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Verbum Ultimum: The Writing on the Wall

(09/23/16 4:25am)

Any liberal arts college can be characterized by its emphasis on the written word. Be it literature, philosophy, mathematics, chemistry or anything in between, a liberal arts education places an explicit emphasis on the ability to effectively communicate, through writing, about whatever your area of study happens to be. As a liberal arts college, Dartmouth should be no exception, and it doesn’t claim to be. Indeed, two of the first nine classes a student ever takes at Dartmouth are supposed to be dedicated to ensuring that they can write clearly and effectively. After the much-lauded first-year writing requirements, however, it seems like the College’s emphasis on, and possibly respect for, writing declines significantly. It is treated as a means of getting ideas across about your subject of interest, and not much more. The fact that Dartmouth doesn’t have a writing, creative writing or communications major severely disadvantages us as students and makes us considerably less competitive going into the real world after graduation.

Verbum Ultimum: An Important Conversation

(09/16/16 4:30am)

For many Dartmouth students, the beginning of the fall term is one of the most exciting times of the year. People are starting new classes, reuniting with friends and joining new groups or taking on new positions in their current organizations. For incoming students, that excitement (and nervousness) is often multiplied tenfold. Between the nervous excitement of a new place and new people, the Dartmouth centric fervor of Trips and all the amazing programming directed at first-years, it can be easy for all of us, new and returning students, to get swept up in the excitement of the beginning of the school year. Amid all that energy and celebration, however, there needs to be some somber consideration of some of the more sinister realities that come with starting a new school year. Perhaps the most frightening and tragic of those realities is that over a thousand people, and thousands more across the country — are at an age where they are much more likely to be the victims of sexual and relationship violence than in any other time in their lives.

Verbum Ultimum: A True Liberal Arts Mission

(07/14/16 10:00pm)

Dartmouth’s mission statement says that the College “educates the most promising students and prepares them for a lifetime of learning and of responsible leadership.” The faculty, for the most part, prepare us by teaching students how to think broadly on a large range of issues. Yet the Center for Professional Development promotes the idea that there are only a few opportunities out of college, namely finance or consulting. As a college that touts itself as a liberal arts school, Dartmouth must extend its career services so that it truly prepares all students for “a lifetime of learning and responsible leadership.”

Verbum Ultimum: The Naked Truth

(05/26/16 9:15pm)

As the spring term comes to a close, there are various things on the minds of Dartmouth students. Storing their belongings and moving out of their rooms, preparing for final exams and final papers and wondering if their bodies will ever fully recover from Green Key may be just a few among them. As finals loom closer and closer, students prepare themselves not only for their tests, but for another, equally concerning possibility: that their final may get streaked. For decades, it has been a time-honored tradition for Dartmouth students to run through the biggest finals on campus completely naked, save for the occasional mask. Even though everyone who does this probably means to carry out a funny, well-intentioned prank, it can actually be a lot more harmful than people realize.

Verbum Ultimum: #Fight4facultyofcolor

(05/12/16 9:30pm)

If you’ve been on Facebook over the past few days, you’ve probably seen the hashtag #fight4facultyofcolor. Started in part as a response to the College’s decision to deny English professor Aimee Bahng tenure, the hashtag encapsulates a conversation that is taking place at both the College and the national level. Various higher education institutions, including Harvard University and Yale University, have seen discussions about minority faculty attraction and retention.

Verbum Ultimum: Real Term, Real Education

(05/05/16 9:30pm)

One of the most interesting characteristics of a Dartmouth education that distinguishes us from other similar institutions is the famous — or infamous — D-Plan. Not only well known as a death sentence for college romances, the D-Plan even serves to set us apart from other schools that use a quarter system. The strangest part of our system, which has prompted many a question like “Wait, you have to go to summer school?” is Dartmouth’s sophomore summer.

Verbum: Selective Paternalism

(04/28/16 9:30pm)

Mental health is complex and nuanced, and therefore many aspects of mental health are widely misunderstood, then neglected due to a combination of outdated stigmas and a lack of comprehensive scientific understanding. People often assume that mental health means only the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, ignoring the fact that everyone requires some mental upkeep, regardless of whether or not their specific experience fits the textbook definition of a mental disorder. There are few times in someone’s life when they are at greater risk of mental health challenges than when they are in college. Students face everything from experiencing loneliness, to dealing with, separation from one’s family to determining career paths. All of this exacerbates issues that many are already struggling with, and the data reflects this. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in three students reports having experience prolonged periods of depression, one in four students reports having suicidal thoughts or feelings, and one in seven students reports having difficulty functioning at school due to mental illness. The director of NAMI, Ken Duckworth of Harvard Medical School, highlights the importance of this issue, saying, “Undiagnosed mental illness can cause people to withdraw socially, drop out of school, engage in substance abuse, or exhibit other unsettling behaviors.” With the importance of mental health to our well being, as well as the risk that college students face regarding mental illness, one would think that this would be a top priority for schools all around the country, especially Dartmouth. However, the reality is that the College is not doing nearly enough to take care of us mentally, especially considering its stated goals in the past.

Verbum Ultimum: A Troubling Trend

(04/14/16 9:37pm)

This weekend, the Dartmouth undergraduate student body will have the chance to decide which of their peers will represent them in Student Assembly for the upcoming year. The two most talked-about races, for president and vice president, involve six and four candidates this year, with each vice presidential candidate aligning themselves with a presidential one. In the past, The Dartmouth’s editorial board has endorsed a candidate. Two year’s ago we abstained from doing so. As this year’s election approaches, we have chosen to do so again. Instead, we want to discuss some of the troubling trends in Student Assembly elections and the future of our student government.

Verbum Ultimum: A Revelatory Fluctuation

(04/07/16 9:30pm)

This past week, Dartmouth sent out its regular admission acceptance letters, officially extending invitations to the prospective Class of 2020. 2,176 prospective students were offered admission, and the 10.5 percent acceptance rate represents an increase from last year’s 10.3 percent acceptance rate. This leaves us with the seventh place in the Ivy League by acceptance rate, with Harvard University and Columbia University admitting almost half as many of their applicants and only Cornell University admitting a larger percentage of students. Historically, prestige has always been attached to acceptance rate. The lower the acceptance rate, the more selective your school is, and the more prestigious it is. U.S. News and World Report even prominently factors in selectivity, based on admissions percentage, when they put together their comprehensive and commonly referenced college rankings every year.

Verbum Ultimum: Too Pretty a Picture

(03/31/16 9:45pm)

For many of us, our first impression of Dartmouth as students was getting off of the Dartmouth Coach, frame pack in tow, for Dartmouth Outing Club First-Year Trips. We looked out the window nervously as the bus circled the Green, and many of us saw flair-clad upperclassmen yelling and chasing the bus to the stop. The first thing we learn about Dartmouth is how fun, wacky and outgoing the people are, and how much they absolutely love their school. There was a huge banner on the outside of Collis that read “Welcome Home!” This attitude was pervasive throughout Trips: most every song, dance, speech and activity revolved around how people came into their own at and because of Dartmouth. It isn’t just Trips. Other traditions like Dimensions and prospective student tours paint a similar picture of Dartmouth as an amazing place for outgoing, energetic people who are thrilled just to be here. Unfortunately, this picture isn’t entirely realistic and it is often problematic.

Verbum Ultimum: Accepting Responsibility

(03/03/16 11:56pm)

It has been roughly one year since the campus-wide ban on hard alcohol was implemented. Last winter, College President Phil Hanlon announced the policy shift as part of the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” initiative. Beginning last spring, students in possession of alcoholic beverages containing more than 15 percent alcohol by volume were subject to stricter action by the College. The new policy was intended to create a safer, healthier campus culture. By outlawing hard alcohol, the administration hoped to curb high-risk behavior and address issues such as binge drinking and sexual assault. However, whether the new policy has accomplished what it set out to do remains debatable.

Verbum Ultimum: Safety and Accountability

(02/26/16 12:00am)

On Tuesday morning, Student Assembly sent out its working draft of a student Bill of Rights in a campus wide email. Along with a link to a website that presents the Bill in detail, the Assembly invited students to a town hall meeting on Thursday evening. Although we recognize the fact that the Bill is a working document that can and probably will change before it sees any kind of ratification, the form in which it exists now highlights some important aspects of the student relationship with Safety and Security. This document reflects the broad mistrust of Safety and Security among the student body.

Verbum Ultimum: An Open Door to New Ideas

(02/19/16 12:00am)

Next Friday, students will receive their house membership letters. The assignments come as part of the College’s effort to revamp its current housing system. Next fall, students will live in one of six communities: Allen House, East Wheelock House, North Park House, School House, South House and West House. Living and learning communities will also remain a viable housing option for students. While the College’s plan to sort students into houses may call to mind scenes from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (2001), Dartmouth isn’t Hogwarts, and unfortunately, the administration doesn’t seem to be as savvy as the Sorting Hat.

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.