Early in their sophomore year, this year’s graduating class witnessed one of the most catastrophic events in the history of the United States — Sept. 11, 2001. Since then, they have observed the United States lead troops into both Afghanistan in retaliation, and later into Iraq.
These world event have shaped the Class of 2004 in ways they would not have thought — to say the least ’04s are not the same today as they was when it first entered Dartmouth, arguing over “pregnant chads” in Florida.
Recent current events have marked a substantial change in the nature of political debate on campus. Though the left-right debate is ongoing, the nature of the debate at Dartmouth has taken on a much more serious tone, as students reevaluated their positions.
“I started off voting for and campaigning for Ralph Nader … now, I wouldn’t consider voting for Nader,” said Karsten Barde ’04. “I’m not more conservative. I think I’m a little less idealistic.”
Before coming to Dartmouth, many incoming student felt campus would be both conservative and apathetic. After four years of college, however, there are not many ’04s who would argue that still to be the case.
Barde credits the liberal awareness on campus to the work of the Dartmouth Greens and the Dartmouth Free Press.
Darren Gastrock ’04, a government major, explains that the liberal atmosphere at Dartmouth has helped solidify and strengthen his political views.
“When I first came in, I really didn’t deal with politics at all; I was ignorant, to an extent,” he said. “[Now] I think [the campus] is excessively liberal. Most of the classes I’ve taken have been dominated by liberal professors and I’ve had to defend my prior beliefs to the student body and those professors.”
Barde, on the other hand, says that his time at Dartmouth has left a lasting impression on his perception of the left-right debate.
“I’ve been involved in the Dartmouth Free Press, which has shown me how to sort of engage in the left versus right debate,” Barde said, “but at the same time, it’s almost made me impatient and unsatisfied with that debate.”
As ’04s attempt to sort out their more realistic viewpoints, the campus remains divided about war in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Across the nation, trends show that college students are increasingly less supportive of the war in Iraq, as well as of President Bush, according to a poll released by the Harvard Institute of Politics in April. In the past six months, support for the war among college students has dropped from 58 percent to 49 percent. Support for Bush has dropped even further, from 61 percent to 47 percent.
But these trends are not necessarily the case for Dartmouth seniors.
“I wasn’t entirely cynical about Iraq, unlike some of my more liberal friends,” Barde said. “I knew that President Bush could make a pretty strong case for installing democracy.”
Gastrock admired Bush’s measures following Sept. 11.
“Everything since 9/11 has just strengthened my backing of the country and the president,” he said.