July 11, 2012

Crowdsourcing: Housing Continuity

Earlier this week, The D reported that Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson fancies stricter alcohol policies. In particular, Dean Johnson described new rules whereby hard liquor can only be served by licensed bartenders. Never mind that it is already illegal to serve, possess or consume alcohol underage, or that licensure in New Hampshire is fairly cheap and simple to obtain. A bartender's license will definitely stand between a bro' and the throngs of enthusiastic, open-handed underage undergraduates.

This administration's ham-fisted reaction to the hazing scandal continues to amaze us, not least because it refuses to address the root of the College's hazing and alcohol problems.

As a reliably left-of-center outlet, LGB takes little issue with aggressive regulation by administrations, be they housed in Washington or Parkhurst. But only the most draconian regulations could possibly curb to any significant degree the culture of drinking and hazing in Greek organizations. Is Ms. Johnson prepared to place S&S in every house on every Wednesday and weekend night?

Assuming -- or, in this case, maybe just hoping -- that the answer is no, the administration needs to think more creatively. One meaningful step the administration could take would be offering some alternative social space to the Greek houses.

Reintroducing housing continuity would do precisely that. By ensuring that students would always have a residential community to return to, students could build a sense of social cohesion that would rival the networks provided by Greek houses. The plaques that still hang in dorms across campus bear testament to the bygone days when members of residential communities banded together to win competitions from chess to soccer.

By reintroducing housing continuity, College officials could immediately provide a safer, cheaper and more comfortable alternative to the Greek houses. Think of it as a kind of public option for community housing. Alone, this would not solve all ills, but it would make considerably more of a dent that Ms. Johnson's misguided terminator approach.

A quick perusal of the College website (data here) shows more than 3,300 beds available in non-Greek housing, equivalent to 79 percent of Dartmouth's entire undergraduate population. Considering the D-Plan, and that only 85 percent of students live on-campus (including Greek houses) anyway, surely this number is sufficient to support continuity-based housing reform.

And yet the idea gains no traction. We at LGB want to know why, so we return to our crowdsourcing strategy. Submit comments, connect with us on Facebook or send an e-mail. Tell us your arguments against housing continuity. What are we, and the numerous students and alumni with whom we have spoken, missing?