Would I Let My Child Go to Dartmouth?
By Lauren Vespoli, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, May 4, 2012
Let’s get hypothetical. Let’s say you had some children — a boy and a girl. Let’s say they were smart, and they got into Dartmouth. Oh, and let’s also assume that the essential structure of the College is the same, as in Greek life still exists because it already has for over a century and a half.
Would you want them to go to Dartmouth?
We all know Dartmouth has much to offer: the academic experience and quality of teaching, the beauty, quaintness and safety of the Upper Valley, as well as the bonds we make and the communities we create with one another. But we’ve been brutally reminded over the past few months that there are some uglier aspects that people feel less comfortable discussing. That is, many aspects of Dartmouth are the ugly products of a gendered social system of fraternities and sororities and the mysteriously overpowering ideas of “tradition.” Certainly, Dartmouth is not the only college to have a Greek system, significant amounts of drinking on campus or issues of sexual assault. The difference is that we have experience with these specific issues at Dartmouth. So the question then becomes whether or not we would want our offspring to have “the Dartmouth experience” knowing what we know.
For many current students, gender is the deciding factor on whether or not they would send their children to Dartmouth because of the predominance of male-dominated social spaces and the intensity of fraternity culture.
“I’d be a little hesitant about a girl,” Juan Gonzalez ’12 said, citing the higher number of fraternities than sororities.
However, some view Dartmouth’s social scene as easier to navigate for women than for men.
“I would feel more comfortable sending my daughter here than my son,” Diana Wise ’15 said. “The frat culture is more stressful on guys, whereas at lots of other schools the sorority culture is worse than at Dartmouth.”
Wise emphasized, however, that the values Dartmouth provides can be “stepping stones to a good future.”
“I think my child — if I raised them right — should be strong enough to deal with the negatives of Dartmouth,” she said.
Melanie Parnon ’13 also expressed reservations about sending a son here.
“I’d feel more hesitant about my sons,” she said. “I wouldn’t want them to feel pressure to join a frat, and there’s pretty heavy pressure on guys.”
Kyle Christensen ’13 admitted that “there are definitely extremes” within social life at Dartmouth that are somewhat unique to our school.
“You get a certain experience here at a smaller more intimate school that you don’t get anywhere else,” Christensen said. While Christensen said he would “be fine” sending a daughter to Dartmouth, he said he would be touchy about certain things, such as “picturing her playing pong with some frat boy,” though he knows that this scenario would probably not be any worse than if she were drinking with another guy at a different school.
Caitlin O’Neill ’12 said she would be confident sending her kids here because she has faith in her ability instill good values in her children.
“My parents raised me well enough to trust me here, to make the right decisions about what to get involved in, how to treat people,” she said.
Dartmouth certainly has its own issues and provides plenty of opportunities for people to take the wrong path. It seems that to send a child to Dartmouth, he or she must have a certain strength in order to choose correctly.
“I think the academic experience makes up for the social pitfalls,” O’Neill said. “I have gotten more positives out of this [experience] than regrets.”
Sarah Leonard ’13 echoed O’Neill’s praise of the strength of the College’s academic program.
“The education I’ve gotten here is unparalleled. The student-to-teacher ratio is really unique, and I would definitely send my kids here based on that reason,” Leonard said. “It’s also not nearly as academically competitive as a lot of schools.”
Leonard similarly sees strengths in Dartmouth’s social scene and expressed no reservations about sending her children to Dartmouth on those grounds.
“The community is so strong,” Leonard said. “I can’t think of many other schools that have the academic and social opportunities we have.”
Would I send my own child to Dartmouth? I would — but only under certain conditions. I would send my child to Dartmouth unless I noticed that he or she had an addictive personality, as alcohol and drugs can be too available here for those who want them, especially through fraternal pipelines. I would send my child to Dartmouth, but I wouldn’t if I didn’t feel as though he or she were secure enough. All 18-year-olds are insecure, but insecurity can cause someone to hesitantly agree to a brother’s upstairs invitation after a couple of pong games. Insecurity can lead to a belief in those repressive myths like the “Dartmouth X” and that some people are “A-side” while others are socially irrelevant. My child would have to be confident in his or her abilities, because sometimes at Dartmouth, you forget why you were admitted in the first place when everyone is so darn good at everything. My kid would have to be strong — strong enough to think critically about the organizations he joins, strong enough to question tradition when she has reservations about its value. Hopefully, in this hypothetical future, I would have raised my child to be independent enough and strong enough to face the challenges I see at Dartmouth.