Thursday, June 6, 2013

Interview with Damaris Altomerianos '13

Excerpt from my April 6 interview with Damaris Altomerianos '13:
Callista Womick: Do you think that the Dartmouth community is good at bringing people from all these different backgrounds together?
Damaris Altomerianos: I think it—hmm. I think it brings people to this place, but I
think it doesn’t do—I think we could do better. “We,” including students, could do better at making that a bigger part of everyone’s life. Like, meeting people from different backgrounds should be part of everyone’s life here. It’s really shocking to me how we can all go through our time here having just spent our time with such a small cross-section and not really branching out. That, like, defeats the purpose, right?
Like, if we’re supposed to be able to really learn from each other and each other’s experiences and to be inspired by each other and to really push each other and challenge each other as peers here, you can’t get that when you’re only with people who are just like you.
This is why I like the idea of sort of random assortment for a social system. I
really would love to see us in a residential college system in a full way, very full way. In a way that requires,—so this sort of big vision is still entirely impractical in some ways.
But imagine if we were to sort of just clear out our residential spaces, right?—and, like, take back all of these Greek houses. And so now there’s empty buildings, and now you can remodel them essentially, right? And it would be really nice if we could make them all the same size, to hold the same number of people, I mean, and, like, of the same, like, quality level, so it’s not like some people are living at really, really bad-quality housing versus good. So we’d even that out.
And then wouldn’t it be really nice if each cluster, really, could be its own thing, randomly assigned, so that you can imagine, like—imagine the Choates, for example, right? Wouldn’t it be great if there could be people of all different years there, but keeping first-year students on the same floor, who—say, like, imagine Brown. Brown One could be first-year students. Brown Two can be sophomores. Brown Three—like—
and you can make it like that, and people have the option of, you know, of co-ed floors or, like, single-sex floors, whatever you want—like, whatever. Make all the options
available for each place, and people still have some choice in that.
But each place also has a physical plant. So, like, pick any of these houses—Webster Ave, right? And so if any—pick one of those—could be connected to the Choates—like,
connected not literally, but connected to the Choates—where, like people who live in the Choates would now have that whole physical plant to, like, cook together, eat dinners together, to have dance parties together, to play pong together, where you at least have a sense of space that you can call your own that is with people that were randomly assorted there. That, I think would be a great thing because you need to get people to meet other people in social settings and in living settings. I think it needs to be random to get there. I really do.
And I really think that wouldn’t diminish sense of community. I really think people can find a community in that community. I don’t think people—like, people would argue, “But it wouldn’t be as close because they wouldn’t find as great as friends.” No, I think you would. And I think to a large degree, like—because of the counterfactuals [that are], like, fundamentally unobservable, you don’t know. Maybe you missed out on some of the best friends you could have had here because you didn’t branch out to other people, because you kept yourself in this small group that then rushed the same house, which then...—whatever.
And so I wish that we could all have that sense of space, 'cause space is important. Physical plants really, really matter. And I think everyone here, regardless of paying this amount of dues or, like, getting into this place, should have a sense of space that they can call part of their own.
Womick: Have you been able to find a space like that at Dartmouth that you feel is your own?
Altomerianos: Hmmmm. Not like a physical plant, I would guess. I mean, obviously, like, the neutral ones. Like, “Collis and the Hop and the library.” But I’d say, like, not, like, a social—like a physical plant for the sole purpose of, like, a social body. I think that was upsetting. But I don’t even know how many people really feel that way, obviously, because not every place can actually be open and host events, so there’s that whole issue, too. 

Dartmouth Community and Dartmouth’s World is an ongoing oral history project that launched in 2012. The project’s goal is to document the changing nature of the Dartmouth community in the second half of the twentieth century with an emphasis on the concept of the insider and outsider and how those roles and perceptions change for various constituencies over time. Narrators will include members of the Dartmouth community from 1945 to the present, representing a broad spectrum of voices and perspectives.

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