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Phil: Ho Hum and Some Progress

Hanlon5.jpgIf you were quivering in anticipation before Phil’s big faculty meeting devoted to social life at the College, well, quiver no more. As we’ve observed before, Phil’s modus operandi seems to be to softly introduce new policies well prior to any official announcement. In this case, last Thursday’s release of the Committee on Student Safety and Accountability report told you all that you would learn at Monday’s faculty meeting. The D reported on it here.

The significant missing piece at the faculty meeting was some comment on the ongoing “find any pretext” enforcement program against certain frats. Using slight excuses, the College has effectively shut down Beta and TDX for offences that would have not made anyone blink last year. A boxing club? Water in the basement? Loud music out the windows? And so on. Phil had nothing to say on Monday about Kate Burke’s harm offensive.

Otherwise, with one wonderful exception, we heard at some length about policies that have been discussed many times before about ways to protect vulnerable students and offer social alternatives to the frats: bystander intervention, survivor counseling, Collis After Dark, the “arts district,” the entrepreneurship center, affinity houses, the Intergroup Dialogue Method (a sort of encounter group for students), and the BASICS alcohol management program. Not much new there.

However, to the delight of many Dartblog readers, Phil did come out strongly in support of dorm continuity:

The fundamental challenge to building community in our residence halls is continuity. Students do not have the option to return to their current residence halls after a leave term. Why can’t they? The reason we can’t offer that right now is that there is no slack in our housing during the fall and spring terms. Without that slack in housing, we can’t assure that there is room in individual residence halls to accommodate everyone who might want the right to return. I’m persuaded that Dartmouth would benefit from a more balanced enrollment over the four terms, so that we can, amongst other things, allow students greater opportunity to remain in a particular residence hall from term to term, to build identity with a residence hall and a circle of friends in a community.

Decisions have yet to be made regarding the composition of dorms: mixed class, as in my day, or freshmen-only dorms and upperclass dorms. As regards balancing/reducing the number of students on campus during fall and spring terms, no specific strategies were proposed. In the past, I have suggested moving fraternity rush to winter term (as was the case for many years) and increasing off-campus programs so that all students have a foreign experience.

Phil did mention increasing the number of students on campus for the summer term, and even revamping the summer program itself. He described the term as an “underutilized opportunity” — as Jim Wright, Jim Kim and Carol Folt have also done in past years.

In addition, Phil recommended that professors get involved in social issues:

Charlotte’s team is working to develop training for faculty and staff on how to be a first responder to a sexual assault, in other words, how to advise a student, a survivor, how to direct them, when you are the first person that they confide in. So consider volunteering for that training. Become more involved in student organizations, particularly those that provide experiential learning for students in an area of your scholarly interest and expertise. Help develop programming for the new theme-based residence halls as we begin to put those on line. And help us with the instructional implications of bringing greater balance to enrollments, including rethinking the time that you are offering courses. You can help with that.

There was substantial, if polite, pushback to this idea among faculty members at the meeting. One questioner opined, “Faculty at Harvard are not being asked to take courses about motivational interviewing.” Phil will have a tough row to hoe in eliciting much involvement in this area, especially after he urged the faculty only two weeks ago to up their research efforts in cooperation with his Society of Fellows postdoctoral program.

All in all, many of these ideas have been around the track more than once. Phil Hanlon has taken a scattershot approach to the College’s socials woes. Will he have the resolve to bring any of these proposals home?

Addendum: For readers who have been around Hanover for a while, Phil’s remarks might lead them to recall these words:

We identified five principles that should characterize the out-of-classroom experience for our students. These included offering greater choice and continuity in residential living, as well as improved residential space; providing additional and improved social space controlled by students; creating a substantially coeducational and inclusive system; reducing the number of students living off campus; and reducing the abuse and unsafe use of alcohol.

or these:

The committee recommends a further change that may minimize the extent of the building program required to achieve continuity and the amount of time needed to carry it out. This would involve the College developing programs to attract more enrollment to winter and summer terms, and shift some enrollment away from fall term.

Stumped? Jim Wright’s Student Life Initiative of 1999.

Addendum: The Valley News and The D have reported on Phil’s remarks to the faculty.

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