Student Website Seeks Ideas to Combat High-Risk Behavior

The organizers of the student-driven website Improve Dartmouth have created a new anonymous forum to gather a range of ideas to address the problems of binge drinking, sexual assault, and exclusivity at the College.

Organizers of the website Improve Dartmouth: On the Ground set up a chalkboard cube on campus on which anyone can write ideas for addressing the problems of binge drinking, sexual assault, and exclusivity at the College. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

The new site, Improve Dartmouth: On the Ground, is a response to the April 16 call to action by President Phil Hanlon '77, says Esteban Castano ’14, co-founder of the Improve Dartmouth site.

The unfiltered responses on the new site will go to the Moving Dartmouth Forward steering committee, appointed by President Hanlon to gather ideas to stop high-risk behaviors on campus. The committee is charged with gathering ideas through June 30, assessing their feasibility from July 1 to August 31, and proposing a final list of suggestions to the Board of Trustees on November 5.

"This process needs to be informed by a more grassroots, student-led process,” says Castano. "We believe that the participation of every student, staff, faculty, and alumni is imperative for this process to be successful. We also believe that this requires face-to-face conversation."

To broaden the conversation, the organizers of the new website plan to meet with as many student organizations as possible over the next two weeks. More than two dozen groups are set to participate already, Castano says, including Greek organizations, affinity houses, sports teams, clubs, and others. When groups gather, students will post ideas from the discussion directly online.

"We're emphasizing volume and breadth over depth. We really want volume," Castano says.

In addition, the group has set up a chalkboard cube between Collis and the Class of 1953 Commons on which anyone can write ideas for addressing these issues. Every few days ideas from the installation will be added to the Improve Dartmouth: On the Ground website.

Unlike the Improve Dartmouth website, where members of the Dartmouth Community log on by name and vote ideas up or down, the Improve Dartmouth: On the Ground site is anonymous and posts appear in chronological order. Participants can comment on posts, or can add photos or videos, but ideas are not ranked in any way, Castano says.

Castano says the uninhibited graffiti-like style of the cube and the anonymity of the website will allow a full range of opinion, both positive and negative, to flow. Some of it may not be helpful, but the raw ideas will help the committee develop a clearer picture of what people are thinking, he says.

Professor Barbara Will, chair of the steering committee, has agreed to incorporate the material gathered by the website into the committee's study. When the discussion turns to narrowing down the ideas, Castano says, the website will change to allow for deeper discussion and ranking of the ideas that have been gathered.

"We are moving quickly to meet with as many student organizations, faculty, and staff departments on campus as possible in order to ensure that all members of the Dartmouth community have an opportunity to advocate for their ideas, whatever they may be," Castano says.