The Student Response Task Force (SRTF) is pleased to present this report to the Board of Trustees. This summary document is the result of a ten-week period of intensive discussion, introspection, creativity, and commitment from Dartmouth students. From the date the recommendations of the Committee on the Student Life Initiative (CSLI) were announced, Dartmouth students dedicated a great deal of time and energy to considering and discussing ways that residential and social life on the campus could be improved. The amount of feedback they managed to generate in a mere term is admirable.
The Student Response Task Force was charged by the Dean of the College Jim Larimore with encouraging and collecting student input and producing a compilation of this feedback for consideration by the Board of Trustees. Students had a variety of avenues for discussion about and response to the recommendations. Many of these avenues, including weekly Fireside Chats, Task Force blitz account, SLI website, and small discussion groups with students, faculty and administrators, were recommended by students during fall term planning meetings. These methods resulted in the submission of 48 proposals totaling more than 340 pages and well over 200 pieces of individual commentary.
The underlying theme of the winter term discussions and commentary was the importance of belonging and community. Dartmouth students are looking for a place where they feel valued, a place where there is recognition rather than anonymity. Some students find this sense of belonging through an athletic team, residential cluster, Greek house, student organization, or other activity. No matter where they find it, this recognition enables Dartmouth students to feel grounded as members of the community, and empowers them to reach out to larger challenges. All of the ideas that students presented stemmed from this premise.
To that end, students embraced the concept of improved residential and social life on the Dartmouth campus. The tenor of discussion was primarily positive and constructive.
While some students disagreed with particular aspects of the recommendations, those who took issue with particular recommendations quite often offered alternative suggestions or ideas for possible implementation.
Recommendation 1: Residential Clusters
Approximately one-third of the student feedback collected through formal proposals, individual responses or Fireside Chats addressed Residential Life/Housing issues.
Students were supportive of building additional residence hall spaces and improving and adding amenities in the residential clusters, including kitchens, lounges, study spaces, and fitness rooms. Students also supported an enhanced menu of housing options, including townhouses and apartments, and some students suggested specific affinity house ideas.
There was a sense that for residences to be truly vital places, there needed to be a connection between campus resources and the cluster community.
Improving residential staffing, including the Undergraduate Advisor position, was viewed as positive and seen as a way to improve the general quality of the residential experience.
Cluster continuity and first year housing had both supporters and detractors. Some students liked the idea of having a “home” for more than one year, while others said they enjoyed being able to live in new settings and meeting new people. Many students mentioned that the lack of continuity on campus was not caused by housing, but rather by the D-plan. First-year housing was supported by those who believed it would help students make the transition to college life and develop a strong class identity. Many felt that an essential component of this experience would be an intentional first year program, with significantly enhanced faculty and administrative involvement, and substantial roles for upperclass students. Those who did not support the first year program concept felt it would not allow students the opportunity to learn about Dartmouth from upperclass students. The underlying themes in discussions about both continuity and first year housing seemed to be flexibility, variety, and choice.
Recommendation 2: Social Space and Programs
Students overwhelmingly supported the creation of more social spaces and options, as well as student-controlled spaces, believing that it would be wise to create these new opportunities before downscaling or removing any other social options. It was suggested that the focus for social life be on addition and change.
Proposals and other feedback indicate a desire that the College create more studio and performing arts venues, additional recreation spaces (both inside and outside of the athletic complex), a larger student center with more student meeting and gathering spaces, and additional licensed alcohol settings. The concept of a large, flat floor hall received extensive support. A space clearinghouse would help facilitate access to these spaces.
Although centralized dining was supported and seen as a means of developing and sustaining community, there was also much support for creating smaller, limited dining in other settings. Accommodations for kosher dining were suggested, as were ethnic food kiosks or dining areas.
The World Cultures Initiative (WCI) captured the attention of many students. Most students were supportive, although many said the WCI needed to be more expansive and embraced at a higher institutional level. Full time staffing in the areas of support for Latino; Asian Pacific American; Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered; and African American students was viewed as a necessary first step toward the establishment of the World Cultures Initiative.
Recommendation 3: Graduate Students
Graduate students widely support all of the graduate student recommendations in the CSLI report. They believe that increasing available graduate student housing and social spaces will decrease the sense of isolation that many students report, bolstering the graduate community, and facilitating recruitment of top caliber candidates to the graduate programs. In their submissions to the committee, many graduate students expressed concern regarding the relative priority that will be given to graduate projects, urging the College to implement the improvements immediately.
Recommendation 4: Coed, Fraternity, and Sorority Organizations
This recommendation garnered the most feedback. The most common theme was that houses should be given the opportunity to remain, but needed to be improved in a variety of ways, and this improvement should be complemented by additional campus social options.
Students and others who expressed support for Greek organizations said that they provided a source of continuity, a group of friends, and the chance to develop leadership abilities. Some asserted that these organizations enhanced cross-cultural communication.
Criticisms of Greek organizations cited their dominance on campus, poor gender relationships, issues of racism and heterosexism, and transmission of destructive alcohol mores.
The Task Force received a wide range of opinions and suggestions on every item in this recommendation. While these responses are detailed in the Task Force report and in the proposals themselves, ideas that received general acceptance were: the organizational statement of purpose; having a sexual abuse peer advisor, drug and alcohol peer advisor, diversity and leadership educator, Tucker liaison, and Inter-cluster council liaison in residence; budget submission; and advisory boards. Improvements to physical plants were supported, especially if the College could provide financial relief for this endeavor.
Students agreed that hazing should not be tolerated, but noted the distinctions between hazing and pledge period, which was seen as an important time for education of new members.
Topics that drew some criticism were the moratorium on single-sex residential organizations (primarily as it would impact sorority membership), the non-member UGA, winter rush, and summer residency. Some took issue with only junior officers and seniors being allowed residency. Some disagreed with the perception that the CFS system is exclusive, suggesting that open parties make the system an egalitarian force on campus. The five-year review was seen as a concern, primarily due to the possible pressure put on houses to achieve these new standards in the absence of any assurance about their future.
Some argued for a reduction in the proposed membership number requirement, especially as it might affect coed, traditionally Black, and Latino organizations. Students were somewhat divided on removing taps, and provided wide ranging feedback and suggestions concerning the continuation of the CFS Judicial Council. New ideas presented included forming affiliations between single-sex organizations and a wide variety of campus groups, and upgrading basements rather than converting them.
Recommendation 5: Senior Societies and Undergraduate Societies and
Recommendation 6: Academic Affinity Houses and Programs
NOTE: Recommendations 5 and 6 are two distinct items in the CSLI recommendations.
However, students tended to refer to them as a single item.
The community, in general, supported a review of these organizations and programs. It was suggested that Academic Affinity Programs would be successful only when combined with an overall institutional commitment to the relevant academic programs.
Some concerns were expressed about the roles played by these programs and organizations, including their perceived exclusivity and confusion about their respective participation or membership criteria.
Recommendation 7: Alcohol and Other Drugs
A majority of students clearly stated that there is a cultural acceptance of alcohol abuse on campus that needs to be addressed. Questions arose about how best to alleviate this problem. Students felt that no matter what rules are made, students will drink, so the focus should be on how to promote an environment where this happens safely and moderately.
Education, specifically for first year students and members of Greek organizations, and increased counseling services were seen as avenues for changing the campus culture around alcohol. Students felt that new settings for alcohol service should be created, along the lines of the Lone Pine Tavern, but perhaps without the three-drink limit. There was support to keep drinking a public activity, since that was seen as a way to detect students who were drinking in an abusive manner. There was also support for non-alcoholic programming and stricter enforcement of the current regulations for both individuals and groups.
Students were somewhat divided on the role that tap systems play in the campus alcohol culture. CFS organizations were relatively happy with their current relationship with Safety and Security and asked that it remain as it is. Feedback about the “yellow light, green light” requirement and a party curfew was generally critical, with many students feeling that both were somewhat arbitrary and invasive. Most proposals supported student bartenders over professional bartenders, although one group said that it would support such a requirement if the College would provide financial support.
In terms of other drugs, it was suggested that limiting campus alcohol availability would increase the use of other, “hard” drugs. One group asked that attention be paid to the increase of tobacco use on campus.
Concerns were expressed about a number of areas not discussed in detail in the CSLI report. The two topics that were mentioned most frequently were gender relations and the D-plan. These and a variety of other topics that are presented in the Omissions section of the report may warrant further attention.