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Last Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Trump’s first year in office has been marked by an aggressive agenda of attempted policy changes, some sweeping and others less so, some successful and others defeated. The political turmoil nationwide has inspired a similar — if somewhat subdued — change in Dartmouth’s campus culture, an effect that supports the notion that universities are microcosms of society.
BarHop, a College-sponsored program that provided students with weekly social events at the Hopkins Center for the Arts from February 2014 through May 2017, was suspended indefinitely last November. The program, which utilized three rooms of the Hopkins Garage to offer an arts and crafts space, host regular performances from student bands or groups and provide a dance club-like area, also served alcohol to students of legal drinking age free of charge. The hiatus, brought on due to staffing and space issues, according to an email statement from Joshua Kol ’93, director of student performance programs at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, has closed down one of few successful alternative social spaces at the College.
Last year, three professors of psychology and brain sciences were placed on paid leave amid investigations of sexual misconduct allegations. The investigations are ongoing, and no findings have been disclosed but the initial allegations — which are not public — have been expanded upon anonymously by 15 current and former students and by two other academics, Jennifer Groh and Simine Vazire. These allegations came during a time of extreme upheaval across industries and society, with numerous powerful male figures coming under fire and facing professional, personal and, at times, legal repercussions for patterns and behaviors of sexual abuse, misconduct and assault.
Last month, Congress signed a sweeping new tax bill into effect. Allegedly designed to benefit the middle class, this bill includes a 1.4 percent excise tax on the investment income of private colleges and universities with at least $500,000 in assets per student, which will likely come primarily from schools’ endowments. Dartmouth, along with over 30 other wealthy private schools ranging from Harvard University to Swarthmore College to the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, will likely be affected by this tax, which is expected to bring in about $1.8 billion over a decade and help offset the large increases in the national debt the tax bill is expected to produce.
Dartmouth recently announced the appointment of computer science professor David Kotz ’86 as interim provost while a search committee begins its hunt for outgoing Provost Carolyn Dever’s replacement. As one of the most powerful administrators at Dartmouth, second only to the College president, the provost oversees close to 30 offices, support centers and programs ranging from admissions and financial aid to information technology services to environmental health and safety.
Dartmouth, like most higher education institutions in America, is a funnel that sifts through its applicant pool, systematically favoring those of a higher socioeconomic background. Before access to higher education was extended to more people regardless of race or gender, this funnel also greatly favored the sons of College graduates, who were often white and male. Though there is now more diversity and access to higher education nationwide, the practice of giving preferential treatment to the children of alumni still exits in the form of treatment extended to legacy students.
Writing 5 is a requirement and rite of passage for most Dartmouth students. While some students are required to take Writing 2-3 and others may opt to take the Humanities track, the majority of first-years are divided among sections of Writing 5 in the fall or the winter, with 36 in the former and 34 in the latter. There, the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric notes that students are introduced to “the writing process that characterizes intellectual work in the academy and in educated public discourse.”
Dartmouth should serve its students’ interests. The College needs to take in some revenue to survive, but it should not do so on the backs of its students. Dartmouth Dining Services would be a better business, and students would be happier and better off, if dining options at Dartmouth were made more competitive, if student meal plan requirements were relaxed or abandoned and if declining balance account funds could be spent at off-campus eateries.
The Homecoming bonfire is a quintessential Dartmouth tradition, but it is also a dangerous one. With the bonfire, after all, comes the yearly calls for first-years to touch the fire. If nobody does, the class is dubbed the “worst class ever” — a title that seems to have enough of a negative connotation that no class in recent institutional memory has been risk-averse enough to claim it.
This column was featured in the 2017 Homecoming Issue.
Dartmouth’s community is rooted in a sense of place, in historic landmarks, aged buildings and a collective memory of centuries. The College on the Hill rests beneath the gaze of Robert Frost, and at the top of the hill itself, the historic stump representing the original Lone Pine still rests. So what will happen if the College elects to drop a massive dormitory complex on Robert Frost’s head?
Rush is here. Dartmouth’s rush system — and the Greek organizations it feeds — are both imperfect, but for the weekend they are here to stay. For both members of the Class of 2020 hoping to join Greek houses and affiliated students, these few weeks are a stressful time. Even for those uninvolved, the campus atmosphere can feel decidedly different.
Last month, College President Phil Hanlon announced a working group that will “explore the opportunities and challenges of increasing the size of the undergraduate student body.” This occurs as the College faces a housing shortage, a low rate of faculty increase and a shortage of classroom space, not to mention increasingly crowded dining halls and study facilities. Before it even considers increasing the size of the student body, Dartmouth should first address existing concerns, since any increase in undergraduates should be accompanied by new extensive facilities and an equal or greater increase in faculty numbers.
Opportunities for independent creation, the most important of which is simply free time, have become rarer and rarer on college campuses. Dartmouth, like most higher education institutions, would surely like to produce more acclaimed writers, more lauded artists, more successful entrepreneurs and more vaunted musicians. However, the next Donna Tartt or Vampire Weekend is unlikely to come out of institutionalized creativity. Armed with the necessary resources, students will create, not because they are told to, but because they want to.
This column was featured in the Green Key 2017 Special Issue: "Awakening."
Sixty-one percent of students admitted to Dartmouth’s Class of 2021 accepted their offer of admission, the highest yield rate in the last 25 years according to the College. This figure is almost 10 percent higher than recent yield rates, which may lead us to instinctively believe that it signifies something important, perhaps the success of the Moving Dartmouth Forward initiative or an increase in the caliber of current students.
This week alone, the College is holding almost 40 lectures, not counting those at its professional schools. These include presentations by a noted novelist, an expert on the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein and a federal judge. All of these talks are free to students and the public. Most students will not have regular opportunities to go to events with speakers of this caliber ever again.
Dartmouth’s new housing system was designed to encourage safer, more stable communities within campus. Yet professor Jane Hill’s recent dismissal from her position as Allen House professor belies a sense of shakiness in this new system. With two of the six initial house professors now gone — North Park House professor Ryan Calsbeek stepped down this past fall — Dartmouth is going against its stated mission to provide strong communal bonds between the students and faculty.
William Pitt the Younger became Britain’s prime minister when he was 24. For most of his time in parliament, his constituency was the University of Cambridge. Until 1950, the United Kingdom allowed the students and alumni of universities to elect members to its national legislature, and Pitt, a man who would rule his country through many of its most tumultuous moments, took office when he was barely older than the average Dartmouth senior today.
Student Assembly elections are next week, and social media is buzzing with candidates’ promotional photos and posts. With the election comes the age old question: what exactly does Student Assembly do? What should it do? For an organization meant to be the voice of Dartmouth’s student body to the administration, Student Assembly has potential that is currently untapped and under-supported.