Palaeopitus Weighs In

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As frustration with the Steering Committee’s opacity grows, more and more student groups have come out in support of greater transparency and student involvement on campus.

Early this week, the senior society Palaeopitus published an open letter to the Presidential Steering Committee encouraging it to “engage more meaningfully with the student body” and be “substantially more transparent in the recommendation development process.” The entirety of the letter has been reproduced below with the permission of its authors. As constructive criticism like this becomes all the more commonplace on campus, it remains to be seen how the College will respond to popular calls for greater access and undergraduate input as it forges ahead with its plans to develop a new social environment in Hanover.

To the Moving Dartmouth Forward Steering Committee and the Dartmouth Community:

The Palaeopitus Senior Society*, along with student leaders across campus, would like to highlight areas of meaningful reform that the student body has raised regarding the Steering Committee process. We would first like to thank the Steering Committee for championing the Moving Dartmouth Forward (MDF) initiative. The Steering Committee has put an immense amount of time and effort into conducting research and collecting feedback from students in order to address the issues of binge drinking, exclusivity, and sexual violence on Dartmouth’s campus, and we appreciate this data-driven approach to problem solving. However, we believe there are two areas where the Steering Committee can engage more meaningfully with the student body, which will ultimately result in a set of recommendations tailored to the specific challenges faced by the Dartmouth community. First, the Steering Committee should be substantially more transparent in the recommendation development process.

1. In discussions with students across Dartmouth, representatives from the Steering Committee have only shared a small subset of their research. Publicly releasing the comprehensive dataset collected on Dartmouth and other peer institutions will enable more productive student dialogue with the Committee.
2. While MDF’s website makes the process more transparent, information about the feedback shared from student groups is limited and outdated. Keeping this information updated and readily accessible would only improve the website as a resource for students.
3. The Committee’s timeline has repeatedly changed with little notice to the students. In the future, the Committee should publicize a clear timeline and notify the student body directly when it is altered so feedback can be contributed in a timely manner.
4. The lack of transparency in the selection process of the four student representatives created distrust of how the student body’s voice is being directly represented to the Steering Committee. The Committee can mitigate this problem by engaging more substantially with students as recommendations are formulated.
5. Finally, the Board of Trustees and the faculty have received detailed updates on the Committee’s findings. The Committee should release the contents of these presentations to the student body in order to facilitate a more open relationship.

Second, we believe the student body should be provided an opportunity to engage with preliminary recommendations and provide constructive feedback prior to their implementation.

1. This is common practice outside of Dartmouth: regulations in federal and state governments require a lengthy comment period to allow stakeholders the opportunity to voice their opinions.
2. There exist structural and cultural challenges unique to Dartmouth, making it difficult to simply import successful practices from peer institutions. The student body best understands the lived experiences of students at Dartmouth, and is well equipped to provide cogent feedback on the potential success or failure of proposed recommendations. Releasing preliminary recommendations to students, and giving students the opportunity to provide feedback, would ensure that the final recommendations are tailored to successful implementation.
3. A top-down implementation of recommendations without increased student engagement will create a more distrustful campus climate, ultimately undermining what we hope to be a seamless implementation process. By releasing preliminary recommendations, the Steering Committee can build trust and credibility within the student body and increase its likelihood for success.

We understand that in the past, the Steering Committee has tried to meet with students and has not always received strong responses. However, we believe that this is a direct result of the lack of transparency of the process. We have asked leaders from across campus to sign on to this letter to illustrate the range of student communities that have felt that the process has not incorporated or represented their perspectives or opinions. We urge the Steering Committee and the Administration to consider our suggestions as they move forward with the final steps of this process.

Sincerely,
The 2015 Palaeopitus Delegation
Dario Aharpour • Murylo Batista • Janelle Bullock • Casey Dennis • Lindsay Ellis • Rachel Funk • Ashneil Jain • Jamie Mercado • Chase Mertz • Lily Michelson • Sam Parker • Matt Ross • Shoshana Silverstein • Noah Smith • Rianna Starheim • Monica Stretten • Aylin Woodward • Ian Woon • Carla Yoon • Valerie Zhao

The following is a list of student leaders in support of this letter:
Abby Fucigna, Captain of Women’s Alpine Ski Team
Aditi Kirtikar, President of Alpha Xi Delta Sorority
Adria Brown, CoPresident of Native Americans at Dartmouth (NAD) and President of the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations (NALFO)
Alexa Dixon, Captain of Varsity Equestrian Team
Allison Brouckman and Diana Wise, CoCaptains of Women’s Rugby
Anabelle Ferguson, Manager of the Jonathan Belden Daniels Climbing Gym
Andrew Li, Editor in Chief of the Dartmouth Law Journal
Anka Tezcan, President of TriKappa Fraternity
Annie Gardner, President of Sigma Delta Sorority and CoCaptain of Women’s Crew
Aylin Woodward, President of Phi Tau coeducational fraternity
Bay ByrneSim, President of Kappa Delta Sorority
Bazille OwenReese, President of Alpha Pi Omega Sorority, Inc.
Bennie Niles, President of the AfroAmerican Society
Camila Vigdor, President of Delta Delta Delta Sorority
Carly Carlin, CoDirector of Fusion Dance Ensemble
Chiara Santiago, President of Panarchy
Connie Gong, President of Tabard
Courtney Wong, President of Alpha Phi Sorority
Cristy Altamirano, President of Alpha Theta
Delia O’Shea, CoDirector of First Year Peer Mentors
Elana Folbe, President of Dartmouth College Hillel
Eli Derrow, President of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity and Chair of the Undergraduate Finance Committee
Emily Reeves, President of Epsilon Kappa Theta Sorority
Emily Uniman, President of Kappa Delta Epsilon Sorority
Emma Orme, Glee Club President and Director of the Dartmouth Rockapellas
Gabrielius Maldunas, Cocaptain of Men’s Basketball
Hersh Trivedi, Director of Ujima Dance Troupe
Hunter Black, CoCaptain of Men’s Alpine Ski Team
Hunter van Adelsberg, Dartmouth Outing Club President
Inviolata Chami, President of Dartmouth African Student Association
Joshua Rivers, President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated
Julia Kannam, President of Students Fighting Hunger
Kelsey Stimson, President of LinkUp
Kendall Kraus, Cocaptain of Women’s Soccer
Kevin Francfort, President of Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering
Kevin Gillespie, President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Kishan Ughreja, CoPresident of Milan and CoCoordinator of Nathan Smith Society
Konrad von Moltke, Cocaptain of Men’s Swimming and Diving
Margo Cox, CoCaptain of Women’s Crew
Mary Peng, CoPresident of The Dandelion Project
Max Gottschall, Director of the Dartmouth Aires
Meredith Shaw, President of the Dartmouth Rockapellas
Myrel Iturrey, President of Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority
Natasha Maldi, Director of Dartmouth on Purpose
Nicole Castillo, Member of the Latin@ Community
Noah Cramer, President of Gender Inclusive Greek Council
Noah Reichblum, President of Alpha Chi Alpha Fraternity
Perla Sibaja, Member of the Latin@ Community
Robert Osgood, CoCaptain of Men’s Lacrosse Team
Sheya Jabouin, Director of SHEBA Dance Troupe
Siobhan Hengemuhle, Cocaptain of Women’s Swimming and Diving
Steve Dazzo, CoCaptain of Football
Steven Chen, Editor in Chief of The Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science
Taylor Cathcart, President of Phi Delta Alpha Fraternity
Wilson Chockley, IFC President
Zachary Queen, President of Chi Gamma Epsilon Fraternity