Overheards

’13 Girl: I mean, I’m comfortable sending my underwear to an actual laundry service, just not to Psi U.

’15 Guy: I’ve only considered being a Heorot. Being a Heorot is like having a Harvard degree … You can do anything with it!

’13 Girl: It’s a wizards and sluts party. I don’t know which to dress up as! Moaning Myrtle?

Drunk guy reading breathalyzer: Is that my temperature?

’13 Girl: I miss freshman fall, but at least I remember people now.

’13 in KAF: I’m the Somalia of productivity right now.

’13 Girl: Wow, Ruth Simmons is leaving at the same time as Kim Jong … I mean Jim Yong Kim.

’14 Guy: Oh, I didn’t use the bathroom in high school.

Dispatches of Love

Parents are pretty old and kind of weird. But even now, most of us still tell them what’s going on in our lives and listen to what they have to say. Today, however, technology has afforded us many different ways to communicate with our parents. A few centuries ago, a pen and paper were Dartmouth students’ only means of communicating with dear old mom and pop while they were away at college.

Surpraisingly enough, apart from the heavily stylized cursive hand, a written correspondence dated from 1857 between Dartmouth alumnus Chase Presacott Parsons and his mother which is now a part of the College’s special collections in Rauner Library is actually not incredibly different from a daily or weekly Skype calls today.

In his letter, Parsons relates an encounter he had with an old friend named Joseph in Bennington, Vt. As is to be expected, much of what Chase conveys is rather mundane. In Chase’s letter, he writes that Joseph said he enjoyed “the most healthy time he has a known” with Chase (his insistence on euphemism is endearing), and Chase sees it prudent to comment on Joseph’s finances. Apparently, Joseph had done quite well for himself, having amassed over $400 in the month of August alone. But in a salute to Parsons’ epistolary style, he manages to terminate a decidedly uninteresting letter with unimaginable abruptness. “I have no more time, so I must close,” Chase wrote.

So even back then, Dartmouth inculcated a culture of all-nighters and tactlessness among its students. Good to know.

A few decades later, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Richard Eberhart ’25 wrote a series of letters to his father (typed, fortunately for me), which are now kept on file in Rauner. On Jan. 25, 1925, Eberhart recounts his exams to his father. However, in true Dartmouth spirit, he proves himself to be somewhat more interested in Winter Carnival.

“I wired Claire Childs, but she can’t come,” Eberhart wrote. “It looks like I would be a stag.”

Poor Dick. I guess he will have to be satisfied with the straight-A he expects to get in his Chaucer class.

After exams, Richard said he “loafed for five days, skiing and sleeping.” While Richard took in the New England winter scenery, however, members of Alpha Delta Phi fraternity (now known as Alpha Delta) were preparing to leave for Montreal “for the weekend, the main attraction being to imbibe of spirits.” Richard wasn’t particularly enthused.

Of course, it would be a grave injustice to discuss Dartmouth’s history without so much as a mention of Dr. Seuss. In the parlance of our times, Theodor Geisel ’25 would best be characterized as a troll. He was a classmate of Richard Eberhart, though Geisel was much more of a brash populist than the poet laureate he is known as today.

When his father inquired, “What are you going to do after you graduate?” Geisel simply proposed that he would “win a thing called the Campbell Fellowship in English Literature” and go to Oxford University. His father, in his haste, misread the letter and informed the local newspaper that his son was definitively going to Oxford. As fate would have it, Geisel was ultimately not awarded the fellowship. To save face, his father did send him to Oxford… at full expense.

Our parents have been consciously aware of our existence longer than we have, so they often attempt to cleverly insinuate that they have insights on our own lives that we do not. This is probably true to some degree. Whatever the case may be, this dynamic fosters extreme intimacy in our conversations with our parents. These records of communication afford us a channel into the minds of these Dartmouth alumni, and they provide a valuable window through which to understand their life and times.

Too Close for Comfort

Going off to college is nothing like how it is in the movies. No one’s parents actually load up a minivan of furniture and clothes, plant their kid in a dorm and then say, “Hey, I’ll see you at Thanksgiving.”

Parents always want updates on their son or daughter’s life at school. They’ll want phone calls, trips home and maybe the occasional campus visit. The majority of Dartmouth students probably don’t fault their parents in making such demands we know that having an empty nest can be tough (well that, and they’re probably still footing the bill.)

Parental involvement in a students’ life on campus typically directly involves mom and dad taking a back seat and letting their child have a little room. College is, after all, a young adult’s chance to grow up in a lot of ways. However, some parents are better at realizing that aspect of the transition than others.

The habit of direct parental involvement in their child’s campus life can begin long before move-in day. Director of Undergraduate Housing Rachael Class-Giguere handles a wide variety of calls from concerned parents, ranging from simple inquires about deadlines to efforts to advocate for their child.

“We understand families care, and they want the best for their child,” she said. “Sometimes, like anybody else, they just need their concerns be heard. Just like students, they want to understand what the process is so that they don’t feel like something bad is happening to their son or daughter.”

Class-Giguere said that some of the most endearing questions received by the Housing Office come from parents of first-year students who live far away, with concerns about the climate and buying dorm supplies being particularly common.

“Every year, some of those same questions come up,” she said. “There’s a notion that if you don’t send your child off with everything, they’ll have a horrible fall. They don’t realize you can go to West Leb and buy sheets, towels and shampoo, and that you’re going to be okay.”

But once a student is all set up in his or her residence hall, mom and dad don’t necessarily back down. Sometimes, Dartmouth parents also choose to directly involve themselves in the entire reason they sent us here in the first place academics.

In the past three years that she has taught at the College, Arabic professor Jamila Chahboun said she has seen a fair number of parents who like to keep tabs on what their son or daughter is up to in the classroom.

“I’ve seen parents who are really involved and have their students report back to them on what they’re learning every day,” she said. “I’ve had a student who would be on the phone with her mom every time I met with her.”

When it comes to the academic progress of a student, having a network of adults pushing a student to succeed isn’t necessarily a bad thing, according to Chahboun.

“As a professor, to see that a student’s parents know what is going on and that they have someone checking on them is a positive,” she said. “I know they have no room to not to do well in school.”

Other than educational questions, some of the harder discussions Chahboun has had with parents have been about safety concerns for students who want to go on the Morocco FSP. While she has always been “happy to have these conversations,” a distinction does exist between a parent wanting information on academics or study abroad and a parent contacting a professor about something like a grade.

“My colleagues and I don’t give parents the chance to come in just to argue against a grade,” Chahboun said. “But at the same time, we don’t give our students the chance to do that, either. I think that is a very rare occurrence at Dartmouth.”

In a somewhat similar line of thought, when a parent contacts an undergraduate dean to inquire about academic grades, visits to Dick’s House or class attendance, the Undergraduate Deans Office does not divulge such information without the student’s permission.

“We don’t want students to think that if a parent calls the Deans Office, we’ll just be sharing all of this information,” Senior Assistant Dean Deborah Tyson said. “We try to play the mediator.”

She explained that when a parent does reach out to the Deans Office for any reason, the focus is on figuring out how to establish working relationships between deans, students and families.

“The best option is to have the student in the office and to have a conference call so all parties know what each other is saying and why they are saying it,” Tyson said. “We don’t want misinterpretation. That’s very important for a student who is struggling to move forward a shared understanding of what the problem is and a shared understanding of what the solutions are.”

For the Undergraduate Deans Office, there is a key philosophical distinction between “a student’s engagement with their parents and parental engagement in place of their student’s,” Tyson said. “Sometimes we have to ask parents to work with us so that the outcome is greater than the sum of its parts,” she said. “We might be able to get a student X, Y and Z and dictate them to complete tasks, but that’s not what is most healthy. We want to see growth that will result in better outcomes next time.”

Tyson also noted that for rare cases when the Dean’s Office does feel the need to reach out to student’s parents to handle mental or physical health concerns, they “almost always come through with flying colors.”

The Mirror Asks Parents of ’15s: What is your impression of Dartmouth?

“While I didn’t attend Dartmouth, I can definitely see the sense of community and feel the camaraderie that Dartmouth offers. The Dartmouth experience for our daughter has been one to not only offer top-notch academics, but also one that offers an opportunity to explore, develop and better oneself.” Carol Oniskey, mother of Micayla Oniskey ’15

“When we drive up [I-91] to get to Dartmouth, we think of all the schools our daughter could have attended that were far closer to home. But, for a kid who grew up in Manhattan, we can think of no better place to spend four years than Hanover, New Hampshire. The remote location can’t help but foster a close community, where people from all backgrounds can blend their unique cultures and talents. We wanted our daughter to get a superb education in a rural environment where she will make lifelong friends. So far, Dartmouth is just what we ordered.” Lynne Uniman, mother of Emily Uniman ’15

“We were thrilled when our daughter Margaret decided to apply to Dartmouth. Both our families have had numerous members attend Dartmouth, and it is a valuable and beloved part of our family tradition. We realize today’s students are so accomplished and versatile it must be challenging at times to maintain perspective as a first-year student. Parents [of freshmen] should be immensely proud of their Dartmouth children. It has been a delight to meet Margaret’s friends, and we look forward to the coming years and observing the paths they choose.” Meaghan Ramsden, mother of Margaret Ramsden ’15

“We have been hugely impressed with Dartmouth, from the dimensional outdoors program to the challenging array of interesting science courses. We are very happy with the education and experience that Christine has enjoyed.” Mary Ellen Kanoff, mother of Christine Kanoff ’15

“[Dartmouth] listens to all the needs of the kids and facilitates between students and professors. Whenever I tell other parents, they are astounded that an Ivy League school goes that far for their students. They really make sure that a kid is going to have a healthy experience. The other thing that I felt was that unlike other larger schools, the College seems to want to allow kids to explore many different avenues and provides the opportunity for that. I also think that it’s amazing that there are so many student-led groups because it facilitates learning different leadership opportunities. The fact that it’s a small community in the middle of nowhere really fosters a familial relationship. Whenever I meet Dartmouth alums, they are over-the-moon excited that my child is going there.” Susan Petterson-Rae, mother of Jadyn Petterson-Rae ’15

“I think Dartmouth allows you to develop yourself as few institutions are capable of doing. The combination of the rural setting, incredible resources, student body and emphasis on undergraduate education is unparalleled. I’m incredibly proud of my daughter’s acceptance and matriculation. I believe Dartmouth will help her explore and enhance her intellectual, social and emotional development and give her a great base for lifelong learning and growth.” Mike Oniskey, father of Micayla Oniskey ’15

A Living Legacy

We’ve all heard the insane marriage statistics (apparently one in 10 Dartmouth students will marry each other) and seen the alumni in the basements celebrating their 15th reuinions. While Dartmouth is always plagued by controversy, our college still has those who love it, even enough to send their children here. But how is your Dartmouth experience affected if you have parents who also attended?

To my surprise, very few legacy students with whom I spoke cited their parents as the primary reason they chose Dartmouth. Rather, they said that after their parents introduced them to the school, they fell in love with the College on the Hill on their own.

“More than anything, [they] really increased my familiarity with Dartmouth,” Anna Fagin ’13 said of her parents, who are both alumni. “When I was visiting other places, Dartmouth was my baseline, and that definitely influenced my decision a lot.”

Lucy Morris ’14 decided on coming despite initial hesitation.

“I was trying to find a school that had all the things I had grown up to expect from a college that wasn’t Dartmouth,” she said. “I never found it.”

Similarly, these legacy students rarely said they had a significant understanding of Dartmouth student life before matriculating despite having grown up with alumni parents. They did, however, have a decidedly positive impression of it. Nora Hodgson ’13, for example, always associated the school with vacation, having only visited the school for summer tennis camp prior to applying.

“It was definitely a special treat,” she said. “Being there in the summer made it seem like the perfect kind of school a utopia.”

Fagin also said she saw Dartmouth in a positive, if distant, light.

“I always associated with it as this foreign thing, even though it was really familiar because I was always here,” she said “In my mind, it was for big kids as a child, it was always kind of my parents’ thing.”

This positive image could easily have been created or at least reinforced by parents who love the school.

“I have yet to go a term without seeing my parents,” Fagin said.

Jeffrey Yates ’15 also said his parents, both of whom are Dartmouth alumni, visit at least once a term. When they do visit, Yates said he always enjoys hearing them talk about what has changed about the school since they went there.

“They hardly recognize all the new buildings that have been built since they were here,” he said. “My dad was an engineer at [the Thayer School of Engineering], and he remembers a very different place than how it is now.”

Above all, these legacies remain in the unique position of being able to share a little bit of history with their family. Both Fagin’s and Morris’ parents met here through extracurricular and social activities, and all three girls feel they are able to bond with their parents over their Dartmouth experiences and adventures, they said.

Fagin recalled hearing a story from her grandfather about a road trip he took during his junior summer in which he met the person who served as the inspiration for the character Flounder in “Animal House” (1978).

“It’s pretty cool to share those stories, that tradition,” Fagin said.

Yates said he has gotten a lot closer with his parents since he chose to attend Dartmouth due to their ability to share their experiences with each other.

“It’s something powerful to share the same college which means so much to all of us and brings us together,” he said.

The act of sharing this tradition clearly breeds loyalty to the school in the families of legacies, along with a more vested interest in its forward progression.

“My parents always say that their favorite thing about coming up to visit is to see what good has remained and how much of what needed to be changed is being changed,” she said. “They’re so much happier with the Dartmouth I go to than the Dartmouth they went to.”

Hopefully, should any of our children go here, we will be able to say the same.

Daddy’s Little Girl

Going away to college is one of the best times for a student to assert his or her independence. Finally liberated from the grip of 18 years of parenting, a college student relishes in the opportunity to decide what to do and when to do it every single day. While many young adults lose touch with their parents when they venture off to school, seeing them as a hindrance to their newfound independence, there are some students who remain in close contact with their parents for a range of reasons.

Some students develop a remarkably strong bond with one or both parents during high school years. Kelly Tropin ’13 said that the time she and her mom spent going to horse shows is one reason why their relationship is so close.

“My mom really is one of my closest friends,” she said. “I feel like many college students feel like they have to hide part of their lives from their parents, but I tell my mom everything.”

Rachel Ofori ’14 also spent an unusually large amount of time with her mom growing up, especially when practicing for and participating in voice and dance competitions, she said.

“I started dancing at the age of two my whole life, she was the one who went with me to every practice and every competition,” Ofori said. “In the process, we just became best friends.”

Ofori also emphasized the value of her mother’s perspective on situations in her everyday life as a student at Dartmouth.

“I think coming to Dartmouth has made us close because our conversations count for more now,” she said. “I feel more comfortable telling her some of my problems than some of my friends because she can provide a different type of advice and perspective.”

The inconstant nature of the D-Plan also has an effect on many students’ relationships with their parents. Philippa Martinez-Berrier ’14 emphasized the impact her recent off-term in her hometown of San Antonio had on her relationship with her parents.

“I was always close with my parents I talked to them on the phone every day, and my dad and I write letters to each other,” she said. “We did grow a little more distant after I first arrived at Dartmouth freshman year, but after being home for a term, I’ve definitely become close to them.”

Martinez-Berrier also cited the importance of family dinners during her upbringing in keeping her close with her parents even in college.

“Every night we would sit down and talk about our day,” she said. “We talk every day now because that’s how it always was.”

Off-terms abroad can also strengthen the relationship between a student and her parents. Grace McDevitt ’14, who recently spent an off-term in Barcelona, said that her time away increased her contact with her parents a lot.

“When I was in Barcelona, I was really out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I called home a lot more because calling home made me feel more at ease.”

The physical displacement college brings can pull apart many relationships, though sometimes they can become stronger than they were before. Students who spent an unusually large amount of time spent with their parents growing up are used to maintaining a strong parent-child bond, while some students have always just been close with their family.

Some parents think keeping in touch with their children is so important that they create a rule. McDevitt was told by her parents before she left for college that she had to call at least once a week.

“When they threaten to not pay your tuition, you call home,” she said.

So sure, we gain some independence when we go away to college. Fine. But maybe that newfound college independence isn’t as complete as we thought.

Ofori is a member of The Dartmouth Business Staff.

Surrogate Parents

For many students, transitioning to college and separating from one's parents spells independence for the first time. It's a sweet liberation for some. But for many others, parents are such treasured resources that the sudden parting leaves many 18-year-olds feeling as though they have no place to turn. Dartmouth has a funny way of filling this gap with people, places and things that snugly fit the roles our parents used to play, however imperfectly. Here are a few of them.

DISCIPLINARIAN

The face of law and order changed when you went to college, and we’re not talking about Christopher Meloni’s replacement on “SVU.” Just when you thought you could get away from finger-wagging reprimands and time-outs, Safety and Security quickly stepped in to fulfill the role of disciplinarian. From boisterously pre-gaming freshmen to regulation-breaking frat stars, no one is safe from Safety & Security. In fact, I’m pretty sure it doles out more citations than an MLA handbook. We’ll admit, maybe your parents didn’t wear uniforms when they asked you to turn your music down. And maybe they never broke up a party because they found an unregistered keg. But the principle is just the same: punishment, then and now, is “for your own good.”

SUSTENANCE PROVIDER

A day in college goes by too quickly for a home-cooked meal. But fear not, for we have Dave. Any frequent diner at Collis Cafe recognizes his smiling face behind the stir-fry station, tossing pans of steaming veggies as they simmer in aromatic sauces or fattening up an omelet with your favorite fillings. Your meal also comes with a free and genuine inquiry about your day and a cheerful goodbye as you head out. Dave certainly has a knack for bringing the warmth of your mom’s kitchen to DDS.

FINANCIAL PATRON

Our hats go off to the modern banking system, which ensures that our spending habits are no longer defined by outstretched palms and pleading eyes. Rather, debit cards provide all the funding we need in a pocket-sized plastic rectangle. While we do miss the warm touch of cash and the feeling of triumph as a bill passes from father to child, we do not miss the incessant questioning as to how last week’s allowance was depleted so quickly. For that, we have Bank of America online alerts.

VALUES AND ETHICS REINFORCER

Beginning at a very young age, our parents taught us to always be respectful, kind and hardworking. It is only through continuous reinforcement that these principles become habits. Team captains can provide such reinforcement in college. With strong personalities that propel them to positions of leadership, team captains serve as role models for younger athletes, encouraging cooperation, fairness and mutual respect. We are never too old to be reminded of the Golden Rule.

CONFIDENCE BOOSTER AND NUMBER ONE FAN

Our parents would not be pleased if they knew that beer fills a void that they left behind. But let’s face it after a few cans of Keystone, who needs mom to tell you that your dress doesn’t make you look fat or to reassure you that you have a chance with that really pretty girl? That being said, turning to alcohol in times of trouble is not a healthy practice. For your dignity’s sake, sip responsibly.