Petition Against Destruction of College Park

Dartmouth College, with a campus known for its magnificent and historic natural features, has often been referred to as one of the best rural campuses in the United States. The hollowed grounds of College Park are arguably one of the most unique features the campus has to offer, including several monuments and historic spots such as the Lone Pine, Bartlett Tower, and the statue honoring one of Dartmouth’s most beloved alumni, Robert Frost. Many students at the college utilize College Park as a natural oasis, taking in the natural peacefulness that the land has to offer amidst the head-spinning hustle and bustle that Dartmouth students encounter on a daily basis. With the perfect view overlooking the campus, along with the magnificent sunsets and starry nights that can be observed on a clear evening, one would be hard-pressed to not to notice how calming a walk in the park can be.

Beyond College Park’s natural beauty, it is also home to the Shattuck Observatory, which is actually the oldest scientific building on campus. The observatory, which has been a vital part of the science department at Dartmouth for over a century, should be celebrated and protected. However, plans to expand the student body along with a seemingly never-ending housing crisis have put both College Park and the Shattuck Observatory in the crossfire of the Hanlon Administration’s fight to increase the size of the college.

Plans to build a large dorm in College Park have been met by strong resistance from the Dartmouth community. A petition against the proposed construction in College Park has circulated with over 1,800 signatures from members of the Dartmouth community. Many signatories included passionate statements in defense of both College Park and the observatory. Though there have been very few alternative options to solving the housing crisis that have made headway with the administration, it is hard to ignore some of the petition’s arguments.

The petition points out that College Park is the only “dark sky” spot near central campus which is suitable for observational astronomy. “A new residence hall of the size being considered would inevitably result in a significant increase in outdoor lighting,” the petition explains. “The Shattuck telescope and two smaller telescopes in neighboring observatory buildings in College Park have served introductory undergraduate astronomy courses taken by many students over the years, as well as popular weekly public observing sessions that are run by students.” The destruction of this fantastic observation area with light pollution would be shameful at best.

The astronomical downsides to construction in College Park are clearly of great concern to a large part of the Dartmouth community. Hopefully the administration and board of trustees considers the effect that this decision will have on the Dartmouth astronomy department, as well as the community as a whole.