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Despite my interest in politics, I have no plans to run for political office anytime soon. While I firmly believe that political participation is important at any age, the rush of millennials to run for public office in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency is an ineffective and reactionary approach, and it’s not what America needs right now. College-aged students are inexperienced, unprepared and are substituting legislation for political activism and protest.
It was a seemingly perfect October day — gusts of wind blowing the still-vibrant orange leaves in circles on the sidewalk, a vision of the idyllic New England autumn that every Dartmouth student is promised — when the community first received news of the sexual misconduct investigation into the allegations against three well-known and actively publishing professors in the psychological and brain sciences department.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the art of “B.S.” — a word too impolite to print in full, but too ubiquitous to shy away from.
The Dartmouth calendar is carefully planned.
Democracy rests on people’s ability to respectfully disagree. When America’s democratic fabric has eroded to the point where political opponents become incorrigible enemies, the last thing it needs is more incivility. Unfortunately, incivility is the type of discourse many people seem to promote.
After completing my first year at Dartmouth, taking a step back from campus life was almost as overwhelming as plunging into it. Life back in the “real” world moves slowly, particularly if one’s off-term does not include an internship, a research grant or any other educational endeavor. Friends go home at the day’s end, and no regularly scheduled club meetings fill up one’s evenings. Students find themselves with a lot of free time and little idea of what to do with it.
When someone’s entire career is predicated on ginning up controversy for the sake of attention, it is never really all that surprising to see them worm their way back into the media spotlight. Still, one could be forgiven for feeling slightly taken aback at seeing Milo Yiannopoulos’s name in the headlines again, given the ignominy of his departure from Breitbart News and the loss of his book deal after video surfaced of him repeatedly defending and downplaying the sexual abuse of minors. The capacity for shame, however, has never been much of an impediment for self-promoters of any political affiliation. Sure enough, Yiannopoulos made his triumphant return to the front pages of news websites in recent weeks with statements, characterized by his usual rapier-like wit and tact, that he “can’t wait for vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight.”
The College seems to be in the middle of an identity crisis. Viewing itself as different from the way it is perceived by the outside world, determined to be more than just Dear Old Dartmouth and her loyal Wall Street sons, the College appears to be attempting to set the record straight. Dartmouth students, the College seems to be saying, are outdoorsy, and every Dartmouth experience starts with Dartmouth Outing Club First Year Trips. They’re well-read and philosophical; as true liberal arts students, studio art majors take engineering courses and engineers read Plato. They’re athletic powerhouses, vying for national championships left and right (hello, skiing!) and they’re creative types — did you know Mindy Kaling and Dr. Seuss went here?
Anyone studying a humanities subject has heard this at least once since declaring their major: that STEM majors (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) get paid more. Firms ranging from investment banks to technology giants need people who can analyze large chunks of data. In terms of career placement, future earnings, and, to an extent, prestige, a degree in the humanities seems to lose the argument over utility and applicability every time. But it does not have to be seen this way. In fact, the myth of STEM superiority was not always so.
One Dartmouth tradition looms large on campus at the beginning of each academic year: the bonfire. My first year at Dartmouth, it stood 35 feet tall and had a wooden “19” at its peak. My class marched around campus that evening as friends poured out of dorms to join the excited torrent heading to the Green. We were energized by the ecstatic cries of older sons and daughters of Dartmouth. Two of the people I ran around the flames with are best friends I have been lucky enough to make. The night was unforgettable. As a rising senior, I am worried that incoming freshmen may not have the same unforgettable experience because the bonfire tradition may no longer exist.
“I’m really glad we’re in South House,” a friend said in passing during Orientation last fall. “The black scarves match everything.” As excited as we were to discover that our randomly-assigned free accessories would match nearly everything in our wardrobes, the color of those scarves were the only real thing we knew about the House Communities into which we had been thrust.
When I visited Dartmouth in the summer of 2014, I walked around the campus and thought to myself, “This is it.” This was heaven. This was what college should look like. Everyone appeared to be happy and safe, basking in the sun and smiling on their way to classes during their sophomore summer. I did not know what hid behind the faces of some of the coiffed young men around me. Passing them on the Green, I did not know the potential some of them had to hurt. I did not know the potential some of them had to rape.
Last week, Harvard professor Dr. Anthony Abraham Jack visited the College to discuss the growing food insecurity epidemic within higher education. He, like many of today’s students, lacked an adequate supply of nutritious, affordable food in college. During his talk, the audience affirmed his call to end campus hunger. No one transitioned to discuss solutions.
As a junior on the cusp of entering the workforce and becoming a “real adult,” I am constantly told to think about the future. The adults in my life often remind me to consider where I see myself in 10 years and start an IRA as soon as possible.
Remember when those WOODS shirts exploded across campus last year? Suddenly, half of the student body started wearing the shirts like they were the newest Vineyard Vines release. Or what about the Patagonia shirts that fit seamlessly into Dartmouth’s unofficial uniform of school merchandise and outdoorsy clothes? Their popularity, and even the idea to produce them in the first place, is the product of students who romanticize Dartmouth’s place in the wilderness.
This article does not represent the entirety of Epsilon Kappa Theta; it is simply my opinion as an alumna of the organization.
Tumurbaatar encourages students to push through to the end.
“There is a difference between regretting a sexual encounter and walking away from an experience feeling violated.”
Activism can seem like a dichotomy, with little leeway between social justice warrior and champion of the status quo. But limiting people to these two categories obscures the effectiveness of a quieter form of activism that occurs within, not against, the status quo.
In less than one week, I will have officially finished my freshman year at Dartmouth. In numbers, it looked like this: nine classes, eight opinion columns written for The Dartmouth, seven rejected applications (as a caveat, two rejections came from the same place), six close friends whom I treasure dearly, five days a week (every week) when I did not get enough sleep, four dramatic emotional outbursts, three pairs of lost headphones, two embarrassing incidents featuring me dropping food and making a mess at various dining locations and one constant cycle of oscillation. I am referring to the way I swung — back and forth, up and down, forward and backward — from one extreme to another: jubilance to despair, serenity to panic, confidence to shame, pride to humility. It was truly the best of times and the worst of times.