Letter: Dartmouth Should Be Bold

To the Editor:

Your editorial (“Extreme Behaviors,” April 24) on Dartmouth’s latest round of cultural struggles notes that it has been at this crossroads before. If this administration is to succeed where others have been “frustrated,” Dartmouth is going to have to step out of its comfort zone. Given the recent flurry of publicity the college has received, this may involve little downside. In fact, Dartmouth has an opportunity to demonstrate leadership in addressing these issues by communicating how this time will be different.

Dartmouth must make this campaign transparent. Precisely because these problems appear intractable, a skeptical community, both on campus and off, needs to be kept abreast of the facts and reasoning behind its plans. For instance, what data are there to show the Bystander Initiative is effective at changing behavior instead of just raising awareness? What goals must be met for it to be successful? What will be tried next if this attempt falters? Dartmouth should also outline what new resources will be employed to enable change.

Eight trustees attending the president’s summit underline the importance of this effort, but quite often in this economic environment administrators must find new ways of doing things within existing budgets. If this is Dartmouth’s situation too, what is Peter giving up to pay for Paul’s new programs? Dartmouth just received gifts amounting to more than $100 million for academics and athletics. Is there no new money to help change the social culture?

Finally, Dartmouth recently advised us that this effort requires the entire community’s support. In that case, will Dartmouth build partnerships with local resources, such as WISE, that have proven expertise? WISE has provided a confidential haven for victims of sexual violence for more than four decades and brings an independent perspective to meeting these challenges.

While public relations matter, this is a moment for Dartmouth to be bold. It is not alone in facing these issues, but let’s stop comparing Dartmouth to the rest of higher education. In admissions, teaching, research or fundraising, the college does not aspire to be just like everybody else. Nor should it settle for that regarding cultural issues

Stanley Colla