About 20 students discussed College President Phil Hanlon’s Wednesday “call to action,” exchanging ideas on improving the College, in an event in Collis Common Ground on Saturday.
Event organizer Esteban Castaño ’14, who helped organize the event said in an email that its goal was to candidly discuss Wednesday’s summit and ways to move forward. Castaño founded the student group Dartmouth Roots, which organized the event.
Peety Kaur ’15 said in an email that the event was entirely planned and run by students, adding that the administration will look at the ideas it generated.
At the event, students clustered in small groups to discuss their visions for how the College can change. During one activity, students wrote their visions for Dartmouth’s future on blue Post-It notes, obstacles to achieving their vision on red Post-It notes and ideas for overcoming the obstacles on green ones. Kaur said the activity helped participants create a “map” for potential changes.
Asher Mayerson ’15, who attended the event, said that he found the activity an effective way to brainstorm new ideas.
“I think that having students share ideas and critique each other’s ideas and build on each other’s ideas is important for thinking about the bigger things that we can do to change the College for the better,” he said.
Mayerson said he attended because he wanted to participate in the process of institutional change.
Sid Sathe ’14 said that he decided to attend the event after an organizer told him the summit would be different from previous discussions about student life.
“I was initially unsure about going because I didn’t think it would be productive, but then I had a friend who was a facilitator and he felt very strongly that I would get something out of it,” he said. “He was pretty convinced that my concerns were unwarranted, and I mostly went on his word.”
He said he also wanted to see if Wednesday night’s summit, which has since received national media attention, would lead to lasting change. He said he came away from Saturday’s discussion feeling more optimistic about the effort’s potential.
Sathe found that the organizers were realistic about the cause and had a concrete plan to turn dialogue and ideas into policy initiatives.
“I guess what really struck me is that it didn’t feel like the effort was about them and what their priorities were,” he said. “It was about creating a platform for everyone to talk and share ideas.”
Mayerson said the session helped him think more creatively about how the College can achieve positive change.
No attendee would speak on the record about specific proposals, discussions surrounding which were closed to the media.
Twelve of 15 students interviewed said they had not heard of the event. The other three said that, while they were aware of it, they did not attend because they were unavailable at that time.
Kaur said that the low attendance did not surprise her because of the event’s time and location and the fact that it had not been highly advertised.
“I know people were still unsure about the purpose of this event or skeptical that it would be worth their time — and I totally get it,” she said. “This whole process is new and different and still a bit nebulous.”
Mayerson said he had personally expected higher attendance.
Having successful discussions about change is impossible without higher levels of student involvement, Kaur said. Moving forward, she said organizers will try to reach students who may be more skeptical about the process.
She added that facilitators at the event said that the most effective way to increase involvement is through actively reaching out to students.
“I personally don’t think we can take honest steps towards improving Dartmouth without hearing from every student,” Kaur said. “I know that it’s crazy to expect every student to be involved in this process, but having that ideal standard is what pushes us to keep improving.”
Mayerson suggested that future events be held at more convenient times to generate student interest.
“Getting involved is a very concrete way to be part of the process,” Mayerson said. “It’s hard for a lot of students to be part of the process without engaging in conversations.”
Cassidy McDermott ’17 did not attend the event, but said she thinks its emphasis on inclusivity was important. Wednesday’s summit, which about 120 people attended, was closed to the public.
“If it is invite-only, people might want to come but can’t,” she said. “Everyone has a voice, even if they aren’t really involved.”
Kaur said that there are plans to hold more events and to make them more accessible to the general student body.
McDermott said that if there were another summit, she would consider attending because she thinks it is important to hold discussions about campus issues. Sathe also said that he would consider attending another summit.
Castaño said he looks forward to seeing the events of the next few months, adding that he hopes to build an inclusive “grassroots movement.”
Eight event organizers could not be reached for comment by press time. Event organizer and Dartmouth Roots member Gillian O’Connell ’15 declined to comment.