Affectionately called “Camp Dartmouth” by some of the student body, sophomore summer seems to hover in the balance (or wobble on the slack line) between an outdoor bonding retreat and the usual rigorous academic term. The “camp” designation is often taken a step further; many current students and alumni alike fondly refer to summer as a party term. From the moment I came to Dartmouth, all I heard about was how much fun it is and this leads me to ask, “What exactly is this term all about?” If it is not about academics, why are we still paying full tuition?
In addition to all the other unfamiliar variables sophomore summer brings with it, limited class selection and unknown professors add to the cutbacks already associated with the term. Due to the small number of students on campus during the summer, every department drastically cuts their class offerings. For example, the government department, which is relatively large, usually offers around 30 courses per term. This summer, however, they offered only five, and all four of the professors are visiting from another university. The same trend holds true for most of the other departments.
The visiting professor aspect only exacerbates the difficulty students experience when choosing classes. Not only are you choosing from a small pool, you are confronted with entirely new fish. With this scenario, some of us may resort to a Seussian “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” mostly randomized approach to choosing classes. Furthermore, if a student wishes to get to know a professor outside of the classroom or office hours, he would have to pay for a lunch meeting himself, since the popular “Take Your Professor to Lunch” program is not offered during the summer.
Perhaps because of limited selection and visiting faculty, many students choose to take a two-course workload, focusing instead on other activities. While this is understandable, it still reinforces my suspicion that summer here is meant for things other than formal, classroom education. At an Ivy League school with an Ivy League price tag, this troubles me a bit. Not to say you must be in a class to learn, but we can learn from life anywhere for free. Dartmouth charges for the quality instruction, which is contingent on professors and academic interactions, that I cannot receive in the same way from unstructured interactions with people in my life.
Although the education aspect seems to have caught on, Dick’s House completely ignores the summer’s reputation for increased outdoor activities. Despite its commitment to “providing high quality care and services for all Dartmouth students,” Dick’s House does not have a nurse on duty on weekends, as it does in a typical term a potentially costly and dangerous cutback. Not only are students who might hurt themselves on weekend outings at risk, those who are “good sammed” must be sent to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Just the ambulance ride there costs more than an overnight bed at Dick’s House.
It is no secret that summer term is known as a party term among students, and perhaps this reputation is partially due to the aforementioned cutbacks. Despite this well-known reputation, however, these reductions are not just inconvenient but dangerous. A student might think twice about “good samming” someone who is severely intoxicated, worrying whether the drunken student can afford a DHMC bill. Additionally, during a term when many students choose to live off campus, a student looking for a “Safe Ride” back to his or her home can only receive a walking escort, since the program is not formally offered.
In the summer, Dartmouth scales back on everythingeven the Courtyard Caf is closed denying us the full, if amorphous, “Dartmouth experience.” Despite the fact that we are strongly encouraged to be here for the summer, which can only be circumvented with your dean’s permission, and are paying full tuition, we are forced to fill in the gaps Dartmouth creates in the summer. From personal fans, to eating out on the town rather than the Class of 1953 Commons, to finding activities not associated with academia, we must define sophomore summer for ourselves. Maybe that is the point of the term anyway. As in the rest of life, tougher lessons come with a high cost, except at Dartmouth the cost is literal. Is a 10-week “camp” really worth $20,000?