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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.
As the controversy surrounding Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination process to the Supreme Court reaches its climax, the nation’s attention has shifted to the elite spaces that nourished him. Recent exposés of Kavanaugh’s fraternity and secret society at Yale describe cultures of binge-drinking and law-breaking. Comments by friends and former classmates, as well as anecdotes given by professors and mentors describe a culture of excess opportunity, privilege and power foreign to most Americans.
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?”
It could happen here — it has happened here.
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.
As potential members of Greek houses go through recruitment, or “rush,” the majority of Dartmouth’s campus has been even more preoccupied with Greek life than usual. It is very clear, though, that men and women are going through very different processes to reach very different finish lines.
Iran is “sowing death, chaos and destruction” around the world. That much President Trump made abundantly clear in his recent speech to the United Nations. At the General Assembly, the president doubled down on the Iranian threat, urging the international community to support sanctions against the regime.
How I tune out the voice in my head and all the other ones, too.
“Yo, dude, check out this pic of what happened last night. I was so wasted, haha! I can’t even remember it.”
For the linguist J. L. Austin, an utterance can be constative and/or performative. That is, it can simply make a descriptive statement or it can actually perform the articulated action. Austin would judge the performative speech act by its degree of “felicity”: an utterance should be considered “happy” if the action actually takes place and “infelicitous” if not. At Dartmouth, it is hard to make felicitous utterances –– i.e. to make something happen just by saying it. For example, many would say “let’s have a meal soon” to others, without ever having one. Similarly, when one says “I will study with my friends on FFB,” one will not necessarily study while sitting there. But on this campus, when one announces to the world that “I’m going to get wasted hard tonight,” one will almost certainly manage to look wasted hard that evening. This felicitous speech act, once uttered, guarantees students a rare kind of happiness.
I was home for a month this summer after a long eight months, so of course I had my calendar full of dentist and optometry appointments, lunch dates with old and new friends and outings with extended family members. As the weeks went by, my parents reminded me that my grandparents on each side wanted to share a meal with me before I left for school again. I, of my own moxie, half-facetiously questioned why that would be necessary, as I had seen them fairly recently during a family gathering. Plus, I added, I wouldn’t be able to have any meaningful conservation with them due to the language barrier between us. Nevertheless, two lunches were scheduled, one for each set of grandparents.