This spring’s newly admitted students program, Dimensions of Dartmouth, will offer three dates for prospective students to visit campus rather than one, and enrolled students will not pose as prospective members of the Class of 2018, dean of admissions and financial aid Maria Laskaris said. In previous years, students performing in the Dimensions show pretended to be high school students at the start of the program to facilitate social interactions. They revealed themselves as current students during the Dimensions show.
Laskaris said that she has not made any specific changes to the program because of the protest at last year’s Dimensions show, during which members of the campus group Real Talk Dartmouth, holding signs highlighting discriminatory acts at the College, took the stage shouting “Dartmouth has a problem.”
The protest and the response it engendered — which consisted of vitriolic threats and comments posted anonymously on Bored at Baker — prompted administrators to cancel classes for a day of reflection and discussion.
“Student protest around important issues has long been associated with the college experience,” Laskaris said in an email. “Finding one’s voice and passion is part of that process and something we expect to happen at Dartmouth. If, like last year, this year’s Dimensions program is interrupted, our primary concern will be for the safety of both our visitors and community members.”
The Dimensions program should emphasize authentic interaction between prospective students and current students and faculty, which is hindered by the practice of having fake prospective students, Laskaris said.
“I just can’t overstate the importance of being genuine and welcoming,” she said. “That doesn’t include students pretending to be people they aren’t.”
Matt Krantz ’16, who performed in the Dimensions show last year and attended as a prospective student, said he was upset by the decision.
While he said he was “heartbroken” when, as a prospective student, he saw the show and realized his new friends were not fellow prospective students, he was happy that he could spend his next three years with the upperclassmen friends he had already met.
That current freshmen commit so much time to prospective students, he said, is unique.
“I really think it shows how much people love and care for this place,” he said. “I think the admissions office is trying to fix something that isn’t broken.”
James Howe ’17, who applied to be a member of this year’s Dimensions crew and watched last year’s performance online, said he believes the fake prospective students make Dartmouth’s accepted student program more memorable than those of other schools. While it may be deceptive, the reveal is surprising and fun.
Raphael Sacks ’17, who also applied to be in the show, said he hopes to have the opportunity to be a “fake prospie,” but understands the decision to cancel the program.
“I think part of the reason people choose Dartmouth is because doing wacky things and wearing flair is part of the experience,” he said. “But on the other hand, it’s deceptive, and even if it’s meant to be in good fun, people might feel they are being treated in a condescending way.”
Unlike in previous years, this year’s program will be offered in three separate sessions, two one-day sessions on April 11 and April 16, and a longer program April 24 to 25. The Dimensions show will take place at the third session.
Offering two programs earlier in the month will hopefully allow more students make it to campus, Laskaris said. With fewer students and families visiting at a time, she said, the College can provide a better experience for each prospective student.
Considering the size of last year’s audience, and the fact that students were turned away, this year’s Dimensions show will be held twice. The performance will take place in Collis Common Ground instead of the Class of 1953 Commons because of its higher capacity.
Emily Leach ’16, who performed in last year’s show and is now the co-director of this year’s performance, or the “Dimensions Mom,” said she appreciates the new setting.
“We don’t want to have the performance in an auditorium, like Spaulding,” Leach said. “The show isn’t a performance, it’s an experience.”
Co-director Garrett Watumull ’16 declined to comment.
The show features songs set to popular music describing various parts of Dartmouth’s culture, including dining and social life.
Leach said that there will be little changed in the planned content for the performance this year. The co-directors solicited Dimensions crew applications from a diverse group of students, as they have done in the past, she said.
“We have the applications in now, and I think there are going to be people from all different parts of campus,” Leach said. “If people didn’t feel last year that their voices were being recognized by Dimensions, that’s a problem.”
Decisions about changing the program’s content are left to the incoming crew members, Leach said.
Howe said he thought that last year’s Dimensions program accurately represented his positive experience at the College.
The co-directors, in coordination with the admissions department, are also considering hosting a talk about participants’ “real Dartmouth experiences” the day after the shows, Leach said. The talk would not have a negative tone, she said, but would discuss how the campus climate is changing.
“Unlike the protest, this might inspire people to come here and be a part of the change,” Leach said. “We want to take what happened with the protest and turn it into meaningful discussion.”