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On Saturday, March 24, thousands of people marched on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. for the March for Our Lives, a demonstration in support of tighter gun control regulations. The march was accompanied by over 800 corresponding protests in cities around the world. Announced in the wake of the tragic mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the march was the culmination of weeks of activism and outcries mostly by students and youth.
The Green looks the same. The students are still in ubiquitous black gowns. The speeches are still full of hope and opportunity. But the College is reflecting — reflecting on four years of good leadership, good choices and an agenda of renewal that has built upon Dartmouth’s successes and helped the school, in a short time, become a better place for its community.
For many, college is a period of self-discovery and newfound independence. This freedom is a blessing, but it can also seem like a curse — with little oversight on how to act and with many influences capable of pressuring students, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Add to that the common assumption that most students seem to be doing fine and some can end up believing that they are worse than others for struggling, that they are missing a spark that must be inherent in others.
Last Friday, 15 current and former Dartmouth athletes and two head coaches marched in the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang, South Korea. Undergraduates Tricia Mangan ’19 and Alice Merryweather ’21 were added to the U.S. Alpine ski team just days before the official start of the games, while Paralympian Staci Mannella ’18 is scheduled to compete in March. In total, 18 Dartmouth representatives will participate in the Olympics this year, the most in a single Games in College history. This is an exciting time for the Dartmouth community, but it is also an opportunity to embody the spirit and values of the games while fostering a more welcoming atmosphere as a campus.
This editorial was featured in the 2018 Winter Carnival Issue.
The Dartmouth that students enter in half a decade may look very different from the College we know today. Last fall, the College’s leadership announced the creation of a task force to consider increasing the number of undergraduates on the campus by as much as 25 percent, or roughly 1,000 students. The task force’s final proposal is due in mid-March. If implemented, such a change would represent a shift at the College that would likely necessitate large-scale faculty hiring, massive building initiatives and a fundamental change in campus culture. Both proponents and opponents of the proposal deserve a chance to weigh in before any final decisions are made.
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.