Verbum Ultimum: A Lackluster Welcome
By The Dartmouth Editorial Board
Published on Friday, February 22, 2013
As we move toward spring term and prepare to welcome prospective students from the Class of 2017 to Hanover, we are disappointed to hear that the admissions office is considering wholesale changes in programming for Dimensions weekend. Given that Dartmouth prides itself on putting together an exceptional Dimensions experience to welcome and woo the incoming class, we question the motives behind this change. The proposed alterations — namely, eliminating the Dimensions show and its cast of freshman students — strike deeply at Dartmouth’s brand as an institution of higher learning. We understand the College’s desire to highlight its intellectual side, but feel strongly that the proposed changes will do nothing to address the perceived problems with our yield.
Though the exact details have not been finalized, the admissions office’s proposal to do away with the Dimensions show is misguided, short-sighted and has been pursued without student input. Admissions is acting on anecdotal rather than statistical evidence to suggest that the show turns prospective students away. On the other hand, admitted students overwhelmingly cite the show as a reason for choosing Dartmouth for their college experience. To the admissions office’s frustration that the highest achieving accepted students do not always pick Dartmouth, we can only respond that there will always be students who decide to attend Harvard or Yale instead; this does not reflect poorly on the College as an institution.
Admissions’ new policy is a total departure from past practices of student involvement. The office traditionally leaves the show’s programming entirely to its student directors, under the valid assumption that they best understand prospective students’ interests and anxieties. Moving to a model in which students have minimal input, in which the show is replaced by two hours of presentations from Dean of Admissions Maria Laskaris, Interim President Carol Folt and handpicked upperclassmen, seems destined to bore rather than excite or entice prospective students. Those undecided students who attend Dimensions come to Hanover for a glimpse into student life. Dimensions in its usual format addresses their needs by actively immersing them in our community. The proposed changes not only diminish the weekend’s most distinctive feature, but also represent a step backward after months of efforts by the administration to increase transparency and integrate student input in its work.
If admissions has an honest vision for rebranding Dartmouth to prospective students, current students must be part of that conversation. We fully support continuous reevaluation of the image that the College projects, but not in the way that admissions has conceived the next iteration of Dimensions. Maintaining the weekend’s most popular and original practices is by no means mutually exclusive with striving to create a more didactic experience for prospective students, especially when student directors have suggested how to more effectively emphasize Dartmouth’s academic pulse. Rather, it would show how active and passionate our student body is, for those are truly the dimensions of Dartmouth.