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Housing: How About Some Data?

Mike Wooten.jpgWhere is the data in the discussion on reforming Dartmouth’s housing policy? Has anyone canvassed alumni from different eras and asked them how and where they made their best friends at the College? In fact, have any anthropological or sociological tools been brought to bear in this discussion? Jim Kim used to talk about his “ethnography” of the College, but I fear that this was no more than another empty, but impressive-sounding, term from our ex-leader. Similarly, Director of Residential Education Mike Wooten (right) regularly throws up a storm of jargon, but I have yet to hear a single statistic from him. Memo to Mike: properly sourced numerical data contains more information than buzzwords.

Dartmouth’s housing policy can be divided into three eras since the advent of coeducation:

a) 1972 to the mid-1980’s, when students had the option of remaining for four years in a dorm and all classes were mixed in each residence hall;

b) Mid-1980’s to mid-1990’s, when students were shunted around campus each time they returned to Hanover, but all classes were mixed together;

c) Mid-1990’s until today, when freshmen were segregated in their own dorms, and upperclass students moved from dorm to dorm.

How about a survey of alumni from all three periods? They can then share with us their perception of the quality of their residential experience at Dartmouth, and from their responses we can pick and choose policies based on real information.

My correspondent today was in no doubt about the importance of his dorm life in the late 1980’s, even though he was a member of a fraternity. And my own experience in the 1970’s — in a dorm that was almost like a private club — was the highlight of the social side of my time in Hanover. Will anyone from the last twenty years speak highly of dorm life among Dartmouth students? Shouldn’t we find out the answers to these questions in a manner that befits a College where first-class research is conducted?

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