The Beginning of the End

The legendary T. S. Eliot wrote in his 1942 poem “Little Gidding:”

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

The Famed Poet Thomas Stearns Eliot

The Famed Poet Thomas Stearns Eliot

Another school year has come and past. For many of the students amongst us, it is their final school year, an exhausting end to a storied journey. It is certainly a bittersweet time; many think back on the fond memories of their past four years, while looking forward to the opportunities the future might hold. Increasingly, however, it appears as though this time has become all the more sweet, and significantly less bitter. With each passing day and every new scandal, it appears more and more evident that Dartmouth College is a failing institution.

The first metric – and perhaps also the most tangible – is the College’s numerical ranking as provided by U.S. News and World Report, the leading college ranking aggregate in America. While we at The Review have previously called into question the legitimacy and merit of such rankings, ultimately, it is still a valuable and oft-utilized metric for many.  Dartmouth currently sits at number 11 on the list; though this year’s rank is a slight improvement over last year’s number 12, it still represents a stark difference from our historical ranking, which was at number 7 as recently as 1998. The College held steady at number 9 throughout most of the 2000s, before dropping significantly in more recent years; it would be prudent to assume that the recent stream of scandalous events, such as the Andrew Lohse debacle, and damaging press, such as that coming as a result of the infamous Black Lives Matter library protests, has played a role in this sharp decline.

The second aspect of this sorry state of affairs has to do with the general sentiment of the student body. As this is the population most directly affected by the misdeeds of the administration, it would make sense that the College would act in a way that would cater to its most important constituents. Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth. Student satisfaction with the administration is indeed at a critically low level. Perhaps the most accurate metric for measuring this decline comes in the form of the Class of 2016’s Senior Survey, the results of which came out last June. According to analysis of the results by The Dartmouth, over 77% of respondents claimed “an unfavorable view of the administration,” with over 60% expressing “an unfavorable view of College President Phil Hanlon,” and roughly 55% expressing an unfavorable view of changes in Greek life. The metrics also paint a picture of a dangerously divided student body: about 35% of students hold a favorable view of Black Lives Matter on campus, with just over 40% holding an unfavorable view. A similar number express discontent with the new housing system, which continues to be a failure of epic proportions in terms of winning students’ loyalty over the Greek system. The statistics speak for themselves: this campus is in the midst of damaging turmoil, with no clear end in sight.

Finally, I will turn to an issue that is most timely: participation in the Senior Gift. Traditionally seen as a metric of good will toward the future of the College, the Senior Gift has, seen a drastic drop in contributions in recent years. In 2010, contribution was essentially 100%. That figure fell to just over 60% in 2014. In 2016, only around 30% of seniors contributed, a number so dismally low that the College did not even announce it. It seems that students simply no longer hold the same love for this hallowed institution, to the point that the stage is already being set for future failure. A petition and letter released by student leadership around the time of the Senior Gift campaign likely played a role in this decline, as it urged “the Board of Trustees, along with President Hanlon and the rest of the Dartmouth administration, to depart from the realm of student life and instead expend every possible effort to eliminate unnecessary costs so that the school can refocus on the elements that once made Dartmouth a truly unique College: a passionate intellectual community mixed with an environment in which students acquire the experience necessary to thrive in the real world.” As the same time of the year once again rolls around, these words of advice – indeed, of warning – ought to grace the ears of students once again.

Ultimately, it is not the beginning of the end; the end has already begun, and has indeed hit its full stride. Dartmouth is, regrettably, a failing institution. It is unclear what the future may hold, especially on this clear downward trajectory. We at The Review certainly wish this institution all the best; indeed, our highest order is to seek the improvement of Dartmouth College, striving for its persistence as an institution of the highest quality. It is time to take Eliot’s words true to heart: The end is where we start from. Let this be a call to arms to all who truly care about the College on the Hill. With each passing year, the College reaches a new low point; it is up to us to continue fighting the good fight, and do our very best to make sure that this place remains the small college that we dearly love.