Welcome to Dartmouth

Welcome to Dartmouth!

Welcome to Dartmouth!

Dear members of the Class of 2018, welcome to Dartmouth! Although you are new to campus, you have undoubtedly arrived with a number of preconceptions — maybe even anxieties — about the experiences that lie ahead. Based on all of the headlines and news bulletins coming out of Hanover these days, it may seem like the college you have just joined is not only among the best at educating undergraduates, but also among the best at attracting attention for all of the wrong reasons.

As a new student, it is difficult not to find all of the negativity surrounding your alma mater infectious. Constant haranguing in the national media has a way of breeding cynicism around the Green and making you see the bad without pausing to appreciate the good. This is unfortunate, because by any objective measure there is still much good at the College to celebrate.

For starters, Dartmouth offers a superlative education that is unsurpassed by any of its peers. Its distinction as one of the U.S. News and World Report’s best schools for undergraduate teaching is an obvious testament to that, as is the quality of the professors it continues to draw to Hanover. Scholars like David Blanchflower, Doug Irwin, and Dirk Vandewalle have done the school proud on the national stage, only to return to campus each year and teach everything from freshmen lectures to senior seminars. With faculty like this, a quality education is an easy thing to get during your time here, especially if you know where to look (see pages 10, 11, and 12 for The Dartmouth Review’s advice).

Then, there is the matter of athletics. This spring, Abbey D’Agostino ’14 graduated as one of the most decorated athletes in the NCAA’s history, racking up seven national titles in women’s distance events during her four years here. The equestrian team also had a remarkable run, winning its fourth Ivy League crown with a victory at the Cornell Invitational event in April. And after a disappointing season last year, the men’s soccer team seems to be on the upswing, notching its first victory of the year against a strong Hofstra squad on Sunday. These recent successes suggest that the future of Dartmouth athletics remains quite bright.

There is also reason to be optimistic about the level of ongoing alumni support and the solidarity of the community at large. The College has long been known for the camaraderie of its students and the dedication of its graduates, and this quality has survived even the heady days of last spring’s protests. Financial donations like the recent gift of $100 million are but the most obvious example of the faith that most have in Dartmouth’s ability to succeed; far less obvious are the efforts of many to support the College with their attention to causes like Dartmouth Change and the Career Advising Network. Such wide-ranging involvement from students past and present will help Dartmouth withstand the controversies of today and chart the best possible path forward.

As you begin your time as students here, however, it is important to remember that all of these positives – the education, the athletics, and student engagement – don’t mean very much unless they can be harnessed to maintain the Dartmouth experience as the extraordinary thing that it is. Recently, it seems that good stewardship is something that the campus is sorely in need of. Following President Kim’s abrupt departure in 2012, Dartmouth has endured a long-term leadership void that prevented a thoughtful response to the problems at hand. Instead, the administration’s proclivities for committee formation and handwringing made it a veritable simulacrum of activity, and created a culture of damage control rather than of excellence.

These failings, more so than any other, ultimately produced some of Dartmouth’s worst self-inflicted wounds, and gave rise to the culture of extremism from which last spring’s protests emerged. Ironically, even though the hostility of the protestors was the result of Parkhurst’s dysfunction, their vitriol only furthered paralyzing divisions on campus and crowded out more reasonable voices from the student discussion. In the aftermath, honest and open conversation has become difficult, as the angry agendas of the few continue to shout down the reasonable suggestions of the many.

It is onto this campus and into the midst of this dysfunction that the Class of 2018 has stepped. In the weeks and months ahead, you will be asked to contribute new ideas to a conversation about how to move Dartmouth forward. It is important to keep the lessons of the last few months in mind and approach this project with the civility and sincerity expected of your circumstances. Keep calm, carry-on, and above all else keep Dartmouth’s many positives in mind. It is, in fact, a small College, and now more than ever, it needs those who love it.