Coffey: A Fitting Title

“It is Sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet there are those who love it.” Some things have not changed since Daniel Webster uttered those now famous words, but others certainly have. Students and alumni remain as loyal to the school as ever, but Dartmouth is no longer a small college; it is a fully-fledged university, and its name should reflect its current identity. Today, the name most befitting this high-powered, diverse school is Dartmouth University.

There has been much discussion about the school’s hybrid identity, but many people fail to anticipate the future success of the school. Dartmouth’s name is obviously indicative of its manifesto, and the name “the College” does partially suit the school, yet the institution’s flexible identity allows Dartmouth to define itself. Rebranding would allow the school to emphasize the current characteristics that will create a durable identity.

Of course, there is historical significance in “the College,” and all those John Belushi posters might lose some of their charm, but we must not let outdated conventions bind us to the past. To call this school a college is to mislabel it and ignore one in three students on campus the graduate students. The fact remains that Dartmouth is not a static institution. While it may once have been an isolated college, today it is a globally oriented research university whose students hail from all 50 states and also over 100 countries.

Dartmouth is not only a research hub, but an artistic mecca whose creations attract visitors from around the Upper Valley. With a close relationship with the Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is one of only three hospitals in northern New England, and the only one in the state, equipped for level one trauma. But the newly christened Geisel is not the university’s only graduate school don’t forget about the Tuck School of Business and the Thayer School of Engineering, not to mention the numerous graduate programs in the arts and sciences.

The administration’s recent preview of its strategic planning report includes a byline suggesting that “Dartmouth should consider adding University’ to its name” in an attempt to enhance its “global prominence,” which is code for “international brand”. Dartmouth is already largely a university, but explicitly stating so would indeed more accurately announce its intentions and character.

Like amending the Dimensions show, changing Dartmouth’s name would not immediately alleviate campus-wide concern about the school’s intellectual reputation or dropping matriculation rates, but would signal a change to a receptive audience.

The globalized world, in which the strength of Dartmouth’s name will become more important than ever, demands savvy and dynamic graduates. Both prospective and current students expect their education to interface with the outside world, and they desire research opportunities that will prepare them for life in an increasingly connected world. Adding “university” to Dartmouth’s name would symbolically reaffirm the school’s commitment to these already-present goals.

Some of the resistance to calling the school a university goes beyond sentimentalism. Concerned advocates of “the College” argue that change would hurt Dartmouth’s position relative to competitive peer universities, not bolster the reputation of the school. They point to Dartmouth’s unique position between small colleges and large universities as its greatest asset, and warn that Dartmouth University would forsake its biggest competitive advantages its college atmosphere and undergraduate focus.

These worries are unfounded. I do not advocate abandoning the strengths that make Dartmouth unique. The school would by all means maintain its commitment to undergraduate teaching and value the liberal arts college experience it is famous for. Not only would a name change likely boost Dartmouth’s appeal, but students of Dartmouth University would still bleed the same shade of green.

Dartmouth’s illustrious history has made the institution what it is today, but students should allow themselves to see beyond Dartmouth’s proud past. Sentimentalism cannot be allowed to triumph over new opportunities. We must choose to embrace Dartmouth’s new identity if the school is to thrive in an increasingly global, research-driven world, and Dartmouth University will be best suited to confront the challenge. Change is not a rejection of the past, but an acceptance of the future.

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