The following proposal was sent to the Class of '69 in late April 2006:
We propose that the Class of 1969 adopt the remaining women exchange student alumnae.
(The Alumni Office has confirmed that Classes have this authority.)
We further ask the Class to urge the College to apologize to the women exchange students for the delay in recognizing that they are what they have always been: our fellow students.
We ask that the Class act promptly. As a matter of actuarial fact, it is highly probable that some of these women have died, and more will likely die in the next few years.
The Pioneering Women:
During our Senior Year, nine women attended Dartmouth as exchange students in the drama program. In February 2006, Peter Elias urged Arthur Fergenson to find these women, and in April 2006, Peter, Arthur, Jon Mark and others proposed that the nine women be recognized as members of the Dartmouth community by granting them adopted status in our Class. The Class Officers and Executive Committee approved the proposal and it was adopted without dissent by the Class at Homecoming 2006. A tenth woman, not in the drama program, learned of the recognition and wrote to The D to explain that she also spent a full year at the College as an undergraduate. Two days after her letter was published, the Class Officers recognized her through adoption as well, in time for her to come to our 40th reunion, along with all but two of her adopted sisters. The recognition was enthusiastically supported by Susan Wright ‘69A who praised the Class as progressive: “the great, great Class of 1969.” No conditions were placed on the recognition by adoption, the belief being that the women had earned their place in the Dartmouth alumni community through their commitment of study over the course of a full academic year.
Since adoption, the Pioneering Women have participated in Class activities. Eight of the ten women attended the 40th reunion. One of the two women who did not attend cannot easily travel for health reasons. The attendees came from France, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Arizona, New York, and New Jersey. Three women attended the 45th reunion.
The Remaining Three Classes of Exchange Student alumnae at Dartmouth:
Before four year co-education began in 1972, three more years of women exchange students passed through Dartmouth, in greater numbers and no longer restricted to the drama department. An associate dean was assigned to assist them at the College and they were given housing. In that first year of the expanded exchange program, approximately 70 women attended Dartmouth, and in the later years the numbers were approximately 120 and 150. In the last year, 1971-72, approximately 90 were allowed to remain a second-year and receive a Dartmouth diploma. Not all the women were allowed this privilege because the College was concerned it would infringe on the schools the women attended before taking exchange status. Approximately 200 women who attended Dartmouth as exchange students remain unrecognized for their participation and contribution.
Dartmouth Policy Over the Years:
For 37 years, Dartmouth ignored the women exchange students. Co-education anniversaries were celebrated at 5-year intervals dating from 1972 when the first four-year class of women matriculated. These anniversaries generally neglected to mention the exchange students, and they were only rarely included in Dartmouth events. The College did publicly adopt Meryl Streep, one of the exchange students.
From 2006 to 2011, the College took no action to recognize the pioneering role of the remaining women exchange students. At the urging of Arthur in March 2011, the Alumni Office became involved but rejected the inclusive approach of the Class of 1969, which considered the exchange students already members of our alumni community by virtue of their having lived and studied as equals among us. Instead, the College and the three involved Classes have followed the suggestion of an individual exchange student: attendance as an exchange student only creates the right to audition, and each woman needs to demonstrate her current commitment to Dartmouth.
For the past three years, the exchange student alumnae have been invited to reunions and class functions, but only as guests. We find this unacceptable, and are dismayed but not surprised that it has caused some women to oppose adoption under these conditions.
It is our understanding that neither the College, the Alumni Office, nor the other Classes involved intend to recognize the remaining exchange student alumnae for their contributions. For this reason, Peter, Arthur, Jon, and Steve have pressed the issue this Spring, suggesting and then requesting immediate, unconditional recognition of the women. The Alumni Office has temporized.
Options for Adoption and Recognition:
Arthur has suggested that a simple solution would be to create a new category of alumni membership, Recognition, denoted by an “R” instead of an “A.” It would be determined by the College and not left to the discretion of the Class. It would be used for the women exchange students, who would thereafter be given all rights and privileges of any other alumnus/a (except the right to vote for Trustees, the same restriction on adoped alumni/ae.) The “R” would be associated with her Class, just as an “A” would be. Arthur has further requested that the “R” should be accompanied by an apology from the College for the delay. The “R” designation would be a “one-off event” recognizing the role of the first women at Dartmouth.
Peter has endorsed this proposal, as have Jon and Steve. The College does not deny that it has the power to so act, but has temporized
An alternative would be for President Hanlon to speak to the three Class Presidents and ask them to issue adoptions unconditionally, coupled with an apology.
Absent any sign that the three Classes, the Alumni Office, or the College intend to recognize the remaining exchange student alumnae, we believe that the Class of 1969 should use its ability to adopt to expeditiously resolve this problem.
Here are the key reasons we think this action is necessary and appropriate for the Class of 1969:
- It follows from our Class commitment to an inclusive alumni community.
- We are not inviting them to become part of the alumni community, but simply giving overdue recognition to the fact that they already are.
- Allowing them to participate as the alumnae they are will enhance the extended Dartmouth family.
- It is an act of simple fairness: all matriculated members of every Class are automatically considered full members of the alumni community, regardless of how long or short their stay at Dartmouth. The exchange student alumnae deserve no less.
- It is inappropriate and demeaning to expect that the remaining exchange students petition the College for recognition, or to expect them to demonstrate commitment as a pre-condition for recognition of what they already are: members of the Dartmouth alumnae community.
- The College would be well served by a good faith demonstration of its respect for its women students and alumnae.
- Our 50th reunion coincides with the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Dartmouth and the 250th anniversary of the College. It would be excellent to celebrate all three anniversaries, and do so together.