Student holdout, alumni flexibility both demonstrate Dartmouth’s strength

Dartmouth held its 2010 commencement on Sunday. It was a rainy weekend, but the rain held off during the ceremonies. Scott’s daughter Deborah and my daughter Emily were among those who received an undergraduate degree.
Dartmouth being Dartmouth, it came as no surprise that there was a late controversy associated with the graduation of the Class of 2010. To encourage the graduates to contribute money to the College, the Class of 1960 (the 50-year reunion class) promised to donate $1,000 toward financial aid for every 1 percent of seniors that donated to the fund. It also promised to double that contribution (i.e., contribute a total of $200,000) if the Class of 2010 achieved 100 percent participation.
Eventually, all but one member of the graduating class contributed something. However, one student refused to contribute anything. And she stood by that position even as peer pressure mounted to push the Class of 2010 to 100 percent. The holdout student explained that she radically disliked her Dartmouth experience and strongly objected to the role Greek life plays at Dartmouth. Thus, she did not wish to contribute to a fund that would help others attend such an institution.
Although Greek life has its faults, my view of Dartmouth obviously differs considerably from this student’s. In fact, I was pleased to send my daughter to the College and, more importantly, she was delighted to attend for four years.
Even so, I respect and admire this student and her courage of conviction. It may not have been easy for her to withstand the peer pressure and stick to her guns, though the lame “progressive” arguments as to why she should contribute to the College notwithstanding her “progressive” objections may have made it easier to hold the line. Given the student’s beliefs, refusing to contribute was, I think, the right thing to do.
For me, though, the real hero of the story is the Class of 1960. It decided to contribute the extra $100,000 even without 100 percent participation by the Class of 2010. Class of 1960 representative James Adler ’60 explained, “To get the Dartmouth student body, or any student body, to agree 100 percent on anything is impossible.” He added, “It’s great to ask for money for Dartmouth with great enthusiasm, but you don’t want to take it too far.”
There was some talk that the holdout student might be jeered when her name was called at graduation. I heard no negative reaction, though. I also heard none for Phil Aubart or for anyone else.
In the same spirit of good will, I won’t comment on the commencement addresses of the adults who spoke. The four valedictorians (all of whom had a perfect 4.0 grade point average over four years at the College) were good to excellent.
SCOTT adds: Text and video of the commencement speeches are accessible here. My favorite was the brief valedictorian address by Tomi W. Jun, who graduated two years late because his college education was interrupted for service in the Singapore military. “Little by little,” he says, “we bend the arcs of our lives in the direction of the people who we aspire to be.”


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