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Dartmouth College’s demographics have shifted over the past one hundred years, from an almost entirely all male, white, and wealthy student body, to one with gender, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity. During this time, the College has endeavored to maintain its reputation as an academically exclusive institution for the intellectual elite while simultaneously opening its doors continually wider to a more diverse student population. These aspirations, for broad inclusivity within the bounds of narrow exclusivity, have frequently worked in opposition to one another, and Dartmouth’s administrators have led the College in a delicate balancing act amid shifting alumni demands, student needs, cultural expectations, and institutional priorities. I explore how, at four key points in the College’s history, boundaries of exclusion and inclusion have been enacted and how those boundaries have been defined, redefined, and reshaped.

I focus each of the four sections on a time period during which national and local events shaped Dartmouth at multiple levels. I center each time period around a story that exemplifies the changes happening at the time, and I contextualize each story, exploring the circumstances that led up to it and the consequences that followed. I selected the four time periods based not on those the College uses to tell its own history, but by identifying national periods of historical significance in the role of higher education, understandings of gender, cultures of dominant and marginalized groups, individual and institutional identity development, and the evolution of political movements.

I use literature from history, cultural studies, women studies, education, sociology, and psychology to interpret and contextualize a myriad of primary source documents from Dartmouth’s past including personal correspondence, student memorabilia books, official publications, presidential speeches, oral histories, student publications, admissions documentation, and meeting notes from Greek organizations.

Through my research, I conclude that while significant progress has been made in diversifying Dartmouth—the campus looks markedly different than it did a century ago and the present-day student experience likely would seem foreign to a student from the class of 1917—the College still is steeped in its history in ways that sometimes surprise, and frequently anger, members of Dartmouth’s community who expect and demand more.