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The first month of Winter term has seen a storm of controversy wash across these pages. From incidents of racism to related columns that have provoked fiery reactions in our community at large, it has been a busy and tumultuous few weeks. In a visible departure from its typical apathy, the student body has inundated The Dartmouth with an impressive volume of guest column submissions and letters to the editor vastly more than we can ever hope to publish. On this note, we would like to take the opportunity to remind campus of two key points.
Last Saturday morning, residents of the first floor of Brown Hall awoke to find racist graffiti scribbled on a white board ("Racist graffiti found in freshman cluster," Jan. 22). Just yesterday, our community received another message from the President's Office, informing us that race-based verbal harassment took place this week in the Class of 1953 Commons ("Second bias incident reported," Jan. 25). This campus has seen three incidents of racial bias in less than four months last November, residents of the third floor of Brown Hall found racist remarks written on campaign materials supporting President Barack Obama's re-election bid ("Incident Team reacts to bigoted vandalism," Nov. 9, 2012). The continued occurrence of these events is simply unacceptable.
The College recently announced that it will release termly reports on closed Organizational Adjudication Committee investigations of potential hazing cases. The first of these reports, which details the allegations against Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, was made public on the Undergraduate Judicial Affairs' website on Wednesday. While we hope that this measure will improve transparency by punishing violators and creating strong incentives to curb hazing, we wonder whether this is a true exercise in accountability or simply another effort by the College to keep up appearances.
The College recently announced that it will no longer accept pre-matriculation credits beginning with the Class of 2018. As a result of this policy change, new students will be unable to count Advanced Placement, A-Level and International Baccalaureate examination results as credits towards their diploma. While the reasons for this change are entirely understandable, the College must nonetheless work to address the financial consequences that this change may have on many students.
The appointment of President-elect Philip Hanlon '77 signals the next chapter in a rather tumultuous period in Dartmouth's history. The past year in Hanover has been marred by a hazing scandal, an ongoing problem with sexual assault and the resignations of several female and minority members of faculty and staff. Though we commend the search process for satisfying many of the basic conditions sought by students, faculty and alumni Hanlon is an alumnus, was chosen quickly and appears committed to a long tenure in Hanover it did not fully address outstanding issues related to diversity and student input. If Hanlon is to have a successful presidency, these issues cannot continue to fall by the wayside.
This has been a long and transformative year for Dartmouth's social culture, one often characterized by conflict between segments of the student body and the administration. New policies aimed at curbing harmful hazing practices and widespread binge drinking have been particularly significant sources of intense controversy.
Dartmouth students are fortunate to have the opportunity to not only profoundly influence the coming election, but also to engage with each other about differing political views. While the overall Dartmouth community may swing to the left, the results of our recent poll of the student body illustrate that diverse views permeate this campus, and those voting Republican this year represent a substantial minority ("Poll finds students favor Obama," Nov. 2). Dartmouth's student body also includes a sizeable number of third-party supporters, adding another dimension of political diversity to the campus community.
Tonight's Dartmouth Night ceremonies signal the traditional beginning of Homecoming weekend. The massive bonfire serves as the capstone of the night, symbolically serving as an initiation ritual for the recently matriculated Class of 2016. We, like the College administration, support this tradition as a testament to the strength of this college and its rich traditions. However, we find it extremely difficult to square the College's continuation of the bonfire ceremony and its associated freshman sweep with its narrow-minded crackdown on similarly harmless public initiation rites for fraternities and sororities.
This year, Dartmouth saw the highest return on its endowment of any member of the Ivy League to report its returns, doubling its benchmark growth rate ("Endowment sees 5.8 percent return," Oct. 16). This is certainly a commendable feat. However, over the course of the last decade, our education has become less and less affordable. The increases in Dartmouth's tuition and fees and total costs of attendance have drastically exceeded those of most of its peer institutions ("College ranked seventh most expensive," Oct. 19). The College now boasts the 11th-highest tuition in the country and ranks seventh for total cost of attendance with room and board included, moving up from 40th for tuition and fees and 36th for total cost in the 2009-2010 rankings. Columbia University is the only member of the Ivy League whose costs of attendance exceeded that of Dartmouth. Given the success of our endowment this past year, we see little reason why Dartmouth's tuition should be increasing at such a staggering rate.
In the spring, increased visibility of harmful hazing at Dartmouth prompted the College administration to announce the creation of the Committee on Student Safety and Accountability, equally comprised of students, faculty and staff, to work toward decreasing the incidence of harmful initiation rituals performed by student organizations ("College forms safety committee," May 8). Despite Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson's strong rhetoric regarding the importance of an inclusive discourse on campus hazing practices and specifically the important role that this committee would play, the members of the committee of which she serves as co-chair have not met since the committee's initial meeting in the spring ("COSSA fails to meet since May," Oct. 12). Greek house pledge terms, the primary locus of hazing, have been underway for weeks, and the failure of this committee to convene is inexplicable, especially given the amount of attention it received last spring when it was touted as proof of the College's willingness to reform.
In January, a column published in these pages about fraternity culture and hazing not only sparked a campus-wide discussion about hazing, but also fueled a media firestorm focused on the College's social ills. In the column, former Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity member Andrew Lohse '12 described the hazing he allegedly endured as a pledge at the fraternity ("Telling the Truth," Jan. 25). In late March, Lohse was featured in a Rolling Stone article that sensationalized Dartmouth's Greek culture and pushed the school further into the national media spotlight ("Rolling Stone article targets College culture," March 29).
Last Friday, Vice President Joe Biden visited Dartmouth's campus and spoke at a rally endorsing the Democratic ticket ("Biden stumps at Hanover event," Sept. 24). This event served as a reminder that the national election is nearly upon us, and voter registration efforts are in full swing. As President Barack Obama reminded us in his August speech at the Democratic National Convention, we as Americans living in a democratic society must work to preserve the republic by fully exercising our rights as citizens. We are obligated to vote on Nov. 6, whether that be at the polls or via absentee ballots. As college students, the vast majority of us do not live locally, and we must pay special attention to the upcoming election.
Over the past several years, Dartmouth has put a great deal of emphasis on strengthening its graduate programs and research departments, particularly in the fields of health care and the sciences. Prominent recent examples include an initiative to catapult the Geisel School of Medicine into the top 20 in medical school rankings, the construction of the Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center and the creation of the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science. While these developments have certainly worked to demonstrate Dartmouth's desire to become a respected research university, critics have voiced concerns that the College has moved away from its focus on the liberal arts and that this reorientation may come at the expense of non-science fields and undergraduate education.
Over the summer, Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson introduced a number of new harm reduction policies with the stated goal of mitigating threats to the health and safety of the student body by addressing the problem of binge drinking. Her proposals, some of which are slated to take effect Sept. 21, have been met with resentment and criticism from many sections of campus both for their content and the manner of their delivery. Although the administration and Greek leaders have made some headway in recent weeks in finding common ground, the continuing disagreement and unwillingness on the part of both sides to fully consider other points of view has made it unlikely that they will work effectively to combat unsafe drinking on this campus.
Over the past two weeks, Presidential Search Committee Chairman Bill Helman '80 and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Stephen Mandel '78 have sought input from the student body about which qualities to look for in Dartmouth's 18th president. Last Thursday, only about 30 students attended a discussion hosted by Helman and Mandel to discuss these issues ("Forums gather input for search," May 18). While we commend Helman and Mandel for reaching out to students during this important transition period, we hope that the poor attendance at the forum is not reflective of a general lack of interest among the student body in the search for the College's next president.
The last few weeks have seen an outburst of students expressing interest in seeing the administration address persistent student concerns. One prominent issue that has been widely discussed is the need to reform and revamp academic advising. Students often complain that they struggle not only in navigating the complex process of meeting distributive and major requirements but also in crafting a cohesive academic plan that takes into account their diverse interests that extend beyond their coursework.
A month ago, The Dartmouth Editorial Board criticized Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson for her seeming disengagement from the student body ("Verbum Ultimum: Open the Door and Listen," April 13), and we were not the only group on campus to express frustration with the apparent disconnect between students and administrators. Former Student Body President Max Yoeli '12 called for more direct communication from administrators, and various student organizations expressed concern that their voices were not being heard ("Administrators remain disconnected, some say," April 12).
Last week, the Housing Office announced that it would expand gender-neutral housing next fall to include Mid-Massachusetts Hall, the Lodge and sections of New Hampshire Hall ("College to expand gender-neutral housing options in fall," April 26). This change marks a positive step toward increasing housing flexibility, giving students the option to live with whomever they want in a wider variety of rooms without committing to the programming required of the affinity housing program in Fahey-McLane Hall.
Last Monday, copies of "pledge notes" were distributed anonymously throughout the Choates residence hall cluster. In part, the document served as a sobering reminder of the persistence of negative stereotypes and disrespectful attitudes toward women among certain members of the Dartmouth community.
The Board of Trustees' decision to appoint Provost Carol Folt as interim College president was no doubt an expected and logical move. As Dartmouth's second-highest ranking administrator, Folt is an integral part of College President Jim Yong Kim's administration, and her appointment will allow for a smooth leadership transition following Kim's departure to the World Bank on July 1.