That was the topic of the Dartmouth Political Union debate for prospective students visiting campus over Dimensions, the admitted students weekend. Shocking and controversial in a line-up of events designed to zealously sell Dartmouth to the admitted students, this debate was designed to offer the most balanced look at Dartmouth available at Dimensions and show the DPU's unflinching commitment to fostering topical debate.
The room was completely packed. Every chair was filled, every space on the side stairs was used, and kids even sat on the floor in the very front of the room. Chris Kendig '10 and John Lee '11 both volunteered for the difficult task of arguing against Dartmouth in a loyal opposition sort of way. Their arguments were valid: drinking is rampant and low in quality, flair is the pervasive fashion sense, winter is cold, and really deep conversations are largely confined to freshmen dorm rooms. John proclaimed that "Dartmouth is like yogurt, and not because we're all white (laughter). It's because we're one homogeneous culture."
Will Hix '12 and I took on the pro-Dartmouth case. In my speech to the crowd, I explained that there is a presentation for parents and a different one for students, and that I will be giving both. The one for parents focused around numbers and looking at Dartmouth as a return on investment. As Dartmouth graduates make the most money of any university graduates in the country, our ROI is supreme and the benefits of membership in the Dartmouth Alumni body are many.
In the presentation for Dartmouth, I talked about the very first thing President Wright ever said to me during freshmen orientation -- "Welcome home" -- and how from that moment until the present day, that's exactly where I've been. I've been home. And I used the remainder of the time to talk about all the reasons I love Dartmouth: from the way that no matter which direction you approach Hanover, the first thing you see rising out of the hills is Baker Tower, to the benefits the D plan has personally given me in terms of study abroad opportunities. I ended with the following lines:
"...[And if someone asked me why I loved Dartmouth], I'd tell them about the feeling I get when at 6pm the Bell Tower plays the Alma Mater. And from now until the day I die, I'll think about all of these things ever time I look down at my graduation ring. And years from now, when I return to campus, and cross the green at 6pm and hear the first lines of that song, I'll know that I'll be home."
During our question and answer time, one prospie girl asked me -- as the leader of the pro-Dartmouth side -- for one thing that I would want to change about Dartmouth.
me: Though the college works really hard to bring in entertainment from out of town, the fact that we are so far away from Boston or New York makes it feel rather isolated at times. I frankly have no idea why Wheelock chose this hill of all places to put his school, but I'd want to move it an hour or so south if I could.
D'12: I can answer why Dartmouth is in Hanover. It's because it was founded to teach Native Americans and here's where the native students were.
me: then I'd move the Native Americans. (laughter)
The crowd was simply perfect-- the right combination of parents and students -- and our balance in tone between being funny and serious perfectly matched it. After the debate and vote were finished (the resolution failed unanimously), the students came down to mingle with the DPU leaders and many of them sought me out to tell me how much much easier their decision was after seeing my presentation. It was such a rush to defend Dartmouth so publicly and it makes me sad that this was perhaps my last opportunity to do so.