The committee is aware that after this report is made public, the Board intends to seek comments from the broad Dartmouth community on our recommendations during winter 2000. After this process is completed, the Board intends to adopt the recommendations that it deems to be in the best interests of the College. As a committee, we strongly recommend that the plans then be enacted carefully, and that new policies be systematically pursued, so that a comprehensive reform of social and residential life is in fact carried out.
The Board's actions will commence a process of campus development that cannot be static, but rather must adapt to changing circumstances over time. In this spirit, the committee fully recognizes that the Board and administration must retain some flexibility in implementing any program. Although we were specifically urged by the Board not to dwell on the financial implications of our proposals, we realize that costs and competing priorities will clearly influence the timing and staging of steps that the institution undertakes. Carrying out such a complex program will be particularly dependent on the availability of financial resources over time. To the extent that funding is plentiful, the time schedule can be aggressive and it can even be accelerated. If funding is scarce, the timetable may need to be extended. That said, we recommend the following additional measures to help ensure that changes take place and that progress can be monitored.
A - Sample Summary Chart
We recommend that a checklist similar to the one depicted here be published at the time that the Board adopts a comprehensive Student Life Initiative plan. We stress that our version of this chart is included for illustrative purposes only, based on the recommendations of our report. Any chart issued by the Board would of course reflect the actual substance and timeline of actions that it considered most appropriate. Such a chart would then be used over the next several years by the Board, the administration and the broader Dartmouth community as a reminder that progress would have to be made in stages. It would also enable the community to identify delays in carrying out agreed-upon changes.
B - Annual Board Presentations and Reports to the Community
The committee proposes that each year the administration make a formal report to the Board of Trustees on progress in implementing the Student Life Initiative. These reports would detail actions underway, compare actual progress to the Board's original timetable and identify reasons for any changes or delays in planned actions. We recommend that the administration also issue these annual reports to the Dartmouth community so that it remains apprised of the status of the Student Life Initiative. In addition, the committee recommends that the Board conduct a major review in 2005 of progress in implementing the entire Student Life Initiative.
C - Conclusion
We are pleased to submit these recommendations to the Board, and we appreciate having had the opportunity to open the conversation about the future social and residential life at Dartmouth College. We are proud of this report and we believe that adopting our recommendations and carrying out our proposed changes will make an already superb institution all the greater.
At the same time, we think it is instructive for all who care deeply about Dartmouth to be reminded of the outcome of many previous reports and assessments of social and residential life at the College. During the course of its work, committee members sifted through many of these earlier reports. We were struck by the numerous similarities between past and present critiques of the social and residential system—as well as by the fact that many recommendations set forth by earlier committees were virtually identical to our own. A statement by the late James Epperson, Professor of English, at a faculty meeting in 1977 seemed remarkably apt: "The reforms that have periodically been attempted, as I've tried to explain, have lasted a few years and perhaps served the purpose for that time and then have been forgotten. At least they didn't correct permanently the abuses or change Dartmouth's image."
Ten years later, in February 1987, the Board of Trustees issued a statement13 in support of a then-forthcoming report from the Ad Hoc Committee on Residential Life. Portions of that statement read as follows:
[W]e have not yet succeeded in reducing the fraternity system's dominance of social life on campus; in reducing the role that alcohol plays as part of the social environment at the College; in creating an integrated residential system that breaks down the fragmentation between dormitories and fraternities/sororities; in encouraging meaningful interaction among many of the various interests and elements on campus; and in obtaining the full commitment of the faculty to our efforts to create a social life that promotes intellectual pursuits beyond the classrooms....
[T]he Board is convinced that the College's residential life system needs major restructuring to remedy these shortcomings and believes that it would be in the best interests of the College to accomplish this restructuring as soon as practicable.
Our committee recognizes fully that competing institutional priorities, and in particular financial limitations, can frequently result in good ideas and proposals being put on the back burner. We know that previous Boards, presidents and administrations felt as strongly about needed changes as we do. We also take heart from the oft-voiced sentiments of President Wright and members of the Board of Trustees that they sincerely seek change. We also believe that opportunities for making comprehensive changes are often fleeting at best. We are unanimous in our conviction that the changes we are recommending are long overdue. We urge their adoption now in order to speed the institution on its way to even greater excellence in this new century.