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“We Will Move Dartmouth Forward”

So what is Phil up to? At this point, having listened to the various Improve Dartmouth sessions, it’s pretty clear that these exercises are no more than eyewash. Wednesday night’s meeting in 105 Dartmouth was just more of the same: infogathering-crowdsourcing-brainstorming about issues, even though the College’s upcoming policies have long since been devised. However, for PR reasons, students and everyone else are invited to voice their opinions. Then, later, when the official announcement comes down from on high, an obligatory bow to consultation can be made.

What will the College’s new social life policies be? Phil seemed to go out of his way in his opening remarks at the grandiloquently named Summit on Extreme Behavior to sound tough — as quoted in the Washington Post:

…Dartmouth’s promise is being hijacked by extreme behavior, masked by its perpetrators as acceptable fun.

The list of offenses is familiar. From sexual assaults on campus…to a culture where dangerous drinking has become the rule and not the exception…to a general disregard for human dignity as exemplified by hazing, parties with racist and sexist undertones, disgusting and sometimes threatening insults hurled on the internet…to a social scene that is too often at odds with the practices of inclusion that students are right to expect on a college campus in 2014.

The actions I have detailed are antithetical to everything that we stand for and hope for our students to be. There is a grave disconnect between our culture in the classroom and the behaviors outside of it—behaviors which too often seek not to elevate the human spirit, but debase it.

IT IS TIME FOR DARTMOUTH TO CHANGE. And as your President, I will lead that change…

Phil even admitted that the 14% drop in applications was tied to the various campus scandals of the past few years:

On campus, extreme behaviors are harming too many Dartmouth students, dividing our community and distracting us from our important work of teaching and learning and advancing the frontiers of knowledge.

And they are doing serious damage to Dartmouth’s reputation:

In the last year, applications have declined by 14%.

A Title IX investigation is under way.

External scrutiny of our campus life has never been higher. [Emphasis added]

He concluded:

We can no longer allow this College to be held back by the few who wrongly hide harmful behaviors behind the illusion of youthful exuberance. Routinized excessive drinking, sexual misconduct, and blatant disregard of social norms have no place at Dartmouth. Enough is enough.

I am calling on us to create fundamental change in every place on campus where social activities take place—residence halls, Greek Houses, Affinity Houses, Senior Societies, [“sports teams” were also added in Phil’s spoken remarks], and other campus organizations.
[Emphasis added]

Hmm. As background to these remarks, recall that every administration for the past 40 years has called for students to clean things up. Jim Wright put hundreds of students on campus discipline each year for underage drinking, before giving up on that effort. The Hanover Police used to arrest more Dartmouth students in a single year than all the other Ivies combined, to no effect.

So what’s next? Hire a hundred more S&S officers to make sure that nobody drinks too much, everyone gives consent, and we are all fully inclusive?

Or maybe, just maybe, the Trustees and Phil are going to take a serious run at the Greek system — that awful, awful group of fraternity and sororities in which 67% of eligible students are members, a figure which has increased in absolute terms by 27% over the last decade.

Recall that in 2000, when Jim Wright announced the end of the Greek system “as we know it,” there was a huge demonstration in front of his mansion on Webster Avenue, and Winter Carnival was cancelled by the Interfraternity Council.

Dartmouth could be in the newspapers for another long while.

Addendum: Phil also released a brief video statement about his concerns:

Addendum: I listened in to one small group at the Summit as participants described the animal and color that best represented them; then everyone offered ideas (“the crazier the better!”) in an oh-so-non-judgmental way. It’s safe to say that no breakthroughs were made.


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