Verbum Ultimum: Embracing the Arts
By The Dartmouth Editorial Board
Published on Friday, September 21, 2012
Over the past several years, Dartmouth has put a great deal of emphasis on strengthening its graduate programs and research departments, particularly in the fields of health care and the sciences. Prominent recent examples include an initiative to catapult the Geisel School of Medicine into the top 20 in medical school rankings, the construction of the Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center and the creation of the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science. While these developments have certainly worked to demonstrate Dartmouth’s desire to become a respected research university, critics have voiced concerns that the College has moved away from its focus on the liberal arts and that this reorientation may come at the expense of non-science fields and undergraduate education.
In light of this trepidation, we are pleased that the College has refocused on new initiatives and innovative approaches to undergraduate learning — specifically with regard to the arts — through the construction of the Black Family Visual Arts Center and the launch of the “Year of the Arts.”
Debates over the proper focus of a higher education institution often seem to be centered upon the dichotomy between major research universities and small liberal arts colleges. Dartmouth has in many ways sought to bridge this divide, and this year’s focus on expanding the College’s “Arts District” has reaffirmed the College’s commitment to liberal studies. Its location in rural New Hampshire forces the College to play an active role in drawing leaders, artists and innovators to campus. We are pleased to see that the College has devoted this year to drawing in notable figures from a broad range of fields, including the arts. While the Hopkins Center has always drawn artists of different types to campus, this year it seems the College has not only increased the number of performances but also made a greater effort to reach out to campus to expose the Dartmouth community to the arts. These efforts seem to illustrate a renewed commitment on the part of the College to connecting the arts to the rest of Dartmouth, particularly the student body.
Some critics have complained that the construction of the VAC further away from the center of campus is another step away from Dartmouth’s traditional small college feel. We disagree with this assertion. If anything, the new arts center represents a reinvigorated spirit that seems only appropriate given the extensive and expensive developments at the College in other fields. We hope that the administration will continue to demonstrate a commitment to undergraduate education and historically underappreciated departments at the College.
While the Year of the Arts initiative certainly shows a rejuvenated commitment to the liberal arts, we hope that this is only the beginning of enhanced interdisciplinary partnerships between academic departments, graduate programs, residential facilities and campus groups. We hope that the administration will continue to develop more innovative initiatives while maintaining the College’s liberal arts focus in years to come.