Kim addresses Greek life, alcohol policy
By Josh Roselman, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Newly instated College President Jim Yong Kim, who will begin work on Wednesday overseeing an institution that has historically prided itself on maintaining a distinctive student culture, told The Dartmouth in an interview that many of his policies involving important aspects of Dartmouth’s social scene will remain incomplete until he has a better feel for life at the College — which he termed “an incredibly complicated place.”
“It’s going to take me a year to figure out how the place works,” Kim said.
Although Kim emphasized that he will take his first year as president to learn more about social life at Dartmouth, he did express initial views on several important campus issues.
Kim said that while he is aware that alcohol consumption occurs at Dartmouth, he does not think it occurs more often than at other universities. He added that while he does not condone underage drinking, he understands it is a reality on college campuses.
Rather than cracking down on drinking, Kim said he plans to institute policies that decrease the negative effects of alcohol on campus.
“It strikes me as unrealistic to think that by waving a magic wand, students will stop drinking,” he said. “The one thing we really can control is that drinking doesn’t lead to other really bad outcomes.”
Kim noted that existing alcohol policies are imperfect — he called current New Hampshire possession by consumption laws “unfortunate” — especially those that discourage students who fear legal consequences from seeking medical attention.
“If that changes the behavior of undergraduates so that they delay getting help for people who need it or so that they don’t get help for them at all, that doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
Kim added that he has no concrete plans for the College alcohol policy and will consider various proposals on the issue when he arrives on campus.
Kim, who was not a member of a fraternity during his undergraduate years at Brown University, drew on his experiences as an anthropologist in outlining his preliminary approach to Greek life at Dartmouth.
“Every culture in the world tries to form bonds between people,” he said. “Research shows that having those types of close relationships through adult life is actually protective for your health.”
Although Kim emphasized his intentions to “really enhance Greek life on campus,” he said most of his social policies will have to wait until he better understands the essence of Webster Avenue.
Kim said that he read Chris Miller’s book “The Real Animal House,” and has even learned the rules of pong, although he has yet to play.
Future plans to address the College’s social scene might include encouraging Greek houses to do more social service and “mak[ing] sure people who don’t participate in Greek life have a great social life as well,” Kim said
Kim said he is eager to learn more about athletics at Dartmouth and added that he has already purchased a Dartmouth football tie, as well as a Dartmouth football jersey emblazoned with his high school number.
Kim himself has an extensive background in athletics, he said, including participation in football, basketball, soccer, golf and club volleyball at Brown.
“Sports were really important in my own personal development,” he said. “I learned how to lead when I had to, to flow when it was necessary.”
Much of Kim’s plans for the athletics department will be to balance Dartmouth’s tradition of academic and athletic success.
“Trying to figure out how to maintain our high academic standards, but at the same time win, is a great challenge,” he said. “I’m a believer that even if you have athletes who don’t look as good on paper as other athletes, with inspired coaching you can still win a lot of games.”