Life Outside the Classroom

Part of the assignment that the Board of Trustees asked me to take on at the outset of my presidency was to strengthen student life. This has traditionally been a defining quality of Dartmouth, and the Board wished to assure its strength going forward. In February 1999, the Trustees and I announced the Student Life Initiative. Amid much that was good about student life, we saw room for improvement. Our concerns focused on shortcomings in the residential system - we did not have enough residence halls to house all students who wanted to live on campus and many existing residence halls were overcrowded. Our housing needs dated back to the 1970s when Dartmouth moved forward with coeducation and expanded the student body without substantially increasing facilities. Students complained that they had to move far too frequently during their time at Dartmouth.

Photo of McCulloch Hall

We opened McCulloch Hall in 2000, and we are proceeding aggressively over the next five years with plans to build residence halls to house 500 students. The first phase of this construction will begin north of Maynard Street with two buildings designed by noted architect Buzz Yudell to house up to 330 students. We also have plans for a building on Tuck Mall to house approximately 150 students. We have increased support of undergraduate advisors, who play an important leadership role within the residential system. In addition, we are moving forward with plans for a dining center adjacent to the Maynard Street residence halls, which will include some additional gathering spaces for undergraduate and graduate students. Building this facility will enable us to proceed with renovation of Thayer Dining Hall to provide critical student social and program space.

The Trustees also wanted Coed, Fraternity, and Sorority (CFS) organizations to undertake a self-assessment in order to affirm their own mission and its relationship to the community. We challenged our students to meet higher expectations and, not surprisingly, they are doing so. CFS houses developed new standards of excellence - rather than meeting the previous set of "minimum standards," houses have developed a set of goals for themselves. The College paid for a physical plant audit, and the house corporations are now in the process of addressing issues identified through this audit. The College has agreed to provide low-interest loans for this purpose.

Photo of student dance performance

The Student Life Initiative Report highlighted the need for more social options for students. Some of the improvements in this area include subsidized tickets for the Hopkins Center and athletic events, increased funding for student organizations and activities, expanded hours for the Collis Center and the Lone Pine Tavern, more late night programming by the Physical Education and Recreation Program, and the addition of three new club sports. The Dartmouth Outing Club and Outdoor Programs continue to provide more activities for students. Dartmouth, like colleges and universities across the country, struggles with the problem of alcohol abuse among some students. We have made progress in this area and continue to work with students to develop effective programs.

Photo of men's soccer team

Athletics continues to play an important role at Dartmouth. Ivy League institutions have recently implemented a number of changes to ensure that students can effectively balance academic demands with athletic schedules. Although this continues to be a challenge for many students, I believe that the Ivy League manages this balance better than any other Division 1 conference. Our student athletes meet the academic standards of the College and are always students first.

The decision announced in November 2002 to cut the swimming and diving teams was a painful episode but one that has fortunately had a happy outcome. The decision stemmed from a real need to reduce costs in the face of some very difficult choices. Dean of the College James Larimore had already provided some protection for athletics, but he had little choice but to ask the area to share in the reductions that he needed to make. The reduction remained in place, but generous alumni as well as parents and friends contributed more than $2 million to support these teams, and as a result they remain a vital part of our intercollegiate program.

We have opened a number of athletic facilities in the past five years including the Boss Tennis Center and Gordon Pavilion, the Scully-Fahey Field, the Blackman practice football fields, the McLane Family ski lodge, and the renovations of the Leverone Field House, squash courts, and the golf course. In addition, we have expanded fitness and recreational activities for all students.

Some of our teams have competed exceedingly well over the past five years. As someone who attends as many home games as I can, I am eager to see us excel on the field as we excel elsewhere in this community. The appointment of JoAnn Harper as athletic director in 2002, the first woman AD in the Ivy League, has created a sense of energy and enthusiasm in the Department of Athletics and Recreation.

Posted 8 December 2003
Photos by Joseph Mehling '69
Copyright © 2003 Trustees of Dartmouth College