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What Were They Thinking?

The below comment by Lucy Li ‘19 in The D leaves alumni from older classes wondering what the heck is going on:

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Up until the 1990’s, as they were in my day, the dorms were populated by all four classes. Yale and Harvard did not and does not do this, but then they do not come close to the College in alumni loyalty. We had the courage to be different. But at a certain point the powers that be in the Dartmouth administration chose to house all freshman by themselves. Why make the change?

— To be like everyone else?

— To shove clueless freshmen in the decrepit Choates and River Cluster dorms, where nobody else wanted to be?

— To quarantine freshmen so that they would not be infected by the ways and means of bad old Dartmouth?

Whatever the story, I recall my own Freshman Week when two juniors knocked on the door of our triple to ask if anyone played softball. We all did, and the whole of North Fayer turned to cheer for our perennially losing team. Sports led to conversation about courses and clubs, which led to friendships and an early sense of belonging. One of my North Fayer upperclassmen buddies came to visit us in Paris last week.

Needless to say, a sense of isolation has been a problem at the College for several decades, but no administration has seen fit to work on this glaring weakness in undergraduate life. Even the Moving Dartmouth Forward report understood how bad things are:

“In conversations with students, many identified their sophomore year as the loneliest period of their Dartmouth experience.”

What do to? How about focusing on undergraduates for a change, Phil? Instead of trying to solve some of the world’s energy problems — which your teeny-tiny energy institute will have little chance of doing — how about solving the College’s housing problem — which you can certainly do. Tear down the Choates and the River Cluster, which were considered slums when I arrived in Hanover in 1975, and build new up-campus dorms so that all four classes can live together. The new dorms could even be part of your unwanted house system. Putting all four classes in each house from Freshman Week on might make it work.

Addendum: An alumnus from a class in the 1970’s writes in:

I read the column by Lucy Li and immediately had the same thoughts flooding through the old noggin. It’s super how fresh all of those things are from when we were in the exact spot ourselves. McLane was a toilet when I lived there, the whole building. Having upperclassmen there was the only thing that made it the least bit tolerable.

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