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More Students, But Better Managed

The Kim Administration is talking about adding another 50 students/class to generate more income: 200 new students in all. That’s just a 5% increase in the student body, so it would not be a radical change, and the extra students would bring in $7,500,000 or so extra annual income once they have matriculated through four classes. However, that many new kids could have an impact on housing - unless the administration manages things better.

The last time that the College added a significant number of students was in 1972, when the “3,000 Men of Dartmouth” were supplemented by the arrival of about 1,000 women. The student body has remained between 4,000-4,200 since then.

The early 70’s were lean times: the endowment was not throwing off any significant returns (the Dow was essentially flat between 1966 and 1982) and there was no money for new dorms. So the Kemeny administration came up with the D Plan (“a way to put 4,000 students into 3,000 beds” as the witticism went) to spread the College’s 4,000+ students evenly across the traditional academic year.

This strategy worked well. There was no housing shortage when I was a student, for the simple reasons that there were only 3,200-3,300 students actually on campus in the fall and spring terms, and fewer in the winter - the charms of Winter Carnival notwithstanding. (These statistics were given to me several years ago by then-Provost Barry Scherr.) And recall that this was before the construction of the East Wheelock Cluster, the Fahey dormitory on Tuck Mall, and the Maynard Street dorms.

Two features of the D Plan, a summer quarter for sophomores and a nation-leading range of off-campus programs, are still with us; however, a third, lesser noted aspect of the D Plan - but a vital one - went by the boards sometime in the 1990’s, I think. That fearture was winter-term fraternity/sorority rush, which was moved to the fall term. Since that change, the careful population balance between the terms has been lost: according to the Dartmouth Fact Book, a record-breaking 3,955 students were on campus in fall 2009, the highest number I have ever seen. Why wouldn’t they be: with over 65% of upperclassmen now in fraternities and sororities, Greeks want to be around to choose their future brothers and sisters.

If the Kim Administration does not want to move rush back to sophomore winter (or freshman winter?), it might think of making other student management decisions to balance the number of students on campus during the various terms. For example, schedule all LSA and FSP programs in the fall and spring terms. Or simply obligate all students to do one fall and/or one spring term off-campus (with exceptions for athletes, etc.).

Hey, if we could get the number of students in Hanover back down to 3,300-3,400 in each term, even with 200 new students we could probably close the River Cluster and re-build the Choates into livable dorms.

Note: This issue of oversubscription of classes still needs to be addressed. Two hundred additional students will put even more pressure on the most popular departments — like Economics and Government. The Kim Administration will have to actively reallocate professors from other departments and programs that students no longer favor.

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