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Recently, I’ve been undergoing a crisis of identity. I consider myself liberal, progressive, woke — all those buzzwords that The Dartmouth’s frequent commenters love to decry as a disease of foolish millennials. I’ve spent most of my opinion-writing career on issues of intersectionality, on bringing light to problematic behaviors that are overlooked despite the profound impact they have on those they target. I’ve used this space to contribute to a discourse that may be one of the defining conversations of this generation. This time, and I think perhaps for the first time, I’ve finally figured out where I stand and where I think we all should stand.
It’s getting hot in Hanover. And as the temperature rises, so does the number of people wearing sunglasses, boat shoes, salmon shorts and, you would hope, sunblock. Unfortunately, a 2013 survey reviewed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that a minority of respondents, only 14.3 percent of men and 29.9 percent of women, regularly use sunscreen on their face and other exposed skin. Those of us who both buy and apply sunblock on a regular basis will know that the drug store has a whole litany of options available when it comes to lathering up before going outside.
My “New Hampshire for Bernie” poster has started to look forlorn lately as it rests against my dorm window. Senator Bernie Sanders was an upstart back in February, when I cast my vote in the primary for him. But whatever small chance Sanders had has all but disappeared in light of the New York primary. He received 42 percent of the vote in New York, placing him 741 delegates behind Hillary Clinton. FiveThirtyEight, a website that focuses on statistical analysis stories, suggests that Sanders is struggling to stay within 90 percent of the delegates he would need to win. A Clinton Democratic nomination, and likely presidency, seems to be the foregone conclusion.
The group of misfit women who established Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority in 1993 initiated the house’s traditional “Derby” party. These women created a home for themselves beyond the existing options in Greek life. When mulling over a spring “darty” theme, these local sisters thought of the horse racing parties, such as the Kentucky Derby and the Carolina Cup, that are the staple theme for springtime sorority parties in the South. Considering this, sisters have in years past invited guests and dressed in hats and flair rather than dresses to make a creative and light-hearted “mockery” of the typical parties thrown by their nationally affiliated counterparts.
With the recent blitzstorm about Student Assembly elections, I felt like it would be a good time to write about our governing body. Then I realized I had no idea what Student Assembly actually does. So I did what any curious college student would do: go to the Assembly’s website. A few initial impressions: the landing page is a photo slideshow, of which slides one, two and four are the exact same picture with different captions. The “SA News” section’s last post was on Sept. 16, 2012. The website highlights two of the Assembly’s recent initiatives — the Dartmouth Group Directory and Course Picker. The DGD hasn’t been updated in four years, based on the page for this newspaper, which lists a ’12 as editor-in-chief. The Course Picker, on the other hand, does not work whatsoever. Any attempt to search for a class immediately returns an error. But maybe their website just has some issues — it might not reflect the state of Student Assembly. After all, the recent Bill of Rights website certainly looks great, and maybe the fact that two of their initiatives have gone nowhere is just a coincidence. But if the prevailing opinion on campus is to believed, it’s not.
During a time in which politics dominates many aspects of our lives, from protests to everyday conversations, it’s nice to take a step back and appreciate the little things in life. And newspapers like The New York Times just don’t cut it.
One doesn’t become a leader because of the titles they possess. One becomes a leader through the work that they do. At Dartmouth, we have lots of opportunities to hold all sorts of titles across the many groups and clubs of which we are a part. More often that not, the reality is that we do not even compete or challenge ourselves that much to gain these titles. I would even go so far as to say that it required more effort to have a leadership role in my high school than it does at Dartmouth.
This weekend, the Dartmouth undergraduate student body will have the chance to decide which of their peers will represent them in Student Assembly for the upcoming year. The two most talked-about races, for president and vice president, involve six and four candidates this year, with each vice presidential candidate aligning themselves with a presidential one. In the past, The Dartmouth’s editorial board has endorsed a candidate. Two year’s ago we abstained from doing so. As this year’s election approaches, we have chosen to do so again. Instead, we want to discuss some of the troubling trends in Student Assembly elections and the future of our student government.
My friends call me Nathan, and I am humbled to be Sean Cann’s vice presidential running mate. I first met Sean during Green Key our freshman year. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of working with him to positively evolve Juggling Club and Collis Governing Board, two organizations he now leads. He is brilliant and empathetic, and he gets thing done. I am confident that Sean Cann has all the foundations necessary to lead our student body with excellence.
Less than a week ago, Dartmouth’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People launched the #DoBetterDartmouth campaign, calling for increased inclusivity and diversity education. Since then, critics of the movement have been quick to assert that the racist online comments that the movement decries should not be taken so seriously. Granted, many people who post racist comments online may be so-called internet trolls, and the issue of rude online comments may not be as salient or as potentially dangerous as other social or political problems concerning race. But who’s to say that all the issues — the big and the small — are not interconnected? Though some might view the comments as simply rude but innocuous, this behavior seems to parallel what some call “colorblindness” — or the dismissal of harmful microaggressions and the failure to recognize the importance of race in social problems in America.
Last week, The New York Times ran an article titled “Career Coaching for the Playdate Generation.” The piece, written by Laura Pappano of the Wellesley College Center for Women, discussed yet another pitfall of the so-called millennial generation. As a millennial who will soon be entering the workforce full-time, I couldn’t help but read on. For a number of reasons, I found the article a little more than disconcerting.
Purdue University recently announced a new program, “Back A Boiler,” that will give rising juniors and seniors an alternative way to pay back debt. The program’s website notes that this alternative is potentially less expensive than more traditional loans for students who need additional funding to pay for their education. This option is based on an income-share agreement, also known as an ISA, and gives students an award of $5,000 or more to complete their degree. Students will then repay the debt at a fixed rate in the years immediately after graduation. The repayment rate will be calculated based on a student’s anticipated salary and will continue for a fixed amount of years, up to nine. Worth mentioning here is that the interest rate is zero percent, and that students will not have to pay once the payment term is up. The ISA program will take effect at Purdue starting next month. Although time will tell whether this program is effective or not, ISA has the potential to be beneficial to both the school and the students. It is an option that Dartmouth should consider adopting in the future.
Within dysfunction there is opportunity for transformation. While I believe that Dartmouth’s climate is teeming with issues, I also believe that those issues can be solved. Still, having served as the chief of staff of Dartmouth’s Student Assembly, I am keenly aware that in its current form, Student Assembly is unequipped to tackle the problems plaguing our campus today. But I also believe that my candidacy offers the most reliable and authentic opportunity to revive our student government — to fix a broken model and transform it into an institution that can effect real change.
I must admit to a sense of schadenfreude whenever I learn of foolish occurrences at other Ivy League colleges. It is devilishly fun for me to snicker at the misfortunes of our Ivy League peers, smugly satisfied that my school is, at least, not in their shoes. However, when such foolishness has far-reaching and dangerous implications, then that self-righteous snobbery transforms into genuine alarm. And then suddenly the smug superiority vanishes as I realize that the Dartmouth I love so much is vulnerable to the very same troubles.
In her March 30 column “Reprehensible Rapprochement,” Sarah Perez ’17 wrote that President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba came despite continued abuses by the Cuban government and an overall United States policy of weakness and appeasement. She accurately highlights the challenges facing Cuba’s more than 11 million people, including severe economic stagnation, crumbling infrastructure and the arrests of political protestors even as Obama arrived on the island. Perez voices an understandable frustration with the pace of meaningful change since December 2014, when the two nations first moved to normalize relations. However, concerns over the visible progress of rapprochement today miss the long-term advantages that engagement provides in the post-Castro era.
During his time as Secretary of State under President James Monroe in the early 19th century, John Quincy Adams famously stated “Americans should not go abroad to slay dragons they do not understand in the name of spreading democracy.” This worldview, expressed by Adams almost 200 years ago is still pertinent today. The 2016 presidential election has rekindled the debate over what America’s role in the world should be. Should the U.S. continue dominating every aspect of international politics and security? Can the U.S. continue subsidizing the security of its allies? Are nation-building projects by the West feasible and is an aggressively militant foreign policy in America’s interests? Even peripherally examining history and current affairs reveals that moving forward, Washington can be best served by a policy of restraint. The U.S. should focus on clearly defined and narrow foreign policy goals and national security objectives rather than solving all of the world’s problems.
This past week, Dartmouth sent out its regular admission acceptance letters, officially extending invitations to the prospective Class of 2020. 2,176 prospective students were offered admission, and the 10.5 percent acceptance rate represents an increase from last year’s 10.3 percent acceptance rate. This leaves us with the seventh place in the Ivy League by acceptance rate, with Harvard University and Columbia University admitting almost half as many of their applicants and only Cornell University admitting a larger percentage of students. Historically, prestige has always been attached to acceptance rate. The lower the acceptance rate, the more selective your school is, and the more prestigious it is. U.S. News and World Report even prominently factors in selectivity, based on admissions percentage, when they put together their comprehensive and commonly referenced college rankings every year.
The College boasts a number of traditions, from Homecoming weekend to Winter Carnival, yet it seems that the surest tradition of every college is an annual increase in tuition – and dear old Dartmouth is no exception. And thus with the arrival of spring comes the news of next year’s 3.8 percent increase in tuition, mandatory fees, and room and board —almost a whole percentage point higher than last year’s 2.9 percent. In reality, this means that students will be paying, roughly, an additional three thousand dollars, and that’s without even including the indirect costs of attending, such as books and travel. On a more positive note, the College also announced an increase in its financial aid budget by 4.7 percent. Still, given that the inflation rate in the 2014 fiscal year is 1.61 percent and that the projected inflation rate for 2015 is 0.1 percent, it seems that college President Phil Hanlon has failed to uphold his pledge to keep tuition increases in line with inflation.
On March 23, Microsoft launched an artificial intelligence program known as Tay on Twitter. Tay’s developers intended for her to interact with people on Twitter in order to learn how millennials communicate. In less than 24 hours, though, Tay had gone from having the mindset of a friendly teenage girl to spouting racist and sexist language, even calling for the genocide of Jews and Mexicans. Having had its AI program coaxed by internet trolls into vehement xenophobia, Microsoft was forced to quickly remove Tay from Twitter.
Black privilege is a term that has been in the news lately, circulating implicitly and explicitly, both on CNN and at Donald Trump rallies as one cause for so-called “reverse racism.” As the name implies, black privilege is the idea that a person of color is afforded certain privileges based on the color of their skin. This is, to an extent, true — racial identity does come with certain privileges. Being able to define oneself as part of a group, for instance, can be an emboldening and enriching experience. The concept of black privilege, however, is most often mistakenly used in response to and with the same connotation as white privilege — that is, as pushback against the idea that whiteness comes with certain, unmerited advantages.Although a relatively new phrase, black privilege is not a new concept. It is the sting behind ignorant assertions such as, “That person only got into that school because they’re black,” or, “They get to say things that I don’t because I’m white.” It is the belief held by the ignorant that political correctness somehow oppresses those who do not wish to be politically correct. Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump is one of those people.Trump derives much of his popularity from rebelling against the system, by providing a space for hate to be exposed and for oft-unspoken points of contention to be vocalized. Many of his more fervent supporters use the concept of black privilege to protest political correctness, complaining that certain words, for instance, have become taboo for them or that they cannot voice their true feelings out of fear that they will be accused of being racist. Having thus acknowledged this, they then proceed to preach ignorance, spouting statements that are often either intentionally racist or so backwards in logic that they seem to convey a similar point. For instance, one Wisconsin man, when asked if he believed in white privilege, replied negatively. Those who embrace whiteness, he explained, are portrayed as racist, and said “If we had a White History Month, that would be viewed as a racist holiday.” He proceeded to cite Black History Month as an example of glaring inequality.All too often, the idea that blackness or minority status leads to privilege is the result of a superficial understanding of reality. According to the demographic information regarding Dartmouth’s newest group of admitted students, the Class of 2020 will be the first one comprised of a majority of people of color, who represent 51.6 percent of the admitted applicant pool. At first, this may seem peculiar considering that white people still make up the bulk of the United States’ population, with whites representing a whopping 77.4 percent. Upon closer review, however, it’s easy to understand why this is: Dartmouth accepts a disproportionate amount of students from cosmopolitan areas, in which white people are not always the majority. Furthermore, nearly a tenth of Dartmouth students come from overseas. Lastly, the admissions office seems to value diversity, boasting on its homepage, “At Dartmouth, you will be surrounded by the brightest and most diverse group of friends you’re likely to encounter anywhere.”For some white Americans, such a bold statement may be frightening. After all, white people are so accustomed to being the majority — so accustomed to their privilege — that any value placed on non-whiteness may be perceived as an affront to their sense of security, perhaps even their sense of self. White culture, to a large extent, is defined very stringently in contrast to the more richly developed identities of other races and, indeed, is based on a history of oppressing non-white peoples. In this sense, white culture is fragile. However, holidays such as Black History Month or greater numbers of people of color admitted to the College are not examples of inequality. Rather, they are examples of progress away from the historic inequity that continues to plague American society. Black History Month is a chance to learn about the history we are not taught in school, about the individuals who do not fit into the traditionally Eurocentric curriculum. And the changing demographics of admitted students, rather than indicating black privilege, represent the rise in college matriculation for non-white Americans, who naturally increase the diversity of the student body.Highlighting the diversity of a student body or celebrating Black History Month are not forms of discriminations against white people. Both are examples of pride — justifiable pride — being displayed for noteworthy accomplishments, and should not be called black privilege but, rather, what they actually represent: black pride.