Looking Forward at the DOC

Robinson Hall ("Robo"), home of the Dartmouth Outing Club

Robinson Hall (“Robo”), home of the Dartmouth Outing Club

Editor’s Note: This week, we had the opportunity to interview Hunter van Adelsberg ‘16, the President of the Dartmouth Outing Club. The recent developments regarding Moving Dartmouth Forward (MDF) have had substantive implications for the DOC’s programming ideas and plans for housing.


The Dartmouth Review (TDR): For our readers who are not deeply familiar with the DOC, what is your current membership size?

Hunter van Adelsberg (HVA): It varies year to year, but there are over 1,500 current undergrads that are members, and including alumni going back to the year 2004, it is 4,462.

TDR: What influenced you to make the DOC an integral part of your Dartmouth experience?

HVA: Prior to Dartmouth, I didn’t do too much with the outdoors. When I was looking at colleges, I stumbled across the Outing Club website, and it was hugely interesting to me. My thought: that any school with such great resources available for getting outside and exploring had to be a great place to spend four years. I walked onto the crew team freshman year, but what let me know that I wanted to make the DOC my “thing” was that I would be genuinely bummed about missing trips on the weekends for practices. And, as I started to get involved, it just felt right from a number of different perspectives – and so I kept going. Now, many of my closest friends are from the DOC and it has been a true second home for me here at Dartmouth.

TDR: How long has the DOC been eyeing projects having to do with residential life and programming activities?

HVA: I began to consider these projects seriously starting the summer before this past fall, fall being when I started as president. That’s how long it has been specifically targeted. Speaking broadly, there has always been a culture in the DOC of critical self-examination, of asking “how can we make this thing even better for even more people?”. Inclusivity in particular is something we hold near and dear. We want people to be able to come in regardless of their level of experience or who they happen to be friends with. The DOC being a social outlet also has a long history, but a more specific agenda of 1) social and residential space, 2) pushing for more administrative support and 3) young outdoor fellows to serve as mentors is more recent than the former, and has evolved largely this past fall and winter as it became obvious that winds of change were starting to blow on campus.

TDR: What sort of housing option would the DOC ideally sponsor and help create?

HVA: There are a lot of different things we think could happen and that we’d be happy with. The basic premise is to have a space that is common to everyone in the club and is a place for the rest of campus to congregate as well. We could potentially look into creating an affinity house by renovating or taking over an existing place. Ideally, it would have storage space and an industrial kitchen, which would be an improvement on our current space in the first floor of Robinson Hall. Though we appreciate the current space, we share it with other clubs and there can be friction. HVA: Our vision is for a building approximately the size of Robinson that’s more adaptive to the DOC’s needs and more generally welcoming as a place to just hang out or study on a weekday or have dinner at after a trip. The residential component is something we’re not dead set on, but we think it could be a great piece. There are examples all over campus with a live-in component (like Ledyard, etc) that have more of a personality because of this residential component. It facilitates a sense of being in a true student space that those involved can make their own. We think it could be great, but the stumbling blocks are two fold: right off the bat, it takes more funding, and second, a big part of MDF that seems to be pretty set in stone is that the college doesn’t want to fund any other residential spaces beside what is outlined in the plan. The sense we get is that the administration is still hashing out details, so we hope that there is still a chance for us to be able to accomplish our goals.

TDR: What are the perceived benefits of your plan?

HVA: First, I think we should go over all that is good about the DOC as is. It’s already a solid and integral part of this campus, largely because a huge part of what makes Dartmouth Dartmouth is its unique place in the world. Very few institutions of higher learning have what we have in our backyard. And happily, the DOC is very good at its core mission of getting people out there, cheaply and efficiently, to leverage this privilege we have of being located where we are. But under the hood of the apparent outdoor fun, deeper things are happening: you see friendships forming across gender and class year, people taking responsibility for their decisions, lifelong skills being learned, comfort zones pushed, and challenges tackled. You gain a special brand of perspective on college and on life from leaving your well-worn paths to go do something novel out in the physical world; there’s a whole-hearted authenticity to it.

Given the troubles that have been plaguing this school recently – not only the much-discussed questions of inclusivity, sexual assault, and binge drinking, but also the college’s overall search for identity as an institution – it is clear to us that the DOC has a powerful potential role to play in the coming terms and years. The club is a bastion of clear-eyed fun and a strong community in its own right. It provides a historically proven model that, if scaled, we feel could really move the needle on some of the big issues facing Dartmouth. The shame, in my experience, is that by senior year the majority of students have not taken advantage of the DOC and the outdoors to the extent that they themselves would have liked. The reasons for this are manifold – social pressures, misconceptions about how much prior experience you need to hike or climb or paddle, time constraints. But the thought is that more resources and focus funneled by the administration would serve the noble end of making the outdoor experience a more readily accessible part of anyone’s Dartmouth experience. And at the same time, you’d be strengthening a healthy, vibrant community on this campus that is, by all measures, in line with the principles of mutual respect and moderation put forth in MDF. I am of course a little biased on this, and I’m aware this might just sound like my taking advantage of an opportunity to trumpet an organization I’m part of, but I do truly believe the DOC can do a lot of good for Dartmouth in the coming years.

TDR: How has MDF influenced your stance on these projects?

HVA: I personally came in immediately wanting to think critically about the DOC. I came to Dartmouth in large part because of it, and it has been a great growth opportunity along the way. What I’ve been doing from the beginning is trying to make it better to show appreciation for all that it has afforded its members, myself included. Becoming president during the MDF talks was kind of fortuitous, and when I found out when it was coming out, it certainly accelerated our planning.

TDR: What existing issues do you think there are with the DOC that would be remedied by these planned changes?

HVA: I think that anything we can do to make the club more accessible to campus is a good thing. Subsidizing beginner trips to a greater extent could promote financial inclusivity. Larger and higher quality facilities would create a virtuous circle of social inclusivity by was of increased interest from different kinds of people and less intimidation regarding trying new outdoor activities. I think there’s also room for a new program similar to the existing presidential fellows, for recent graduates to serve as mentors and lead certain trips. The DOC is actually one of the few major campus groups that doesn’t have a program to encourage young alums to stay on as fellows. And again, the benefits for Dartmouth and the DOC would be tremendous if we had access to a central, dedicated, multi-purpose social space.

TDR: How would an expanded DOC social outlet coexist with Greek life?

HVA: Well. In fact, many of the more-involved members of the DOC are affiliated, and I think most would say that the two serve to balance each other out as communities. I don’t think that the two need be mutually exclusive at all. But again, I would love to see the DOC become a more substantial part of Dartmouth for more people. I talk to a large number of junior and seniors who wish they had done more with the outdoors than they did over their time of Dartmouth. I also think that people are looking for a greater variety of options for their free time nowadays, the very purpose for which the DOC was founded over a century ago. A broader DOC would also fit in well with the new House system. There would be the potential for DOC-sponsored events and trips for Houses. I would actually also like to see more DOC and Greek house integration in the way of DOC-sponsored trips for Greek houses and programs of that nature. In my opinion, the necessary underlying sentiment to make an expanded DOC successful is out there, while the potential for conflict is small or nonexistent.

TDR: Do you think that your efforts will have an impact on the groups that are against positive interpretations of Greek life?

HVA: Yes, in part. I think the DOC is an entity that, in the debate and in the recent campus climate, has been largely neutral. What I’ve already seen happening, and what I hope continues to happen, is that the DOC can leverage its neutrality to serve as a kind of uniter of students with disparate viewpoints. By virtue of the fact that people who participate in the DOC do a lot off campus, it helps them put Dartmouth in perspective in the larger contexts of their lives and gives people a sense of assuredness about what they’re doing at Dartmouth. The reason I think that this is true is because people are coming together over a shared activity and a shared interest – appreciation of the outdoors is very much embedded in the human soul. You don’t necessarily have to be whitewater kayaking or scaling the Dawn Wall to have a genuine appreciation for the beauty out there. People from vastly different walks of life and corners of campus can bond over something innately human, something that is not caught up in the vicissitudes of campus politics.

TDR: Has the administration actively encouraged the DOC to do this? If so, what have they suggested?

HVA: The response we have gotten is overwhelmingly positive. We held a dinner with President Hanlon in the fall and much of the administration to talk about what the DOC stands for and what we would like to see. We were definitely well received. It seems to be that the administration recognizes what the DOC can do for campus; it’s just a matter of what’s feasible in the particulars.

TDR: Do you have anything that you would like to add regarding MDF and its impact on the DOC?

HVA: I would say a few things. MDF and President Hanlon’s presentation of it explicitly touches on experiential learning and the opportunity do to leverage the advantages we already have in outdoor education. We appreciate that that was mentioned, and we appreciate any support to come. While I’ll admit it’s not a panacea for what ails Dartmouth, I strongly believe that an increased emphasis on outdoor education and recreation will go a long way towards making this great school even better. Separate from that, I would encourage anybody who has any interest in trying something new – a new outdoor sport, or seeing a new area of the Upper Valley – to go for it. Whether or not it ends up being explicitly with the DOC, I genuinely believe everyone should try it while they’re here! It’s just plain good for the soul.

TDR: For readers who are interested by this interview, how would they get involved with the DOC and where would be the best place to start?

HVA: The best thing to do is to consult the weekly Cabin and Trail blitzes to campus that tell you what’s going on for the week. Prior to attending a meeting, I would recommend you just sign up for a trip that piques your interest and find out if you’re into it – the activity, the people, the milieu. From there, go to meetings or feeds after you establish a base of understanding and a group of people you met on your trip. And anyone, regardless of what point in their Dartmouth career they’re in, they can just come by Robinson and ask about what’s going on. We intentionally keep the barriers to entry very low.

William C. Hill also contributed to this report.