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Scarcely two weeks have passed since my April 11 column “O’er The Land of the Free,” in which I took great relish in mocking our colleagues at Harvard University for referring to an American flag as an “unacceptable political statement.” I made my jabs with the understanding that this was, in many ways, a new low for academia. After all, who could have ever imagined that an Ivy League institution — in fact, to many the quintessential Ivy League institution — would lay claim to such diabolical self-censorship?
Without a doubt, one of Dartmouth’s biggest draws to prospective students is its outstanding alumni network and the jobs it offers. On the College’s website, it boasts that “a Dartmouth degree leads to success.” In this day and age when college costs are becoming increasingly insurmountable, return on investment matters, and Dartmouth delivers: in 20 years, our ROI is $822,600 — one of the best in the nation.
One of the most interesting characteristics of a Dartmouth education that distinguishes us from other similar institutions is the famous — or infamous — D-Plan. Not only well known as a death sentence for college romances, the D-Plan even serves to set us apart from other schools that use a quarter system. The strangest part of our system, which has prompted many a question like “Wait, you have to go to summer school?” is Dartmouth’s sophomore summer.
If this week’s reaction to last Saturday’s 2016 White House Correspondents’ Dinner is any indication, President Barack Obama was a better comedian than this year’s host, Larry Wilmore, host of Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show.” Based on the reactions of the celebrities, political figures, pundits and journalists in the Washington Hilton ballroom last Saturday, you would think Obama was the comedian. Obama has traditionally done very well at the Correspondents’ Dinner, his success this year as a charismatic communicator and manipulator of the media is not an isolated event. Indeed, throughout his two terms as president, Obama and his administration have consistently shown themselves to be media masters. In our fast-paced 24/7 news cycle, being prepared to spin issues, frame actions and time public statements is an invaluable skill for the leader of the free world. Obama’s timing, charisma and media skills are impeccable, as evidenced by the White House Correspondents’ Dinner speech. Many conservatives would argue that the President’s media success is due to a liberal media bias. In reality, the media mastery is mostly due to a White House that has taken old tricks for shaping media coverage like friendly interviews and staged leaks and put them on steroids while adding new ones like social media, comedy, content creation and pop-culture references. Additionally, the liberal media is not the only media constituency benefiting from Obama’s savviness. Media organizations across the ideological spectrum are scrambling for access to Obama’s White House. Moreover, the American people love hearing from their president and do not hesitate to share and talk about Obama’s videos, photos, speeches and interviews on social media platforms. This has all led to a revolution in the White House-press relationship. The power balance between the White House and press has tipped toward the government. This is a development that the Obama White House — experts in digital media and no fan of the Washington press — has exploited effectively. Future presidents from both parties will copy and expand upon this approach. According to Mike McCurry, who was press secretary to former President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal “the balance of power used to be much more in favor of the mainstream press.” Nowadays, sensationalism and the endless media cycle has given the White House an opportunity to develop a media persona — contrary to the restraining effect one would expect. After all, a around the clock news cycle is primed for finding and blowing up every scandal, no matter its size. Obama and his adminstration have managed to turn this idea on its head by deploying well-organized and well-timed media statements that are often immeresed in the language and humor of the moment. During Saturday night’s dinner, Obama evoked current events. He used a video chock full of pop-culture references to depict a parody of his post-presidency plans. He chose to talk about GOP dinner attendees who were asked to order steak or fish, but who instead kept choosing House Speaker Paul Ryan, saying “that’s not an option, people.” Moreover, he cleverly skewered both the mainstream press and depicted his administration’s social media prowess, showing himself embroiled in a fictional Snapchat scandal. Ex-GOP presidential candidates John Kasich and Ted Cruz along with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton are all well-spoken politicians, but none of them have the same media savviness and charisma that Obama demonstrated during his two terms. The 2016 presidential race has been largely dominated by mogul Donald Trump, who has repeatedly shown his media savviness. Using Twitter, Trump has managed to enthrall the news cycle, keeping all eyes on him. He may not be as eloquent as Obama, but Trump’s timing and charisma are as impeccable as the President’s. He is certainly better than Clinton at limiting, shaping and manipulating the media coverage of himself. Obama’s success as a media master provides an example for whoever finds themselves sitting in the Oval Office come 2017. Future presidents need to be prepared to handle the fast-paced news and social media cycle, and as Obama has demostrated, pop culture refreneces and charisma can go a long way. The White House Correspondents’ Dinner, while not as serious as a solemn address to the country, is a lighthearted medium by which a president can develop a relationship with the public and show of their charm. The American public will certainly miss Obama’s charismatic personality — I know I will.
In the past week alone, Dartmouth has had seven different climate-centric events ranging from lectures on soil-vegetation-atmosphere interactions to panels discussing water crises in the Navajo Nation. All of these events were open to the public, with just one exception: “Climate Risk & Resiliency for Oil and Gas Companies” with David Hone, climate change advisor to Shell.
“Check your privilege,” is a phrase you’ve probably heard recently. Perhaps it’s been said to you, or maybe you’ve used it yourself. In essence, it is a reminder — typically directed at white, straight, financially well-off men — to be aware of the advantages they have been granted since birth. But, in addition to serving as a reminder, it also implies that because of those characteristics, a person of privilege is less able to speak about issues of race, class or gender inequity because he simply does not fit the bill of a person who might have combated one or more of those inequalities first-hand.
Last Thursday, a bipartisan group of Senate lawmakers unveiled a revised version of a criminal justice reform plan that was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year. Although lawmakers and media sources have referred to this document as a general criminal justice reform bill, the proposed legislation, especially after being amended to appeal to Republican senators, is far too narrow in its scope and does not go far enough to address the discriminatory practices of the justice system that disproportionately impacts men of color in this country.
Almost exactly a year ago today, I made the decision to come to Dartmouth. Unlike many of my peers, my choice was not entirely an easy one. Picturesque Hanover was nothing like the bustling streets of New York City. It was by all means quieter and more beautiful, with the fresh air and grassy scent that seem all but impossible to find in the city, but it was also more isolated and far less familiar. Dartmouth gave me the ideal, dreamy “Ivy-League” education, but at a cost. From a financial standpoint, I could have chosen a college that offered me a merit scholarship equivalent to a full ride. This scholarship would have provided the opportunity for a guaranteed job at a prestigious institution for four years at no cost and would have been an excellent source from which to develop the skills I needed for the field I then imagined I would be heading into. But I decided to let my heart think, and I chose the dream instead.
To put it bluntly, I thought Divest Dartmouth was pointless. I strongly believe that climate change should be our foremost concern, but it seemed that Divest Dartmouth didn’t have any concrete goals, and I didn’t buy into the idea that “morally bankrupting” energy companies counted as doing anything productive. I’ve always been unenthusiastic about activism that doesn’t propose solutions or set goals. T-shirts and megaphones do not social change make. But I missed something in this analysis. There is a strategy to Divest Dartmouth, one that is less easily assigned a dollar value or measured in parts per million: making colleges divest is a way to tap into their symbolism and influence. In my view, divestment isn’t about affecting fossil fuel-burning companies’ finances — it’s about renowned institutions sending a message of urgency.
“Walang pasok sa Metro Manila,” the broadcaster announces. Classes canceled.
Mental health is complex and nuanced, and therefore many aspects of mental health are widely misunderstood, then neglected due to a combination of outdated stigmas and a lack of comprehensive scientific understanding. People often assume that mental health means only the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, ignoring the fact that everyone requires some mental upkeep, regardless of whether or not their specific experience fits the textbook definition of a mental disorder. There are few times in someone’s life when they are at greater risk of mental health challenges than when they are in college. Students face everything from experiencing loneliness, to dealing with, separation from one’s family to determining career paths. All of this exacerbates issues that many are already struggling with, and the data reflects this. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in three students reports having experience prolonged periods of depression, one in four students reports having suicidal thoughts or feelings, and one in seven students reports having difficulty functioning at school due to mental illness. The director of NAMI, Ken Duckworth of Harvard Medical School, highlights the importance of this issue, saying, “Undiagnosed mental illness can cause people to withdraw socially, drop out of school, engage in substance abuse, or exhibit other unsettling behaviors.” With the importance of mental health to our well being, as well as the risk that college students face regarding mental illness, one would think that this would be a top priority for schools all around the country, especially Dartmouth. However, the reality is that the College is not doing nearly enough to take care of us mentally, especially considering its stated goals in the past.
About 17 percent of Dartmouth’s student body is from the South. Despite this, many non-Southern students act in total awe whenever they meet a classmate from the region.
With childhood and adult obesity rates remaining high and posing significant health problems in American society, it is important that colleges prepare students to become healthy adults. However, the College’s P.E. requirements place an undue burden on students and do not support building healthy habits.
With just over a month until Commencement, my inbox has been besieged by cheerful blitzes encouraging me to contribute to the Senior Class Gift. These contributions are supposed to make a Dartmouth education affordable for the entering freshman class. More realistically, the recommended donations of $20.16 barely dent one of the more expensive price tags in the Ivy League: a $66,174 direct cost of attendance for the 2016-2017 school year. The Senior Class Gift’s primary utility, rather, is as an indicator of the graduating class’s satisfaction with the college, used as a public relations tool to compare our rate of giving with those at our peer institutions.
Replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, along with placing women and civil rights activists on other bills, is a subtle way of creating sociopolitical change. Seeing new faces on our money won’t solve any big policy problems. Nevertheless, it redefines the way we think of our nation’s founders and, perhaps more importantly, symbolizes that the politics of race and gender have a place in our society.
Choosing a college is an important decision. Each year, students spend dozens of hours discussing with their parents, teachers, counselors and coaches where they would like to spend the next few years of their lives. They pore over statistics, rankings and testimonials, trying to decide which school is the best fit. And data is everywhere: A prospective student can go online to find anything from financial aid statistics to the average class size to the number of robberies on campus.
Though it is always concerning when societies implement a culture of censorship, more concerning still are the attempts to defend it. Jessica Lu ’18’s April 20 column “Considerate Correctness” is exactly such an attempt, and I must voice my vehement disagreement with her position. A culture of political correctness is not only antithetical to the core values that Dartmouth should uphold, but it also sets a dangerous precedent for higher education across the country.
On April 20, the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network hosted a panel on the digital rights of artists. The panelists agreed that there needs to be a cultural shift in how we think about the value that content creators provide.
HBO’s critically acclaimed fantasy drama “Game of Thrones” returns this Sunday with its sixth season. The series has attracted record numbers of viewers on HBO and developed a particularly extensive and active international fan base. Based on the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series of epic fantasy novels written by George R. R. Martin, the television series is set to overtake the books with its sixth season. Without a textual basis for season six, the show’s producer and Dartmouth alumnus David Benioff ’92 and his co-producer D. B. Weiss will have broad leeway in telling Martin’s story. The show’s actors and producers have received widespread praise for their acting, storytelling, production values, scope and complex characters – winning 26 Primetime Emmy awards for their efforts. Why do millions of viewers return to the world of ice and fire year after year to watch their favorite characters get killed off? The popularity of “Game of Thrones” is partially reflective of the broader trend of increasing interest in novel big-budget, high production value television dramas, as well as a more cynical and disillusioned viewing audience.
Most of you probably remember that the United States women’s national soccer team won the Fédération Internationale de Football Association World Cup last year. And if you do not recall this exciting victory, I’m willing to bet that it was far more popular news than the men’s team coming in 15th place the year before. This polarity in international prestige between the men’s and women’s soccer teams is not just a recent phenomenon. The U.S. men’s national soccer team has participated in several World Cups, with their best season occurring in 1930 when they came in third, followed by their more recent second best in 2002 when they reached the quarterfinals. By contrast, the women’s team has won three World Cups and four Olympic gold medals since 1991. In 2015 alone, they generated $20 million more in revenue than the men’s team. The catch? The women are paid a mere fourth of what the men earn.