On Thursday, November 19, the Associate Dean of the Greek Commons at Residence Life Rafael Matos, four student government members and a reporter from The Polytechnic sat down with students, staff, and faculty at Dartmouth in Hanover, N.H. to gain perspective into their Dartmouth Plan, or D-Plan. This trip was one of two planned trips organized by student and staff leadership in the Rensselaer Union this semester. Their purpose is to learn how students have responded to programs similar to Summer Arch. By understanding the effects and methods of this academic system, the administration and student government can better tailor Summer Arch for RPI.
In the morning, students spoke exclusively with Dartmouth staff, then over lunch, they met with a group largely comprised of juniors and seniors who have undergone the D-Plan. Some staff confessed to exhaustion due to being on the clock all year round and mentioned that the installment of professors from other schools is a practice used to relieve their fall, winter, and spring faculty.
At Dartmouth, students are on a quarter system, with four terms corresponding to the seasons. They receive three “leave” terms, during which they can vacation, undertake an internship, find a job, perform research, or otherwise take recess. They also receive one “off” term, during which students can study abroad, participate in a foreign study program, or take courses at another institution whose credits transfer over. These can be designated in any term slots of the student’s choosing, from freshman year through graduation. In contrast, Summer Arch currently specifies one “off” term that is restricted to either the junior fall or junior spring semester, which is less flexible than the D-Plan.
One major concern was how the administration helps students find opportunities for their “leave” terms. Like RPI, Dartmouth has a center for professional development and makes many research and internship opportunities available, but it does not go looking for students. Students are responsible for finding ways to occupy their “leave” terms. The student government members noted that the Center for Career and Professional Development will need to increase its role in order to provide students with the opportunities for a productive “off” term.
Another area of concern for Rensselaer students is athletics. Joann Brislin, head of Athletics and Club Sports for Dartmouth, addressed team commitments, saying that sports practices over the sophomore summer yield very few participants, since many students use that semester to run for leadership in clubs and Greek houses, take a light load of courses, and work a job. However, it wasn’t viewed as an issue.
Eric Ramsey of Dartmouth Student Life warned against neglecting building maintenance. He stated that Dartmouth failed to consider the necessary renovations that must take place to maintain the residence halls. Since rooms in those buildings are occupied all the time, there is no time for work to be done on them. Ramsey suggested having on and off rooms and switching them around to ensure safe living conditions. However, RPI is already filled to maximum occupancy and may not have an easy solution.
Dartmouth students stated that Greek Life on campus has benefitted from the D-Plan. It allows younger students to take positions of leadership in houses while older leaders are on their “off” or “leave” terms, which applies to clubs on their campus as well. This gives more opportunity for underclassmen to build their resumes through leadership experience and produces a more active, dynamic culture.
According to both students and faculty alike, the program has more positive attributes than negative ones. Therefore, certain elements of Dartmouth’s D-Plan should be incorporated within Summer Arch, which the Rensselaer administration plans to implement by the summer of 2017.