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This has been a long and transformative year for Dartmouth's social culture, one often characterized by conflict between segments of the student body and the administration. New policies aimed at curbing harmful hazing practices and widespread binge drinking have been particularly significant sources of intense controversy.
Dartmouth students are fortunate to have the opportunity to not only profoundly influence the coming election, but also to engage with each other about differing political views. While the overall Dartmouth community may swing to the left, the results of our recent poll of the student body illustrate that diverse views permeate this campus, and those voting Republican this year represent a substantial minority ("Poll finds students favor Obama," Nov. 2). Dartmouth's student body also includes a sizeable number of third-party supporters, adding another dimension of political diversity to the campus community.
Tonight's Dartmouth Night ceremonies signal the traditional beginning of Homecoming weekend. The massive bonfire serves as the capstone of the night, symbolically serving as an initiation ritual for the recently matriculated Class of 2016. We, like the College administration, support this tradition as a testament to the strength of this college and its rich traditions. However, we find it extremely difficult to square the College's continuation of the bonfire ceremony and its associated freshman sweep with its narrow-minded crackdown on similarly harmless public initiation rites for fraternities and sororities.
This year, Dartmouth saw the highest return on its endowment of any member of the Ivy League to report its returns, doubling its benchmark growth rate ("Endowment sees 5.8 percent return," Oct. 16). This is certainly a commendable feat. However, over the course of the last decade, our education has become less and less affordable. The increases in Dartmouth's tuition and fees and total costs of attendance have drastically exceeded those of most of its peer institutions ("College ranked seventh most expensive," Oct. 19). The College now boasts the 11th-highest tuition in the country and ranks seventh for total cost of attendance with room and board included, moving up from 40th for tuition and fees and 36th for total cost in the 2009-2010 rankings. Columbia University is the only member of the Ivy League whose costs of attendance exceeded that of Dartmouth. Given the success of our endowment this past year, we see little reason why Dartmouth's tuition should be increasing at such a staggering rate.
In the spring, increased visibility of harmful hazing at Dartmouth prompted the College administration to announce the creation of the Committee on Student Safety and Accountability, equally comprised of students, faculty and staff, to work toward decreasing the incidence of harmful initiation rituals performed by student organizations ("College forms safety committee," May 8). Despite Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson's strong rhetoric regarding the importance of an inclusive discourse on campus hazing practices and specifically the important role that this committee would play, the members of the committee of which she serves as co-chair have not met since the committee's initial meeting in the spring ("COSSA fails to meet since May," Oct. 12). Greek house pledge terms, the primary locus of hazing, have been underway for weeks, and the failure of this committee to convene is inexplicable, especially given the amount of attention it received last spring when it was touted as proof of the College's willingness to reform.
In January, a column published in these pages about fraternity culture and hazing not only sparked a campus-wide discussion about hazing, but also fueled a media firestorm focused on the College's social ills. In the column, former Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity member Andrew Lohse '12 described the hazing he allegedly endured as a pledge at the fraternity ("Telling the Truth," Jan. 25). In late March, Lohse was featured in a Rolling Stone article that sensationalized Dartmouth's Greek culture and pushed the school further into the national media spotlight ("Rolling Stone article targets College culture," March 29).
Last Friday, Vice President Joe Biden visited Dartmouth's campus and spoke at a rally endorsing the Democratic ticket ("Biden stumps at Hanover event," Sept. 24). This event served as a reminder that the national election is nearly upon us, and voter registration efforts are in full swing. As President Barack Obama reminded us in his August speech at the Democratic National Convention, we as Americans living in a democratic society must work to preserve the republic by fully exercising our rights as citizens. We are obligated to vote on Nov. 6, whether that be at the polls or via absentee ballots. As college students, the vast majority of us do not live locally, and we must pay special attention to the upcoming election.
Over the past several years, Dartmouth has put a great deal of emphasis on strengthening its graduate programs and research departments, particularly in the fields of health care and the sciences. Prominent recent examples include an initiative to catapult the Geisel School of Medicine into the top 20 in medical school rankings, the construction of the Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center and the creation of the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science. While these developments have certainly worked to demonstrate Dartmouth's desire to become a respected research university, critics have voiced concerns that the College has moved away from its focus on the liberal arts and that this reorientation may come at the expense of non-science fields and undergraduate education.
Over the summer, Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson introduced a number of new harm reduction policies with the stated goal of mitigating threats to the health and safety of the student body by addressing the problem of binge drinking. Her proposals, some of which are slated to take effect Sept. 21, have been met with resentment and criticism from many sections of campus both for their content and the manner of their delivery. Although the administration and Greek leaders have made some headway in recent weeks in finding common ground, the continuing disagreement and unwillingness on the part of both sides to fully consider other points of view has made it unlikely that they will work effectively to combat unsafe drinking on this campus.
Over the past two weeks, Presidential Search Committee Chairman Bill Helman '80 and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Stephen Mandel '78 have sought input from the student body about which qualities to look for in Dartmouth's 18th president. Last Thursday, only about 30 students attended a discussion hosted by Helman and Mandel to discuss these issues ("Forums gather input for search," May 18). While we commend Helman and Mandel for reaching out to students during this important transition period, we hope that the poor attendance at the forum is not reflective of a general lack of interest among the student body in the search for the College's next president.
The last few weeks have seen an outburst of students expressing interest in seeing the administration address persistent student concerns. One prominent issue that has been widely discussed is the need to reform and revamp academic advising. Students often complain that they struggle not only in navigating the complex process of meeting distributive and major requirements but also in crafting a cohesive academic plan that takes into account their diverse interests that extend beyond their coursework.
A month ago, The Dartmouth Editorial Board criticized Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson for her seeming disengagement from the student body ("Verbum Ultimum: Open the Door and Listen," April 13), and we were not the only group on campus to express frustration with the apparent disconnect between students and administrators. Former Student Body President Max Yoeli '12 called for more direct communication from administrators, and various student organizations expressed concern that their voices were not being heard ("Administrators remain disconnected, some say," April 12).
Last week, the Housing Office announced that it would expand gender-neutral housing next fall to include Mid-Massachusetts Hall, the Lodge and sections of New Hampshire Hall ("College to expand gender-neutral housing options in fall," April 26). This change marks a positive step toward increasing housing flexibility, giving students the option to live with whomever they want in a wider variety of rooms without committing to the programming required of the affinity housing program in Fahey-McLane Hall.
Last Monday, copies of "pledge notes" were distributed anonymously throughout the Choates residence hall cluster. In part, the document served as a sobering reminder of the persistence of negative stereotypes and disrespectful attitudes toward women among certain members of the Dartmouth community.
The Board of Trustees' decision to appoint Provost Carol Folt as interim College president was no doubt an expected and logical move. As Dartmouth's second-highest ranking administrator, Folt is an integral part of College President Jim Yong Kim's administration, and her appointment will allow for a smooth leadership transition following Kim's departure to the World Bank on July 1.
This year's Student Assembly elections have certainly been exciting, featuring far more candidates for both president and vice president than in recent years. As Dartmouth awaits a major transition with the imminent departure of College President Jim Yong Kim, the student body president will play a crucial role in ensuring that student interests are given proper consideration both during the transition period and in the search for the College's next leader. At the same time, issues surrounding student life have earned the College significant attention from alumni, the broader community and the national media. We need an Assembly president who is engaged with the wide variety of issues facing the Dartmouth community, who understands the challenges facing the Assembly and who is capable of being a strong advocate for students. We believe the candidate who is most qualified to serve in this role is J.T. Tanenbaum.
In recent months, Dartmouth students and alumni have discussed ad nauseam the role of the College's administration in addressing issues facing student life. Many members of the community have directed their criticism toward College President Jim Yong Kim and his handling of the recent hazing scandal and his nomination to the World Bank presidency. Although we agree that Kim's leadership regarding issues of campus life has been unsatisfactory at times, other members of the administration have also mishandled student concerns. In particular, Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson, who is specifically tasked with serving as the go-to administrator for undergraduate students, has done an inadequate job of addressing campus issues thus far.
Janet Reitman's recent article in Rolling Stone detailing fraternity culture and hazing at Dartmouth has elicited strong reactions not only from the campus community but also from alumni, parents, prospective students and readers across the country. Many members of the Dartmouth community have been quick to dismiss the article for its sensationalized and one-sided depiction of the College. We agree that Reitman's portrayal of Dartmouth is unbalanced and flawed, and we share the concerns of disgruntled students and alumni that the article selectively presents the views of a narrow cross-section of campus. We caution, however, against blindly focusing on the flaws in Reitman's portrayal to such an extent that we fail to address the uncomfortable truths that are undeniably present. While the conclusions Reitman draws about Dartmouth's culture are misguided, many of the underlying facts are unfortunately accurate.
It has been only three years since Dr. Jim Yong Kim was selected as Dartmouth's 17th president, a three-year tenure that has seen a dramatic decline in popular opinion. Kim's lifelong dedication to social justice and his commitment to increasing Dartmouth's presence on the world stage was initially met with a flurry of excitement throughout the Dartmouth community, which welcomed the announcement of his presidency in 2009. This same global focus certainly played a role in his nomination for the World Bank presidency.
Back in October 2011, The Dartmouth reported that the College was in the process of hiring additional mental health counselors and would be considering ways to expand the space available within Dick's House physical plant ("Dick's House undergoes review," Oct. 3, 2011). These changes were proposed in response to last spring's external review of campus health services, which revealed severe deficiencies in mental health services, sports medicine and the availability of primary care examination rooms. The report came as no surprise to many Dartmouth students, who have long complained of poor and inefficient care at Dick's House.