Students criticize river docks policy
By Hank Nelson, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, July 2, 2010
After an outpouring of student disagreement with the closing of the Connecticut River swim docks last Wednesday, student leaders and College officials have met to discuss “options and alternatives” to the new policy, according to 2012 Class Council Vice President Satoshi Harris-Koizumi ’12. While collaborating on the new river policy with students, safety will remain administrators’ main priority in any negotiations, according to April Thompson, associate Dean of the College for Campus Life.
Following an evaluation by the Outdoor Programs Office that concluded swimming near the docks was unsafe, Thompson announced in a campus-wide e-mail on June 23 that the docks would be closed indefinitely, The Dartmouth previously reported.
Thompson said she met with Class Council and Student Assembly leaders earlier this week to discuss possible alternatives and compromises in the wake of the recent decision. Since the announcement, Thompson said she has received “helpful” input from students and is trying to address as many of their suggestions as possible.
In their discussions with Thompson, the main goal of Class Council and SA is to reopen the docks to students, according to Harris-Koizumi.
Both Harris-Koizumi and 2012 Class Council President John Rutan ’12 stressed the importance of maintaining this goal in negotiations with administrators because “there is no indication that this decision is not final,” Rutan said.
Harris-Koizumi said that while the administration has been very receptive to student input after the decision was made, he and other student leaders wish that the administration had asked for student opinion before they closed the docks.
“I think there are a lot of students who have been disappointed with how the administration has handled the situation and the lack of student input is what frustrated students the most,” Harris-Koizumi said.
College officials will continue to focus their concern on the safety of students when considering student input, according to Thompson.
“I look forward to working with students to explore the options moving forward,” Thompson said in an e-mail to The Dartmouth. “Safety remains a priority. All options will be considered in light of that priority.”
Class Council and the Assembly have developed several proposals for the administration to address possible alternatives to the dock closure, according to Harris-Koizumi. Both students and administrators will continue towards “maximizing student safety” since many “risk-loving students” will likely continue to swim in the river, Harris-Koizumi said.
Alternatives provided by the College — such as the suggestion to swim instead in Storrs Pond — may not prove adequate, according to Harris-Koizumi. The lack of accessibility to the recreation area is problematic and public transportation to the park might act as a deterrent for students, Harris-Koizumi said.
“[The pond’s inconvenient location] could weed out students who don’t have the means of getting there,” Harris-Koizumi said.
Harris-Koizumi said that he hopes that the student body will continue to contact the Assembly and Class Council with their ideas so that the student leaders will best be able to work with the administration.
“We’re not saying one way or another what is going to happen,” he said. “We are going to try our best to use the energy of the student body, whether it be frustration or anger, so that we can better communicate with the administration.”
Thompson agreed that student input in the decision was very important to the administration, and stressed that students should continue to contact the Assembly and Class Council with their ideas and recommendations.
“I really encourage students to talk with the summer leadership so that they can organize [all ideas] into one document,” Thompson said.
Students have also shown their support for the reopening of the swim docks with a Facebook group named “Save the River Dock.” The page posts news about the swim docks and urges students to contact the administration to communicate their dissatifaction about the docks’ closure. The group had 400 members at press time.
Group creator Travis Blalock ’12 also wrote an open letter to Thompson, asking that she release the OPO report that deemed the docks unsafe, engage in an open debate regarding the decision and allow for an “independent investigation” to determine the docks’ safety. Thompson has not yet responded to the open letter, Blalock said in a e-mail to The Dartmouth.
“Saving the river dock is about more than swimming, it’s about letting the administration know that we are not going to be pushed around anymore,” Blalock said in the e-mail.
Student leaders said that they will continue to meet with the administration to find a compromise.
“We have been fostering a good relationship with April Thompson so that we can find a happy medium between what students want and what the administration is comfortable with,” Harris-Koizumi said.
Summer Student Body President Aaron Limonthas ’12 did not respond to request for comment by press time.