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Yesterday, the College released nine strategic planning working group reports, detailing a two-year reflection process on Dartmouth's operations and priorities. Interim President Carol Folt invited students to provide input that will be synthesized and presented to President-elect Philip Hanlon when he arrives in July. Overall, the release of these long-awaited ideas is poorly timed and unhelpfully vague.
On Saturday, the Board of Trustees announced a significant increase in Dartmouth's cost of attendance ("College costs to rise 3.8 percent," Mar. 4). Next year, Dartmouth will become the second Ivy League institution after Columbia to exceed $60,000 per year in student costs. The raise, however, is actually the smallest percentage increase in Dartmouth's cost of attendance in over 10 years. These repeated, exorbitant hikes are distressing to current students and may explain much of the College's difficulty securing its yield in recent years.
This past month has seen exciting and much-needed developments in expanding study-abroad opportunities. The new offerings include a film foreign study program in Los Angeles and a public policy seminar that concludes with a trip to India. However, the College has a long way to go if it seeks to bring its full array of study abroad options in line with student interests and expectations.
As we move toward spring term and prepare to welcome prospective students from the Class of 2017 to Hanover, we are disappointed to hear that the admissions office is considering wholesale changes in programming for Dimensions weekend. Given that Dartmouth prides itself on putting together an exceptional Dimensions experience to welcome and woo the incoming class, we question the motives behind this change. The proposed alterations namely, eliminating the Dimensions show and its cast of freshman students strike deeply at Dartmouth's brand as an institution of higher learning. We understand the College's desire to highlight its intellectual side, but feel strongly that the proposed changes will do nothing to address the perceived problems with our yield.
With the impending departure of undergraduate judicial affairs director Nathan Miller at the end of this academic year, the College is in a position to make an influential hire. As the person who deals with student misconduct and disciplinary action, the undergraduate judicial affairs director must uphold rules in a transparent manner and focus on critical and sensitive aspects of student life. Given that a search committee within the Dean of the College's office is set to review applications for the job ("Undergraduate Judicial Affairs seeks director," Feb. 12), we hope that the College makes the most of this opportunity by appointing someone who will revamp what is regarded by most students as an obscure and intimidating system.
Winter Carnival is a time when students take a break from the pressures of coursework to come together and celebrate the season. Many Greek houses will host parties that are open to all of campus and alcohol will flow freely. This spirit of revelry unfortunately brings a darker side to Carnival, as sexual assault cases historically rise during big weekends. As students enjoy the weekend, they must keep this increased risk in mind, take necessary steps to prevent assault from occurring and remain aware of resources available to assault victims.
The first month of Winter term has seen a storm of controversy wash across these pages. From incidents of racism to related columns that have provoked fiery reactions in our community at large, it has been a busy and tumultuous few weeks. In a visible departure from its typical apathy, the student body has inundated The Dartmouth with an impressive volume of guest column submissions and letters to the editor vastly more than we can ever hope to publish. On this note, we would like to take the opportunity to remind campus of two key points.
Last Saturday morning, residents of the first floor of Brown Hall awoke to find racist graffiti scribbled on a white board ("Racist graffiti found in freshman cluster," Jan. 22). Just yesterday, our community received another message from the President's Office, informing us that race-based verbal harassment took place this week in the Class of 1953 Commons ("Second bias incident reported," Jan. 25). This campus has seen three incidents of racial bias in less than four months last November, residents of the third floor of Brown Hall found racist remarks written on campaign materials supporting President Barack Obama's re-election bid ("Incident Team reacts to bigoted vandalism," Nov. 9, 2012). The continued occurrence of these events is simply unacceptable.
The College recently announced that it will release termly reports on closed Organizational Adjudication Committee investigations of potential hazing cases. The first of these reports, which details the allegations against Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, was made public on the Undergraduate Judicial Affairs' website on Wednesday. While we hope that this measure will improve transparency by punishing violators and creating strong incentives to curb hazing, we wonder whether this is a true exercise in accountability or simply another effort by the College to keep up appearances.
The College recently announced that it will no longer accept pre-matriculation credits beginning with the Class of 2018. As a result of this policy change, new students will be unable to count Advanced Placement, A-Level and International Baccalaureate examination results as credits towards their diploma. While the reasons for this change are entirely understandable, the College must nonetheless work to address the financial consequences that this change may have on many students.
The appointment of President-elect Philip Hanlon '77 signals the next chapter in a rather tumultuous period in Dartmouth's history. The past year in Hanover has been marred by a hazing scandal, an ongoing problem with sexual assault and the resignations of several female and minority members of faculty and staff. Though we commend the search process for satisfying many of the basic conditions sought by students, faculty and alumni Hanlon is an alumnus, was chosen quickly and appears committed to a long tenure in Hanover it did not fully address outstanding issues related to diversity and student input. If Hanlon is to have a successful presidency, these issues cannot continue to fall by the wayside.
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.