Thoughts in Autumn

Once again I quote the great T.S. Eliot, this time from a different part of his “Four Quartets,” entitled “East Coker:”

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.

It is a difficult feeling to comprehend that I have reached my fourth and final year at the College on the Hill. After three long years of spectacular landscapes, lifelong relationship-building, intellectual inquiry, intriguing academic endeavors, and worldwide travels, that final raging bonfire looms on the horizon, illuminating the night sky with its ethereal orange glow. It becomes quite clear: the bonfire is one of the College’s oldest and most treasured rituals.

Homecoming is a time of reminiscence and memory, remembrance and reflection. For what other reason would hundreds, perhaps thousands of alumni return every year? Each pilgrim takes their moment to gaze into the fire and reflect on their four years. Each vision is unique – indeed, “The Dartmouth Experience” is a beautiful and diverse thing. I think about how mine was more unique than others – most people do not get their Sophomore Summer waived or spend the better part of a year in Germany. But therein lies the beauty of the College’s biggest marketing point: it is a unique, tailor-made experience crafted not by the College, but by the individual. Dartmouth’s biggest strength is its unrivaled focus on undergraduate teaching. Its second biggest strength is the freedom and control it grants its students. Freedom of class choice, with distributive requirements only for the purposes of widening students’ experiences. A tremendous breadth of extracurricular programs, offering students any conceivable activity to get involved in during their time on campus. Opportunities to study abroad, in lands far and wide, gaining access to cultures and perspectives vastly different than in the Upper Valley.

These freedoms and opportunities are what make Dartmouth great. And yet, with each passing day, these freedoms and opportunities are infringed upon. My peers and I often find ourselves wondering how much better our Dartmouth Experience could have been if not for the administration’s constant meddling. To appropriate the Left’s favorite academic term, the intersectionality of the administration’s failings is truly a marvel – and also fits with common idiomatic claims. There truly are too many cooks in the kitchen; it would be harder to find an institute of higher learning more crippled by administrative bloat. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; the house system, hard alcohol ban, and derecognition of Greek houses are not popular initiatives among the student body. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch; unless, of course, one is willing to bulldoze College Park, tear up the golf course, and perhaps even annex parts of nearby Vermont in order to facilitate a student body increase, regardless of the fact that there has been a housing shortage for years. These things may seem like common sense; however, the failings of this administration has officially passed the realm of surprise.

It is no secret that we at The Review love nothing more than critiquing – with a well-intentioned heart – the ill-advised actions of failed administrations. We do this, however, because the College is a place we care deeply about; we have seen what she was, and also see how she is, and do not want her spoiled for generations of students to come. For these reasons we come across as overly negative, crying out about issues quite similar to our colleagues on the Left that we so often decry. The difference between us lies in our intention: we want nothing more than the best for this institution, and it causes us pain to see it fall into such disrepair.

Ultimately, however, regret is not a good feeling to hold onto. Rather, it does more to dwell on the positives of one’s time at the College. I can speak to many, as can the overwhelming majority of students who pass through these halls. This year, I along with a thousand other seniors will gaze into the raging inferno and reflect. I will think about what could have been, yes, but I will also express thanks for how things are. Even at its downright obnoxious price tag, the College is still a positive investment. I am a different – a better – person because of my time as a Dartmouth student. And it is my sincere hope that all who spend their best four years here feel the same way.