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On campus these days, it’s hard not to notice the grandiose energy that Dartmouth’s 250th anniversary has ignited. The festivities launched on Jan. 10 with speeches by College President Phil Hanlon and the 250th co-chairs, vice president for alumni relations Cheryl Bascomb ’82 and English professor Donald Pease, in the lobby of Baker Library. A new initiative, the Call to Serve, was announced, setting a goal for the Dartmouth community to achieve 250,000 hours of community service by the end of the year. In the spirit of the liberal arts, eight new courses and 20 symposia have been created to foster reflection amongst the community on Dartmouth’s past and future. Exhibitions, projects and performances under this same theme abound for the rest of the year. And very soon, the long-awaited opening of the newly renovated Hood Museum of Art will bring in a year of special programming and exhibits to continue the celebration.
For the next year, the College’s libraries will be filled with exhibits extolling Dartmouth’s scholarly history and ostensibly bright future. Much of this revelry will focus on the community of alumni who once called Hanover home. But celebrations of the College’s academic pedigree and achievements may be inconvenienced by an awkward reality. For the first time in decades, the College on the Hill will be in a town without any bookstore.
This year, Dartmouth celebrates 250 years since its founding. On Jan. 10, the College will kick off a series of events commemorating its anniversary and honoring its longstanding legacy. These events highlight moments of pride throughout the College’s history — academic milestones, building blocks for the Dartmouth education students know today (both in the expansion of opportunities and in the expansion of groups to which those opportunities have been made available) and memorable achievements by members of the Dartmouth community across the globe. For the most part, these celebrations are well-earned. Dartmouth has and continues to offer a valuable and rewarding education to its students. Faculty members remain committed to teaching and to nurturing students’ personal and intellectual development. And many alumni go on to lead successful lives, often bettering their communities aided by the foundations they cemented while at the College, their experiences on campus and the bonds they formed with one another. But while Dartmouth deserves to cherish these successes, it ought not to ignore its failures.
Last Friday, Nov. 2, the Dartmouth campus received a shelter advisory after a drive-by shooting on the intersection of School and West Wheelock Streets injured a 19-year-old male non-Dartmouth student. Until the shelter advisory was lifted, the entire community sheltered in place, sending flurries of texts and GroupMe messages to check on friends and family and seek more information.
For most of the nation’s history, it was rare to see a Dartmouth student in the electorate. Even in times, when the compositions of both the College and electorate were dominated by white, male landowners, voting was a right unavailable to those under the age of 21. This changed with the 26th Amendment in the wake of the Vietnam War, during which many Americans protested the civic injustice in people without say in the political system being drafted to fight in a war they could not stop.
Last Saturday, 11 Jewish congregants were murdered and six others were injured as they worshipped at a Pittsburgh synagogue. The Anti-Defamation League believes it was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history. Last Wednesday, two black people were shot and killed in a Kroger grocery store in Kentucky. Authorities are currently investigating the murders as a hate crime; before the shooting, the alleged shooter tried to enter a predominantly black church but was unable to get inside. Across last week, explosive devices were mailed to more than dozen prominent individuals and organizations — including former U.S. President Barack Obama, 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, billionaire and liberal donor George Soros, and CNN — who have criticized President Donald Trump. These actions were disgusting examples of hate crimes and politicized violence, and the Editorial Board stands in solidarity with the victims.
The earliest signs of the Homecoming tradition go back to the era of William Jewett Tucker’s presidency at Dartmouth in the 1890s. Back then, the College had weekly student body meetings that were known as “Rhetoricals,” which took place in the Old Chapel of Dartmouth Hall. By 1895, the student body population grew too large for the Old Chapel, and “Dartmouth Night,” the tradition we know today, took root. Dartmouth Night was an opportunity for members of the Dartmouth community “to devote an evening to the traditions and glory of Dartmouth, and to stimulate pride in her achievements, and strengthen the purpose that the present and the future of the college shall be worthy of its past,” as the Congressional Record and New Hampshire Journal wrote in 1896.
The landscape of American higher education is changing. Amidst already daunting challenges in the form of rapidly rising tuitions, decreased funding and a student debt crisis reaching its zenith, the march of technological progress is also reshaping higher education.
Dartmouth is full of beloved traditions, and the Homecoming bonfire every fall reigns as one of the most sacred and celebrated. The bonfire saw its first flames over a century ago, and every year since has welcomed home a new class with warm and open arms. Dartmouth alumni, no matter where they end up, return home en masse to pay their alma mater a visit. Amidst shouts of “Touch the fire!” and “Worst class ever!,” it sends the message to the newest members of the Dartmouth community that her spell on them truly is enduring.
As the controversy surrounding Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination process to the Supreme Court reaches its climax, the nation’s attention has shifted to the elite spaces that nourished him. Recent exposés of Kavanaugh’s fraternity and secret society at Yale describe cultures of binge-drinking and law-breaking. Comments by friends and former classmates, as well as anecdotes given by professors and mentors describe a culture of excess opportunity, privilege and power foreign to most Americans.
As potential members of Greek houses go through recruitment, or “rush,” the majority of Dartmouth’s campus has been even more preoccupied with Greek life than usual. It is very clear, though, that men and women are going through very different processes to reach very different finish lines.
Finally, a rejoinder is made. On Monday, Sept. 17, the College’s Board of Trustees approved the construction of a new 350-bed dorm on the site of what is currently the Alumni Gym tennis courts and House Center A, commonly referred to by students as the Onion. The decision is a necessary step in alleviating Dartmouth’s ongoing housing crisis; executive vice president Rick Mills and his team may be lauded for their discourse and counsel throughout the process.
It is easy to argue that for a college approaching its 250th anniversary, the arrival of a new class of students gracing the Green is a humdrum affair in Dartmouth’s very long history. True to Dartmouth’s jolly stereotype, however, the Class of 2022 was welcomed to campus with the same energy, flair and Cascada Best Hits™ tracks that many classes past were introduced to themselves. While so many aspects of a freshman’s first few weeks at the College are painstakingly rehearsed and prepared, the festivities were not unfounded. There truly is cause for optimism at the College today, and the Class of 2022 is in a unique position to take advantage of it.
Take a trip down memory lane, back to 1769, when Dartmouth was taking its first steps. The College was founded to serve as an institution to educate Native Americans. Despite this, Dartmouth’s relationship with Native Americans has been complicated; the College had no more than 20 Native students throughout the first 200 years of its history. Perhaps to pay homage to its past, and in recognition of its changing cultural values, Dartmouth has now enrolled more Native American students than all other Ivy League institutions combined, and the College’s Native American Studies program has become one of the most highly regarded in the country.
“Live authentically.” That’s such a common thing to hear, and it’s something most people likely believe. People tend to think of themselves as genuine, and everyone constantly hears how they should explore their interests, develop their passions and otherwise form an independent identity. People seem to know that they should stand up for what they believe in. They understand that they shouldn’t define themselves by a stereotype. But unfortunately, at Dartmouth, students often ignore that.
Fifty years ago, the Dartmouth student body was completely male. In typical Dartmouth fashion, there was resistance to change. But with considerable effort over the years, that demographic has changed: since 2012, the student body has had equal representation of both genders. To this day, Dartmouth continues to redefine what it means to preserve tradition without excluding deserving students on the basis of race, gender and socioeconomic background from the opportunities of a Dartmouth education.
With his announcement of the College’s $3 billion capital campaign, “The Call to Lead,” College President Phil Hanlon acknowledged an obvious truth: Dartmouth is distinct. The College maintains a unique identity and educational opportunity among universities. In “The Call to Lead,” Dartmouth has shown it is intrepid enough to strengthen those aspects of the College that will further distinguish and advance the school while also acknowledging Dartmouth’s current shortcomings and steps for improvement. Regardless of the campaign’s self-congratulatory tone, this declaration exemplifies the direction and spirit that Dartmouth needs if it is to thrive. A confident vision for the future of the College has been set forth: will alumni and students be willing to answer?
In its current mission statement, Dartmouth declares its commitment to preparing students for “a lifetime of learning and of responsible leadership,” qualities that have been integral to Dartmouth’s mission in one form or another since its founding. As a liberal arts college, Dartmouth achieves this by encouraging engagement with a wide range of subjects, often in intimate and dynamic contexts. In many ways, the College fulfills this successfully: Dartmouth has a student-to-faculty ratio of seven to one, boasts the highest participation rate in study abroad programs of any Ivy League institution as of 2014 and offers a plethora of opportunities for innovative learning and experience in and out of the classroom.
Sustainability has long been a major goal and a central subject of conversation at Dartmouth. Sustainability-minded organizations, communities, initiatives and opportunities on campus, many of which have been pioneered by the Dartmouth Sustainability Office, have made the issue highly visible. The efforts made on the part of the College and the students involved have not gone unrecognized: Dartmouth was ranked 10th in the Green Universities Report last year by SaveOnEnergy.com, a Texas-based energy consulting firm. The report stated, “At Dartmouth College, sustainability isn’t just a campus initiative — it’s a way of life.”