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This year marks exactly 100 years since 1920, when the 19th Amendment was ratified and women in the United States were granted the right to vote. 1920 marked the end of a centuries-long battle by women to secure their ability to voice their opinion and fight for their political rights. In the 100 years since, the women’s rights movement has seen many more successes, like equal opportunities in higher education and equal pay, but it has also encountered many more setbacks, like the recent restriction of reproductive health rights. And lingering beneath everything that has happened over the past 100 years is a consistent undercurrent of oppression of those who identify as female, which makes achieving success difficult and each setback disheartening.
The cliché of “finding yourself” never feels as real as it does during the four years of college. Many of us may have completely different conceptions of our identities than we did when we first stepped foot on Dartmouth’s campus. Perhaps this is because Dartmouth pushes you to develop as a person or because you experience a great deal of change over the course of the four years you spend here — or maybe because at a place like Dartmouth, you are virtually guranteed to interact with people whose identities differ from your own.
Accessibility is often a topic that is not talked about until it is questioned. For many of us, accessibility is taken for granted; we don’t think twice about opening a door, walking up a flight of stairs or reading a whiteboard. But for some, these seemingly mundane tasks pose obstacles that must be carefully and thoughtfully addressed. For those with disabilities, going to college can provide a whole host of new challenges and struggles, beyond just being in a new place.
From Dartmouth’s cult-like ceremonies, such as the Bonfire and Candlelight ceremony, to its quirky student challenges, like the polar plunge or Lou’s challenge, the College sets itself apart through its unique traditions. However, we cannot ignore the fact that many traditions at the College have not been paid the respect they deserve. Dartmouth stands on Abenaki land, yet for the much of the College’s history, it largely failed to uphold its commitment to Native individuals: Between 1769 and 1969, the College graduated just 19 Native students.
Climate change has made sustainability an increasingly important topic in our daily lives. And with the 2020 election approaching, environmental issues have been at the forefront of many political debates, in addition to taking on a greater presence in Dartmouth students’ lives. Whether you’re using a to-go container from Foco, recyling paper in the library or participating in conversations about emissions and green living on campus, it has become impossible to ignore the ways in which the world is preparing to conserve resources and be more mindful of how our actions affect our planet.
The concepts of health and wellness have become buzz terms lately. From lifestyle blogs to mindfulness apps, it seems like everyone has something to say about improving our quality of life. Blogs like goop advocate practices based in pseudo-science, and Instagram influencers advertise “diet tea.” It is important to acknowledge that self-care is often a privileged activity, with many people lacking the time or resources to prioritize their health. However, our society’s recent focus on wellness has helped destigmatize mental health and shed light on the value of self-care.
Culture is a notoriously amorphous concept. To some, it encompasses the arts, food and language associated with a particular group of people. To others, culture might be more clearly aligned with factors like race, gender, religion and politics. However you may conceptualize the term, culture is intrinsically linked to our daily lives and is constantly changing. Especially this week, as we celebrate Dartmouth’s culture during Homecoming, it is important to consider how we can think mindfully and critically about the issue.
Privilege is everywhere at a school like Dartmouth — in our recently announced $5.7 billion endowment, in the names of the buildings around campus and in the students themselves. People casually wear Canada Goose Jackets and Patagonia sweaters, and many of them have summer homes. A fifth of the students here come from families in the top one percent of earners in the United States, and if you are not part of this fifth — as most of us are not — there are times when you feel out of place.
Just doing a simple Google search of the word “gender” reveals the role that the socially constructed definition of women and men has on the perpetuation of gender stereotypes. This, along with the history of gender neutral pronouns and the gender wage gap of the workforce, are just a few of the topics that pop up. At Dartmouth, the idea of gender is also often on our minds as we navigate Greek spaces, interact in classrooms and even introduce ourselves. Though some of us may think about gender more than others, we are all conscious of it nonetheless, and it affects many of the decisions we make on a daily basis.
With a summer of exciting experiences behind us and an autumn of endless possibilities ahead of us, this term is one of new beginnings. The ’23s are navigating being away from home for the first time, the ’22s are exploring a new sense of place on campus, many ’21s are completing their first term in different locations than their friends and the ’20s are appreciating their last “firsts” of Dartmouth. But regardless of what year you are, the sea of new faces, ideas, perspectives and opportunities surrounding us during this time can make anyone feel a little lost.
Dartmouth lives for its dramas. Our College’s traditions are flashy, overwrought and overdocumented, as shown by the stream of social media posts immediately following any bonfire, polar plunge or Green Key concert. The candle-lit walk to the BEMA is one of the particularly sentimental traditions here: a ceremonial march completed by freshmen during their orientation week and seniors during their senior week in the most full-circle way possible. In a performative way, it is the sunrise and the sunset to any Dartmouth student’s career.
After a fun Green Key filled with everything but work, we’re back to the grind as Week 9 sets into full swing and finals slowly creep up. Our break from routine was short-lived, and the conversations about our exciting and wild weekends are quickly turning into complaints about all the studying and catching-up we have to do. At a school where “hustle culture” is seen and felt on a routine basis, it’s easy for us to equate our productivity with our self-worth, and we wonder if there’s even such a thing as a true day off. Sunny afternoons on the Green or Sunday Foco brunches with friends are too often cut short to go back to the library and get work done because, as the saying goes, “the grind don’t stop.”
Dartmouth students come to campus from all over the world: from places with beaches, mountains, forests or lakes. For four years, we share the same views at Dartmouth. We share the smooth waters of the river, the warm light of Sanborn Library and the soft grass on the Green. We also share the staggeringly long lines at KAF, the musty Stacks cubicles and the squeaky tables in Novack at one in the morning. We share the good and the bad.
At face value, the phrase “war and peace” is contradictory. But these contradictions make us human. We say we want balance but continue to pile on commitment after commitment. We strive for a healthier diet but always sneak that extra cookie on our way out of Foco. It is easy for us to think one thing and do something else or to try upholding some set of values while our lifestyles tell a different story.
At Dartmouth, the most notable body of water for many students is one that doesn’t make any waves — the Connecticut River, a favorite swimming spot whenever it is warm outside. The river holds a special place in the hearts of many people on campus, especially during sophomore summer. Swimming in the river’s pleasantly cool waters with the sun shining on your face is pure bliss. And the dams spaced along the river mean that in certain spots, the water feels completely still, no waves or current to be felt.
We’ve all heard the saying “age is but a number,” and we see it right before our eyes here at Dartmouth. Though we are mostly all in our early 20s, sometimes it feels as if we are running out of time. Deadline after deadline, term after term, we’re always looking one step ahead, and our time here flies right past us. We worry about our summer plans in winter, what classes we are going to take next term while we’re in the middle of this term and where we’re going to be employed when we’re still students. In the face of all this planning, graduation comes along right before we know it, and we’re left wondering what the heck happened to the past four years.
When we think of blueprints, a lot of things come to mind: planning, designing, rearranging. We use blueprints and their corresponding process of design thinking to construct the soundest building, to create the best D-Plan and even to solve our problem sets. As students, we like having steps to follow in order to ultimately be successful. Having things planned out provides us with a sense of reassurance, with the comfort of knowing that it will all make sense in the end. But sometimes, we hit a block in the road, and things don’t go exactly as planned. Even so, things have a funny way of working out.
The Dartmouth bubble is a universally acknowledged reality on this campus. Living in rural New Hampshire while also attending a school that takes up so much of our free time with academics and extracurriculars severely inhibits our access to news about the outside world and, perhaps more importantly, our willingness to care about that news. And at a school where so many students come from the highest socioeconomic strata, the most concerning part of this reality is that most of us have lived in a bubble for the span of our entire lives.