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Verbum Ultimum: Not Just Student Activists

(02/11/16 11:30pm)

Much ink has been spilled about student activism and the role it should have in policy discourse both on campuses and on a national level. From the coverage of the Dimensions of Dartmouth protests in 2013 to the media explosion surrounding the Black Lives Matter protests this past fall, Dartmouth has been one of the colleges at the center of the conversation about student activism. The discourse about the merits and methods of these actions and others is incredibly important, and it’s one that we hope can continue to exist in a constructive way. However, a discussion about another form of activism, the effects of which are equally as important and arguably longer lasting than that of the student variety, seldom takes place. Although it rarely comes up, we cannot ignore the importance of the role of faculty activism on campus and beyond. Between their continuous presence at the College over the years and the power and influence their positions afford them, faculty members can have a huge impact. As students we must recognize the role of faculty in activism and ensure that we do our part to help create an environment in which faculty members are comfortable publicly voicing their beliefs.

Verbum Ultimum: Students of the World

(02/04/16 11:46pm)

Last January, College President Phil Hanlon announced “Moving Dartmouth Forward.” MDF aimed to cultivate a healthier campus culture through addressing issues including inclusivity, high-risk drinking and academics. The initiatives announced included a ban on all hard alcohol, a new residential housing system, a mandatory four-year sexual violence prevention program and an increased focus on academics, outlining ways to increase “academic rigor.” The latter was in response to faculty concern over the decline of intellectual pursuits at the College.

Verbum Ultimum: A Call for Clarity

(01/29/16 1:00am)

From the summer of 2016 onward, Dartmouth will be offering classes at some new times. One of these new periods, 6A’s, will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:20 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays while the other, 6B’s, will run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays. In addition, class times have been shifted to leave 15 minute intervals, compared to the current 10 minute windows, between classes. The reaction to these changes has been strangely quiet beyond Yik Yak. We aren’t behavioral psychologists (even though one of us is taking “Social Psychology” this term), but we think we may be able to attribute this lack of a student response to the fact that Dartmouth hasn’t actually clearly informed us of the change. The new schedule was released as a PDF on the “Calendars” page on the Office of the Registrar’s website on Nov. 2 according to the timestamp on the website’s source code. We have not yet received an official announcement, campus-wide email or real notice of any kind. Although we could discuss the potential merits and faults of this new schedule, we find a more important issue at stake here: the lack of communication between the College and its students.

VERBUM: A Good Start

(01/15/16 12:00am)

Last week, the newly established Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Initiatives released its first annual report on faculty diversity, which discusses the office’s work in recruiting, retaining and supporting underrepresented minority faculty. Their stated goal is to increase URM faculty from 16 percent to 25 percent by 2025, which would require the hiring of about 60 new minority faculty members. The college has set aside $22.5 million in endowment funds to support URM recruitment and retention. This comes at a time where diversity on campuses has been prominent in the national consciousness, with a great deal of airtime being dedicated to racial issues at colleges around the country, including our own. While we view faculty diversity initiatives as a crucial step in the right direction, there are others who believe that these kinds of initiatives are not only unnecessary, but also wasteful of the College’s funds. It is no secret that the Dartmouth student body is far from reflective of the country as a whole when it comes to URM students, and it is alarming that faculty representation doesn’t even live up to our currently skewed student demographic. Diversity in the classroom is incredibly important; so many facets of a liberal arts education are built on strictly Western ideals, and a lack of diversity in our education could lead to a narrow understanding of a broad world. Many people argue that this concern over diversity shouldn’t extend to faculty, that race shouldn’t be a factor in education. In a completely post-racial world that might be the case, but we don’t live in a post-racial world by any means. Every instructor is going to offer a different perspective, and the exact same material can be seen in countless different ways through different people’s eyes. It is important that all of us, minority students or not, come to see the world just a little bit through different perspectives. An understanding of the world around you that has only come from people similar to you is an extremely narrow one, if it qualifies as understanding at all. Faculty diversity is also incredibly important when it comes to mentoring. Again, people will argue that a student should be able to find a mentor in anyone with similar academic interests, and theoretically this is true. However, research has shown time and time again that minority students perform better under minority teachers. This is often attributed to the “role-model effect.” Put simply, students have been shown to set higher goals and expect more from themselves when they see that people of their race, gender, nationality or class in positions of prominence. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we all make assumptions about ourselves based on people that we perceive to be similar to us. So, if a URM student has little to no exposure to professors of their same race, they might operate with the unconscious understanding that, “People like me just don’t become professors”. Many critics of diversity hiring initiatives argue that going out of our way to hire minority professors could end up hurting the students in the long run — the best professors should be hired, regardless of race, end of story. Unfortunately, the best professors often aren’t hired when race enters into the equation. Studies have proven that most companies and organizations tend to choose candidates that they assume are white based on names over minority candidates with identical resumes. So, perhaps it isn’t that URM candidates don’t stack up, but rather, that URM candidates are being overlooked. This initiative is a good first step in boosting faculty diversity. It dedicates roughly a million dollars a year to recruitment and retention efforts, which we assume will most likely go towards recruiting expenses (trips, meals, tours, etc.), salary increases and signing bonuses. Recruiting top talent to come to a small, isolated town is hard enough, but getting minority professors to come to an institution that has a track record of racial and cultural homogeneity would likely cost every penny of that money. Some of the resources are also being dedicated to maintaining the existing pre-doctoral fellowships dedicated to the study of minority issues and establishing one new one, and hopefully these efforts will serve to bring up a class of new professors who get their start at Dartmouth and commit their careers to the College. This report is not going to solve the faculty diversity problem on campus. However, it’s a good start. It sends a message to up-and-coming professors around the country that Dartmouth is a place that cares about diversity, and that we are willing to back it up with more than just words. It brings an issue that is often ignored by the majority of campus to light and gets an important conversation started. Hopefully, going into the future, this initiative will serve as the groundwork for a comprehensive effort by Dartmouth to recruit the best minority faculty in the country. Each professor has a different and fascinating perspective, and any college student should be dedicated to seeking out as many of them as possible.

Verbum Ultimum: The Stakes of Speech

(11/13/15 3:54am)

Last night, hundreds of students stood outside Dartmouth Hall and chanted, “Black Lives Matter” in unison. These students marched around campus, imploring others to join them. At times, the demonstrating students singled out individuals — individuals who, they said, were failing to support their movement and their lives. Some were offended by this method.

Verbum Ultimum: Too Quick to Congratulate

(11/06/15 2:13am)

This past August, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights opened a second investigation into the College for alleged sex discrimination, which is prohibited by Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments. Administrators chose not to disclose this investigation to the public, leaving us to find out through third-party press reports. This silence stands out from the eager and occasionally self-congratulatory tone typically heard in administrators’ comments on the College’s plans to prevent sexual assault.

Verbum Ultimum: Talent Follows Money

(10/30/15 2:11pm)

Last week, dean of graduate studies Jon Kull announced a plan for an independent School of Graduate and Advanced Studies. According to Kull, the school would have more autonomy over budgeting decisions than it presently does. Kull also said that an independent school would improve faculty recruitment and retention. Of all arguments in support of this plan, this one holds the most promise. The College is, of course, nothing without its faculty.

Verbum Ultimum: When Leaving Isn't the Answer

(10/09/15 12:12am)

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.

Verbum Ultimum: Poorly Executed Policy

(09/24/15 11:04pm)

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.

Verbum Ultimum: Looking to the Future

(09/18/15 12:20am)

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.

Verbum Ultimum: Mistaken on Inflation

(05/29/15 12:04am)

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.

Verbum Ultimum: Inconsistent Accommodations

(05/22/15 12:33am)

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.

Verbum Ultimum: Reacting with Respect

(05/07/15 11:49pm)

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.

Verbum Ultimum: A Return to Intellect

(05/01/15 12:14am)

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.

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