Editorial: The Secret Expansion of Dartmouth College

Last year the Dartmouth Board of Trustees supposedly permanently shut down a proposed plan to build new dormitories and thus expand the undergraduate student body at Dartmouth. Students, alumni, and some faculty came out strongly against the proposed changes and in favor of keeping Dartmouth a small, undergraduate focused college. Hanlon had supposedly come out against the proposed plan, following the recommendation of a study committee. This committee being one of the many that the Hanlon administration regularly uses as bureaucratic cover for its more unpopular decisions. However, unnoticed by many, this expansion has already been underway for several years and the Hanlon administration has largely gotten what it wants, despite the board, the student-body, the alumni, and everyone else interested in maintaining Dartmouth as the small College on a hill that it has always been.
In 2004, only fourteen years ago, the undergraduate student population at Dartmouth numbered 4079 according to official Dartmouth documents. Undergraduate enrollment in Fall of 2018 was 4410 students. This does not seem to include the small but significant number of students who take the Fall term off. This D-plan that takes Fall term off seems to be on the rise partly due to the overcrowding of Dartmouth’s campus during the Fall. Not including the students off, those numbers represents an 8% increase in the number of undergraduates. This increase has accelerated over the last couple of years after two “accidentally” large classes each increased the College’s enrollment by approximately 100 students. Afterall, there was substantial continuity in maintaining the undergraduate population at about 4200 students for over a decade. In the last two years however, this population has been increased by approximately two and a half percent per year. The results are obvious to all students who must live with them every day.
Traditionally Dartmouth students have been able to book library rooms without much difficulty, excepting extraordinary circumstances or truly last-minute booking at the busiest times of the day and week. So far this term, essentially every room in the library has been fully booked until the early hours of the morning each day. Anyone wishing to check this proposition can look at the library’s website as soon as you read this editorial. Six separate students have complained to this writer about their experiences in trying to book rooms so far this Fall. There has also been renewed discussion about trying to find less over-populated study spots. The three main study areas on campus, First Floor Berry, Third Floor Berry, and the 1902 Room in Baker Library, have all suffered from overpopulation reminiscent of a state school or major research university in an urban area instead of an undergraduate college in the middle of the rural woods of New Hampshire.
Previous irritation about over-crowded housing options and small rooms being forcefully converted into doubles has only increased. This widespread grumbling is only amplified by the restrictive and exclusive Housing System. Off-campus and Greek housing alternatives continue to be very popular. In fact, the easy availability of off-campus housing may be one contributing factor to the continued extreme popularity of the Greek system.
Similarly, lines at campus dining facilities are extravagant. As one student so aptly put it, “the lines are just always so d*mn long.” Writers for the Review have timed themselves waiting in line for more than twenty-five minutes during most days of the week for lunch. Physically the lines stretch around a hundred feet along the wall in the Hop. The lines at Collis also reach unreasonable magnitudes. More importantly, wait times at all major campus dining locations are noticeably longer than they were even one or two years ago, implying that the increased waits have been caused by the increased number of students. As lines have increased in length, students have responded by waiting until more unusual times of the day to eat at various locations on campus. This response has also increased since several years ago. A senior and several juniors commented to the author noting that people were doing more to avoid lines at the various dining facilities than they did during their freshmen year.
All of these signs point to the same thing: the administration is continuing to take larger than traditional classes without providing facilities for this expansion or taking the Board of Trustees, student body, alumni, or faculty at their word that expansion is a bad idea. In the end, this push to expand is likely driven by two things: poor financial management caused by administrative bloat and a desire to turn Dartmouth into a graduate-focused research university by the Hanlon administration. Not until the bloated administration is dieted and the expansionist administrative culture tamed will Old Dartmouth be safe.