219th Meeting of the Alumni Council

This past weekend I had the pleasure to attend my first Alumni Council meeting as your class representative. This year, instead of every rep sending out a recap, there will be one “official” version, and I’ll append that when received. I thought I’d add some answers to specific questions received from classmates, however, and some thoughts of my own. Please send me your own questions and comments throughout the year, as well. They are all passed along and shared (in summary) with the Trustees. Really! I’ll also happily track down answers to specific questions. You can read my notes and the recap below, but here’s what you probably really care about: pictures! There are a few beauty shots, but mostly I took pictures of new features and activity that you may not have seen unless you’ve been back recently. Click an image to view full size.

  • We hear a lot about all the money raised, but what is the College doing about cost control and focusing its spending on priorities?
    • Good question! I had a chance to hear from the CFO during his talk and in speaking with him afterward, and from Phil Hanlon. The short answer is that the College is specifically focused on prioritizing spending, and it is a core tenet of their financial philosophy. One of the most telling figures is that the growth rate in expenditures has dropped from 6.3% over Fiscal Years 2011-13 to 1.7% in FY 13-19.
      Hanlon has instituted a policy, as part of the budget planning process, that each department must reallocated a minimum of 1.5% of the budget from low priority to high priority areas; this helps ensure that spending doesn’t just keep growing without any cuts. There is a very hard focus on cost management, and that has helped Dartmouth drop from #2 in tuition cost down to #8 (the giant endowment schools like Harvard and Yale are lower) while still going from #16 in faculty salaries in 2010-12 to #5 now, helping us remain competitive in getting the best faculty.
      However, expenses are going to go up, oddly enough, because of the success of the Call to Lead campaign. The CFO expects expenses to grow, primarily in costs related to running the new programs and buildings being funded by the capital campaign.
  • Built Environment: what is the College doing about the disparity in quality between the new and old dorms?
    • There is a clear recognition that the older dorms need renovation. They are just starting to plan for those renovations now; along with allocating capital funds for the work, doing the design, getting bids, etc., they will need a plan to manage housing stock (which is in short supply) while those existing dorms are offline. It will be some years before all the dorms are up to snuff, but it will happen.
  • How is it going with the Housing Communities, and what is the impact on undergraduate social life?
    • The Housing Communities are a work in progress, but the College is happy with how it’s going. As the students who didn’t start out in these communities depart, and the Houses become the new “normal,” the impact seems to be growing. They are very happy with the programming opportunities they are seeing and the “house spirit” that is growing. They still have a long way to go improving the housing stock and making all the HCs feel equally good and establish a flow from the first year experience through the upper class living experience.
      The HCs aren’t seen as the center of social life; rather they are the center of residential life, which includes social opportunities. Phil Hanlon noted that Dartmouth has always relied on a longstanding and positive tradition of Dartmouth students taking responsibility for their own social lives. That said, he has seen real improvement in safety over the last five years. Hazing incidents at fraternities have gone down, and hard alcohol use (measured via anonymous survey) has dropped from 44% of students saying they drank it in the last two weeks in 2013 to under 15% in each of the last three years since they instituted the no hard alcohol policy. Hanlon admits there are still a few problem houses, but overall they are behaving pretty well. I did hear that on Thursdays there is a pop up bar scene (Hop Garage) at the Hop, but overall the social scene, to the extent “social” is defined by hanging out with friends (vs. some cultural or educational programming of which there is plenty), is still Greek-centric.

I’m happy to report we recently had a very successful and enlightening meeting of the Dartmouth Alumni Council in Hanover. The theme of the meeting was “Adventuresome Spirit.” It refers to the sensibility that embraces the unknown; invites fearlessness and teamwork; and radiates tenacity, curiosity, and life- changing ideas. The presentations we heard in Hanover and the Dartmouth adventures that many of you shared with the Council in the weeks leading up to the meeting reinforced that these traits remain a key part of the Dartmouth DNA—and help our small college make an outsized mark on the world, while having some fun along the way.

Sharing Your Feedback

Alumni Councilors serve as a link between Dartmouth and alumni. We’re here to gather your questions and ideas and to communicate them to the College all year round and as things come up. We’ll also be communicating with you when there is news to share. As we headed into the Council’s 219th meeting, topics on your minds included Dartmouth’s strategic direction, the College’s commitment to climate issues and sustainability, and the nature of the student experience. While in Hanover, Councilors shared your views and questions with President Hanlon, Chair of the Board of Trustees Laurel Richie ’81, and other Dartmouth leaders. If you’re curious about who represents you on the Council, please visit the Councilor Directory.

Meeting Highlights

• The Council fulfilled one of its most important responsibilities by nominating three alumni to serve on the Board of Trustees. They are Susan M. Finegan ’85, Odette A. Harris ’91, and Gregg R. Lemkau ’91. Read more about the candidate and the process at voxthevote.com.
• President Hanlon addressed the Council and shared two “north stars” for Dartmouth: academic excellence and a safe, inclusive campus. He described progress made towards these goals, and I was pleased and proud to learn that some key indicators of success—including a more competitive admissions yield, increased research activity, and decreased self-reported alcohol use by students— are all on positive trajectories. Both President Hanlon and Laurel Richie affirmed Dartmouth’s commitment to be, at its core, the best liberal arts college.
• Lee Coffin, vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid, discussed very positive trends in Dartmouth admissions: rising applications, higher selectivity, and greater yield. Lee shared some of the challenges facing admissions practices in higher education in the wake of the recent Harvard lawsuit and “varsity blues” scandal, and reaffirmed to the Council his commitment to the integrity of Dartmouth’s process.
• The Stretch—Dartmouth’s earth sciences off-campus program—takes 22 undergraduates, six professors, and six graduate students into the field on a geological tour of the American West and has been doing so for more than 50 years. The Council met with students who participated in this program and with professors Carl Renshaw, Ed Meyer, and Marisa Palucis to learn more about why this kind of experience matters for Dartmouth and how it takes learning to the next level for all of its participants. It made me wish I could go back in time and hop in the van with them to tour glaciers and national parks.
• We learned that exciting changes are in store for Dartmouth’s libraries. Baker and Berry libraries will be renovated to ensure that student and faculty learning and research are connected with the breadth and depth of Dartmouth’s collections in meaningful ways. The changes will preserve what we know and love about these spaces while making them more open, collaborative, and conducive to interdisciplinarity and new ways of working.
• Vice President for Institutional Initiatives Josh Keniston and Director of Sustainability Rosi Kerr ’97 shared with us their vision for a greener future for Dartmouth. They discussed recent efforts to evolve the methods Dartmouth uses for energy generation as well as the goal of converting from steam to hot water heating. Just before the Council arrived, Dartmouth announced that it is widening its analysis of options to power the campus as part of progress on the Dartmouth Green Energy Project, which is aimed at improving energy resiliency, sustainability, and efficiency. In 2017, Dartmouth adopted goals of 50% renewable fuel by 2025 and 100% by 2050. Although we are only a few years in, Dartmouth is on track to achieve these goals.

Give a Rouse

The Council honored James W. Wooster III ’59 Th’60, Veree Hawkins Brown ’93, and Russell E. Wolff ’89 Tu’94 with the Dartmouth Alumni Award and Kyle J. Polite ’05 and Nathan L. Bruschi ’10 with the Young Alumni Distinguished Service Award. Read more about their extraordinary service to Dartmouth and watch videos about the winners.
During our meeting, Vice President for Alumni Relations Cheryl Bascomb ’82 shared the great news that we are 97% of the way towards the 250,000-hour goal for The Call to Serve. This initiative challenges our community to contribute 250,000 hours of service in honor of Dartmouth’s 250 years and seeks to call attention to the impact Dartmouth alumni, faculty, students, and staff have on the world. Please help us reach our goal by logging your volunteer service hours on The Call to Serve site.

Thanks for reading this summary. We are here to hear you and to share your sentiments with Dartmouth’s leadership, so please be in touch anytime. If you’d like a more thorough summary of the Council meeting, please read the minutesand view photos, or reach out to your Councilors.

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