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Life for Dartmouth students is busy and, in many ways, unpredictable. This is not news: Students take two or three classes — maybe even four — all the while juggling jobs, clubs, sports, friendships, family and all the other pressures of adulthood. Our days start early and end late, and despite our best intentions and meticulous planning, random inconveniences can happen without warning.
This article is featured in the 2022 Freshman special issue.
This column is featured in the 2022 Green Key special issue.
It’s no secret that Dartmouth is practically swimming in cash: Our $8.5 billion endowment rivals many nation’s GDPs, and we have dished out an enormous sum of cash on recent capital improvement projects, such as the recently announced $88 million allocated for renovating the Hopkins Center for the Arts. But aside from these public pronouncements, where exactly do we spend our money?
The sleepy cul-de-sac behind my childhood home in Alaska sat at the bottom of a long hill. One summer, with my scooter in tow, I would climb to the top of the hill and race down, reaching 10, 15 or even 20 miles per hour before I made it to the bottom. I felt like the King of the Cul-de-Sac. One Sunday afternoon, with the breeze of the hill wisping through my helmet, I took my hand off one of the handle bars to adjust my sleeve. Instead of stoically keeping my balance like the regal nine-year-old I was, I fell. Hard. My lips and knees were scraped raw, and a tooth was ground down by the asphalt. My parents rushed me to the emergency room, where my wounds were washed and I received a CT scan and several X-rays. Later that week, I went to my local pediatrician for a follow-up — and another X-ray — and my dentist, who gave me a filling for my chipped tooth. Thanks to Medicaid, we paid about 20 dollars out of pocket for these services — and that was just for gas.
It is the start of a new academic term: Students log onto the Canvas pages for their courses, click on their syllabi and scroll. There, lying in wait, are two words that inspire dread: “Required Readings.” Occasionally, there may be a disclaimer noting that all of the required readings are available on Canvas. Most of the time, however, students will see a jarring list of books that their professor expects them to have access to, often in physical form.
At the end of fall term, my grandma — my biggest supporter in my journey to Dartmouth — died from complications of COVID-19. In the midst of finals, I scrambled to leave campus early and fly to Missouri for her funeral. While I was there — in a county with a 25% vaccination rate and what I saw to be a low masking rate — I found a newfound appreciation for Dartmouth, a place that took COVID-19 seriously and consistently sought to combat the virus’ spread.
Over the past several months, two of Dartmouth’s peer institutions — Harvard University and Columbia University — saw members of their student unions strike. Harvard’s graduate student union went on a three-day strike in late-October, which later led to a contract that increased pay. Columbia student union began striking in early-November; that strike is still ongoing, upending academics as the union fights for fair pay and recognition of hourly student employees as union members.
Most current Dartmouth students remember the hell this campus went through last year: Dealt a bounty of pandemic-related stressors, students’ mental health suffered tremendously over the course of last year, and three first-year students — Beau DuBray ’24, Connor Tiffany ’24 and Elizabeth Reimer ’24 — died by suicide within a matter of six months. In response to these deaths and years of complaints from students about Dartmouth’s mental health infrastructure, the College announced a four-year partnership with the JED Foundation, a national nonprofit that promotes emotional health on college campuses. The partnership began last week when the “Healthy Minds” survey was fielded to students. Over the next two years, that survey and other findings will be used to implement interventions on campus before the survey is readministered in the 2024-25 academic year. Some community members see this partnership in a positive light; one student referred to it as “a step in the ‘right direction’” in a recent article.
On Monday, Dartmouth announced that its endowment — the pool of money generated from donors and investments and used in part to finance the College’s operations — grew to $8.5 billion at the end of fiscal year 2021, a striking 46.5% increase from the previous fiscal year. When Dartmouth announced this growth, it also announced several ways it would use the endowment to support the student body, such as increasing financial aid to undergraduates, offering a $1,000 bonus to certain graduate students and raising the student minimum wage from $7.75 an hour to $11.50 an hour — a change College spokesperson Diana Lawrence estimated would impact around 1,000 student workers.
This article is featured in the 2021 Homecoming special issue.
Adopted by the faculty in 1962, Dartmouth’s Academic Honor Principle commands that “all academic activities will be based on student honor.” Since then, the Academic Honor Principle has been a foundational text in the lives of Dartmouth students: It is mentioned in nearly every syllabus and discussed by many professors on the very first day of class.
Established in 2016 as part of College President Phil Hanlon’s Moving Dartmouth Forward initiative, the house communities were designed to revolutionize the social lives of students. A way to subvert the influence of Greek life, the advent of the six house communities brought a Harry Potter-esque promise of camaraderie and continuity to what some would consider an otherwise disjointed campus.
This editors’ note is featured in the 2021 Freshman special issue.
Last week, the Hanover Selectboard voted to reinstate its indoor mask mandate, citing recent spikes in local COVID-19 cases as the Delta variant of the virus spreads nationally. The following day, Dartmouth announced that it would also reinstate indoor masking. These decisions seem decidedly unpopular among students, as evidenced by student sentiments seen in several pieces published in The Dartmouth last Friday.
The recent campaign for a seat on the Hanover Selectboard by David Millman ’23 has shed light on the tensions between student and non-student residents of Hanover. Exhausted by years of name-calling and othering by non-student residents — including prominent residents like Hanover town manager Julia Griffin — Millman’s campaign promised students a seat at the table where decisions impacting their lives are made. Though his campaign was unsuccessful, its underlying message does not have to face the same fate. Dartmouth students have long been treated like second-class citizens in Hanover politics; it is long overdue for the town to treat us as equals in the community.
The entire Dartmouth community is yearning to break free of the COVID-19 pandemic and make the long-awaited return to in-person classes. Yet, as we emerge from the pandemic, we can’t return to what we knew as “normal.” Before last spring, what might have been seen as classroom norms in fact presented barriers that prevented many students from fully thriving academically. Though by no means perfect, some changes brought about by the pandemic — such as recorded content and lenient course policies such as forgiving absences and alternative participation methods — greatly augmented students’ ability to participate in their classes. Come fall, these improvements must be carried over into the new school year to make Dartmouth more academically accessible for every student.
In the best of times, Dartmouth’s 10-week term is notoriously demanding — it’s nearly impossible for most students to focus on anything other than their academics. In the worst of times, the intensive Dartmouth schedule is nothing short of debilitating. Students’ schedules leave little room for anything to go wrong, so if — or when — that happens, they struggle to balance their personal situations and mental health with the omnipresent pressures of life at Dartmouth. And sometimes, things go wrong for nearly everyone, especially when tragedy strikes on campus. Many would expect the College to be sympathetic to students in such situations, but too often, it is not. At best, Dartmouth ignores students’ cries for help; at worst, the College exacerbates their problems. When the situation calls for it — when events make it impossible for academics to be a student’s top priority — the College must recognize reality and give students a break from classes.
Two weeks ago, Dartmouth celebrated Student Employee Appreciation Week. As a token of the College’s “appreciation,” every day from May 10th to the 14th, the bells of Baker Tower played a different song, ranging from the Alma Mater to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
With the United States achieving universal COVID-19 vaccine availability for adults as of April 19 and Dartmouth recently deciding to mandate the vaccine for all students on campus in the fall, a return to normalcy seems to be on the horizon. In light of the recent progress, it’s fair to say that students are looking forward to in-person classes and social activities with minimal risk of catching or spreading COVID-19.