Dartmouth--A Quiet Spark in the Frozen North
College That Lives Alone, Likes It, Neither Barren, Bawdy, nor Brutal
Long and lean, a single white spire fights its way through the trees in Hanover. New Hampshire, to tell the world that a college shivers beneath it. Visitors descending from the rim of hills need only follow this barren beacon to find the cloisters that are Dartmouth, and once there, to help them understand the uniqueness of the country's loneliest college.
For today, the 152-year-old school which produced "educated pagan Indians" and Daniel Webster in its youth, is both a fake and a phenomenon among its contemporaries.
Dartmouth squats on a plateau overlooking the Connecticut River and Very Mont. and is shackled on three sides by foothills of the White Mountains. It is 140 miles northwest of Boston and 275 miles north of New York, yet annually fills its halls with enough students to balance the 3,000 population of Hanover. It is castle accessible by rail, auto, and air in the summer and fall it is practically inaccessible the rest of the year, but Dartmouth likes it that way. It is probably the only school in the country that takes men from 46 states, the District of Columbia, Hawail, and 26 foreign countries, and turns out class after class of men welded, if not frozen, together by what the college terms "Dartmouth Spirit."
This spirit holds men's hearts in the mow slopes long after they have left for the warmth of civilization. This spirit loosens alumni's purse strings enough to keep their outpost in the wilderness a growing, publicized center of the Spartan virtue--a healthy mind in a healthy body. This spirit nurses class rivalry back to health too, after such incidents as last weeks tug of war accident which sent six men to the hospital.
The rivalry is begun in the freshman year Sewcomers to the North Woods must eat and sleep together, must wear green beanies together, and must fight together until they are sophomores. Then they must stick together as vigilantes to make sure the new freshman do what they did.
Freshman sophomores feuds are as old as the college itself. In what is some times termed the Golden Age, the classes fought over a keg of rum. Then a huge 10 foot push ball was purchased, but too many men got crushed in the melee. After that, the football rush was instituted. The two classes lined up at opposite ends of a field. Five footballs were placed in the middle. At a signal, each class tried to get footballs over the other goal line. It the freshmen managed to beat their bloody way through the sophomores three times, they were excused from wearing beanies for the rest of the year.
But here too, the casualty rate was high. The football rush was finally stopped after a referee swallowed his whistle in the excitement. Then the tug-of-war was tried.
Four ropes are tied across three logs. The freshmen pull their ends and the sophomores, the other ends. Until this year, only the ropes had snapped from the pressure. But last Tuesday, the big log in the middle cracked, the chunks bounced off several front line tugs, and six men were carried away. Seniors the arbitrators in all these battles, declared the freshmen victors.
But the accident will not end either the tug-of-war, still safest of the contests, nor the rivalry. Lioyd Neidlinger said better ropes would be used and students made to hold them farther away from the logs.
"It was due to an error in the rigging." stated Neidlinger, "but that doesn't mean the sport is dangerous. It's traditional. And we do have class solidarity.
Funny Thing About Age
"We took a risk on that," he continued, "We stopped having freshmen eat in a separate hall from upperclassmen. We couldn't lose the tug-of-war too. But you know," mused the white-haired dean, "older people around here sometimes get awfully fed up with this sort of foolishness."
Older people around Dartmouth seem to think that the Dartmouth man should spend more time studying. Far from being in a spot where they're forced to study for lack of other past times, Dartmouth men average one or two dates per week-end.
To an outsider who views the college as a barren monastery and the students as celebrants, it may be surprising to know that within a 15-mile radius, there are 1 1/2 young ladies to every Dartmouth young man.
This is partly due to Colby Junior College, 400 girls strong and a scant 15 miles over the hills. It is also partly due to the half dozen Hanover-sized towns scattered through close valleys. The 1950 census revealed that one-sixth of the population of these towns was composed of young women, ages 17 to 25.
In addition, one Dartmouth man out of five who is permitted to have a car has one. There are twenty-three fraternities and three senior societies at Dartmouth plus the usual run-of the-college organizations. There are five movie houses nearby, including the modern first run house in Hanover which changes its show five times a week. Hanover is dry, save for beer, but there are towns within staggering distance that are not.
In short, the white bricked buildings around the campus Green do not house monks. Nor do they house naughty, liquor youth. The brutal truth is: they house college men, who act almost like all college men.
The almost is due to Dartmouth's pride and delight, the Outing club, which counts a good fourth of the college as members.
Other colleges. It is true, have outing clubs. But in Hanover, the club is more than part of the college-the college is nearly part of the club.
This vast woodsy empire became to unwieldy to keep as one group, so sub-clubs were set up several years ago. This afternoon one of them, the Cabins and Trails group, is sending four parties up the slopes of Mount Washington in the Presidential range. C and T owns and operates 16 different cabins for use of its members from Woodstock. Vermont, to Lost River, New Hampshire. The chain begins on a ridge that over hangs the campus known at Moose Mountain and stretches north and west as far as the foot can plod.
Another department, the Winter Sports, is currently praying for snow, which is late this year, so it can take to the ski trails and show neophytes the techniques it has been demonstrating all fall in the classroom.
Best know of the groups is probably the Carnival Department which plans the events that go with Dartmouth's annual winter week-end drunk. So far the committee has just begun the Carnival poster contest.
Then there is the Bait and Bullet section, the Ledyard Canoe Club with 16 boats and a shed, the Mountaineering Club. Dartmouth Underground or the Speleological Club for Spelunkers which explores caverns, and the Natural History Club.
Like most of the organizations at Dartmouth, the DOC holds its own Parties. Officially, the refreshments consist of milk, ginger ale, and cider. These back-to-nature movements are held in any of the 16 cabins at various times of the winter and include outdoor girls from other colleges' outing clubs. The DOC is very popular.
The DOC feels fortunate in having a real Maine woods guide, one of the last of a dying race, in its employ. Ross McKenny is in charge of the woods lore division and acts as judge and referee in the annual spring Woodsman's Weekend.
Here big Boy Scouts from all colleges compete, but the affair is strictly male, Canoe races, fly and bait casting contests, fire building tilts, wood chopping and back-packing races, and pulp wood throwing contests are featured.
Outside of studying the song of the shrike, Dartmouth men study pretty much the same things as other college men study, with one great exception-Great Issues.
This turn through current events is a year-long affair required of all seniors. College officials were-worried five years ago that their spirited graduate would not know what was going on in the world when he emerge from the North Woods. So an ambitious program to teach him was instituted by President John S. Dickey, then in his first year of office.
The idea was to give a classroom approach to the ticklish subject of international affairs, and tie this in with courses already taught at Dartmouth. Either the New York Times or Herald Tribune is required daily reading. Visiting lecturers make up the bulk of the course, and such men as Harvard's I.A. Richards, Crane Brinton, and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. trek New Hampshirewards each year to help prepare the Dartmouth senior for the world outside.
Mecca of study is the Backer Library, whose lone tower sticking up out of the wilderness symbolizes the School. In the lower floor of these storehouses of wise words is a reading room full of monstrous murals-monstrous both in size and content.
Drawn by a Mexican, contemporary of Diego Rivera and every bit as radical, t paintings link an old Mexican legend will up-to-date propaganda. The first pan show in screaming colors the story the white god of ancient Mexico who w last seen sinking into the sea says. "I shall return." The next panels Cotes, coming from the sea as the turned white god, which makes all t people very happy. That is until begins to rape and plunder.
From Cortes to Christ
Then Cortes becomes imperialism, sniffed in figures of war leaders and Wilson, clutching big bags of money. I last panel shows Christ, returned to ear and chopping down his cross in port for the things that were being done its name.
The mural is a mass of jumbled co and symbol. A story around the camels that no one knew what it meant Eleanor Roosevelt saw it once and marked with surprise that it was pi propaganda. But the college did not to it down, and many expect the gar work to become quite famous. "And that's to be the case," said an alumna "we want it at Dartmouth."
If it seems strange that a radical much form a background for normal a dents with the old-fashioned idea of bell close to nature, it is not strange to Dartmouth, where the usual would be out of place. Old President Whelk's motto still holds: "The voice of one crying the wilderness." And so far, no one offered to make that a chorus.