of international employees who work for organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, since the exception does not extend to them.
The 2016 presidential election mucked a phrase up from the dark corners of the internet and into the public eye. By questioning the biases of mainstream media, people began to doubt their very foundation of truth. Suddenly, media with which people disagreed became “fake news” and the only reliable sources those which supported their beliefs. Now, it seems “fake news” and news are equally prevalent. At some point or another, every major media outlet has been labeled “fake news” by those who disagree with what they publish, and no one blinks an eye at the assumption.
Dark days are upon us of the Dartmouth Introvert. Dark days, indeed. Foco (the Class of 1953 Commons), that pristine chapel in which we worship the God of buffets most delectable, has succumbed to the latest in a long line of debilitating plagues: castigating the loner. Indeed, the bar-esque chair layout that once adorned the wall opposite the kitchen windows on the “light side” (for the common folk: the well-lit section of the first-floor seating area) has been supplanted by a series of two person-booths. Booth-table-booth; lather well, rinse thoroughly and repeat until the space, which I’ve termed “introvert row” lies filled to the brim. And quite honestly, the decision to do so befuddles me, as this (d)evolution lies more inefficient and inconvenient — to solitary foco-goers, at least — than its apparently maligned predecessor.
If I were to describe a leader who framed himself as a political outsider, who decried the corruption of the established elite, opposed such things as the Paris climate accord and has become famous for making outrageous comments, I suspect you would not immediately think of the Brazilian politician Jair Bolsonaro. But maybe you should. Brazil is about to elect its next president, and Bolsonaro will likely take up that mantle. This will be a wasted opportunity to turn the country around, but the result should not be considered surprising. Brazil’s recent problems have perfectly set the stage for Bolsonaro’s grand entrance, creating populist conditions in which the far-right strongman can easily establish control.
You are late and tired. Walk faster anyway. Sit down. Listen. Take notes. Depart and repeat at another desk. Classes are over. The bell tolls. How many times have you heard the peals today? How many times have you listened? Go eat. I hope you ate already, as it is past noon. Maybe eat with a friend, maybe go on a date. You probably won’t go on a date because, statistically speaking, it is unlikely. People eat with friends more frequently than they eat with strangers or acquaintances.
As the country reflects on allegations of sexual assault against a young, drunk Brett Kavanaugh, I cannot help but think about my own college days at Dartmouth in the late 1990s. I did not sexually assault anyone, but I can see how it could happen and wish I knew then what I know now.
This weekend, I returned home for 36 hours. I slept in a bed that was not a twin XL, I drove around my home town, I ate authentic Chinese food — in short, I enjoyed the comforts of home. At the same time, it didn’t really feel like “home” anymore. My childhood bedroom was given to me for a night, but it had been occupied by my sister for about two weeks, due to the presence of relatives staying over. My sister’s belongings decorated the crevices of the room I had always thought of mine. This time, I felt like a guest. My customary mug languished in a cabinet; I fumbled a bit with the new coffeemaker. I could still navigate my home town with ease, but I felt out of place at my regular nail salon. The suburban moms who usually frequent the salon gossiped about places and people whom I no longer recognized or knew much about. Thankfully, the Chinese food still tasted delicious.
This summer at a family barbecue, conversation turned –– as it so often does –– political. At some point in the conversation, my dad divulged that he identifies as an independent voter, to which his friends responded with shock and horror: “But don’t you care about politics?”
While it hasn’t been “business as usual” in American politics, the events of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh this past week are even farther from the norm. Regardless of what one holds at stake here — another conservative on the bench or the very efficacy of American justice (motives at this point abound) — these judicial proceedings have drudged up levels of emotion that transcend personal perspective, motive or party delineation. In the sense that Thursday’s hearing it put unbridled, human feeling on display, America may finally have found itself presented with, at least in its essence, the apolitical.
Like many high school students, I too hated taking the ACT. Even after I was accepted into Dartmouth, I felt bummed out that my score was not in the top quartile like the scores of some of my other classmates. I assumed that this indicated I had an inherent disadvantage, destined to have a dismal college transcript follow me around after graduation. Yet two years later, I can say that this will probably not be the case. I barely think about those scores now, nor do I think that they were very telling. Indeed, some of the other college students I have talked to about this issue are in agreement that these tests are inaccurate at predicting college success.
As a brother of Bones Gate fraternity, I don’t make a habit of talking to the press, but we all make exceptions sometimes. And the rush process is one such exception. It plays a crucial role in determining which individuals on this campus will be endowed with the abilities and resources to facilitate major social spaces at Dartmouth. Granted, across campus there is a mixture of rushees who have had varying opportunities to acquaint themselves with the full body of the house they are joining. But regardless of whether they enter a house after terms of building credentials and connections or if they come with none at all, rushing a house gives every member the privileges of affiliation — and it is the scope of those privileges that I would like to address.
On the first day of senior year, the one-armed bro hugs and exclamations of “Oh my god, I haven’t seen you in forever!” punctuated the still Hanover summer. On the second day of senior year, a flood of blazers, suits and skirts marched in and out of the Top of the Hop, home of the annual career fair.
Thanks to all of those freshman year icebreakers, I can drop a few fun facts about myself at a moment’s notice: I never really learned to tell my lefts from my rights, I’m allergic to apples and bananas, and I lived with my grandparents in China for three years. One year after I was born, I flew from Boston to Shanghai, where I stayed under the care of countless relatives spread across the biggest and brightest city I’ve ever seen. Almost all of my extended family lives in China, and I love every memory I’ve made there. I have been loud and proud of my heritage for a few years, but it hasn’t always been that way. In fact, sometimes it still feels like I’m trying too hard to disassociate myself from the community that raised me.
I own a cap that was passed down to me by a sorority sister. Neatly sharpied on the inside of the brim, it says, “When you love an institution, you should consistently question its value for the sake of its own validity.” I was probably not allowed to keep this hat, but it somehow made its way with me to Washington D.C., a city that I moved to less than six months ago. With the the controversy surrounding Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh happening right where I call home now, and for many other reasons, I have not been able to get much sleep — nor this quote out of my head.