One thing I always loved about my time at Oxford was that the meals were all taken together. Seeing everyone at every lunch and dinner made it incredibly easy to keep up with them and general events around the school. It built a sense of community and enabled me to become very close to a large group of people over a short amount of time.
Isiah Berg '10 offered a nice column in The D yesterday on the distinct lack of community in residential clusters, brought about by a lack of continuity of its residents and lacking incentives towards community interaction. Mr. Asch over at DartBlog has always been a strong advocate for reviving the old residential system wherein freshmen were assigned a particular dorm and guaranteed a room there for the duration of their college experience. I think it's time to give this idea annother chance.
I have always felt that this is one of the tragedies of the Dartmouth experience- that the only community to be felt exists in frat basements or in the rare, extremely close knit student organization. It seems that the only interactions most dorm residents have with each other after freshman year are the tedious Undergraduate Adviser meetings. This is clearly a wasted opportunity. Fostering impersonality in a building where people spend the plurality of their time only serves to undermine community everywhere else. The inter-dorm athletic competitons would be a great way to build dorm spirit and foster organization of a diverse group of students. More so than self-selecting clubs or frats, dorms can offer a random sample of Dartmouth students who can learn from the collective wisdom and diversity of their disperate experiences.
A younger Nathan Bruschi proposed creating Residential Interest Groups: student organizations with a house of their own; frats with a purpose. I think my original op-ed and idea are still interesting and relevant to this discussion, though it will require a significant investment in real-estate development-- a non-starter with the college cash-strapped as it is. Since all the necessary tools for dorm-centric community are there, including some elements that make no sense without that construction (community directors), perhaps the dorms are where we should start.