Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dartmouth Wants to Make It Clear They're Taking Sexual Assault Seriously

In a recent press release sent to Jezebel, Dartmouth characterizes sexual assault as "high-risk behavior" alongside drinking and hazing. Alright then.

Friday, February 28, 2014

On b@b, again

Post #3820980: B@B has been used as a primary means by people to harass, threaten, mock, and demean students and organizations at this school anonymously. I seriously want the fans of this site to defend b@b in light of all the shit this site has caused for the school. Feb 8, 2014 @ 6:22pm”


I began using BoredatBaker at 11:46am on September 23, 2010. That’s the timestamp of my first post, anyway. Two years later, my senior seminar work was digital performance art on B@B. The next year, as a Dean’s Office Student Consultant, I used the site to advise students and refer them to campus resources. Throughout, B@B has allowed me to express myself anonymously.

The site itself is a free service provided for anyone with an address, funded out-of-pocket by its owner and administrator “Jae Daemon.” In a recent message to the community, Jae wrote, “I am providing this place for you as a safe haven where you can talk about anything and everything, honestly, without fear of judgment.”

Bored@Baker provides a valuable service to our community by allowing people across all social groups and backgrounds to come together on relatively equal footing. With anonymity, age, sex, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, and the myriad other visual cues we use on a daily basis to categorize people and decide how much to respect them are stripped away. We are able to discuss issues with others they may never have met otherwise and to experience thoughts and opinions perhaps unrepresented within their own friend groups.

Anonymity also allows us the freedom to experiment with aspects of our identities that we may not yet be comfortable expressing in real life. It allows us to seek advice about tough issues we may not want to discuss in person—sexual violence, mental health, eating disorders, drug addiction, academic trouble, parental conflicts, and money problems. I’ve seen all these and many more in my time on the site, and the community has consistently proven itself a tremendous source of support.

That said, there are those who abuse the service. People can be...horrible. I don't have to enumerate those things. We all know. Probably a good many of us have been targets, too.

For those reasons, there are those who have called upon the College to take action against the site. I, too, am sometimes overwhelmingly disgusted with the depths of human depravity that B@B shows us in our peers, but it is important to remember that the abuses of a minority do not represent the standards of the B@B community and are in direct opposition to the goals of the site. 

It is also worth noting that on the Global Board—a B@ page accessible to anyone with a .edu e-mail address—users from schools with their own B@ pages frequently comment on the uniquely abusive nature of Bored@Baker. Regarding the recent post targeting a first year student, a user from Carleton remarked,I can't imagine something like that happening on our board.” The absence of the problems for which our board often finds itself in the spotlight from other schools’ boards suggests that B@B is showing us something particular to our community.

There is currently a team of 12 student moderators who work tirelessly to remove posts that violate the Terms of Service. Neither Bored@Baker nor the vast majority of its users want to be associated with the kind of abuse that bigots and bullies sometimes post. That's just not what Bored@Baker is about.

Unfortunately, there will probably always be people who will violate the standards set forth by the site and the community at large, but denouncing Bored@Baker for the actions of those individuals disregards the tremendous amount of thought, time, and effort that has gone into building and continually improving the site and threatens to take away from the majority something that is a source of support, enjoyment, and community, simply because a few people will abuse the system.

For the site's part, there needs to be a faster and more forceful way to address some of the problems that arise. We are well aware of this and continually discussing our options. Not too long ago, the threshold for removing posts was lowered so that moderators can remove posts more quickly. It's an improvement, and not the last that we hope to see in the moderation system.

For the parts of students, staff, and faculty who may be concerned about the Bored@Baker atmosphere, I would encourage you to look at it for yourselves. Take a look at the Zeitgeist. Read the top posts from today, this week, all time. Look at how the Bored@Baker community—our community—responds to abuse. Perhaps consider making a few posts yourself to add to the positive and supportive atmosphere that the majority of us try to foster. The more voices like that, the more irrelevant those that espouse hatred and violence. The abuse that happens shows us that there are individuals among us all too willing to hurt others; far more important is how we as a community respond.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

a few suggestions

Make the Seuss Room actually Seuss-esque. Right now it's downright disappointingly dull.

Expand financial aid to cover PE classes, extra course fees (for Studio Art materials, labs, and other classes), and text books. These are all required aspects of academics and should be considered part of tuition. 

Require all students to work at least 10 hours per week. Some students have a far greater academic and social advantage because they need not work. Other students are at a disadvantage because they must work. Part-time campus jobs build responsibility and discipline, offer additional learning experiences, and provide opportunities to work with Dartmouth faculty and administrators. Let's level the playing field a little, at least time-wise, and teach students greater responsibility and discipline in the process. 

Do not make more than 15 hours of work-study per week part of any student's financial aid package. While some students will undoubtedly still choose to work more than this, they should not be institutionally required to do so as it may come at a loss to their academics. 

Reinstate family housing options for undergraduate students. As is, undergraduates with families are forced to live off-campus, sometimes quite far away. 

Make diversity awareness education a standard part of the first-year curriculum. Sex ed, too. Lots of people come here without much/any experience with either.

Also include a course on Dartmouth history in the first-year curriculum. It's important for people to understand the context of the institution/community if they are to find their place within it and make it their own.

If we're going to keep using the term "first-year," then make it second-year, third-year, and fourth-year, too. 

Invest more resources in recruiting and retaining top-notch mental health providers. It's institutionally embarrassing that it can take weeks to get a non-emergency appointment with a counselor. 

Stop requiring majors. They can be useful for suggested courses of study but they can also be very limiting. 

Institute residential colleges so that students have a greater sense of community and continuity.

Assign a 24/7-accessible space on campus to student artistic expression. It could be a mural wall or something more creative. Just keep it uncensored and all-hours accessible. This campus needs a communal art outlet. 

Do away with grades. At this level, they just inspire greater stress in students. A pass/fail system coupled with more meaningful individualized feedback would better serve the student body. 

Encourage professors to allow students to demonstrate mastery of course material in more interdisciplinary and individualized ways than papers and exams. While useful as standardized assessment tools, papers and exams do little to prepare students to tackle real-world problems; at best they prepare students for the world of academia, which most of us don’t intend to remain a part of after graduation. Project classes are both more engaging and more applicable to life post-Dartmouth. 

Do away with the exorbitant fee for transferring academic credits from another institution. This is an unnecessary barrier to academic exploration and it favors students from more affluent backgrounds.

Require professors and administrators to have a meal plan with DDS to encourage them to engage more casually with their students. Perhaps this would also lead to greater overall changes in the meal plan options. 

Speaking of which: ideal meal plan situation: No student is required to have a meal plan with DDS; the available options include termly packages cheaper than $875; students may choose to put whatever amount of money they wish into their dining account; all meal plans are all DBA (with no value lost for people who still choose to eat at foco); DBA rolls over from term to term and year to year. As is, DDS is an overpriced monopoly that all students are required to support. 

Re-evaluate the DSGHP exemption requirements. Many students come here with health insurance perfectly suited for their needs but are required to pay/take out loans for the expensive DSGHP because their plans are found to be inadequate. 

Adopt a zero-tolerance policy for students found responsible for sexual assault. Expel them. 

Create more gender-neutral restrooms, at least one per building. The long-term goal should be that all restrooms are gender-neutral. 

Make all ORL residential spaces gender-neutral. 

Implement a more sensible room draw system. Surely there are automated options on the market that could optimize happiness for all of campus. MIT has a beautiful system. <>

Make Banner course reviews publicly available. Seriously, why hasn't this been done yet? 

Either start seriously enforcing the drinking age (stringently punishing those who violate it and derecognizing any groups and organizations that facilitate it) or stop with the theatrics of doing so. S&S walk-throughs are a joke. The new UGA program is detrimental to the residential dynamic. Take a hard stance one way or the other, preferably in favor of non-enforcement. 

Withdraw institutional support from Greek-letter organizations, or at least single-sex ones. As is, and as has been, they perpetuate unhealthy social dynamics, binge drinking, and antiquated ideas of gender identity and interactivity. Letting them be independent would also allow them greater freedoms with regard to new member initiation, pledge terms, and whatnot. See, everyone wins.

Withdraw institutional support from senior societies. They perpetuate a toxic culture of elitism and exclusivity.

Allow people of all gender identities to attend the Proud to Be a Woman dinner. Yes, that includes men. Allyship, no? 

Place readily distinguishable communal bicycles around campus. Maybe fewer privately owned bicycles would be stolen. 

Do away with the D-Plan. It affords some very exciting academic, internship, transfer, &c. opportunities, but at a huge cost to the cohesiveness and continuity of our community/communities. Not to mention how difficult it is to master a subject in only ten weeks. Students would be far better served academically if allowed to study things more deeply and thoroughly. We need time to process and reflect. We don’t have that right now. It’s unhealthy. The benefits of the D Plan are far outweighed by the costs. 

If Collis can have compostable to-go containers and silverware, then so can and should every DDS establishment. 

Stop selling bottled water in campus dining facilities. It may be lucrative, but it comes at a terrific environmental cost. 

Make composting available in all College-owned  buildings.

Make this a non-smoking campus, at least in public spaces. 

Denounce rules imposed by sorority nationals which prohibit chapters from hosting parties, keeping alcohol on the premises, and other such antiquated and misogynistic things. 

Do away with the minimum family contribution. Some families just can’t pay it.

Create first-year trips that don’t actually involve the outdoors all that much for students who don’t want and/or are unable to participate in the current offerings. Neither the outdoors nor the standard discomforts (not showering, strenuous activity, trail food, mortal peril) are necessary for class bonding and expanded options would surely attract more incoming students.

Implement a system through which individuals can easily create and subscribe/unsubscribe from various campus listservs. Campus-Events is at once too broad and too exclusive (individuals and academic departments may not use it, for instance). 

New mascot. It’s time we had one. 

Fix the bells. Seriously they’ve been in a constant state of broken for years.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The privilege of anonymity

When Bored@Baker returned in September after a summer-long hiatus, the site’s sole owner and administrator, “Jae Daemon,” welcomed us back as “Friends and Family-

“This is a magical place. While it has the potential for ugliness in extreme forms, it also has the potential for extreme love, kindness and support. With that said, I have a simple ask. Find the kindness in your heart to support the community as you would your own family. We are all in this together and we should love and support one another. Think about this when decide what words you chose to use.” 

This doesn’t sound like the b@b you hear about, does it?

 It seems that b@b is only ever invoked because of the extreme cruelty for which some members of our community choose to use it. It is cited as a haven of racism (“Gil: Shared Responsibility,” Jan. 23), sexism (“Feiger: Taking Back Dartmouth,” April 18, 2012), and the counter to productive campus dialogue (“Dean Johnson addresses campus inquiries,” May 11, 2012).

Big Green Micro-Aggressions, a new Tumblr for the exposure of bigotry and aggression at Dartmouth, proposes shutting down b@b as the number one goal toward “a more compassionate, inclusive Dartmouth College.”

Shutting down b@b would be counterproductive to this end. b@b itself is as neutral as a whiteboard, but the anonymity of b@b encourages us to discuss issues that otherwise we would not be willing to discuss, to ask questions that otherwise we would not ask, and to experiment with different ways of thinking. Race, gender, and all those aspects of identity we use to define ourselves and others can act as barriers to open and honest dialogue or, sometimes, any dialogue at all. By obscuring all but those aspects of identity we choose to make known, anonymity makes unlikely conversations possible.

Unfortunately, there are those who abuse the service. The site’s Terms of Service explicitly forbid content that is “unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, libelous, invasive of another's privacy, or is harmful to minors in any way,” “that harasses, degrades, intimidates or is hateful toward an individual or group of individuals on the basis of religion, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, age, or disability,” or “that includes personal or identifying information about another person without that person's explicit consent,” among many other things.

Abuse is a problem that Jae and many members of the community take very seriously. In May, Jae announced the development of a new Moderator System to allow users to remove harmful content “with compassion and humanity instead of an algorithm.” Community members help clean up the forum by reporting content and Moderators, chosen by Jae, vote to remove content that is in violation of the terms of service. Because five moderator votes are needed to remove a post, and moderators are students and young alumni, content removal can be slow. All reported posts are reviewed by the moderators, though.

Goal three of Big Green Micro-Aggressions is “To bear witness to the lived experience of those students who feel invisiblized and silenced at Dartmouth.” In his welcome back message, Jae promised “to do everything in [his] power to continue to provide this service for you free of charge as an outlet and platform for you to speak your mind when in other circumstances it would be silenced.”

When awful things appear on b@b it's a symptom of a much bigger problem at Dartmouth. I support b@b for the same reason I support Big Green Micro-Aggressions: both give us a platform on which to share our stories and a forum in which to find that we are not alone.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

PE F12!

PE registration for fall term is open from now until September 25. It takes a little digging to find the course listings (for some reason, as of posting, the PE page only goes through 12X), so here they are. PE course elections are done via Banner, under the Course Election and Registration link.

Important updates for this year:
  • Class fees will no longer be pro-rated for attendance. That is, you'll pay a flat fee whether you attend all the classes or not. 
  • The PE term has been lengthened to 12 weeks to reflect the new fall schedule. Course fees are slightly higher now because of this. 
  • Spouse/partner/family member discounts have been discontinued.  

Important non-updates for this year:

Tuesday evening Ballroom and Swing, anyone?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Seniors fall back on social security

More than 46 percent of Dartmouth students graduate with less than $10,000 in their bank accounts, according to a study by economics professor Steven Venti, Harvard Kennedy School of Government political economy professor David Wise and Massachusetts Institute of Technology economics professor James Poterba. The study, published in February and highlighted this month by The Washington Post, found that students rely heavily on post-grad program stipends after graduation.

The findings address one of the biggest concerns facing American college students: how much money they need to save before graduating. The exact dollar amount needed to graduate comfortably is highly debated, and many worry that the current generation of near-graduates has not saved enough money, Venti said.

“Rather than looking at people on the cusp of graduation and asking, ‘Are they prepared?’ we look at people a year or two after college and ask, ‘Were they prepared?’” Venti said.

The research suggests that most graduates were not adequately prepared for graduation, he said.
With such limited financial assets after undergrad, the graduates often turn to government programs such as Teach for America.

“What is novel about this paper, with echo boomers reaching graduation, is that there is much question about how much these individuals are relying on social safety nets rather than investing in their own assets,” Porteba said.

These benefits, combined with some graduate or doctoral program stipends, provide less than $20,000 to 87 percent of recent-graduate households with less than $10,000 in financial assets, according to Venti.

The study also suggests a link between low financial assets and disproportionately poor health. When those with poor health and meager bank accounts are confronted with unexpected expenses, they might not be able to pay their bills, according to Venti.

“With few assets, these graduates are unable to withstand financial shocks such as medical, home care and child rearing expenses not covered by their insurance plans or employer benefits, or other health-related expenses such as remodeling a home to accommodate a disability,” he said.

Even expenses such as travel or entertainment are difficult for such graduates to afford, according to Venti.
The findings indicate that a reduction in benefits would directly lead to reduced financial security for many young households, The Post reported.

“With health costs continuing to climb, these findings suggest that any cuts in post-grad benefits will have a substantial impact on the well-being of the young,” Venti said.

The researchers said that policies should encourage low and middle-income college students to prepare more robustly for graduation.

The paper used data from the Health and Graduation Study, a longitudinal study sponsored by the National Institute for Higher Education. The study surveyed people under the age of 18 starting in 2005 and followed up every year until 2011, Venti said. The information about assets was used from the latest surveys before the graduation of each participant.

The three professors have collaborated previously and have jointly published 30 papers over more than 20 years, according to Venti. Their research is funded by the National Institute for Higher Education and the American Study Group on Generation Y.

“This study is an example of how economics is becoming more collaborative and interdisciplinary through joint research with experts from other academic areas,” Porteba said.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Financing Study Abroad

I cannot tell you how life-changingly awesome my term abroad was because, well, I never took one.

Dartmouth has world-class foreign study options, and they do an excellent job of promoting them. I applied for the Spanish FSP my freshman year. I considered applying to the Arabic FSP, too, but by then (sophomore year) I knew enough about Dartmouth's financial aid to know better.

See, financial aid will only cover foreign study expenses up to what a normal term on campus would cost. And they do not cover airfare. For a self-financing student like me, the prospect of covering round-trip international airfare was plenty prohibitive.

There are, however, alternative funding options available (of which I am now, but was not, aware). I'll post any I find here:

Who: Students who have obtained a Bachelor's degree by the beginning of the program, have two years of formal Arabic study, and are at the intermediate level of proficiency in Arabic.

What: Offered by the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University, The Qatar Scholarship Program offers dedicated Arabic language students from the United States the opportunity to master their skills in an intensive Arabic language program at Qatar University (QU) in Doha for an entire academic year (September to June). 

How much:The scholarship includes tuition, room and board in university dorms, round-trip airfare, local transportation, and books.

Who: U.S. citizen undergraduates in good academic standing who are receiving a Federal Pell Grant or provide proof that they will be receiving a Pell Grant at the time of application or during the term of their study abroad and who are applying to or have been accepted into a study abroad program eligible for credit by the student's accredited institution of higher education in the U.S and who are studying abroad for at least four weeks in one country other than Cuba and any countries currently on the U.S. State Department's Travel Warning List (programs going to more than one country are eligible if the student will be studying in one country for at least four consecutive weeks).

What: The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program aims to broaden the student population that studies abroad by supporting undergraduates who might otherwise not participate due to financial constraints. The program strongly encourages students to choose non-traditional study abroad destinations, especially those outside of Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand .

How much: up to $5,000