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Dear accepted students,
Watching a movie at The Hop: $5. Renting Dartmouth Outing Club gear for a weeklong hike: over $100. New member sorority dues: $335 to $647.
What does it say when a list of proposals for reforming Dartmouth’s culture is anonymously emailed to campus at 2 a.m.?
Russell Sage. South Mass. Topliff. North Fay. Woodward.
At 11:22 a.m. on the Friday of Winter Carnival, Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson emailed campus about a Jan. 10 Bored at Baker post that outlined the steps one should take to rape a female member of the Class of 2017. Within 20 minutes, the Office of Public Affairs published a press release announcing a new center for prevention of sexual assault.
This week, the College suffered a painful loss. Torin Tucker ’15 died Saturday while competing in a cross-country ski race in Craftsbury, Vt. His death is incomprehensible, but our community’s response has been one of warmth, support and reflection.
This week, investigators from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights visited campus as part of a Title IX investigation into the College’s campus climate surrounding sexual assault. Unlike other campuses’ Title IX investigations, this was initiated by the Department of Education. The visit follows a spring 2013 Clery Act complaint in which students and alumni alleged violations related to sexual assault, LGBTQ discrimination and hate crimes.
After receiving a draft of today’s column by Emily Sellers, the members of The Dartmouth Editorial Board realized that our online commenting policy had not been posted on our new website after it launched late last year. We apologize for this oversight.
Yesterday, the College announced its decision to join edX, a nonprofit online platform that was founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012. EdX offers free massive online open courses, or MOOCs, to anyone with a computer and the desire to learn. We understand the potential benefits of these online courses — particularly in expanding access to educational opportunities — but we are skeptical of Dartmouth’s decision to offer MOOCs.
Last week, five executive members of the Panhellenic Council announced their decision to abstain from winter recruitment, citing a desire to amend socioeconomic and racial inequities in the sorority rush process. The abstaining Panhell executives’ criticisms of the Greek system are not new, but the method by which they have chosen to express themselves, and the reaction their announcement has engendered, indicate a meaningful shift in campus culture. We are hopeful that this act of protest will push students to demand comprehensive and effective reform.
Yesterday the College announced that Carolyn Dever, dean of Vanderbilt University’s College of Arts and Science, would serve as its new provost, citing her expertise in the humanities. Dever is a professor in English and women’s and gender studies, and the decision to place her at the helm publicly reaffirms the College’s commitment to the humanities.
On Monday afternoon, College President Phil Hanlon spoke to the faculty regarding student life. His speech focused on residential life and student safety. While Hanlon articulated some good points, many of his statements, especially those pertaining to residential life, lacked specifics. We are left eagerly anticipating more discussion of these ideas in the coming months.
Despite much recent discussion of social and residential life, Dartmouth’s primary mission is academic. As such, academics should be at the heart of President Phil Hanlon’s agenda over the coming months and years. Dartmouth’s core mission is about close faculty and student interaction, a focus on the liberal arts and a community that is engaged with the issues of the world. Experiential learning, interdisciplinary learning and practical skills such as entrepreneurship may stem from this mission, but they are not the mission. If Hanlon wants to enact true change that will allow Dartmouth to prosper, then we have three suggestions.
The search for the next dean of the Tucker Foundation has stalled, pending recommendations by a task force on the foundation's mission, structure and leadership. We would like to raise concerns about the transparency and purpose of this process. While we are enthusiastic that President Phil Hanlon is pushing Tucker to define its goals and missions in light of revoking the Right Rev. James Tengatenga's appointment over the summer, we advise caution. We hope that the task force will more actively consider student input, reflect on how Tucker makes the College better as an institution of higher education and combine these insights into a coherent search profile.
With winter housing applications for upperclassmen due next Tuesday, we are reminded again of the challenges associated with Dartmouth's residential life. Beyond the wide variance in dorm quality, the biggest complaint associated with campus housing is the constant reshuffling mandated by the D-Plan. Yet it is difficult to improve housing stock, much less permit dorm continuity, given the pressure put on the housing system by undergraduate enrollment during fall term and, to a lesser extent, during spring term. To create breathing room for potentially substantial changes to the College's residences, the administration should consider ways to more evenly distribute students across fall, winter and spring terms. Specifically, it should give funding preferences to new foreign study programs that will be held during fall and shift some existing programs to the fall from the winter and spring.
Last spring, the Greek Leadership Council enacted a policy change that barred freshmen from entering Greek houses until after Homecoming weekend. This policy represents a student-led attempt to take ownership of campus life issues and help prevent binge drinking and sexual assault. With Homecoming now upon us, members of the Class of 2017 will soon be allowed to enter Greek houses, and the community will begin to evaluate the relative effectiveness of the policy. At the present moment, however, it appears that this evaluation will be nearly impossible due to a lack of data on the relevant topics.
On Wednesday, The New York Times published an unflattering portrait of the status quo here at Dartmouth. It was no secret that the Times' higher education reporter was visiting campus last week. He was spotted sitting in front of Collis, walking through Baker Hall and taking pictures of fraternities' beer can-filled trash heaps on Webster Avenue. Unfortunately, the net result of the visit was a barely newsworthy story that unfairly implies that College President Phil Hanlon is in over his head.
This past month has seen two positive developments regarding increasing educational opportunities for high-achieving students from low-income households. Dartmouth and 11 other universities recently joined Say Yes to Education, a nonprofit that offers free tuition to low-income students, and the College Board recently began to take steps to increase college application rates by high school students who perform well on standardized tests and come from low-income households. While we commend both Dartmouth and the College Board for these actions, we believe Dartmouth must take further steps to make campus a more welcoming place to students from low-income families.
Any leadership succession tends to elicit expectations for future performance. Fortunately, most reports coming out of Hanover this summer sang praises of Hanlon's efforts to engage with the student body. That he has met with over 700 students, faculty and staff since taking office in June speaks volumes about his willingness to listen. Hanlon plans to continue holding regular office hours and is even teaching a section of Math 11 this fall. Students have longed for a president who could thoughtfully catalogue their concerns, and early returns suggest that we may have found one. We anticipate that Hanlon will announce his new policy initiatives today and eagerly await this news. Perhaps Dartmouth will finally receive the undergaduate-centered direction that we lacked under former president Jim Yong Kim.
Welcome to Dartmouth! As you assume your new role, you will take the helm of an institution that is in a state of flux. Over the past few years, the College's administration has seen significant turnover, and even more recently, the undergraduate student body has seen a dramatic split over campus issues. As you assume your new role, you will need to quickly get your administrative house in order to effectively pursue the goal of making Dartmouth have the best undergraduate experience in the country.