First Impressions – “Abroad” at Dartmouth

Having just wrapped up Week 1 at Dartmouth, I’d like to share a few thoughts about what I’m doing this semester, what I want to do, and the differences that I’ve perceived between Colby and Dartmouth. First of all, upon arriving on campus, I took a stroll around to get a feel of the campus, and guess what appears right before me eyes:

It’s good ol Miller! So apparently I had never left Colby. Jokes aside, apparently Miller library was modeled on Baker Library.

One really cool thing about Baker library is that there are these insane murals in the basement of the library. These murals, called the “Orozco murals”, were commissioned in the early 1920s by the then-President of the College, and was painted by Mexican painter Jose Clemente Orozco in a two year span. The murals, termed the “Epic of American Civilization”, depicts the founding of the USA not from the typical narrative of the Constitution, Civil War, Unification, Civil Rights etc., but instead focuses on the founding of America as viewed from a Mexican perspective.

The murals span the entirety of the four vertical walls. The earlier panes depict Mexican gods bringing progress to the indigneous people, whilst the later panes transition to depicting the effect of European colonization and oppression and what Wikipedia succinctly describes as the “rapid industralization of the human spirit”. Along the way, the murals also feature events during Mexican Civil war and the First World War and emphasize its toll on the human spirit.

I was taken aback both by the sheer scale of the murals and the unbelievable artistic mastery it must have taken to paint the murals. Some brushstrokes, if viewed closely, were made in one go, and the sheer level of planning involved must have been ridiculous.

I also found it interesting that there were historical objections to the murals. A group of Dartmouth parents wanted the murals to be taken down, for one reason or another eg. “spreading Communist propaganda”, but the President of Dartmouth at the time staunchly defended the rights of the artist to paint whatever he liked. I think that this action represents the fundamental tenet that colleges and universities should be a place where ideas are challenged, where the typical historical narratives and ideas are deconstructed and challenged. As a result of this President’s firm adherence to freedom of expression, these murals have remained for me to gaze at, and in fact, is now considered a National Historical Landmark.

Differences

In terms of differences between Dartmouth and Colby,  I’d like to illustrate just one notable difference  I’ve noticed and that is that Dartmouth students use a lot of “Dartmouth slang”. Slang doesn’t seem so prevalent at Colby. I guess “Bob’s” and “The Spa” might be two examples, but I’m struggling to come up with more.

In contrast, here’s a sampler of Dartmouth slang:

  • “Blobby” – short for “Lobby of Baker-Berry library” – a place where people hang – similar to Miller 1st floor
  • “Blitz” – an email, the old email system before GMail and Outlook was called Blitz
  • “FoCo” – short for food court “@now” – right now
  • “I’m a ’21” – instead of saying Freshman, Sophomore etc., people say their graduation year.
  • “RoBo” – short for Robinson, the outing club office
  • “tripee” – analogous to a COOT participant
  • “The Hop” – The Hopkins Center for music and arts
  • DDS – Dartmouth Dining Services
  • “pong” – need I explain? 🙂

I think that the prevalent use of Dartmouth lingo perhaps hints at the fact that the Dartmouth identity is more tight-knit than Colby, although I will have to be here longer to say for sure.