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In this Homecoming special issue, The Dartmouth examines mental health on campus. The phrase “mental health” has increasingly become a synonym for depression, anxiety and general stress — and we often forget about the host of other mental illnesses and chronic conditions that people face. Despite being less visible, mental well-being goes hand-in-hand with other factors that shape our lives — our sex, gender, race, class and sexual orientation — as well as our pasts, particularly for those who have experienced sexual or other violence.
This week, College President Phil Hanlon announced that the Geisel School of Medicine will restructure in response to budgetary problems. Administrators aim to reduce the medical school’s $26 to 28 million annual deficit by diverting funds from the medical school’s weaker programs to its stronger ones.
Last week, the College ended its eight-year-old “need-blind” policy for international applicants in favor of a “need-aware” policy, meaning that the College will consider the financial need of international applicants as an admissions criterion. College spokesperson Diana Lawrence has stated that the goal is “to increase and stabilize” the international student population on campus.
Despite the lack of hard alcohol on campus and the occasional grumblings about so-called academic rigor, the start of this fall term has been business as usual. As College President Phil Hanlon’s “Moving Dartmouth Forward” policy initiative approaches the nine-month anniversary of its announcement, it has begun to lose its novelty. Going forth, administrators and students alike must remember the passion that went into the initiative during its inception. Borne of an institutional identity crisis, “Moving Dartmouth Forward” has always aimed to improve Dartmouth, despite sometimes-fierce disagreement over precisely how to do so. As more components of the plan enter the admittedly less glamorous implementation phase, we cannot lose sight of this goal.
In the hopes of effectively combating a perceived intellectual laziness at this school, the ad hoc committee on grade inflation, chaired by biology professor Mark McPeek, published a 16-page report detailing proposed fixes for grade inflation at the College. We find the proposal's content and attitude toward students to be patronizing and misguided, divorced from the realities of modern college life by the committee's ideological tilt.
On May 20, the College confirmed that it moved the start date of the upcoming fall term to Sept. 16 from Sept. 14 to avoid overlap with the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah. To compensate, two special days of Saturday classes have been added to the fall term calendar. We cannot find fault with the College’s apparent motive of taking the religious obligations of students and faculty into consideration. Especially in light of Dartmouth’s history of institutional anti-Semitism, that the College will ensure that its Jewish students can celebrate an important holiday in their calendar and still attend the first day of class indicates that it has embraced a commitment to inclusivity and diversity rather than mere tolerance.
This term, we have devoted our special issue to class and money at the College. Socioeconomic status, and the privileges or lack thereof that come with it, affect every aspect of our lives.
On May 2, a group of students demonstrated outside Alpha Chi Alpha fraternity’s Pigstick party and Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority’s Derby event. Many have questioned the choice of the parties as a protest venue, and some have suggested that the demonstrators’ delivery, including the use of profanity and shouting, undermined their message. These are not the questions that should dominate our discussion. If the impulse on this campus is to hold demonstrators to standards of decorum, then perhaps we should first consider what standards we should uphold when we respond to a protest.
At the April 27 meeting of the faculty of arts and sciences, faculty members discussed potential changes to distributive requirements, class meeting times and grade inflation. Notable ideas include reverting the distributive requirement system to be similar to the one that was used prior to 1992, which used broad-based academic categories, and adding additional time slots for morning and evening classes. Some professors expressed concerns about steady grade inflation — biology professor Mark McPeek, in particular, made a compelling argument in favor of raising grading standards.
On April 13, Provost Carolyn Dever announced in a campus-wide email that interim Dean of the College Inge-Lise Ameer will serve as the College’s first vice provost for student affairs, effective July 1. Dever confirmed that this was a “change of title” for Ameer, as nearly all of her responsibilities will travel with her to her new position. Meanwhile, the Dean of the College’s role will be significantly reduced — the next dean will mainly be in charge of academic initiatives, including the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” plans for academic programming in residential life.
A Call to Action
This year’s Student Assembly elections come down to experience.
On Monday afternoon, the College revoked the official recognition of Alpha Delta fraternity as a student organization, effective April 20.
The “Moving Dartmouth Forward” hard alcohol ban took effect nearly two weeks ago, and despite predictions of the policy’s negative repercussions, day-to-day student life has not seen any radical changes. Students have been notably mindful of the new restrictions — reports in an April 6 story from this newspaper indicate measured responses from students and Safety and Security officers alike. Greek leaders have taken steps to ensure that their houses’ members do not violate College policy. At this stage, however, what is concerning about the ban is not its immediate, visible effect on social events, but rather the prospect that administrators will ignore its long-term consequences.
This past Monday, the Office of the President, Palaeopitus senior society and Student Assembly hosted a town meeting on “Moving Dartmouth Forward” where administrators announced details of sanctions to enforce the hard alcohol ban. Students found to possess or consume hard alcohol will face a graduated scale of sanctions, with College probation for the first offense. Students with more than three infractions may face sanctions up to permanent separation from the College, decided at the College’s discretion. The College will also impose stricter sanctions for students and organizations that provide hard alcohol to others. These sanctions indicate that administrators take the hard alcohol ban seriously and will punish infractions accordingly.
College President Phil Hanlon’s “Moving Dartmouth Forward” plan tackles many problems with student life that merit discussion — this editorial board has already commented on the hard alcohol ban and academics. Yet there is one proposal that was noteworthy for its absence from Hanlon’s Jan. 29 speech — sorority localization.
Dartmouth is widely recognized for its dedication to liberal arts education, and as a part of that mission, students have to fulfill various distributive course requirements to ensure exposure to a wide range of subjects before graduating. As the College looks to increase academic rigor and revise the curriculum, now is the time to reconsider distributive requirements.
A campus hard alcohol ban was perhaps the most significant policy change that College President Phil Hanlon announced in his Jan. 29 “Moving Dartmouth Forward” address. Since then, colleges and national media outlets alike have debated the merits of the ban. Beyond the College’s talking points, there does not seem to be widespread agreement that this is indeed the way forward. The justification and arguments for the ban leave us unconvinced that this was the best possible tool at administrators’ disposal to ensure student safety and well-being.
While there may be no scheduled classes today, on any given day it’s likely that at least a few students have pulled an all-nighter to finish an assignment or exam. Enter Baker-Berry Library at any time throughout the term and you will see hundreds of students studying for hours on end. While College President Phil Hanlon has asked faculty “to consider a number of ways to increase the rigor of our curriculum” through unilaterally curbing grade inflation or having earlier classes, he should instead look to increase rigor by fixing structural inadequacies in the academic resources Dartmouth offers its students.
Yesterday, College President Phil Hanlon announced his “Moving Dartmouth Forward” plan to combat binge drinking, sexual assault and exclusivity. The plan includes a variety of measures that address sexual violence prevention, alcohol policy, residential life and academics.