Dartmouth - One Student's Opinion
The background you'll see to the left is a more-or-less representational cross-section of Dartmouth history. A couple of historical facts (trivia) should be noted:
Dartmouth is the ninth oldest post-secondary institution in the nation, right behind Harvard (1636), The College of William and Mary (1693), Yale (1701), Princeton as The College of New Jersey (1746), Columbia as King's College (1754), UPenn as College of Philadelphia (1755), Brown as College of Rhode Island (1764), and Rutgers as Queens University (1767). It is the last institution founded before the Revolutionary War. Dartmouth sent more students per size of student body to the Civil War than any college in the North. The Dartmouth, our student newspaper, is the oldest student newspaper in the country.
Yes, Dartmouth does have a reputation for being conservative, thanks mostly to its Dartmouth Review publication which gained notoriety in the 1980's. The Review, a branch publication of William F. Buckley's The National Review, is a forum for conversative opinions, usually those of students, sometimes those of William F. Buckley and company. But the pervasive atmosphere nowadays is very liberal. "Gay friend space" stickers abound. Diversity newsletters in our mailboxes. About 365 women's days. And mudslinging. Back-and-forth name-calling between The Review and the grassroots newcomer liberal rebuttal, The Dartmouth Free Press, is so childish as to belie any intellectual tradition this school has. I'm sure that stuff happens at a lot of schools, but it's especially bad at Dartmouth because of our strong conservative image.
The main battle ground is the fraternities. At least half of every issue of The Review is extolling the great Dartmouth "traditions". (By the way, the word "tradition" has become a sort of Dartmouth meme. It's thrown around a freakin' lot, usually just meaning, "yeah, keep the frats so I can still get drunk every night and not get caught"). Posters from student rep candidates say, "WE LIKE THE GREEK SYSTEM!" The major impetus of all these "save the frat boys!" rants is the Student Life Initiative, aka the SLI. The administration commissioned a report on student life, and it was found that fraternities are more likely to contain whites than minorities, that half of all Dartmouth students participated in the oh-so-glamorous "beast, boot & rally" tradition, which is drinking, throwing up, and drinking some more, that a quarter (or was it half?) of all students urinated in public, that students needed more residence halls, that graduate students need space, et cetera. Thus the SLI serves to cause some changes at Dartmouth. And while their aim is more than just the Greek System, many students view the SLI as President James Wright's personal anti-frat tool. Many Dartmouth students protested against Wright in a massive pro-Greek demonstration a couple years back. Conversely, others have said that the SLI is just a token, that neither it nor the President is really doing anything at all to change anything about Dartmouth.
One fraternity, Zeta Psi, was derecognized by the College earlier this year, the immediate cause of this a newsletter featuring pictures of Dartmouth girls with descriptions of their sex lives, and a promise that the next newsletter will have some date rape tips.
The other major recent event at Dartmouth is the murderings of professors Half Zantop of Earth Sciences and his wife, Suzanne Zantop of German. Chelsea, Vermont teenagers James Parker and Robert Tulloch have been arrested for their murders. Since we don't know anything about the case (ie no motive we're told of), there's really not much else to say, other than that Parker and Tulloch apparently tried to run away to California by hitching rides with truckers. They were caught by a very clever sergeant in New Castle, Henry County, Indiana. Sgt. William Ward pretended to be a trucker on the CB after hearing on the line how two boys are headed over to California and need a lift. No one was expecting them to be in Indiana at that moment, but the officer, aware of the nationwide hunt for Tulloch and Parker, played the bluff in case it would pay off. It did. And back when there were no suspects in the case, the Boston Globe ran an article about how the attack was definitely a crime of passion, and Half had definitely been in the throes of an affair. This was false.
You mean the frats. That's the way it is. Try as they might to play up other options, there really aren't any. It doesn't matter to me; I'd much rather hang out with my pals than with a bunch of lame-ass drinkers. The frats are like frogs to me; I can't tell the difference between them. Except Phi Tau, which is a co-ed geek fraternity. They had a "rush" poster featuring a circle of six Tuxes (Tux the Linux penguin, natch). In one half circle, three plain Tuxes ("open house"), and in the other, three Tuxes with...tuxes on! ("formal rush"). (I stole the poster.) So Phi Tau can't possibly be that lame. The other house of note is Alpha Phi Alpha, the black fraternity (although it doesn't contain just black students), which always does hosts of cool things in February--Black History Month--and seems to be more concerned about diversity than partying.
Surely I don't need to tell you that Hanover is a dinkly little microtown about 6 miles north-northwest of the middle of nowhere. Well, I just did. There's...one movie theater, Nuget Alley, which I've never been to, one Chinese restaurant, the Panda House, which make so-so food at monopolistic prices. There's a couple pizza places: EBA's, aka Everything But Anchovies, the student favorite, lots of great Dartmouth memorabilia, really bad pizza. Ramunto's would be a good alternative if I didn't find a giant bug baked into the crust once. There's a Subway and a Ben and Jerry's. A couple cafés. A couple "bar and grills", Murphy's on the Green is the most popular (deservedly so). A convenience store. A post office and a branch of Mascoma Savings Bank, and that does it for off-campus destinations in Hanover aside from Dartmouth stores.
This and the social scene are what make me hate Dartmouth. (Well, it's not really "hate", it's kind of a love-hate thing, but if you've seen my homenode, you'll see my advice to prospective students.) There's nothing to do in Hanover, so the students drink themselves to pieces. A lose-lose situation. If you're used to what a city has to offer, or even what a bustling suburb has to offer (eg a mall), Don't Go To Dartmouth. If you want to go to the place that isn't dominated by stupid beer-guzzling jocks, Don't Go To Dartmouth. If you have even the slightest hatred of Winter, Don't Go To Dartmouth under any circumstances whatsoever!
Dartmouth is home to some 4,000 undergraduates (1,000 per class) and another 1,000 graduate students enrolled in the medical school, the Thayer Engineering School, the Tuck Business school, or arts and sciences graduate programs. The campus, while dreadfully isolated, is admittedly stunning. Lots of trees. (Shame I'm allergic to them.) Beautiful blue skies...when it's not raining or snowing. That's what attracted me to this place when I visited after acceptance: the beauty of the Green.
The places to eat at Dartmouth are the Collis Café, generally a breakfast place, Thayer Dining Hall Food Court, a great place to eat, but get plasticware, the Courtyard Café at the Hopkins Center (which is the arts center that houses plays and movie screenings and such), they serve nice fattening breakfast sandwiches until they close, Topside, a convenience store on the second floor of Thayer that's my destination for sushi, Powerade, and peanut butter Twix, Lone Pine Tavern (in the basement of the Collis Student center), a terrible bar&grill-esque setting with terrible service but good milkshakes, the Midnite Express, right next to Lone Pine, serves grilled cheese sandwiches 'til 2 (but not in the summer). The newly-built Novack café in the Dartmouth Baker-Berry library complex serves as a study place more often than qua an eating place.
The most famous image of Dartmouth is "the clock", aka the Baker belltower. A cool thing about the belltower is that you can request them to play songs bell-ified (seriously!), but, automatically, all they play all through the day are three things: "I Can See Clearly Now", "You Are My Sunshine", and The "Indiana Jones" Theme. Occasionally the Jeopardy! theme is thrown in. "The Bells" boast on their web page that they've played "Smells Like Teen Spirit"; I don't know why they don't add it to the bloody randomizer so we can hear more than four songs. To be sure, I have heard them play other songs, I recognized a (gah!) Billy Joel song, "The Longest Time". And, best of all, I've asked them to learn "Alex Chilton" by The Replacements (the greatest rock song ever), and they say they're working on it. So, aside from old Baker (the "old" library), the adjunct Berry (the spiffy-looking "new" library), the Hopkins Center, and the feeding places, the only building of note is...The Shower Tower.
In the early-mid 1990's, Dartmouth was a Mac school. Period. It was a Mac center, a Mac haven, a Mac shangri-la...my hell. Luckily, students started bringing in PC's towards the end of the decade, and my class, the class of 2004, is the first class ever to have ordered more PC's than Macs. (Yay us!) But the Mac is still very much alive at Dartmouth. All the public computers are Macs with very few exceptions. Most of them are iMacs. Public computers are mostly used for one thing: BlitzMail, a Dartmouth e-mail/IM hybrid. Back in 1997, Dartmouth was voted, by Yahoo! Internet Life, the most wired campus in the country! (And that's what we always bring up during outages. "Most wired my ass!" At least that's what I bring up.)
I don't like the administration, but I've got a good reason. They punish the crimes that are easiest to punish, no matter how trifling they are in the face of the greater evil. I stole a white-board as a prank of someone's door...I get probation. Underage drinking every weekend by a good 80% of the underage population...unpunished. Too hard to deal with. The jocks are a power class. They generate money for the administration, the administration turns their heads the other way when they break state and federal law. Hey, tit for tat, eh? One jock was found guilty of holding a screaming girl over a third-storey bannister. Guess what he got?
I'm sure I don't need to tell you that Dartmouth is one of the strongest academic institutions in the land. It's liberal arts oriented, and there's a nasty core curriculum that'll bite you in the ass if you're a geek like me, but the math program and CS program are top-notch. Both BASIC and Lisp were invented here! And as for the physics program...well, I saw one of my profs on Stephen Hawking's PBS web site, explaining the Big Bang. That suffices. Not bragging, candor, people.
I'm sure most of you are familiar with the US News College Rankings (if not, http://www.usnews.com and follow the "edu" links to the college rankings page). Dartmouth is ranked around 9th or 11th or so in this survey in recent years. What you don't know about the US News College Rankings is that, they're adjusted every year to conform with America's beliefs. Back in the early years of the list, Dartmouth was ranked around 4th. But the Holy Trinity of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, weren't doing so well. Since everyone in America thinks these are the best colleges, US News figured they'd have to do something about their list lest they look like idiots. So they adjusted their scales to get those three up towards the very top. And they still do. A couple years back CalTech topped the list, Ack!, no, not a non-HYP! So they adjusted the scales and, sure enough, the Trinity were back at the top, and CalTech dropped to fourth. Starting? Stupid? Hypocritical? Yes. But true.
A couple pop culture tidbits. A main character on the ABC (I think) sitcom "SportsNight" attended Dartmouth. And, so a friend tells me, the principal on "Boston Public" recently said, "If we can get a student to go to Harvard, soon students will be going to M.I.T. and Dartmouth", or something to that effect. Ain't it cool? (Of course, Dartmouth was probably mentioned because it's just two hours from Boston and can therefore be considered a local prestigious school, but still, cool.) And we all know about Animal House.
"In conclusion, Dartmouth is a land of contrasts. They sold corn which the Indians called...maize."