Dear Old Dartmouth in Review

Grand Old Seniors reflecting on the College as they carved their commencement canes, c. 1922

Grand Old Seniors reflecting on the College as they carved their commencement canes, c. 1922

Editor’s Note: We at The Dartmouth Review collected thoughts from several seniors on the changes that occurred at Dartmouth in their three years’ tenure here and some words of wisdom looking to the future.

Taylor J. Watson

The biggest change I notice at Dartmouth is the fading of institutional momentum. Maybe that just comes with being a senior, but even compared to how seniors used to talk about Dartmouth, it seems as though the direction of the school is less predetermined than it used to be. ‘16’s still have imprinted in their minds the day of their freshmen spring when classes were cancelled in response to the tumultuous community events, followed by the “enough is enough” speech from President Hanlon. Between similar events and changes to Greek life at the GLC and individual house level, it seems like the campus is more responsive and fluid.

I hope that underclassmen see the capacity for change earlier than I have, because the biggest weakness of a college is that everybody leaves.

John L. Beneville

I sat for a while thinking about the change at Dartmouth over my four years here. I thought about all the firsts: the warmth of my first bonfire; holiday cheer contained in endless cans of keystone at TDXmas; and a Winter Carnival that I’ll never remember. Freshman year was a year of camaraderie, belonging, and union. I remember being in the stands at the Homecoming game, shoulder to shoulder with others in my class, waiting to rush the field. Hanover Police and college security stood below us on the field, arms crossed, stern and discouraging looks on their faces. Yet someone got a yes from an officer, the floodgates opened, and off we went. Authority gave a nod to tradition.

Somewhere along the way that balance tipped and the school renounced its own traditions. The excitement that we all felt in that moment and during so many others was no longer appropriate. Professors wanted us to be academics everywhere, not just inside the classroom. Administrators tightened their grip and squeezed fraternities dry. Lohse wrote a book, AD threw a bad party, and suddenly Phiesta was cancelled, the Dartmouth’s very own Stasi knocked down doors, and the “‘Freedom’ Budget’” hit the press. Students held themselves hostage, lamented locked doors that were never shut to them, and claimed that erasing Dartmouth’s traditions from the inside of Parkhurst was their only hope for escape.

Nowadays people don’t go to their first football game, they never realize that the things that they think stand in their way never really do. Maybe more people need to leap onto the Big Green field and realize that we’re all equally welcome to it.

Brandon G. Gill

My conception of Dartmouth transformed almost as soon as I got here, as I was greeted by people with green and purple hair ready to take me white water kayaking. Then, when I watched Lodge Croo dance up and down my table at Mousaloke Lodge, the magic of Dartmouth began to hit me. I thought I was in a Dr. Seuss book. Trips ended with the brief disappointment when I learned that everybody doesn’t actually stop whatever they’re doing at midnight to do the Salty Dog Rag.

But Orientation taught me that there were a lot of other things Dartmouth students do at midnight. Every night during orientation, I got to visit each frat, learn to play pong, and see the houses that form the core of Dartmouth social life. I found the upperclassmen to be surprisingly hospitable to my schmob, at least most of the time, even when I hassled them to show me where to get water to play pong with. I was pleasantly surprised, and my love for Dartmouth grew as I learned just how open and welcoming the Dartmouth social scene was.

Freshman fall was academically tough as I made the transition to Ivy League academics. It was also one of the most exciting ten weeks of my life, up to that point. That whole year, rushing between the library and my overloaded extracurricular schedule, I somehow found time to socialize and make some of the closest friends of my life.

President Hanlon, the likeable former frat-boy turned mathematician, soon made his debut. Not long after, the “Freedom Budget” arrived, that laundry list of unrealistic radical liberal ideas, as did the threats to “take physical action” if the demands were not met point by point. He took no time in demonstrating his embarrassingly weak leadership when the Freedom Budget radicals occupied his office with impunity. I still remember laughing at the reports of the occupiers arguing about what kind of vegetarian pizza they should order during their sleepover. Before long, the attacks on Dartmouth became focused on Greek life, and this mindless liberal radicalism was met with resistance as students across campus found that many things they love about Dartmouth were under attack. The ranks of The Dartmouth Review nearly doubled during that time.

The rest of the story is all too well-known. There was that month or two when the Huffington Post couldn’t think of anything better to write about than the evils of Dartmouth fraternities. The radicals began to have their way as Greek life started becoming more closed. Regulations on fraternities became increasingly absurd; Houses began carding party-goers, and shutting their doors more often in order to free themselves from the liability that the administration was forcing upon them. Then, Hanlon derecognized his former house, and showed just how much of a limp-wristed individual he is by making himself as unavailable as possible to the brothers there.

The class of 2019 is certainly experiencing a very different Dartmouth from the one I was introduced to. But Dartmouth is still the College on a Hill we love. There are innumerable things for us to be thankful for. As I have realized, Dartmouth opens doors that students at most other schools can’t relate to. Despite the changes, it provides a unique social scene and one of the best educations in the world. As I look back on my time here, I realize how blessed I am to be here, and I’m even a bit jealous of the freshmen entering one of the most exciting times of their lives.

Christopher A. D’Angelo

As discussion of the forthcoming house system becomes increasingly common, it is worth looking back on the changes residential life has undergone the past few years. After having an amazing floor and a fantastic UGA for my first two terms at college, I elected to be a freshman UGA as well. For the 2013-14 year, however, the amount paid to UGAs increased substantially, via a termly $1500 meal plan credit. While this additional remuneration compensated the great UGAs who helped their residents adapt to college life, it also incentivized those who were solely looking for a campus job with substantial pay. Many superb UGAs continued to be hired but, undeniably, so were many who failed to foster any sense of community on their floor.

This lack of impact is especially noticeable in regards to the upperclass UGA, whose job description has undergone continuous re-imagination throughout the years, as an ever-changing fleet of community directors have struggled to make the residential experience mean anything for 75% of the student body. These changes have taken the form of motivational interview training, coffee talks, cluster socials, and undoubtedly other programs that most students never took advantage of. Even as (debatably effective) LLCs became implemented, upperclass UGAs were selected with no regard to their passion for the floor’s mission, and a clear opportunity for positive impact was missed.

Now that community walkthroughs have been implemented (along with another pay increase), UGAs are unfortunately being viewed as pregame police by first year students, and one should worry about the type of applicant the role will see in years to come. While the house system will hopefully be a rousing success, three years’ worth of unsuccessful changes suggest otherwise.

John A. Steward

As I come to the less-than-amusing conclusion that I am soon to graduate from these vaunted halls, I will attempt to bestow upon you, the reader, some sort of hidden knowledge about how this institution has evolved since what feels like my very conception. Nostalgic reflections aside, the current environment provides a conducive atmosphere to individual development of personal confidence that was not always there in the past. Given the small enrollment of our rural redoubt it is concurrently important to foster relationships in a wide and diverse range of social, academic, and professional engagements and truly keep our minds and hearts open. While I will lovingly reflect upon my days of formal learning, we must not become complacent at any level of achievement and seek to better ourselves in every chapter of life. Reading the signage along the road less traveled is certainly a frosty prospect, but each and every person has an inner spark which can become a candle or flamethrower depending on our place among the stars. In common retrospect, we all wish to relive many worlds which are unattainable, so it is in our mutual interest to use our talents to benefit others. As Nathan Hale said before his execution, “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” Perhaps it is best to spare the details of a single journey so that we might better focus on our own path – which is lighted by those who have gone before.

Charles C. W. Jang

As I took pen to paper to write my reflections over the past few years, I took it upon myself to try avoiding the cliched Dartmouth-is-a-box-of-chocolates, boy-meets-girl-meets-financial-firm, Animal House-style autobiography that one often sees in spaces like this.  For one thing, it wouldn’t be useful to you freshmen (after all, one never steps into the same river twice—ooh, another hackneyed expression!) and for another, I never did those things.  I whiled away most of my leisure time away from Webster Avenue—nothing in particular against the Greek system or its denizens, just have always been fairly introverted.

One of the things I did do, however, was work for the publication you’re holding in your presumably ink-stained fingers.  (Sorry about that.  Add that to the list of things I never managed to do—improve our ink quality.)  In a job like mine, one does tend to hear a lot about what important things are rumored to be coming to campus, like President Hanlon’s Moving Dartmouth Forward plans to ban hard alcohol or institute a house system.  One also looks to the past for guidance and wisdom.  After all, as Twain noted, “History doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme.”  If I told you about how a Dartmouth president caved to pressures from campus protest groups occupying his office to call for a day of cancelled classes and reflection, leading afterwards to a period of attempted cultural reform of the Greek system amid disapproval from The Dartmouth Review, well, you could read the other accounts on this page about how President Hanlon handled the radical group behind the Freedom Budget (which neither involves freedom nor financial figure, funnily enough) and come away feeling pleased with yourself.

You could also feel even better about yourself if you recognized Presidents McLaughlin and Freedman in the 1980s.  Although to be sure, the protestors were of a better caliber back in the day—Parkhurst’s occupying forces ended up dumping used tampons on President McLaughlin’s head, and protestors against South African apartheid set up wooden shanties on the Green, defying both reason and Hanover town statutes.

You may be sure, every few generations of college students will have to go through some version of this historical cycle of protest, counter-protest, and truce (a Hegelian synthesis of sorts, I suppose).  Every few decades, a serpent will come out of the Lone Pine of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and convince a Provost and a President to eat of its pinecones and set this cycle anew.

Those who have ears, let them hear.  Those who have eyes, let them read The Review.

As a sort of postscript, I have arranged some random thoughts of mine.  Enjoy:

I wonder when incoming students will start calling FoCo by its given name.  The Class of 2016 is the first class that knew it solely from its reincarnation as the “Class of 1953 Commons.”  Probably the same day Dartmouth students forget that “blitz” and “email” are synonyms.

What will the media do without AD to kick around?  It seems like its entire raison d’etre was to provide press outlets with the ever-so-clever “Dartmouth, the home of the ‘Animal House’ fraternity” introduction that seems to come up whenever the College and drinking are mentioned in conjunction.

’19s, start a betting pool on which College tradition is next to go.  None of you have known the old Dimensions Show, will float down the Connecticut River in Tubestock, or have been to (and slept through) Convocation.  My best guess is that you will be telling the Class of 2022 that the 2018F Bonfire will be a Viking Funeral to Failed Old Tradition.

Why is nothing ever useful included in Orientation?  Instead of kitsch about how you’re part of the Best Class Ever ™, the mandatory meetings in Spaulding should include how DBA works; how to sign up for a PE credit; how rush works; how to NRO a class; and the news that the Hop is closed over the summer.