The Latest Posts

Phil Hanlon announced with some fanfare on August 2, 2016 that he would be blogging, but since then, though he promised one or two post per month, his output has been sparse. No readers? No ideas? What’s up? And to think that I was worried about competition.

In fact, after a total of six posts between August and February, Phil has not written a thing for almost six months:

Hanlon Blog.jpg

If Phil isn’t blogging, maybe he is busy raising money — though, on second thought, given the College’s disastrous fundraising results (where, oh where, is that capital campaign?), maybe he is not doing that. However, on third thought, maybe he is fundraising, and he is just not very good at it.

While we are on the subject of bloggers, my classmate Dean Esserman ‘79 has become the Police Foundation’s Senior Counselor, and he has started off a blog with a post about humanistic policing that you should read as a primer on how we should all think about police work:

Dean Esserman Blog Comp.jpg

Dean is as clear-eyed as it gets about policing, and he articulates the challenges facing present-day law enforcement in an enlightening way.

In their 2002 book, The Undiscipinables (available at Rauner), authors Sandra Gregg, Brian Reilly and James Tatum quote President Ernest Martin Hopkins regarding the origins of the senior fellowship program; Hopkins then goes on to talk about his overarching philosophy of education and its administration, too:

Hopkins Laws and Regulations.jpg

I think this is still another step towards untying somebody’s apron strings from around the waist of the Dartmouth undergraduate and turning him loose on his own sense of responsibility. We have had more laws and regulations and rules than were necessary to run a principality; and for 13 years now I have spent a large part of my time in knocking these down and getting rid of them… so far as my educational interest lies, my whole objective is to get the College recognized as a place where men are expected to stand on their own feet and, if they cannot do this, to take responsibility for falling down. … I prize this particular project because it is at least an eloquent gesture.

How bracing, in an era of safe spaces, special snowflakes and professional counseling for each and every student who feels challenged by social and work pressures, that a President can talk openly about responsibility, the educational benefits of failure, and the goal of having the College stand for specific values.

What if we could today have a President who unashamedly articulated the same themes? The world might sit up and take notice. Such language would be so distinctive that we wouldn’t need a slick slogan to point out that It’s Different at Dartmouth, as Jean Kemeny, wife of President John Kemeny (1970-1981) simply entitled her 1979 autobiography.

Furthermore, Hopkins offers us the model of a reforming President, one ready to hack away at the accumulated dross of the past with the goal of freeing up the College and its students so that they may achieve academic distinction. If Hopkins thinks that the Dartmouth of his day had “more laws and regulations and rules than were necessary to run a principality,” he would find today’s College filled with enough guidelines to administer a government agency. Is it too much to hope that Hopkins’ words inspire our next President (the current one seems incapable of inspiration).

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

your post today inspired me to comment on something that has been a source of regret for some time. from the time I was an undergraduate (the stone age, circa 1965), I felt in my gut that dartmouth’s greatness stemmed directly from its distinctiveness—its location, its traditions (and the emphasis on them), its concentration on undergraduate liberal arts education, and the collegiality between students and faculty.

but over the decades, it was clear that many who came to hanover wanted to “transform” this college, one out of step with the postmodern zeitgeist, to take something singular and make it like every other elite bastion of academia. the penny dropped when james o. freedman lamented the fact that too many prospective students who applied to both dartmouth and H-Y-Pr were choosing the others. my immediate reaction was twofold: any high-school senior who applied to both dartmouth and harvard was an extremely confused puppy; and secondly, do we really want to have cadres of 18-year-olds dictate who and what we are?

we are (or were) who we are. we never tried to be like any other, but rather were happy in our own skin, so to speak. that’s not exactly consistent with diversity and inclusion, but so be it. those two values are a recipe for entropy and homogenization, and inevitably end up driving the institution to the level of insane asylum we see in higher education today.

B-School class sizes.jpgmbaMission’s Insider’s Guide to Tuck for the 2017-2018 year lays out the relative size of Dartmouth’s business school vs. the other majors. It then follows up with a complete review:

Tuck’s students typically have more work experience than those at other top programs, and of the Class of 2018, 100% entered with some level of full-time work experience (an average of five years). Although some top MBA programs have trended toward accepting younger applicants, Tuck’s small community environment actually benefits from its students’ depth of professional experience. In fact, an associate director of admissions at Tuck told mbaMission, “It would be very rare that we would offer deferred admission to a college senior.”

The school reportedly strives to maintain a small student-to-faculty ratio and, according to the Princeton Review, has one of the lowest—and some might say best—such ratios (11:1) among the top U.S. business schools. All of the school’s full-time faculty members teach in the MBA program and appear to maintain a balance between research and teaching. Tuck professors also stay active in the business community by holding advisory positions on boards and taking on consulting engagements, and this ongoing connection to the current business arena allows them to personally bring real-world experience into the classroom.

However, one thing we learned that Tuck students value most about the school’s faculty is the professors’ availability and approachability. A second year we interviewed shared that students commonly run into professors at restaurants or elsewhere around town and that faculty members are always very approachable. Another second-year student commented, “Professors are extremely accessible. You can go up to them, and they will invite you to their offices, or out for coffee or to their houses for dinner. Unlike at other businesses schools, a big divide between students and faculty does not exist at Tuck. … They often host events and are very much a part of the community.” He then affirmed, “Accessibility is the best part of Tuck.”

A fine performance for a small school lost in the wilds of New Hampshire.

Joe Rago.jpgThe age of 34 is too young for anyone to die, and the world should especially mourn the passing of one of Dartmouth’s most talented sons, Joe Rago ‘05. The Wall Street Journal, where he worked, reports:

Joseph Rago, a Pulitzer Prize winning editorial writer at The Wall Street Journal who was known for his richly reported pieces and influence on policy makers, was found dead Thursday evening at his home in Manhattan. He was 34 years old.

The New York Police Department found Mr. Rago dead in his apartment at 7:40 p.m., according to a police official. The authorities went to check on Mr. Rago after he didn’t show up for work on Thursday. Paul Gigot [‘77], the editor of the Journal’s editorial page, had alerted the paper’s security officials, who then contacted the police.

Mr. Rago was found with no obvious signs of trauma and emergency responders declared him dead at the scene, the police said. The cause of death was still being determined by the medical examiner on Friday.

“It is with a heavy heart that we confirm the death of Joseph Rago, a splendid journalist and beloved friend,” Mr. Gigot said in a statement. “Joe and his family are in our thoughts and prayers, and we will be celebrating his work in Saturday’s paper.”

Mr. Rago made his biggest mark writing about health care. In 2011, he captured the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing for what the Pulitzer organization called his “well crafted, against-the-grain editorials challenging the health care reform advocated by President Obama.”

“No matter where you fall in the debate of health care reform, the arguments advanced by Joseph Rago in his series of editorials in The Wall Street Journal were impossible to ignore,” the judges wrote. “Not paying attention to these editorials was not an option for policymakers.”

Mr. Rago gained credibility with the policy community and with politicians because he did his homework, becoming one of the most well-sourced people around on health care, with sources throughout Washington and among academics on the left and right, Mr. Gigot said in an interview on Friday.

“Through his editorials, he had enormous impact on events in Washington,” he said.

The last editorial Mr. Rago wrote, on Wednesday, was titled “The ObamaCare Republicans,” Mr. Gigot said.

After coming to the Journal as a summer intern in 2005, Mr. Rago stood out for his thoughtful reporting and flair for prose. “I immediately hired him,” Mr. Gigot said. “He was just too good not to hire.”

Mr. Rago rose from an assistant editor on the op-ed page to editorial writer to a member of the editorial board. Friends and colleagues say he was modest and serious, but with a sardonic sense of humor that made him a pleasure to be around.

“He was the kind of person you liked to have a beer with—I know that’s a cliché, but it’s actually true,” Mr. Gigot said.

Along with health care, Mr. Rago’s topics ranged from energy regulation to antitrust issues to the debate between privacy and national security. He was the Journal’s main editorial writer during the 2016 presidential campaign and did interviews with many of the candidates as well as filed colorful opinion pieces from the campaign trail.

A native of Falmouth, Mass., Mr. Rago graduated with a degree in history from Dartmouth College in 2005. While there, he was a member of the Phi Delta Alpha fraternity and wrote for the Dartmouth Review, an independent conservative student newspaper. He served on the paper’s board of directors at the time of his death.

He remained active with the campus and in a 2011 videotaped interview there said he tried to stay in touch with students from all over the country and offer his advice.

“Journalism is a hard field to get into, and I caught a break and try to help other people,” he said.

In an interview, Peter Robinson [‘79], a former speechwriter to President Ronald Reagan and a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, said that attitude was typical of Mr. Rago, a longtime friend and 2010 media fellow at Hoover.

“Joe was an intellectual fighter but there was also just a wonderful sweetness about him,” he said.

He praised Mr. Rago’s rigorous approach to opinion writing, saying Mr. Rago always presented the information readers needed to have to assess his conclusions.

“That’s very rare,” Mr. Robinson said. “Joe was never just mouthing off. He was doing the hard work of real journalism.”

The Journal has also published a compendium of Joe’s finest writing.

When Joe won his Pulitzer, I noted:

On occasion I will read an article and find myself pausing to observe that the quality of its writing is exceptional. I automatically look to the byline to see the author’s name. This was often the case in years past when Joe Rago ‘05 was Editor-in-Chief of the Dartmouth Review.

Addendum: A former news managing editor for the D writes in:

Big loss for the College, Phi Delt, and the Journal. Joe had a knack for distilling his arguments in a clear and compelling way, and was an inspiration for many campus journalists — myself included. Not to mention, the members of his class at Phi Delt singlehandedly saved their house from de-recognition and brought it back to its status as a campus institution.

Addendum: Rago has fans far and wide:

Paul Ryan Rago.jpg

Rodney Dangerfield’s line (actually, he referred to his wife) [actually, it’s Henny Youngman’s line — mea culpa] still makes me smile, though a recent headline might put a crimp in a College outplacement strategy: the fake positive recommendation. Inside Higher Education reports:

IHE Recommednation Firing Comp.jpg

One of the many little corruptions in the academy is the failure to fire incompetent people. Rather than give the boot to unsuccessful administrators so they might face their own inadequacies — rather than peddling them down the road at another institution — senior people routinely shade their recommendations (lying is a better verb) in order to encourage other schools to take staffers off their hands. Is this behavior indicative of a lack of resolve? Or a failure to rigorously insist on quality? Or just self-interested solidarity, i.e. I won’t do to someone what I hope they won’t do to me?

I don’t know for sure, but such dishonesty does not help our colleges and universities serve their students better.

Former Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson is a salient example. We poached her from Colgate, and as soon as she arrived in Hanover, I started hearing from staffers in Hamilton about the big mistake that we had made. After three years in town here, Johnson was off to Scripps where she has continued her undistinguished career. Phil had given her a gentle warning that her contract would not be renewed, and she had plenty of time and support finding a new position where she could work her magic.

UNC’s Carol Folt, formerly our interim President, Provost and Dean of the Faculty, would have been hard-pressed to find a sincere supporter in Hanover, yet somehow (you know how) she was hired to run one of the country’s leading state schools.

So what are Phil & Co. saying these days about Provost Dever to other institutions of higher learning? Are they touting Carolyn’s behind-the-scenes achievements? Are there any? The only stage center actions that she has effected are her endless diversity and inclusion memos.

The fact that Carolyn has not landed a plum job somewhere by now (she has been hunting for months) at her $783,890/year salary, incites the occasional vain thought in yours truly. Perhaps hiring committees out there are reading this space, and are using back channel means to find out what is really going on in the Provost’s office in Parkhurst. The answer that would are receive from the faculty in Hanover: not much of anything.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in to say that the line, “Take my wife, please,” belongs to Henny Youngman, not Rodney Dangerfield. Ooops!

You heard it here first. The administration’s next big marketing initiative is the phrase Distinctly Dartmouth — around which the Office of Communications and the Admissions staff will build a whole branding campaign. Sheesh. Sounds like the tagline for an upscale, gated housing community, a place whose McMansions are endowed with marble fireplaces, crystal chandeliers and real Corinthian leather.

How many hours of staff time and endless focus group gatherings did it take to come up with such an anemic alliteration? I mean, really, such boring branding. What slick sloganeering. I could go on.

After all, we are talking about an institution of higher learning that still possesses a faculty devoted to top-flight scholarship and close interaction with undergraduates. Is the Hanlon administration so lacking in self-confidence and so condescending towards prospective students that it thinks that the most-qualified high school seniors in the country won’t apply to the College and won’t come to Hanover unless we have a cutesy catchphrase?

How about skipping the hype and talking about our unique collection of foreign study programs, small classes with devoted professors, ample opportunities to do research, an intimate campus, and a friendly, open culture? And how about having the administration actually reinforce with time and money those salient attributes, rather than having bureaucrats pretend that they are in an episode of Mad Men.

Leave it to the Office of Alumni Relations to jump the gun last Christmas:

Distinctly Dartmouth comp.jpg

Phil’s letter to the campus of September 16, 2016 announcing the Irving Oil Energy Center contained the same phrase:

The institute will offer support for faculty and students to elevate research, teaching, and learning. It will provide resources for students, including undergraduate research opportunities; curricular development funds; and create a visible infrastructure that will help us secure new grants. The institute will help our community soar.


Undergraduate and graduate students will be full partners in the work of the institute, building on our rich history of student-faculty collaboration and creating a center of excellence that is distinctly Dartmouth. New research and programs will involve nearly every academic department in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and faculty in our professional schools in an integrated, cross-disciplinary manner.
[Emphasis added]

Back in the mid-1990’s, when we were the seventh-ranked school in the country, our renown was based mostly on word-of-mouth — the objective estimations of students and faculty members who could directly evaluate the College’s scholarly achievements and innovative academic programs. At that time we didn’t have or need advertising agency savvy or toney slogans to describe what goes on in Hanover.

Addendum: Here’s what’s next around the Ivy League: Patently Princeton. Conspicuously Cornell. Particularly Penn. Categorically Columbia. Hugely Harvard. Beyond Doubt Brown. Uniquely Yale.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

It was actually Boldly Brown.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in to note that the below slide was shown at this May’s Alumni Council meeting:

Distinctly Dartmouth Slide.jpg

It outlines five pillars of the dead-in-the-water capital campaign.

Addendum: Another alumnus write in — with wit:

Is the Capital Campaign “Distinctly Dead”?

President Hanlon claims that Dartmouth is “hot,” and the College’s PR folks don’t miss an opportunity to tout the alleged strength and sky-high yield of the Class of 2021. But as we have seen, Dartmouth loses on cross-admits against every other Ivy, save for Cornell. Still, we really should examine the College’s claim that the incoming class is “the most academically accomplished… the College has ever accepted.” In support of this assertion, the press release proffers the statistic that “mean SAT scores rose 17 points over last year’s accepted students, to an all-time high of 1495.”

However — why aren’t you surprised? — the alleged academic strength of the incoming class is NOT what it seems to be. With the new and redesigned SAT, the exam was rescaled. As the College Board itself explains, “Because the two tests are different, their scores are not equivalent — concordance is the only way to make comparisons between them.”

So, at the very least, the College is being sloppy in comparing scores that are on the same nominal numerical scale of 200 to 800, but are in no other ways comparable. To actually understand what the nominal rise in SAT scores means, let’s examine the College Board’s own concordance tables:

SAT Concordance Highlighted.jpg

As we can see, a higher score on the new SAT generally correlates with a lower score on the old SAT. Apparently, grades are not the only thing being inflated these days. Here is a graphical representation:

graph.png

As the administration trumpets, the mean SAT score for students admitted to the Class of 2021 is 1495. Let’s be charitable and call that 1500. The mean SAT for those admitted to the Class of 2020 was 2219 on the 2400 scale and 1478 on the 1600 scale (see the yellow highlights above). Let’s call that 2220 and 1480, respectively. 2220 on the old SAT scales to somewhere between 1520 and 1530 on the new SAT, and 1480 scales to somewhere between 1510 and 1520. Using the table in the other direction, 1500 on the new SAT scales to 2170 out of 2400 or 1460 out of 1600 for the old SAT.

Either way, the sub-1500 score we are seeing for the Class of 2021 seems at a minimum like a 20-point drop (out of 1600) in real terms compared to the Class of 2020. Uh, Phil?

Does all this accounting really matter? Who knows? As anyone who has been through the process of applying to college can attest, scores on standardized tests are just one factor in a dauntingly complex and seemingly capricious process. There exists a surfeit of students with high test scores, and admissions officers have the unenviable job of constructing a class that is not just smart, but interesting and varied as well.

However, for our mathematician President and his administration to tout the incoming class as the strongest in the College’s history based on quantitative metrics is, at the very least, misleading. A truer representation is that this year incoming students’ mean SAT scores fell by more than 20 points, and by this limited metric the Class of 2021 is weaker than the Class of 2020, not stronger.

Of course, the administration’s leaders know this, but they think that we don’t. We do.

Addendum: Dartblog has it on good authority that most upperclassmen already believe that the Class of 2021 is the worst Dartmouth class ever.

This article in the Wall Street Journal prompted a reader to ask how many Chinese students we have at the College:

China Squeeze.jpg

Needless to say, the Office of Institutional Research’s FactBook was right on the money (click on the image to enlarge it):

International Students Enrolled.jpg

The grand totals for the Classes of 2017-2020 for the countries most strongly represented in the undergraduate student body are: Canada (69), Korea (40), China (40), India (16), the UK (23) and Mexico (17).

The College makes no announcement regarding the departure of faculty members high and low (if you hear of anyone leaving, please let me know), so it is up to this space to keep you informed. Today’s news regards former English Professor Aimee Bahng — she of the vigorous tenure controversy and anti-Israeli sentiment — who has found herself a job at Pomona, one that lacks tenure, at least at the present time:

Aimee Bahng Pomona Comp.jpg

This fall Aimee will be teaching two courses at Pomona as part of the Gender, Women, and Feminist Studies curriculum. Here are the descriptions:

Aimee Bahng Courses.jpg

Bahng’s book, Migrant Futures: Decolonizing Speculation in Financial Times, is now out, courtesy of the Duke University Press:

Aimee Bahng Migrant Futures.jpg

If anyone reads this opus, please let me know how it is. I fear that I won’t have the time to get to it.

Addendum: The Claremont colleges — Claremont-McKenna, Pomona, Scripps, Pitzer and Harvey Mudd — seem something of a refuge for Dartmouth folks. Little-missed Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson landed at Scripps after her three-year contract at the College was not renewed.

Addendum: Still no word on where Provost Dever will end up. Perhaps we can trade her back to Vanderbilt for a player to be named later — much later.

A timeless image of a campus landmark unchanged for generations:

Memorial Field Sun.jpg

Wikipedia’s thumbnail history of Memorial Field:

In 1893, Dartmouth alumni built a football field called Alumni Oval in the southeastern part of the campus. The field’s original wooden grandstand, which backed up on Crosby Street, burned in 1911. In 1923, the College built Memorial Field, with a brick-faced concrete stand and press box on Crosby Street. The stadium opened as a memorial to the students and alumni who had served and died in World War I. Permanent stands on the east side of the field were built later, and end zone bleachers have also been used.

Memorial Field underwent renovation during the summer of 2006, including replacement of the natural grass field with artificial turf to allow nearly year-round use; installation of an 8-lane Tartan track; construction of safety improvements; and the construction of a new varsity athletics center that has reduced the East Stands. With some of the loss made up by stands placed behind the end zones, the current seating capacity is approximately 11,000, down from 22,000 pre-renovation. Despite the loss of seats, it is still the largest athletic field of any sort in northern New England, ahead of the University of Vermont’s 10,000-seat soccer stadium.[citation needed]

The stadium is the end-point of a popular Shriners parade every summer, and is often the venue for the New Hampshire vs. Vermont high school all-star football game which follows the parade.

The Athletics Department prepared a video in 2014 about Memorial Field:


I don’t write about the courses that I audit at the College (probably approaching about 45 in number by now — I started in the mid-1990’s), but in enjoying Cornel West’s intellectual and emotional pyrotechnics in his course this summer on the life, times and thought of W.E.B. Du Bois, an image kept appearing in my head:

Cornel Quetzalcoatl.jpg

Cornel is on the left; that’s Quetzalcoatal on the right from the Orozco Murals (from the Departure of Quetzalcoatal panel).

Addendum: The Hood Museum has an everything-you-could-want-to-know site regarding Orozco’s epic work.

The latest Churchill film — Darkest Hour — seems more in line with the consensus understanding of the Great Man, in contrast to the spirit of takedown evident in the recent movie, Churchill. The trailer for Darkest Hour has just appeared; Variety reports that the release date for the film will be November 24:

I am happy to see that Darkest Hour integrates research from John Lukacs’ thrillingly original book, Five Days in London: May 1940, regarding the to-negotiate-or-not-with-Hitler debate in the War Cabinet.

Addendum: The WWII hits just keep on coming: Dunkirk will open next week.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

As a fellow admirer of Winston Churchill, I enjoyed seeing your post on today’s Dartblog about the upcoming movies about Churchill and Dunkirk. I was not previously aware of either one, and both look like they will be well worth seeing.

Since you so admire Churchill, I wanted to call your attention to another Churchill film with which you may not be familiar. I saw it about a decade ago at a local art house cinema, and then saw it again a few months later when it appeared again at the same theater. The small theater was packed on both occasions and at the conclusion of the film on both occasions the audience broke into applause. I like to think that the applause was for the long ago deceased subject of the film rather than for the film makers, although applause was warranted for both.

The movie is titled Winston Churchill: Walking With Destiny, and it was done by Moriah Films, which is associated with the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. It is a documentary which runs just over 100 minutes. The principal focus of the film is on the period from around May 1940, when France was falling and Churchill was taking office as Prime Minister to just after Pearl Harbor, when America’s entrance into the war provided relief to Churchill that his country’s darkest hour had finally passed..

If you have not seen it, I would highly recommend that you see it if you get a chance. It is a very moving film and really does the man justice.

Winston Churchill: Walking With Destiny is available for rent in iTunes and for streaming on NetFlix.

Joe Helble.jpgIn another encouraging sign, the Hanlon administration has re-appointed Thayer Dean Joe Helble to lead the up-and-coming Thayer School of Engineering. He will begin his fourth four-year term on July 1. New buildings, more students, tighter cooperation with the undergraduate College and an overall increased dynamism have been the hallmarks of Helble’s leadership. In addition, Helble can report a national first for the College:

Thayer has seen a sharp increase in the percentage of engineering graduates who are women. In 2016, Dartmouth granted 52 percent of its undergraduate engineering degrees to women, making it the first national research university to award more bachelor’s degrees in engineering to women than to men. The national average remains just under 20 percent.

Helble LinkedIn.jpgHelble’s resumé (right) on LinkedIn gives you some idea of his background. How nice to see real private sector experience, especially given, as Helble notes, “Thayer nurtures and encourages our faculty entrepreneurs. One third of our tenure-track faculty have started a company, giving Thayer the highest percentage of faculty-entrepreneurs among U.S. engineering schools.”

Could Helble be the College’s next President? In a sense the graduate schools are the Triple A ball to the Dartmouth major leagues. Should we promote a slugger from Triple A to replace the weak-fielding singles hitter with a .128 batting average who is currently trying to run the school?

Addendum: In this video of a TEDxDartmouth 2011 event, Helble details the importance of technological literacy:

Addendum: For West Coast alumni who want to see Joe Helble live and in person, he will be presenting at the 2017 Dartmouth Entrepreneurs Forum in San Francisco on Friday, September 8 at the UCSF Mission Bay Conference Center, San Francisco — as will Tuck Dean Matt Slaughter; Hany Farid, Chair of the Computer Science department; and Eric Fossum, Associate Provost for Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer. The DEF is open to the entire Dartmouth community.

Addendum: The College’s press release announcing Helble’s reappointment contained a lead comment from Provost Carolyn “Broken Record” Dever:

Helble Dever Comment.jpg

Can Provost Dever ever say anything that does not smack of her politics?

Addendum: D writer Rebecca Flowers ‘19 has a data-rich, detailed report on Joe Helble’s reappointment. Good writing.

The Internet Service Provider (ISP) that hosts Dartblog seems be having technical difficulties. Loading the site is easier on some browsers than on others. Apologies.

Problems have this type occurred early last year, too. They were sorted out within a day.

Addendum: Is anyone still having any difficulty in logging on to the site? It now works for me using IE, Chrome, Safari and Firefox.

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