Daily Debriefing

Following a large-scale cheating scandal, approximately 70 undergraduate students were forced to withdraw temporarily from Harvard University last Friday, the Harvard Crimson reported. Roughly 125 students were implicated in the scandal, which involved cheating on a take-home exam in government professor Matthew Platt’s “Introduction to Congress” course last spring. Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael Smith said in a campus email that approximately half of the implicated students were asked to withdraw, but did not specify the exact number. Half of the remaining cases resulted in disciplinary probation and the other half resulted in no disciplinary action. Because the investigations spanned over a prolonged period of time, students asked to withdraw will be charged tuition as if they withdrew on Sept. 30 of last year. Critics of the investigation have questioned the structure of the course, since some students claim it had an ambiguous collaboration policy.

Princeton University will expand gender-neutral housing into the university’s residential college system next school year, The Daily Princetonian reported on Monday. This change will give rising sophomores, juniors and seniors the option of living with any roommate, regardless of gender, adding to existing gender-neutral housing options in upper class dormitories. The new development stems from growing student interest in gender-neutral housing options. Princeton expects the new changes to be successful, based on previous implementation of the gender-neutral housing options in other dormitories, according to The Daily Princetonian.

The Common Application will introduce five new essay prompts and increase the word limit for essays to 650 from 500 words starting this summer, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported. The popular “topic of your choice” prompt, which has been criticized by some college counselors as too broad, will be removed and replaced with new ones designed to help students focus their responses. The online-only Common App previously gave students the option to attach their essays as separate documents, allowing them to exceed the word limit. Updates to the Common App website enforce the new limit by requiring students to upload the essay in a text window rather than an external document. The Common Application board established the new word count limit after analyzing the word counts of “especially effective” essays, The Chronicle reported.

Alumni study Rwanda health care progression

Correction appended

Former College President Jim Yong Kim may have moved on to the World Bank, but his legacy remains. Claire Wagner ’10 and Cameron Nutt ’11 are part of a Rwanda-based Partners in Health research team headed by Paul Farmer, who, along with Kim, cofounded the nonprofit health care organization in 1987. Their research, published on Jan. 18 in British Medical Journal, finds that Rwanda has emerged from a state of sectarian violence to become a model of public health in the past decade, achieving the steepest declines in mortality from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in recent history.

Rwanda has made tremendous progress since the 1994 genocide, in part due to the revamped health care system, Nutt, a research fellow at the the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science, said.

The percentage of the population living below the poverty line declined to 44.9 percent from 77.8 percent between 1994 and 2010. Average life expectancy also rose within roughly the same time period to 56 years from 28 years between 1994 and 2012.

Rwanda’s progress can be largely attributed to the government’s commitment to expanding health care’s accessibility and efficacy, Nutt said.

“The Rwandan government has attacked the deadliest diseases in the most vulnerable parts of the population,” he said.

Approximately 50,000 health workers elected by their villages have played key roles in improving prenatal and neonatal care.

The study found that these efforts have resulted in a 70.4 percent decrease in mortality for children under five between 2000 and 2010.

Through policies such as subsidizing medical costs and paying bus ride fares for the poorest AIDS patients, Rwanda is one of two countries in Africa that meets the United Nation’s goal of universal access to anti-retroviral AIDS medication.

The Rwandan government subsidizes the costs of other medicines and vaccines for the general population.

Vaccines for the human papillomavirus, for example, are distributed through schools and have led to 93 percent coverage.

“The distribution of HPV vaccines through schools is something you don’t see in the West,” Wagner, a research fellow at the Global Health Delivery Partnership in Boston, said.

The country’s success in health care is the product of a responsible and proactive leadership, headed by Rwanda’s Minister of Health, Agnes Binagwaho. Binagwaho was awarded an honorary doctorate from the College in 2010 and visited campus last summer.

“The minister is always at the forefront, trying to make the taxes work for the poorest first,” Nutt said.

Many Rwandan health care programs receive funding from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief as well as other sources, reflecting the more expansive relationship between the Rwandan government and the United States, Nutt said.

International universities, including Dartmouth, have also helped Rwanda advance its health care system. Geisel is part of the Human Resources for Health Program, a partnership with U.S. medical schools funded by the U.S. government and developed by Binagwaho in August 2012, which provides support and training to Rwandan officials.

Each university sends full-time faculty to train their Rwandan counterparts at teaching hospitals in Kigali, Butare and Rwanda. For the next seven years, these universities will help train and create a sustainable group of skilled medical workers.

Although American universities will play a large role as partners to Rwanda’s health care system, the Human Resources for Health Program is largely driven by Rwanda’s constituents, especially officials at the Ministry of Health and medical faculty of the National University of Rwanda.

Dartmouth’s relationship with Rwanda’s health care system is large and growing. The Rwandan director of monitoring and evaluation in the Ministry of Health, Jean Pierre Nyemazi, is currently a student in the Master of Health Care Delivery Science Program. Elizabeth Miranda TDI’12 interned with the ministry of Health for a research project on chronic malnutrition. Anna Roth ’13 interned at the Ministry to study malaria trends, and Sunil Bhatt ’14 is currently there researching vaccines.

Continuing foreign aid and cooperation will help carry Rwanda through the current global economic turmoil and tackle the challenges it faces in the future, Nutt said.

The success of new health care policies in Rwanda offers valuable lessons for the rest of Africa, Wagnersaid. Strong national leadership and cooperation has provided the foundation for most of the country’s successes.

While Rwanda’s dramatic declines in mortality from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria offer insight into possible health care solutions, they should not be seen as a general cure-all.

“Though the core lessons from Rwanda’s success are a hopeful message, they should not necessarily be copy-pasted,” Wagner said.

Nutt and Wagner are research fellows for Binagwaho. Farmer, the team’s leader, is a professor at Harvard Medical School.

Nutt is a former member of The Dartmouth Staff.

**The original version of this article failed to clarify Wagner and Nutt’s professional affiliations and misspelled minister of health Agnes Binagwaho’s name. It also misidentified the institution that issued Binagwaho’s honorary doctorate. It was Dartmouth College, not the Geisel School of Medicine.*

Kymlicka discusses animal citizenship

Queen's University philosophy professor Will Kymlicka advocates for domestic animal citizenship rights.

Domesticated animals should be recognized as citizens with certain rights and privileges in society, Will Kymlicka, a philosophy professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, said in a lecture in Rockefeller Center on Tuesday.

Kymlicka began the lecture by legally and practically defining citizenship as a tool to quantify someone as a member of society. It is a cooperative relationship that involves both rights and responsibilities, he said.

Only domestic animals should be considered for citizenship, while wild animals should have the right to their own territory.

Possible privileges for domestic animals include protection from harm and abuse, access to emergency troops and access to health care. Humans should also consider animals’ interests when determining which activities they should participate in, Kymlicka said.

Kymlicka encourages a positive relationship between animals and humans, differing from traditional animal rights theories that focus exclusively on restricting negative relationships. Trusting all humans to treat animals compassionately, however, is an optimistic but impractical expectation. Society often exploits animals for selfish uses more so today than ever before.

“It’s based on mutual concern and not exploitation,” he said. “Many people want to have a relationship with an animal that is a good relationship. That is ethical.”

Because domestic animals are dependent on humans, they are too vulnerable to independently exercise their citizenship rights. Dependency is universal, and humans are often dependent on others as well.

“This preoccupation with trying to identify something that only humans have that makes us superior to animals I think it’s bad for humans,” Kymlicka said. “It’s a really false vision as to who we are. After all, we too are animals.”

Humans should only participate in activities with animals if they cooperate, he said, and he envisions a society that would create a “good life” for animals.

At Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vt., where two oxen no longer benefiting the school were slaughtered. If the oxen were recognized as citizens, the college would have reconsidered its decision to kill them, Kymlicka said.

“There are certain things we owe to sentient beings simply because they are sentient beings,” Kymlicka said.

Just as people in society have the responsibility to provide for the well-being of children, they also have an obligation to ensure the safety of animals.

“We need to recognize that animals have a phase of their own childhood but then grow into maturity,” Kymlicka said. “There is a process of transitioning children into society and there is a point at which you can no longer mold them. The same goes for domesticated animals.”

McTavish McArdle ’16 said that Kymlicka’s advocacy for animal citizenship, though compelling, may be overly idealistic.

“If you look at the way we treat other humans in marginalized groups, there’s still enormously large populations in society who don’t think they have any responsibility for others,” McArdle said. “I think citizenship of domesticated animals is just an extension of that idea that we should take care of members in society, especially when they can’t take care of themselves.” Paige Elliot ’13, who is interested in animal welfare issues, said that when she first heard about the lecture, she thought it sounded “outlandish.”

“I think one of the most worthwhile aspects of the lecture is that it causes people to think about these issues,” Elliot said. “It was useful in that it could spark discussion of a plethora of issues.”

Although Elliot said she appreciated that the lecture drew attention to animal rights issues, she does not believe animal citizenship will be implemented soon.

Kymlicka and his wife, Sue Donaldson, have been vegans for 20 years and co-wrote “Zoopolis,” in which they advocate for domestic animal citizenship.

The lecture, titled “Animals and the Frontiers of Citizenship,” was co-sponsored by the Dartmouth Legal Studies Faculty Group and the Dartmouth Lawyers Association.

Native alumni reflect on College experience

Alumni panelists spoke about their role in creating the Native American Studies program on Tuesday afternoon.

David Bonga ’74 and his Native American classmates’ first trip to Memorial Field was also their last. While today many students see football game attendance as a rite of passage, the presence of Dartmouth’s Indian mascot alienated Bonga and his peers.

“We heard all these wa-hoo-wah’ cheers and drums beating, and we were all pretty confused and uncomfortable,” he said. “I never went to another football game again, and I stayed off campus during fall quarters to avoid dealing with football season and the Indian mascot running around.”

There were only three Native American students enrolled in the Class of 1973 when the Native American studies program was first established. Panelists Howard Bad Hand ’73, Michael Hanitchak ’73, David Bonga ’74 and Drew Ryce ’74 discussed the gradual, and at times painful, culture change the College has undergone since the program’s establishment on Tuesday.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Native American Studies program, which now offers over 20 courses a year.

“The ’70s represented a recommitment of our institution’s charter purpose,” Native American studies program chair Bruce Duthu ’80 said. “Reform was long overdue, and these activists planted the seeds of change.”

The panel focused on early Native American students’ struggle to fit in at the College, and their efforts to incorporate Native American studies into the College’s curriculum.

Bad Hand visited Dartmouth for the first time in the summer of 1965 with A Better Chance, a national nonprofit education program.

He left feeling that the College lacked understanding of the Native American community.

“It seemed like they were trying to tell us this used to be a school for Native Americans by showing off a couple of paintings and artifacts,” he said. “I thought to myself, This has to change. This really has to change. I’m going to come back in four years and change this place.'”

Bad Hand returned as a freshman in 1969 and was one of three Native American students in his class.

Determined to change the College’s course, he eventually helped recruit 15 Native American students to the Class of 1974.

Those 15 students knew very little about Dartmouth before arriving on campus, and were even unaware that the College was all-male.

“Almost all of us became very good friends,” he said. “It was out of necessity. It was out of our survival attitude.”

The College appointed a director of Native American students that year, who was “constantly inappropriately drunk,” Ryce said.

“The director was absolutely of no help,” he said. “We knew then that if we wanted anything to change, it would be up to us.”

In the spring of 1971, the students met with former College President John Kemeny to propose ideas for social and academic reform, including changing the College’s mascot, implementing a Native American studies curriculum and increasing services for Native American students, Hanitchak said.

Several Native American students whose native language was not English faced difficulties acclimating to the College, he said.

“The English department said that English couldn’t be their second language, because they were U.S. citizens,” Hanitchak said. “People were so rigid in their views of us and so ignorant of the reality of the situation.”

Despite these challenges, Bad Hand said he appreciates that the College did not relinquish its commitment to Native American students.

By working with College faculty and administration, Bad Hand and his peers were able to build a community in which Native American students were able to fit in, yet maintain a sense of identity.

“If we had blended in completely, we would have lost our traditions and our cultural identity,” Ryce said. “We wouldn’t be here today, because there wouldn’t be anything to talk about.”

For Native American students, attending Dartmouth strained connections with their communities, since they were often away from their homes for extended periods of time.

“We were scared of creating a program of forced assimilation, knowing that students would be separated from their communities for years,” Hanitchak said. “We didn’t want them to become the birds that fell out of the nest.”

In retrospect, the panelists agree that their commitment to expanding the College’s Native American community has enriched life at Dartmouth.

“You can have a vision, a goal you want to get to,” Bad Hand said. “The moment you share it, others can take it and bring it to life. Seeing how far the Native American Studies program and how far the community has come shows me that what we started has truly come alive.”

Since the establishment of the Native American Studies Program in 1973, over 700 Native American students have attended Dartmouth. There are 174 Native American students currently enrolled.

Gender center modifies name

The Center for Women and Gender has changed its name to the Center for Gender and Student Engagement in order to better reflect its mission.

As part of a series of institutional changes, the Center for Women and Gender changed its name to the Center for Gender and Student Engagement on Feb. 1 to reflect its mission to provide support to all students.

The center is planning a symposium on gender-related issues next term.

The name change underlies the center’s mission to advise both male and female students, director Jessica Jennrich said.

“We wanted to recognize that all students have a gender identity and that they all have issues that we could help them address, whether it has to do with masculinity or femininity or how they interplay on our campus,” she said.

Several organizational revisions at the Center for Women and Gender influenced the name change.

The center will now stand apart from the Office of Pluralism and Leadership and its employees will report directly to assistant Dean of the College Inge-Lise Ameer instead of the OPAL director.

While OPAL and the center will continue to work together, the offices are heading in different directions.

“OPAL is moving toward uniting with the undergraduate deans and the student advising center,” she said. “We thought it made sense for us to make this change because of the needs of our center here and to have the primary focus be based on the entire campus community, and not so much individual advising.”

Carla Sung Ah Yoon ’15, an intern at the center, said the name change reflects progress in campus gender discourse.

“The change does show that the school cares about gender issues,” Yoon said. “However, the fact that the center is hidden in the Choates in a very remote location and has been for a very long time tells me that it can still do a lot more.”

The center is working with the President’s Office and the women’s and gender studies department to host a symposium on gender-related issues this spring, Jennrich said.

“The spring symposium will hopefully be a pilot program for something that we can offer every year that will create a gender-based research institute at Dartmouth,” she said.

The symposium will welcome community members to attend discussions and lectures from prominent gender studies scholars.

Kathryn Blair joined the center as assistant director on Jan. 22. Blair previously worked as the activism director at Planned Parenthood of Indiana.

Blair will replace former assistant director Stephanie Chestnut, who left the College in mid-August to pursue graduate studies.

Despite changes to its organizational structure, the center will continue to advise student groups and host V-week, beginning Feb. 18.

“One of my big passions is social media, so we were hoping to roll out a big social media campaign to increase our outreach to the student body,” Blair said. “It’s aimed at getting people into the center and making sure people see that the center is a space for everyone.”

The center employs four student interns, who help reach out to all students interested in receiving support.

Some students interviewed questioned whether the name change would have a large impact on the center.

“It’s good that they want everyone to feel accepted, but they should probably make sure that people actually know its exists first,” Kevin Guh ’16 said.

Other students said they appreciated the center’s emphasis on inclusion by not specifying a single gender in its name. “The new name allows for an expanded exploration of gender sexuality,” Harrison Han ’16 said. “When they choose to engage a broad base of students, it really expands the discussion.”

Nordic team excels in Vermont Carnival

Coming off of a third-place finish in the alpine portion of the Vermont Carnival on Jan. 12, the Big Green looked to skate to the top of the standings in the Nordic portion on Feb. 1 and 2. While the Nordic team brought Dartmouth close to edging out their opponents, they ultimately fell short of defeating the University of Vermont by eight points and came in second overall.

On the first day of competition, the Big Green took first place in the men’s 10-kilometer freestyle and the women’s five-kilometer-freestyle, bringing them within 30 points of UVM in first place.

In the five-kilometer freestyle, Corey Stock ’16 took second place with a 14:08.3 and Annie Hart ’14 followed in third place at 14:10.2. Mary O’Connell ’16 placed seventh with a 14:26.2. The Dartmouth women finished first in the event with 126 points, followed by Middlebury College with 108 and UVM with 102. The women’s team was greatly helped by the return of three skiers who had been competing on the international stage, all of whom placed in the top seven in their events.

“It was great to have our three women back,” women’s Nordic coach Cami Thompson-Graves said. “For O’Connell and Stock, this was their first ever Carnival race too, because they have been away and they are freshmen, so this was incredibly exciting.”

O’Connell said she was happy to begin racing in a Dartmouth uniform.

“The UVM Carnival was a really fun way to begin my carnival career at Dartmouth,” O’Connell said. “I was so impressed not just by how everyone raced, but by the support all the skiers gave each other. It was such a positive atmosphere, and I’m so excited to be a part of it.”

The men’s Nordic team was bolstered by the return of Sam Tarling ’13, who took second on the first day in the men’s 10-kilometer freestyle with a 24:52.6. Tarling spent the previous two weekends in the Czech Republic competing in the Under-23 Championships.

“It was a great experience for sure,” Tarling said. “It is always nice to go overseas and ski on different snow, but it’s definitely great to be back.”

Although snow conditions have not been ideal, Tarling’s transition back to skiing with the Big Green has gone smoothly.

“I’ve been healthy since coming back and that has been a relief, and it’s nice to have the team back together again,” Tarling said.

Silas Talbot ’15 also scored points for the Big Green in the 10-kilometer freestyle, coming in fourth with a 25:19.9. Scott Lacy ’13 placed fifth with a 25:34.8. UVM’s Scott Patterson took the top spot, with a 24:25.2. Although the Big Green failed to clinch the top spot, they outscored the Catamounts in the event overall, 127-116.

On the second day of competition, with the 10-kilometer classic races for both the men and women, the Big Green needed to make up 30 points to defeat UVM, who continued to hold the top spot.

In the women’s 10-kilometer classic, Hart finished first and claimed the first individual victory for the Big Green women this season. She beat second-place finisher Annie Pokorny of Middlebury by over six seconds, with a 32:08.9. Stock came in sixth place at 33:01.2 and O’Connell placed eighth in 33:21.2. The three women scored a combined 120 points to give Dartmouth the victory in the 10-kilometer classic, followed by Middlebury with 113 points and UVM with 109 points.

At the start of the men’s 10-kilometer classic, the Big Green still had 19 points to regain to come out on top. Tarling finished first with a 27:42.7, nearly 10 seconds ahead of UVM’s second place finisher, Patterson. Talbot came in fourth at 28:11.9, followed by Steven Mangan ’14 in fifth with a 28:14.0 and David Sinclair ’14 in sixth with a time of 28:20.6. But UVM finished in seventh and eighth, preventing the Big Green from capturing the points it needed to advance.

The Big Green did manage to improve Dartmouth’s overall finish, jumping from third on Jan. 12 to second at the weekend’s end.

Dartmouth will host its Winter Carnival on Friday and Saturday. The alpine teams will race at the Dartmouth Skiway and the Nordic teams will compete at Craftsbury, V.T. due to poor snow conditions at the Dartmouth Cross Country Ski Center at Oak Hill.

“I would love to see a carnival win,” Thompson-Graves said. “We have three left, and while the Nordic team is disappointed that snow conditions mean we have to race in Craftsbury, not Hanover, we’re always excited for Winter Carnival.”

Tennis teams continue to improve

The men's tennis team defeated Old Dominion at the Boss Tennis Center before falling to Indiana this weekend.

The Dartmouth men’s and women’s tennis teams were back in action this weekend, with the women securing two wins to embark on a three-game winning streak and the men splitting its two weekend matchups.

After losing its season opener to Boston College on Jan. 19, the Big Green women’s team (3-1, 0-0 Ivy) turned its season around, beginning with a win over University of Wisconsin 6-1 on Friday at the Boss Tennis Center. Dartmouth came out strong in doubles action as Katherine Yau ’16 and Akiko Okuda ’15 won 8-5 in No. 1 doubles and Melissa Matsuoka ’14 and Sarah Bessen ’16 won 8-1 in No. 2 doubles.

In singles, the Big Green was a force to be reckoned with, winning five matches in straight sets. Janet Liu ’15, Yah, Okuda, Matsuoka and Bessen each scored points for Dartmouth.

Bessen said it was exciting to win against Wisconsin (1-3, 0-0 Big Ten), a strong team in a large national conference.

“Our team is relatively young and I think we’re all becoming more comfortable playing with each other and learning how to compete together as a team,” she said.

After Friday’s standout performance, the women returned to the Boss Tennis Center on Sunday afternoon to defeat the New Jersey Institute of Technology, 6-1.

For the first time this season, the team swept doubles play. At No. 1 doubles, Yau and Okuda won 8-7 after facing a 7-3 deficit. Bessen and Matsuoka easily won No. 2 doubles 8-0 and at No. 3 doubles Suzy Tan ’16 and Julienne Keong ’16 won 8-4.

“Everyone was really excited, especially coach Bob [Dallis], who always stresses the importance for us to win the double points because we start out with doubles so winning the first point is key,” Keong said.

Contributing to Dartmouth’s success, Yau, Okuda, Liu, Matsuoka and Tan each defeated their opponents in singles action.

Dallis was pleased with his team’s overall performance and has encouraged players to view tennis as a team sport.

“Certainly everybody’s a little different,” Dallis said. “Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. But the one thing we do talk about as a team is what energy level can you bring, how hard can you compete, how can you encourage your teammates to do better and how do you react when it doesn’t go your way.”

This team-oriented style of play has proven successful as the women’s team continues in its success this season.

Keong, who joined the Big Green this year, noted the different mentality in college tennis.

“In Juniors you don’t know anyone and you’re only playing for yourself,” Keong said. “But now you’re playing for something bigger than just yourself. You’re playing for your school and your teammates.”

This Friday, the women’s team travels to New York City, looking to extend its winning streak at the ECAC tournament hosted by Columbia University.

“We’re not preparing any differently,” Dallis said. “We really try to prepare for everything very similarly and ask ourselves how are we going to get better as a team.”

On the men’s side, the Big Green (1-3, 0-0 Ivy) won its first match of the season on Friday against Old Dominion, 4-3 at the Boss Tennis Center.

Dartmouth took two of the three doubles matches, with Cameron Ghorbani ’14 and Brendan Tannenbaum ’16 coming back from a 3-6 deficit to win 8-7 in No. 1 doubles and Brandon DeBot ’14 and Xander Centenari ’13 winning 8-5 in No. 2 doubles.

Chris Kipouras ’15 and Erik Nordahl ’16 won their matches in No. 3 and No. 4 singles to clinch the victory for the Big Green.

Last Sunday the men’s team hit the road for the first time this season and lost to Indiana University, 1-6. Far from home in Bloomington, Ind., the Big Green was only able to score one point in the three doubles matches. Ghorbani and Tannenbaum scored a 9-8 (8-6) victory.

In singles action, Sam Todd ’15 was the only member of the team to win a match, defeating Indiana’s Chris Essick 7-6, 3-6, 7-5 in the No. 6 spot.

“Even though we lost we took a lot of things out of it,” Todd said. “We can learn from Indiana and build off our experience against them. On top of that, the biggest thing we can build on as a team is our conditioning and staying tough as a team.”

The men’s team looks to improve its record this Friday when it hosts Binghamton University and Boston University in its first double-header of the season, before taking on Boston College at home on Sunday.

Vox Clamantis

Never Isolationist

As a Dartmouth alum, it was great to see the front page of Friday’s issue covering the lecture I gave on Jan. 31. Unfortunately, the story somewhat mischaracterizes what I said. Two elements in particular deserve correction.

First, I didn’t say that the U.S. Navy shouldn’t patrol in peacetime. I said that, if we ceased such patrols, global trade would not suffer.

Most importantly, as I explained in my lecture, it is wrong to call my views “isolationist,” as your article did four times. As I said, that term has always been a slur American military interventionists use to attack the views of those that prefer to fight fewer wars. My views differ radically from what the term “isolationist” evokes, like the America Firsters of the 1930s.

Unlike them, I support more free trade, more immigration and engaging other nations culturally and diplomatically. That said, to paraphrase Walter Lippmann, I’m happy to be called an isolationist compared to those that think they can run the world.

Ben Friedman ’00

Cato Institute

Alston: More MOOCs

Alston: MOOCs offer Dartmouth a unique chance to expand its education, reaching out to the world while improving educational opportunities for its students.

One of the more exciting recent developments in higher education has been the creation of massive online open courses, or MOOCs. As their names would suggest, these courses are platforms for disseminating the instruction of universities to the wired masses. Several heavy hitters have jumped in to the batter’s box three of the courses that Stanford University offers have enrolled more than 100,000 students. These courses offer Dartmouth (certainly no slouch when it comes to tech-savviness) a unique chance to expand its education, reaching out to the world while improving educational opportunities for its students.

A major problem with MOOCs is that they have a very low completion rate 7 to 9 percent for those offered by Coursera, a major player in the fledgling market. The perfect solution is to populate the courses with highly motivated, intelligent students Dartmouth students who would be willing and able to complete the courses. While this would not preclude students from outside the College from enrolling, Dartmouth would be able to offer enormous resources to its own students who are enrolled, making up for the deficiencies of purely online-based education.

Another problem, highlighted in an Inside Higher Ed article from last May by Joshua Kim, the director of learning and technology for the Dartmouth’s Master in Health Care Delivery Science Program, is that online courses offer few opportunities for student-teacher interaction, since there are thousands of students and only one professor who is typically hundreds of miles away. This would not be a problem for students enrolled in Dartmouth MOOCs such students would have the privilege of attending the professor’s office hours to visit him or her or even bumping into them on campus, just as if they were enrolled in any other class.

As with any other course, students would be free to drop. But since a MOOC would not count as one of the maximum four physical classes students are allowed to take, dropping it will not be nearly as painful. In addition, Dartmouth students would have the exclusive option of taking on-campus exams and writing papers for the courses, allowing for a traditional assessment of student capabilities and a resultant grade. For students who do not end up taking advantage of this, it would be rather like auditing a physical course. For those who do, the assessments would put a stamp of credibility on the resulting grade. While Kim argues that replacing the classroom in this manner constitutes “an abdication of our responsibilities as learning institutions,” since it separates professors from students, by no means would Dartmouth students be deprived of the opportunity to meet with their professors. If anything, such meetings might be even more valuable for students who rarely get to speak with professors in person.

Another major advantage of MOOCs which cannot be understated is their lower cost compared to other methods of expanding education. While professors and their assistants will certainly require time and due compensation for recording lectures, preparing course syllabi and materials and grading papers, these collectively are a far less costly way to increase the breadth and depth of students’ education than the construction and expansion of facilities savings that could and should be passed on to students and their families in the form of lower tuition fees. In addition, professors would be spared the time required to present the same lecture term after term and could focus on advising, mentoring and research instead.

Finally, while offering a selection of superb online offerings is far from the beaten path to prestige, it nonetheless increases the College’s prominence and allows it to keep up with the Joneses in the higher education community. MOOCs may also allow the College to offer courses and faculty support for its students in departments where it lags behind its peers, such as Korean studies, but again without a massive commitment of resources. Ultimately, MOOCs would allow Dartmouth to reach out to the world and continue former College President Jim Yong Kim’s efforts to globalize the college and heighten its profile without sacrificing its soul, the quality of its undergraduate education.

Rothfeld: Philosophically Lax

We all have one: the inescapable reading that surfaces and resurfaces in every class to which it is even remotely relevant. Long after every law of reasonability and probability dictate its disappearance, it continues to rear its stubborn and over-read head. As one of my friends so eloquently put it, “If I have to read one more introductory explanation of Saussure, I’m going to kill myself.”

I cannot say that I am unsympathetic to her academic plight. By my fourth reread of Descartes’ meditations, I found myself wishing that the scholar could have existed without thinking, if only to spare philosophy majors the trouble of parsing their papers with such frustrating frequency.

The problem of academic overlap plagues literature and film departments to an equal if not greater degree. In French, film and comparative literature classes, the same theoretical texts are perennially recycled, the same Neo-Freudian analyses perennially performed and the same power structures perennially problematized.

I do not mean to question the significance or salience of recurring readings and concepts. It is undeniable that Descartes set the stage for modern philosophy, and it is likewise undeniable that a firm grasp of Saussure’s linguistic theories is indispensable in today’s literary climate. I do not deny that psychoanalysis is often edifying, if scientifically questionable, nor do I deny that rereading is often a useful and intellectually illuminating exercise.

What I do deny is that the rereading inadvertently promoted by Dartmouth’s humanities departments is instructive. Rather than delving into the nuances of a difficult text with students who have taken time to reflect on its complexities, humanities majors in high-level classes are repeatedly subjected to introductory summaries aimed at providing first-time readers with basic understanding of the material. Such a phenomenon does not represent a progression it represents a plateau.

When half the students in a film class are completely new to critical theory and the other half are consummate theorists, resultant discussions are unpleasant for everyone. Students unfamiliar with the ideas in question emerge confused, while veterans of upper-level film courses emerge dissatisfied and unenlightened. Newcomers are denied the in-depth explanations they deserve, and theory-enthusiasts are denied the intellectual engagement they crave.

Issues of redundancy are magnified across departments that deal in similar subjects. Anyone who hopes to dabble in more than one national literature will be irked by the apparent omnipresence of French literary criticism, which has wormed its way into even the remotest corners of the multicultural canon.

There are obvious solutions to the problems that beset the humanities at Dartmouth namely, more rigid prerequisite requirements and increased interdepartmental communication.

One benefit of strictly enforced prerequisites is that they would eliminate the all-too-common situations in which Dartmouth students are assigned secondary authors before they have read primary authors and primary authors before they have read the works to which these authors refer. The system I advocate would also allow humanities departments to ensure that every student draws from the same intellectual resources as he or she moves forward, thereby facilitating more productive and pointed dialogue between peers.

Furthermore, prerequisites would do much to improve the logical sequence of our academic careers. It seems counterintuitive to study literary and critical theory to explore various approaches to reading and art only after the completion of a degree in English, French literature or film studies. If literature, film and art history departments required that majors take an introduction to criticism at the beginning of their studies, students could more effectively apply critical ideas to their work throughout the course of their scholastic development.

Champions of the liberal arts tout the merits of accessible humanities courses, arguing that it is important for everyone to feel welcome in literary and philosophical environments. But when inclusivity trades off with scholastic rigor, it comes at too high a cost.

If the humanities have a reputation for laxity, it is because they have earned one. There is no reason why Dartmouth’s humanities departments could not offer the sorts of non-major classes that science departments provide, and, in so doing, improve the undergraduate experience of their own majors immensely.