The History of Sophomore Summer

A vision of a sophomore summer past.

A vision of a sophomore summer past.

Many Dartmouth students are aware of Sophomore Summer before they even matriculate. Many can remember gazing with awe upon the heaps of Keystone cans that litter Webster Avenue during their first tour of the College. Some choose to sit in on classes — perhaps a skewed view considering the disparate size of summer courses.

When they finally matriculate, students are bombarded with tales of the summer from upperclassmen, many of whom have just settled in to their normal Dartmouth routines after a summer of decadence. When they pledge fraternities, sororities, and co-eds, the same students are inundated with legends of debauchery and fun that allegedly took place over the summer term.

While the reality of the Sophomore Summer may be a tad more mundane than they were expecting, many Dartmouth students find it to be a singular experience that helps to define their Dartmouth careers. They also find that the summer has some less-than-desirable elements. For many years now, Dartmouth students have complained about the College’s refusal to install air-conditioning in dormitories (as well as its rank hypocrisy in refrigerating Parkhurst at a frosty sixty-five degrees), the abundance of campers, the lack of dining options, and the numerous regulations (especially around bodies of water) that prevent them from enjoying their summer days to the fullest.

In following with tradition, The Dartmouth Review presents excerpts from past summer articles, chronicling the history, changes, up, and downs of sophomore summer.

The Early Years

Dartmouth first decided to offer a summer term in 1942 to “speed up their summer courses“according to the New Years Eve edition of the Lewiston Daily Sun in 1941. These were the good days when our winter interim was referred to as “Christmas break’”and political correctness wasn’t dominating the campus cultural life. The sophomore summer, however, became a Dartmouth tradition in the mid-1970s.
(Originally published 23 August 2010 by Josh Riddle and David Rufful.)

Despite what the admissions office tells prospective students, the Sophomore Summer did not become a tradition because the College wanted to help students get internships. When President John George Kemeny (born Kemény János György) made Dartmouth go coed in 1972, he compounded the housing problem that had existed for years. In order to balance the ratio of men to women at the College, he implemented the quarter system and dubbed it the “Dartmouth Plan.”

Dartmouth traditions quickly expanded to fill the vacuum. In 1986, the Review published an article chronicling what was then called the Summer Carnival:

Dartmouth’s Summer Carnival celebrates its fourteenth anniversary this weekend. By now the originally two-day event has grown into a bash that extends over four days and whose fame rivals that of its winter term sibling. Thousands of expectant visitors will grace the Hanover plain: older alumni who are curious about the term that did not exist when they were students, more recent graduates who miss the glorious, carefree days of New England river bank summers, undergraduates who are not taking classes and can’t bear a full ten weeks away from fraternity parties and Baker Tower chimes, and, of course, a lump sum of guests who are unrelated to the College but are interested in experiencing for themselves what is reputed to be “the” New Hampshire social event of the season.

Back in 1973, when students first crossed the Dartmouth Green toting suntan lotion on top of their textbooks, an official summer party weekend did not exist. The undergraduates in residence recalled the much appreciated post-mid-term exams respite and snow-inspired festivities of February’s Winter Carnival. They realized that ten weeks of “school should be out now” academia would simply not be survivable without a no-holds-barred celebration of summer. Gradually, the idea for a “Summer Weekend” took the shape of a two-day series of athletic and social events. Friday night fireworks officially opened the weekend over the course of which fraternities, dormitories, and student organizations competed in bike races, canoe races, and a Tug-O-War. Faculty and students alike enjoyed a Saturday afternoon Blue Grass concert and Fiddling contest followed by a dance at Alumni Hall. College officials expressed the hope that “the Summer Weekend will become an intrinsic part of summer term.” That hope did not take longer than one year to become a reality.

The following summer, members of the Tabard fraternity led by Morrie Wilson ‘75 formally organized a Summer Carnival Weekend. On Saturday afternoon, booths designed by administrative offices, dormitories, fraternities and student organizations covered the Green. All potential booths had to pass the “sane and sanitary” requirements of a Summer Carnival review board. Among the attractions were games of skill and chance, live horse rides, cotton candy and popcorn stands, and the overwhelmingly popular “Dunk the Dean” booth. Local area musical groups entertained on the Green while people tried their luck at Psi U’s Bull-Riding Barrel and the Green Key Society’s Trivia Booth, or got lucky at Alpha Delta’s Kissing Booth. Folk and blues singer Bonnie Raitt performed in Spaulding Auditorium, establishing the annual Summer Carnival musical concert. The film “King Kong” was shown in Webster Hall, becoming the first annual special Summer Carnival cinematic presentation, and the entire carnival grossed $700 [over $3000 in 2010 dollars].

In 1975, Summer Carnival opened on Friday afternoon with a homemade raft race down the Connecticut River. All the proceeds of Saturday afternoon’s fair were earmarked for the Upper Valley United Way and an open air dance with Brahmin, a combination rock/funk/pop band, was held at the Murdough Center. The weekend was touched by controversy, however, surrounding the John Kemeny auctioneered “Buy a Girl Sale.” Feminist protesters condemned the fundraiser, at which services such as cutting hair or preparing a meal were sold to the highest bidder.

The next year, local artisans sold their handiwork next to the gaming booths, and a Frisbee competition was added to the list of athletic events. Occum Pond became the site for the first annual foot race. Saturday night musical entertainment was provided by the Dartmouth Aires and Distractions, Dartmouth Gospel Choir, a jazz band, and Dartmouth’s Madrigal Singers.

The weekend ended with a band hosted by Zeta Psi for an outdoors Fraternity Row party. All of the proceeds of the 1977 Summer Carnival went to the Hanover Day Care Center and the Lebanon Children’s Center. For the first time, Thayer Dining Hall closed its doors on Friday night to serve meals riverside. As the handmade rafts floated down the Connecticut, wandering minstrels entertained the diners. Saturday afternoon’s carnival saw the redesignation of the dunking booth victims from deans to professors and the birth of the notorious Pie Throwing Service, which, for a price, hit unsuspecting carnival-goers with whipped cream pies. The headlining musical attraction of the weekend was a concert given by Blood, Sweat, and Tears.

The Carnival of 1978 added a triathlon of swimming, running, and canoeing sections, and the following summer a mixed doubles tennis tournament, the Karen Blank (then Dean of Freshmen) Golf Tournament, and the Three Mile Island Mini Marathon were also created. Also in 1979, a semiformal swing band dance was held at Collis during which Midnight Munchies were offered on the steps of College Hall.

The 1980 Summer Carnival was marred with criminal assault charges filed by one student against another as a result of the Pie in the Face Service. Two Fun Runs of 5 miles and 1 1/2 miles were organized, and four bands performed over the course of three days. The following year a weekend trip for two to Montreal was raffled off, and a hot air balloon ride complimented the list of attractions. McDonald’s and Burger King both supplied food for the Carnival on the Green, which boasted the new Sigma Alpha Epsilon Golf for Goldfish booth (either take your goldfish prize home or have a brother swallow it). One student filed a cruelty to fish complaint against SAE, and Review founder Keeney Jones joined President McLaughlin in the water below the dunking booth. The theme for the 1982 Summer Carnival was “Up to Par on the Green” featuring the film Caddyshack, country club croquet on Tuck Mall, and the “Zonker Harris Tanning Contest.” Theme remained important to the Carnival of 1983, which celebrated the Roaring ‘20s with a Monte Carlo Speakeasy in which gamers could play blackjack, roulette, and craps while being serenaded by a rag time pianist and a barbershop quartet. A new “Superstars” athletic competition was introduced which included an obstacle course, an inner tube roll, and an egg toss.

The two new attractions of 1984’s summer’s carnival were a 250-foot long ice cream sundae in the shape of the Olympic rings, and the dumping of tons of sand on Webster Avenue to create a 50-foot strip of “beach” for the outdoor party.

Last summer’s carnival continued the tradition of varied athletic events, gaming booths, musical guests, and outdoor entertainment of the preceding summers. The Dartmouth Summer Carnival of 1986 promises to bring more of the same revelry, rivalry, and old-fashioned summer time fun.

(Originally published in the Summer of 1986 by Teresa Polenz.)

Back in My Day….

While there are many less-than-perfect aspects of sophomore summer, students of today have it better on at least some accounts.

And although the dining hall and gym hours are typically cut short, this summer has been particularly depriving because Thayer Dining Hall is closed for renovations. It has become such a concern that signs have been placed at Thayer, the Hop, and Novack labeled “Where can I eat this summer?” In addition, campers have swarmed Dartmouth, occupying the ideal dormitories while some sophomores are forced to walk the long trip from the River Cluster. The number of courses offered has decreased while class sizes have surged. Meanwhile, the heat of summer has been so unbearable that Dartmouth announced cots would be setup in air-conditioned rooms near Novack.

(Originally published 23 August 2010 by Josh Riddle and David Rufful.)

Back in 2010, some students were bitter about “old traditions failing.” With some slight factual inaccuracies, they express themselves bellow:

Summer has changed in many ways since the early 1970s when the Dartmouth Plan (D-Plan) was instituted. For one, the Dartmouth Indian is no longer seen on neckties or uniforms. Pictures illustrating Eleazar Wheelock founding the College and teaching Dartmouth’s first Indian students have been removed. The Dartmouth songs that were once yelled to the beat of a loud drum are no longer heard because of direct and indirect references to Dartmouth’s first Indian students. As you may well know, the mascot was removed because it was thought to have offended some Indians who attended the College. But if you stand on the steps of Dartmouth Hall and look up at the top of Baker Tower, an unbeaten weather vane still stands at the top of the spire portraying Eleazar Wheelock and Big Chief Occum at the founding of Dartmouth College. This sculpture reminds students of Dartmouth’s roots as well as the administration’s failed attempt of modernizing away the great heritage of this institution.

(Originally published 23 August 2010 by Josh Riddle and David Rufful.)

The Dartmouth Indian is not the only tradition to be nixed…


The (in)famous Tubestock is now long-gone, killed not by the College administration (for once) but by the Town of Hanover.

More recently, the tradition of Tubestock was cancelled in 2006 after the Town of Hanover passed new legislation. Julia Griffin, town manager of Hanover, wrote, “Tubestock is a dangerous event, mixing large number of participants and ‘rafts’ with of age and underage alcohol consumption. It puts Dartmouth students, Dartmouth itself, the State of New Hampshire, the Town of Norwich and the Town of Hanover at substantial risk.” Tubestock was over despite the diehard attempts of student committees not to “let the old traditions fail.” To replace Tubestock, sophomore students organized Fieldstock to compete in “human-powered chariot races” across the Green. The event is held the second week of August and is quickly becoming a new tradition. This year 42 teams have entered the epic contest and have their eyes fixed on the prize of being dubbed Dartmouth’s finest. Academics will temporarily take the back seat to a determined band of competitors seeking ultimate glory.

(Originally published 23 August 2010 by Josh Riddle and David Rufful.)

[Tubestock was an event] in which students would build wooden rafts and use rubber inner tubes to float down the Connecticut River. The town of Hanover required that any event on the Connecticut River must have a permit, making it illegal for students to hang out there for a sponsored event. Creative, innovative students did not let this ruin their class bonding time, so the Class of 2008 came up with an alternative solution: Fieldstock.

Conan O’Brien put it best when he said at Commencement: “Under ‘The Conan Doctrine,’ I will re-instate Tubestock. And I will punish those who tried to replace it with Fieldstock. Rafting and beer are a much better combination than a field and a beer. I happen to know that in two years, they are going to downgrade Fieldstock to Deskstock, seven hours of fun sitting quietly at your desk. Don’t let those bastards do it.”

(Originally published 5 August 2011 by Melanie Wilcox.)

As Mr. O’Brien so eloquently suggested, water has always been a fixture of Sophomore Summer….

Down by the Old [Connecticut] River

If water has been a highlight of most students’ Sophomore Summers, than trying to prevent students from being in it has been a fixture of the Administration’s summers. The College currently forbids aqueous activities except for those that take place from a small swimming dock with a roped off swimming area on the river with limited hours and lifeguards. This was not always the case: aside from the excesses of Tubestock, Dartmouth students were formerly permitted to jump from the Ledyard Bridge and use a swimming dock in the Connecticut River at their leisure. That is, until:

Enter April Thompson. After less than two months in her new position of associate Dean of the College for Campus Life, Dean Thompson informed the campus of a decision that would change the community forever: an unidentified “we” made the choice to close the river dock and ban swimming at the College. The message, entitled “Summer Updates,” described dining options available this summer and offered Thompson’s hope that sophomores were ready to get back into summer recreation. Then, the bombshell:

“For safety reasons, the Connecticut River swim docks will be closed. A recent safety review identified a range of concerns that led us to conclude that the swimming area at the River cannot be safely maintained. The water at the swim dock is 18 feet deep and drops off rapidly to 25 feet. The depth, combined with the murky water and extremely poor visibility makes it difficult or impossible for lifeguards to see anything or anyone below the surface. In addition, the current in the River varies rapidly because of unscheduled draw-downs through the dam a couple of miles downstream and there is often submerged debris that swimmers may not be able to see prior to entering the water.”

(Originally published 5 August 2011 by David Lumbert.)

Students were outraged:

What type of perverse system were we living in where Safety and Security officers would start patrolling the once-loved waters and students would be forced to risk injury and punishment by swimming in other unknown areas? Was this the end of a tradition dating as far back as John Wheelock?

(Originally published 5 August 2011 by David Lumbert.)

In a half-hearted attempt to make up for this crime:

Many thought sophomore summer as they knew it was finished, but thankfully Dean Thompson had an alternative.

“As one alternative, students enrolled this summer will have FREE use of Storrs Pond… As many of you may know, the Storrs Pond Recreation Area, operated by the Hanover Improvement Society, is located only minutes from campus next to the College’s Oak Hill recreation area. The Area features scenic woodlands, a man-made 13-acre pond and two sandy swimming beaches, a heated swimming pool, tennis courts, a basketball court, a beach volleyball court and picnic areas. The beach at Storrs Pond is open sunrise to sunset. The pool is open daily from noon to 7 pm. Campsites are also available, and student use of Storrs Pond facilities may include use of one of the picnic pavilion areas by the pond for class events.”

Storrs Pond, famous for birthday parties until children reach ten, proved to be a difficult option for Dartmouth students looking for a place to beat the heat. The pond is 3.5 miles away from the Ledyard Canoe Club and it takes about one hour to walk there from campus. Luckily, a transportation system has been created to bring students from Collis to Storrs Pond every thirty minutes on Saturday and Sunday from 12-5. No word yet from student environmental groups on the carbon footprint these buses are leaving in the Upper Valley.

(Originally published 5 August 2011 by David Lumbert.)

The students were not to be appeased, and the fight was far from over:

Travis Blalock ‘12, a straight-talking advocate for truth, freedom, and the breaststroke, decided to take the fight to open the docks to the biggest place on Earth: Facebook. On June 26, just three days after the message from Dean Thompson, Blalock started what he describes as a “movement for social justice… a coalition for the truth.” The simple Facebook group has now attracted more than 720 current students, alumni, and random members Blalock shrewdly calls “friends of the College”. With over 30 comments as of press time, alumni and students have shared fond memories of the river docks and their disapproval at the current policy.

On June 28, Blalock sent an open letter to Dean Thompson with three requests:

“First, your e-mail noted a ‘safety review’ had been conducted that concluded that ‘the swimming area at the River cannot be safely maintained.’ We challenge you to release this review and documentation detailing its creation, along with a list of safety experts consulted, to the public so it can be scrutinized and students can become better informed of the dangers around us.

Second, we would like you or a representative of this decision to engage in a public debate at a time and location most convenient for you. There is no better way to foster discussion and learning than allowing debate on an important issue.

Finally, we ask you to allow for an independent investigation into the safety of the river, and open the docks pending the results of such study. Dartmouth researchers are among the greatest in the world and can surely come to an unbiased decision.”

Blalock received no response from Dean Thompson and according to a Facebook message sent to group members by Blalock, “Some have said the administration is afraid, others have said they know they’ll lose. But for me, it’s not about fear or victory, I just want the truth.” Thompson may not have responded, but the movement drew the attention of local media. Jim Kenyon of the Valley News wrote an article on July 11 entitled “Dry Docks”, in which he highlighted the absurdity of the new policy and suggested the administration’s next step may be to force students to wear helmets while walking across the green in fears of a meteor shower. Likewise, The Daily Dartmouth has quoted Blalock, DarTV interviewed him for a featured story, and Dartblog highlighted his “Kennedyesque rhetorical brio.”

As the battle for the River unfolded, tactics intensified.

Blalock saw an opportunity when, on July 9, President Kim announced to campus that “we are launching a major initiative for a Presidential Lecture Series to take place each summer” and that Michael Bloomberg, New York City mayor, would deliver the inaugural address. Additionally, free Boloco vouchers would be offered to make the afternoon spicier. Save the River Dock founder Blalock would soon give the administration another reason to soil their pants. Following in the footsteps of many Dartmouth students before him, Blalock organized “A Peaceful Assembly to Save the River” and wrote that the protest would “coincide with the start of the ‘Presidential Lecture Series.’ We will not allow this administration to stonewall us anymore.” Blalock told The Review that several members of the coalition were eager to participate in this movement and he had heard from alumni who were planning to drive to campus from all over the region to join the protest. What happened next is a political maneuver of the sort more associated with Chicago than with Hanover.

A member of the class council, who Blalock declined to name in fears that “he was a pawn sent to do a king’s job,” contacted him and encouraged him to cancel the assembly. This assembly would both embarrass the College and force them to respond to the student body on how this decision was made. The member described the creation of a task force to study swimming options and the possibility of opening the docks in the future. He told Blalock the administration wanted him to join the task force and holding the assembly would only hurt their chances of working together. In an act of good faith, Blalock cancelled the protest and sent a message to his Facebook group entitled “Victory Is Near.” In his speech, Mayor Bloomberg poked fun at the current situation shortly after boasting the first movie he downloaded on his iPad was Animal House.

“Now, I do realize that Bluto didn’t really go to Dartmouth, but knowing that I was coming to the campus that inspired one of my all-time favorite movies really was pretty exciting. And of course I look forward to eating a meal at Homeplate and taking a dip in the Connecticut River but it looks like those two options are out. Sorry about that. College today is very different than when I went to college.”

In an effort to make a serious situation into a further joke, President Kim summarized Bloomberg’s points by saying, “So in closing, Mayor Bloomberg, you’ve told our students that they should party a lot, [and] swim in the Connecticut…” At least someone saw the absurdity of the situation, but how could the College justify an unsubstantiated decision that strips an age-old Dartmouth tradition from $50,000/year paying students? Create a task force!

(Originally published 5 August 2011 by David Lumbert.)

Then, in the time-honored Dartmouth tradition of solving problems created by the bureaucracy by creating more bureaucracy, the administration did just that.

This was a job for Acting Dean of the College, Dr. Sylvia Spears PhD. Shortly after Mayor Bloomberg’s lecture, Dean Spears sent a message to the student body to update them on swimming options, also signed by the Student Assembly president, the 2012 class council president and the vice president, and Dean Thompson. Spears wrote:

“As you may already be aware, students and the Administration have been working together to develop and review proposals for the safe use of the waterfront. The Administration has reviewed the recommendations received to date and has concluded that we do not have viable alternatives that can be implemented this summer…

None of us are happy with the current situation. We are committed to working together to find a safe and fun alternative for the summer. We will be working with Student Assembly to form a Task Force to explore longer term options for use of the College controlled areas of the waterfront. It will be very important that the Task Force members represent the breadth of the student community. In addition, College staff and faculty with particular areas of expertise will be asked to assist…”

Apparently victory could not be farther away and one week after the decision was made public, Blalock has still not been contacted about a spot on the task force. One may think that bottlenecking the movement for over a month would put it to rest and the Dartmouth community would move on with acceptance, like so many other modifications of the once-great Dartmouth experience. This won’t stand for some professors who refuse to accept theory and have instead opted for something this administration fears: the facts.

(Originally published 5 August 2011 by David Lumbert.)

While efforts that tragic summer proved unsuccessful, Dartmouth eventually agreed upon the current unfortunate situation, in which students’ tuition dollars would go towards the salaries of numerous lifeguards with slim hours. This proved that a focus group and some else’s money will fix any College problem.

Reverend Koop Remembers Dartmouth Summers

Reverend Norman Koop, the pastor of the non-denominational First Congregational Church of Woodstock, Vermont, belongs to a family that bleeds Dartmouth Green and selflessly fulfills their calling to mentor young men and women on this campus. His brother, Professor Allen Koop, is a loved history prof, and his father, Dr. Charles Everett Koop, graduated from Dartmouth in 1937 and went on to become the thirteenth Surgeon General of the United States under President Ronald Reagan. This family has been experiencing Dartmouth summers since before World War II. Pastor Norman holds weekly Bible studies with Dartmouth students and members of the Dartmouth community during non-summer terms, and during the summer, he graciously invites all of the students on campus over to his lake house providing one of the most sun and fun filled days of the term. The relationships he develops during the year allow him to share his blessings with any Dartmouth sophomore interested. He was nice enough to talk with me and share some of knowledge about the summers. Pastor Norman acknowledged that his favorite part of the summer is being able to open up his home on “lake day”. He expressed how students in the past have shared with him that the summer term is their most intimate time in nurturing their relationship with Jesus Christ. Perhaps it has to do with the smaller crowds, or maybe it is the sense of wonderment that comes from taking in the natural beauty of Hanover during the summer term. Whatever the case may be, Dartmouth students use the summer months to grow in their beliefs in a way that other terms have failed to meet.

(Originally published 23 August 2010 by Josh Riddle and David Rufful.)

With all of its changes, trials, and tribulations, Sophomore Summer at Dartmouth College has proved to be instrumental in the academic and personal development of students.