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To my mind, Michael Lewis, no mean stylist himself, wrote the best summation of Tom Wolfe when he went through Wolfe’s papers at the New York Public Library and then visited the man in 2015. Read his full report from Vanity Fair.

Most memorable was Lewis’ unearthing of Wolfe tidbits from the archives.

A letter to his mother and father:

I hate to say this but David McDaniel is the most devlish looking and the most devlish acting person I’ve ever seen. He looks like the typical “comic book” Jap. He is short—not over 4’2”—has a very, very, very, very short monkey’s shave—high cheekbones—squinted eyes—wears glasses—a stubby nose—a toothy grin—and to top it all, he actually has pointed teeth!!!!!!!!!!!! He is as mean as he can be, he has no consideration for anyone, he acts spoiled to death. he is terribly babyish, unhumanly babyish for anyone 12 years old. This is what he looks like [see drawing on page 185, top right] … The description and drawing seem terribly exaggerated I know, but every bit of it is true—and the picture is one of the most perfect likenesses I’ve ever drawn.

Written when Wolfe was twelve years old. (or should I have written… twelve years old!!!!!!)

And an excerpt from Wolfe’s initially rejected Yale thesis:

At one point ‘the Cuban delegation’ tramped in. It was led by a fierce young woman named Lola de la Torriente. With her bobbed hair, leather jacket, and flat-heeled shoes, she looked as though she had just left the barricades. Apparently she had. ‘This is where our literature is being built,’ exclaimed she, ‘on the barricades!’

Lewis accurately and delightfully concludes:

Which is to say that, as a 26-year-old graduate student, just as a 12-year-old letter writer, Tom Wolfe was already recognizably himself.

My own take on Wolfe is that his writing leads one to think he was having great fun recounting the exploits of his real and imagined characters. He often referred to America as a “carnival,” and what palpable delight he took in her.


Tom Wolfe.jpg

Addendum: George Plimpton’s 1991 interview, Tom Wolfe, The Art of Fiction No. 123, in the Paris Review also gives one a good aperçu into an unaffected, thoughtful man.

Addendum: Closer to home, my classmate Dean Esserman ‘79’s father, Paul Esserman, was Tom Wolfe’s doctor for 37 years. When Paul Esserman passed away in 1999, Wolfe gave his eulogy at a gathering hosted by the Ethical Culture Society in Manhattan. For the occasion, Wolfe wore a black suit.

Wolfe’s practice of the calligraphic arts certainly mirrored his writing style:

Wolfe Dedication.jpg

This dedication page is found inside Wolfe’s book, “Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine” — a first edition that he gave to Paul Esserman.

If I ever write a business book, it will be entitled “Quality People Are Free.” Which is to say that high performers justify a high salary because they bring in so much money and do so many good things, in addition to saving money for an organization far beyond their compensation, that they more than cover their wages. I’d much rather have a Dartmouth President earning $2 million a year than shell out $1,251,216 for Phil Hanlon, or to continue that logic, to pay $808,623 to a Provost like Carolyn Dever (their 2016 salaries). That’s money down the drain.

Now that Carolyn has left Parkhurst for the relaxed climes of Sanborn Hall, one wonders how much she is making as an English professor. I’d bet the same amount, at least for a few years. We’ll find out from future IRS 990 forms.

We do know that she is doing well enough to buy a fancy house just off of Balch Hill (in place of her erstwhile Provost’s digs on Clement Road):

Dever Residence.jpg

Five bedrooms and four and a half bathrooms for only $1,075,000, according to the Town of Hanover’s records:

Dever House2.jpg

Dever House 1.jpg

When Carolyn arrived at Dartmouth from Vanderbilt, the consensus view among the faculty was that she was in town to punch her ticket on the way to a college presidency somewhere else. Needless to say, her three and a third utterly undistinguished years as Provost did not prove to be a stepping stone for her (though they did help us understand that Phil Hanlon can’t hire good people for beans). Despite endless job searching while she was on the College’s payroll, nobody would hire her to run another school.

Carolyn will be on the College’s books for decades to come.

Addendum: It would seem from Carolyn’s easy parachute jump from Parkhurst to Sanborn that not only did she negotiate a whopping salary before coming to Dartmouth, but she also had the foresight to have tenure thrown into her compensation package, too. Pretty clever.

A student describes the true cost of “dining” at DDS:

My perspective of the meal swipes is they are expensive and designed to incentivize people to go to foco [‘53 Commons or Thayer Dining Hall to the older set]. If you don’t like foco, you lose money. On the 5-meal plan, which is the least number of meal swipes you can have on campus, each swipe costs $14.90. The only place it is worth more than $14.90 is at foco from 4:00-8:30, where it is worth $14.95. So if you use all 50 of them at foco for dinner, you will save $2.50 the entire term. It’s laughable.

Anyways, by eating at either the Hop or Collis, you lose money. The meal swipe is worth the most at dinner, only $10.00. A burger with bacon and fries is $13.41. So the meal swipe for which we paid $14.90 only covers $10.00, and the remaining $3.41 gets added on top for a total of $18.31. For a burger!

It is even worse if you go at lunch or late night. The meal swipe is worth less than $6.00 after 8:30, so the total for the burger using the meal swipe is over $22.00.

One last point. at the meeting Plodzik pitched the unlimited plan as a great value. The example he used was that he could tell parents they don’t have to worry about their kids being able to eat, so the implication is it is really valuable, especially for families that aren’t high income.

First of all, no one has ever been turned away from getting food, even if they are out of DBA and meal swipes because it just gets charged to their account (not to mention all the free food offered at daily campus events). Second, the unlimited plan would be the same as the 20-meal plan, which is the most expensive plan at $2,005.00/term — or over $28.00/day. I can promise you that I can feed myself for less than $28.00/day.

I could give you a hundred different examples like this, things that any rational person would think makes no sense. I think it is clear from talking with both Plodzik and the associate director that they are not going to make the meal plans optional, which is what I want (I asked them in the fall, and they said no).

So what do you think it would take for someone above DDS to force them to do that. Is it possible, and if so, who would it have to come from? So who would I have to talk to?

At the Student Assembly event, this student asked Jon Plodzik why he should have to wait an hour in line at the Hop, when he could get a burger for the same money at a restaurant in Hanover. Plodzik responded — if you can believe this — that at a restaurant in town, the student would probably have to wait an equivalent amount of time to be served. “So,” he asked, “what’s the difference?”

Part 1. Part 2.

Fulbright Logo.jpgCongratulations to the twelve women and two men from the College who won Fulbright scholarships this year.

Jon Plodzik.jpgDartmouth Dining Services director Jon Plodzik spoke to members of the Student Assembly and the College community last week concerning discontent with DDS. As we have reported, lines at Dartmouth dining facilities and other food service venues are endless, the food is mediocre, prices are through the roof compared to local eateries, and students are nickled and dimed endlessly (meal plans are mandatory for students whether they live on campus or not; dollar balances only partially roll over to subsequent terms, etc.). Needless to say the natives are restless.

Thumbnail image for DDS Lines.jpgPlodzik is an engaging guy, and if he is as strong a dining hall manager as he is a politician, we are in good hands. He endlessly diverted discussions from DDS’ real problems to talk about the larger community, shared commitment, the overall cost of a Dartmouth education, the importance of the capital campaign (if you can believe it) and the justice of paying a “living wage” to the DDS staff. Sheesh.

That said, in response to several specific questions from your humble servant, he did make good on his self-call for transparency.

— The DDS budget includes the State of New Hampshire taxes levied on the College’s dining facilities. Most states do not tax institutions of higher learning; NH does in an indirect way. Rather than levying taxes on an entire institution, the State uses a proxy: charging property tax on dining halls and dormitories. Plodzik confirmed that this levy is an integral part of the DDS budget. To my mind, this tax should fairly be budgeted to the College as a whole. The total amount of the tax paid to Hanover in 2017 was $7,347,278, of which a significant portion covered dining facilities. Students should not have these charges included in the cost of meal plans.

— As we reported several years ago, DDS makes a profit. That is, the amount of money that DDS takes in exceeds the cost of providing food to students. In the 2010/2011 year, that surplus was $1.3 million, a record profit about which then-DDS Director Dave Newlove boasted on his LinkedIn page. Plodzik confirmed that DDS still makes a profit, and he expects the amount to increase in the near term so that DDS can “contribute to the College” as part of the ongoing expense reallocation initiative. In other words, a DDS meal plan contains an element of undergraduate tuition, probably several million dollars.

— Plodzik previously worked for seventeen years at UNH, where he said students “loved” the dining service. He also noted that on average workers at DDS earned “$4-$5/hour more” than UNH workers — a premium of at least 30%, or many millions of dollars in the DDS budget. He went on and on about the “living wage” — which is a sympathetic argument, except for the fact that DDS workers earn far in excess of the living wage as indicated for Grafton County by the MIT Living Wage Calculator. As we have noted in the past, too, DDS wages and benefits are over double what comparable workers earn in the Upper Valley. As we calculated, a young couple with no more than high school diplomas who mop floors at DDS would earn more money than 72.5% of American households.

— The presence of the SEIU labor union ties Plodzik’s hands as regards managing people, he said. He has strong workers and others who, uh, give less than a full effort. But the union work rules prevent him from putting together a uniformly strong team and saving plenty of money in the process. Given the College’s wage and benefit levels, one would think that workers would be lining up to work for DDS, and therefore Plodzik could put together an ace squad. Not the case. Students pay a lot, and they don’t even get a crack group of employees for all that spending.

In short, a back-of-the-envelope calculation would have a good third of the DDS budget going to other goals than providing Dartmouth students with nutritious and delicious food at a reasonable price. My humble opinion is that the College dining services should be run to benefit students. Do you disagree? The administration sure does.

Addendum: Here is the Town of Hanover’s list of its top taxpayers. It’s not clear what percentage of the below amount comes from the College’s dining facilities and what comes from an assessment on dorms, but the amount is significant.

Hanover Top Ten Taxpayers 2017.jpg

Addendum: Curiously enough, the D’s report contains almost none of the above information.

Addendum: The Student Assembly report on Jon Plodzik’s comments ignored all of the interesting bits, too. As Mark Felt told Woodward and Bernstein about the Watergate scandal: “Follow the money.” Here is the SA report:

SA on DDS.jpg

Part 1. Part 2.

Long after Phil Hanlon leaves the Hanover Plain, his legacy of poor administration could linger on in the form of a contentious campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors. Management gospel has it that leaders get the union that they deserve, and just as faux-avuncular Jim Wright found himself with a SEIU union among unhappy Hanover Inn employees, so now has Phil sown the seeds of a faculty rebellion (though not the kind that I had hoped for). Here is the AAUP announcement. It was distributed in papers placed on the chairs of faculty members at Monday’s faculty meeting:

AAUP Welcome Comp.jpg

Good for the group for roping in two members of the Economics Department. Bipartisanship lives in Hanover.

The AAUP’s first order of business was the closing of UPNE:

AAUP UPNE Comp.jpg

Can we expect a union of adjunct professors next? And then post-docs and grad students? Way to go Phil.

Addendum: The Valley News has a thorough report on the faculty meeting.

Lasher Cowboy.jpgWe noted the other day that VP for Advancement Bob Lasher’s salary went from $545,105 in 2015 to $646,678 in 2016. Who knows what happened in 2017 and in 2018? What we do know is that Bob is making a multiple of what he earned as the Deputy Museum Director of External Relations at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) before he came to Dartmouth in the middle of 2013.

In 2011 he earned $310,458 at SFMOMA:

Lasher SF 2011.jpg

And in 2012 he made the big leap to $315,944 — a raise of 1.77%:

Lasher SF 2012A.jpg

What is Phil thinking in over-paying such a poor performer — especially when the same money could go to underpaid faculty members.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

The only logical explanation is that in the modern age of burgeoning bureaucracy where the incompetents are in charge of the treasury, especially when it is stocked with other people’s money, they will not only hire like minded colleagues but invariably over pay themselves and their underlings to the detriment of those who have earned and deserve better pay.

Machiavelli was right! What he did not factor into his equation was that those (read Trustees here) who were supposed to provide financial oversight too often remain passive in fulfilling their fiduciary responsibility. Perhaps it is out of fear they will have to admit they made a mistake in appointing a CEO (President). Oh how ego gets in the way of doing the right thing.

Hopefully with the arrival of Joe Helble on the scene some experience and common sense will now begin to change things for the better. Does the Provost have the authority to hire and fire? I certainly hope so.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

Due to cost of living difference between the Bay Area and Hanover, the raise Bob got was of a much bigger magnitude than raw numbers show. Bob’s salary in SF was barely enough to afford a decent home.

Sprinkled through almost all of the the administration’s communications is the admission that the College’s infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired:

Kotz Re Science Strategy.jpg

How embarrassing for a school that is far wealthier than Penn, Columbia, Cornell and Brown.

Addendum: Here is the link cited in Dave Kotz’ message:

Joe Helble3.jpgEmail has been running entirely in favor of new Provost Joe Helble. An example:

I was very pleased to see your post announcing that Dean Helble has been appointed the next Provost! My first and only interaction with Joe Helble came soon after he started as dean at Thayer, during an engineering information session to prospective students. It was the middle of the summer, and I was visiting campus with my family during the summer before my senior year of high school. Due to some scheduling SNAFU, the person who typically did these sessions was away, and Joe Helble stepped in to give the session.

In addition to leading a very informative session, he stuck around for about 30 minutes after the session to answer prospective applicants’ questions. His excitement for what differentiated Thayer was palpable, and his interest in undergrads — prospective ones, at that! — was genuine. That was the moment that sealed for me that Dartmouth was serious about educating its undergraduates.

How exciting that someone who drives growth by focusing on strengths and who holds paramount the focus on undergraduate education will be in the Provost role. Sign of happier times ahead? I hope so.

My only concern about Joe’s appointment is that Dartmouth’s gain is the Thayer School of Engineering’s loss. Joe was driving Thayer forward in a determined way: better programs, higher quality faculty, improved facilities, the highest percentage of women in any engineering school, etc.

Let’s hope that as Provost Joe is able to choose his successor with a free hand (without tone-deaf-to-talent Phil Hanlon being involved), and that he keeps a close watch on Thayer from his new offices in Parkhurst.

Addendum: Everything I know about Phil Hanlon and governance at the College says that Joe Helble was not Phil’s pick. Wiser minds intervened here. Whoever you are (on the Board of Trustees), many thanks.

Addendum: A clued-in alumnus writes in:

Great news on new Provost. You are 100% correct. Yes, there are several Trustees who are finally taking an effective leadership role in the best short- and long-term interests of the College. It is clear that Phil is not making the decisions these days. It is about time.

Perhaps Joe Helble is now in line to be Interim President if not already our ‘shadow’ President… I doubt he would have taken the position without some understanding that he would have clear and unfettered authority to get the College back on track. That should inspire some much needed confidence among faculty, students and alumni.

My best guess is that Phil knows the handwriting is on the wall and he will fill out his position as the figurehead President through the conclusion of the Campaign, and then quietly head off into the sunset. N’est-ce pas?

On Saturday we noted that Geisel Professor Elizabeth Teisberg drew a salary in 2016 of $156,891 and a bonus of an additional $1,500,000 — making her the College’s best paid employee.

Clearly she is a heavy hitter. After all, when she left Hanover at the end of the 2016 academic year, she signed on at the University of Texas’ Dell Medical School for $500,000/year:

Teisberg Texas Salary Comp.jpg

Yet the size of the bonus leads one to all sorts of speculation. Operators are standing by.

Addendum: Teisberg joined the Geisel faculty during the 2012-2013 academic year, and she left in the summer of 2016.

Addendum: Elizabeth Teisberg ain’t talking:

Teisberg e-mail.jpg

On a clear spring day in Paris, a solitary tree gives volume and life to the Carrefour de l’Odéon on the Left Bank, not too far from the Sorbonne:

Paris Carrefour de l'Odéon1.jpg

The square is an example of the wonderful cityscapes that one finds all over La Capitale. People come and go, unaware that they are passing through a tiny moment of urban perfection.

The College’s highest paid employee in 2016? Not Phil. Or Pam Peedin, who managed the endowment. It was now-former Geisel Professor Elizabeth Teisberg, who received a $1,500,000 bonus in that year on top of her standard salary:

Elizabeth Teisberg Form 990 2016.jpg

Teisberg is now a Full Professor at the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin.

Obviously there is a story here. Does anybody know it?

Addendum: Teisberg is the co-author with longtime Harvard strategy guru Michael Porter of Redefining Health Care and five other jointly written articles. In this video, she talks about the notion of value in health care delivery:

She refers to the health problems faced by her two children.

Monday’s meeting of the general faculty could hold some fireworks. A good number of professors are upset about the closure of UPNE, as well they should be. A college press is central to the academic mission of an institution:

UPNE Faculty Resolution1.jpg

The names on the list could be called the usual suspects — Dartmouth’s left wing, activist professors, but I say good for them, even if much of their politics seems unrealistic to me. Standing up for what is right is always to be applauded.

Now if only someone in the group could sponsor a no-confidence motion.

Addendum: Professor of Art History Mary Coffey’s name originally appeared in the document above that was distributed to the entire faculty along with other materials in preparation for Monday’s faculty meeting. She informs me, and the author of the petition has confirmed to me, that her name appeared there in error. I have removed it from the list.

Joe Helble1.jpgThayer Dean Joe Helble has been named by Phil to the Provost’s position. The College press release lists his achievements — and they are real, for a change — as the very active dean of Dartmouth’s School of Engineering:

During Helble’s tenure, the engineering school 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 is 20 percent.

At the same time, overall popularity of engineering at Dartmouth has also grown, with currently more than 70 percent of undergraduates enrolling in at least one engineering or computer science course. Unlike any other engineering school in the U.S., candidates for a bachelor’s degree in engineering at Dartmouth must also earn an undergraduate degree in the liberal arts, a requirement that has been in place for more than 50 years.

Says Helble, “a grounding in the liberal arts creates the context for understanding engineering problems and helps students learn to ask broader questions and develop deeper critical thinking skills.”

Under Helble’s leadership, engineering enrollment in Thayer’s undergraduate and PhD programs has doubled, and the school created the nation’s first doctoral-level engineering innovation program to address the growing need for people with high-level technical and entrepreneurial expertise.

Also new are exchange programs in Asia and Denmark; a modified major with public policy for those interested in careers in public service; summer design programs for middle and high school students interested in exploring engineering; short courses taught over winter break for Dartmouth and Thayer students interested in exploring a technology-focused topic; and a biomedical engineering sciences major for engineering students interested in attending medical school. Thayer has also seen research funding grow to record levels, and the number of tenure-track faculty has grown as well.

As provost, Helble will be positioned to ensure continuity in the west end development, where Dartmouth will integrate engineering, the computer science department, and the new Magnuson Family Center for Entrepreneurship, a new 160,000-square-foot facility.

When Joe was appointed to his fourth term as head of Thayer last summer, we suggested that he’d make a pretty good President of the College. I wonder if the audience was listening. It does not seem like Phil to have hired a gray-haired, heterosexual white man, but then maybe Phil did not make the decision.

Addendum: My mailbox has been full of positive comments on Joe Helble’s appointment from members of the faculty. In addition, a witty alumnus writes in:

If Phil wants to decrease the number of older, heterosexual white men in the College’s administration, I know exactly where he can start…

And the Trustees love Phil. Why?

Expressions of support are a dime a dozen, but when senior people get big raises/bonuses, you have to think that the folks doling them out are sending the most positive message possible. So who merited hefty raises between calendar 2015 and 2016 at the College? If you guessed under-performers Phil Hanlon ‘77 and Bob Lasher ‘88, I think that you were peeking (or you are truly cynical).

Here’s what Dartmouth’s top administrators earned in 2015 (this table comes from IRS Form 990 that all non-profits must file each year):

Form 990 Lasher-Hanlon 2015.jpg

President Hanlon took in a total of $1,251,216. And VP for Advancement Bob Lasher was paid $545,105.

And in 2016 Phil received $1,348,735. Lasher earned $646,678:

Form 990 Lasher-Hanlon 2016.jpg

Phil’s increase of $97,519 (7.8%) contrasts favorably for Phil in comparison to the slim raise pool allocated to Dartmouth’s underpaid faculty. And Lasher’s jump of $101,573 (18.6%) came in the form of a bonus, as the Form 990 notes:

Lasher Bonus 2016.jpg

But the question we have to ask about both of these increases is: for what?

After close to five years in Hanover now, Phil’s campus is falling apart, the faculty is underpaid, the house system is the object of disdain by students (who happily drink hard alcohol in the dorms and elsewhere), and the capital campaign is only now getting off the ground. Bob Lasher is as responsible for the latter point as much as Phil. To take the measure of Bob, you but need to read this secret shopper report.

Oh, brother. Is this place a mess.



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