The Latest Posts

In the name of the Class of 2021 and in light of the violent events at Charlottesville, a group of students led by Carlos Polanco ‘21 and Luiza Odhiambo ‘21 have written a public letter to support the incoming freshman class at UVA:

Dartmouth 2021s to UVA.jpg

Students at a number of other schools (Columbia, Yale, Williams, Pomona, and Vassar) have followed the ‘21’s lead. The Washington Post has the story.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

Note that the message of the Class of 2021 is quite vague; it refers to “what was happening on your campus.” The only reference to human agency appears to be the mention of the need to “change the minds of white supremacists and those who ascribe to their beliefs.” The obvious innuendo is that the violence was exclusively attributable to that ill-defined group. No mention is made to the well documented violence also perpetrated by the Antifa group and those who ascribe to their beliefs, which quite openly call for violent assault.

The reality is that a number of people showed up to protest for their beliefs opposing or favoring removal of the Lee statue. Some of them were actively seeking violence, others wore protective gear in case they were attacked (a not unreasonable expectation given what has happened elsewhere), and others probably expected a peaceful event with normal police intervention should the need arise. Unfortunately, the police made no attempt to separate the factions and the thug element got violent.

The simple message of the 2021s makes no attempt to sort out what was a complex situation and seems a shallow exercise in virtue signaling.

The Dartblog in-box saw a surge of mail about yesterday’s post concerning the proposed sale of the Hanover Country Club golf course by the administration:

An alumnus:

The proposal to sell the Golf Course, if true, would be yet another evidence of broken governance at the College — presidents who call the shots for their own short term ends, and a rubber stamp Board of Trustees. Hopes for some restraining alumni influence were dashed some years ago when the College threw all its resources into defeating efforts to gain independent alumni representation on the Board.

The amazing thing to me is that alumni support hasn’t fallen even further than it has. Many of my classmates see the College only through a lens that filters out all reality in favor of sentimental reminiscence of their long departed youth. They prefer to recline in a warm and comforting bath of nostalgia rather than oppose anything harmful to the College’s best traditions.

A close observer of the campus:

The administration’s thinking about the future of Hanover Country Club — important though that is — is simply a metaphor of larger issues: questions of stewardship of what we have been entrusted by those who came before us, philosophy of education, and the long-term direction of Dartmouth.

For example: Are the outdoors and Dartmouth’s long history of encouraging active, rugged, physical experiences and camaraderie beyond the classroom, still vital to the College’s identity? Will this remain a distinctive of Dartmouth as it competes against its elite but relatively effete, urban peers?

A professor:

I realize that the 15th of August is a day of celebration throughout much of Europe, but did not know that there was an April 1, Fools Day, activity associated with it. Or at least I hope this is a joke….

An alumnus:

wtf? really true? i can’t even begin to say how much all of these people suck. i really hate them. and it makes me sad.

A loyal reader:

Selling the crown jewels to balance the books is never a good idea. Bad governance. Should a community golf course be a profit center or is it a public/student “good”?
[I am not a golfer, but I sure appreciate the trails and green space.]

An alumnus:

According to the Board’s website:

“…the Board of Trustees has ultimate responsibility for the financial, administrative and academic affairs of the College.”

Hanlon is a Trustee and, notwithstanding whatever his contract recites, serves at the pleasure of the Board. The Board needs to step up, exercise its responsibilities, install proper management and fix this mess.

An alumnus:

They should start to cut employees starting at the top. Obviously, Phil has never realized that when the First Republic decided to get rid of the man at the top, they just chopped off his head. No need to pay severance or a pension to Louis XVI.

Getting a chance to be trapped with Phil for 4.5 hours on a golf course has to be the definition of a “bad day.”

A reader:

Golf Course sale …

1. Please confirm that Pine Park wouldn’t be included.

2. How can selling land be reconciled with the recently-suggested enlargement of the College? (You can always hope to raise more money; you can never hope to create more land.)

3. Didn’t you just say there’s a big endowment? But there’s a tiny campus! If you need to spend assets, then do so, but what’s the *logic* of getting rid of land?

A reader:

C’mon, Joe. Sell the golf course?? Someone must be feeding you “fake news” in order to embarrass you for printing it.

An alumnus:

Honestly, how can we get this clown out of office?

A friend of the College:

Your post this morning is distressing, to say the least. Though in times like these I suppose I must add: as distressing as news about a golf course could be.

Having such a beautiful golf course walking distance from the center of campus has to be one of the more unique assets in all of higher education. It would definitely be folly to part with it. Among the Ivies, only Princeton and Cornell appear to also have home courses fairly close by, though I think HCC is the most convenient of all. I have been to Yale’s course, which a 15 minute drive from the campus.

Part of HCC’s charm is that one can simply walk on to it and play. The fact that the course is not fenced speaks to the kind of community Hanover and Dartmouth are, and particularly the rural and small town character that helps to provide Dartmouth with its distinctiveness. One of my favorite traditions when the days were at their longest was to go to the course at 5:30 a.m., play 9 holes, and then pay up at the pro shop and head to work. It was an unbeatable way to start a day.

I hope that nothing comes of this.

An alumnus:

The golf course is where the cross country teams host their meets… obviously, practice isn’t as much of an issue, but I would think that if the Country Club was sold, the cross country team would not be able to host meets, so that would be more travel for them as well.

A professor:

The sale of the HCC would be even more stupid than Jim Kim’s sale of the Minary Center back in 2010 to finance his overpriced Inn renovation. For peanuts ($6.75 million) the College lost control of one of the most beautiful retreat centers in New England. This rash of recent bad presidents will reduce the College to a series of bleak buildings on asphalt.

An alumnus:

Your post today is disturbing—particularly for those of us who live in the HCC neighborhood! Is there any evidence that the College is considering asset sales, including the golf course, or is it more a case of asset sales being a logical result if the Hanlon administration doesn’t start to turn things around? I’m hoping neither scenario is the case!

Phil Hanlon, who likes to refer to himself as a thought leader, has issued a statement to the Dartmouth community about this past weekend’s event in Charlottesville:

Hanlon on Charlottesville Comp.jpg

How would you grade this piece if you were an English 5 (now Writing 5) teacher looking for tight reasoning and forceful prose? Maybe I am being overly critical, but all I see here are a string of buzzwords and little rigor and precision. If Phil meant his statement to incite reflection on campus, he has not succeeded.

I’m told that Phil writes these pieces himself. It shows. Just how do the events in Charlottesville affirm our need for “a sense of responsibility for each other and for the broader world.” What do those words even mean?

Addendum: Horror and profound dismay? Enhancing the depth of our learning? Unnecessary and senseless?

Hanover Country Club.jpgWith fundraising in serious trouble, the Hanlon administration is considering selling assets to fill the looming shortfalls in the College’s finances. Up first is the Hanover Country Club (HCC) and its 18-hole golf course, five-hole practice area and driving range.

The property lies on either side of the Lyme Road just to the north of the campus. The new Biology building and the Dewey parking lot (lower left in the photo at right) are its closest neighbor. Why sell?

At first glance, like the Skiway, the HCC loses money every year, but at the same time, it provides a home and a practice area for the men’s and women’s golf teams and men’s and women’s cross-country teams — not to mention being an amenity much loved by Hanover residents, faculty members, and students (it is used for many undergraduate Physical Education classes).

If the course is sold — and some estimates see it being worth in the area of $15-25 million in the hands of a real estate developer or perhaps the Kendal retirement community — the golf teams would practice at The Quechee Club or the Montcalm Golf Club, both a 20-minute drive from the Hanover.

The extra cost of the teams’ travel and course fees — not to mention the wasted time for students — would wipe out most of the annual budgetary savings. But the administration’s focus is not on annual operating costs. Its real aim is to take in a big, one-time chunk of money in order to plug the onrushing budget gap.

HCC 1899.jpgAs a matter of background, a number of different departments throughout the College have been asked to significantly tighten their belts in the coming year. With the endowment growing only slowly due to Phil’s ineffective fundraising, spending has to be reduced somewhere, and, of course, no serious thought is being given to deep cuts in the bloated bureaucracy. Something else has to give.

Funny enough, Phil Hanlon is a golfer, but he prefers the Baker Hill Golf Club that overlooks Lake Sunapee. Baker Hill is a 40-minute drive from Hanover; it is close to Phil’s Sunapee vacation home. That said, at least until budget time, our President has not been immune to the HCC course’s charms, as he stated in a 2014 Alumni Magazine profile of the Hanover Country Club:

“The HCC is a treasure, even for those of us who don’t get to play as much as we’d like,” says Hanlon. “It’s about community and fellowship. It was that way when I was a student and it’s the same today. You don’t have to nail a 250-yard drive down the middle to feel like your day was a success. You might watch a doe and her fawns amble through your shot or share a laugh with colleagues and friends back at the clubhouse. That’s a good day in my book.”

Needless to say, selling the largest open piece of Hanover real estate is an immensely short-sighted idea for many reasons. Not only would the loss of the College’s golf course be a huge blow to our teams and student body, but Dartmouth would lose a signature feature. However, beyond those arguments, the loss of the only prime open property close to campus (other than the threatened College Park, which has the Bema at its center) forecloses a great many future options to the College.

Who knows what our real estate needs will be fifty or one hundred years from now? What we certainly do know is that if the golf course is filled with condos, the area won’t be open for labs and classrooms and other academic projects. I can see a future Dartmouth President cursing Phil Hanlon’s name at the thought that way back in 2017 Phil decided to sell 160+ acres of prime College land for a mess of pottage in order to finance long-forgotten operating expenses.

Just how many wrongheaded strategies can the Trustees put up with from Phil? It is one thing to hire a lousy Provost or to waste money on silly bureaucrats, but decisions like selling valuable assets that will negatively affect the College for generations — or forever — should give the Board real pause concerning our President’s managerial sense (or lack thereof).

Addendum: One can expect that the proposed sale of the golf course will incite a firestorm similar to the one that resulted from the Wright administration’s attempt in 2003 to eliminate the swim teams. Wright, like Phil Hanlon, would not trim the bureaucracy enough to avoid serious cuts that would directly impact students — so the swim teams almost bought it. As I like to say, recent Dartmouth administrations seem happy to cut bone in order to save fat. And to think that people like this are running an Ivy League school.

By the way, once the news is out about the golf course sale, do you think that the many hundreds of men and women alumni who played golf for the College over the years will be more or less likely to contribute to the capital campaign and the Dartmouth College Fund?

At the rate he is going, it won’t be long before Phil has alienated everyone.

Addendum: Varsity golfer John Lazor ‘19 talked to Dartmouth Sports this year about the role of the Hanover Country Club in his life:

This Westwood, Massachusetts, native was the Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2015-16 in his first season with the Big Green. This past year, Lazor posted three top-20 finishes, topping out in a tie for 10th at the Manor Intercollegiate hosted by Longwood. He also boasted a 74.0 stroke average for the season with a low round of 69 at Furman with some of the top teams in the country participating. At the Ivy League Championship, he carded a 227 (+11) to finish in a tie for 18th. What have you been doing during your sophomore summer?
John Lazor: The summer has been a blast so far. These first few weeks I’ve been playing a lot of golf with friends out at Hanover CC, been hanging down at the river and around campus just trying to enjoy the nice weather. Of course, I’ve also been doing some studying!

DS: What is your favorite place on campus?
JL: Hanover Country Club is the place I spend most of my time, so it has definitely become my favorite place. It’s my favorite place not because it’s a golf course, but because it’s relaxing, has some amazing views and can be used as a nice “getaway” from the busy college life. It’s a tough place to beat.

Addendum: There is no truth to the rumor that the Green is to be sold to a commercial parking lot operator. Yet.

Addendum: To readers who are wondering about the seriousness of this post, other than the final addendum, I ain’t funnin’ you. I wish that I were.

Here’s one of those Wall street Journal charts that leave me scratching my head. First of all, the ranking is curious: the Harvard kids are earning $96k/year a decade after graduation, and it’s downhill from there for other schools. Penn is next at $80k, and graduates of the College are only earning a median average of $65k per year. What about all those kids in private equity and consulting who started at >$100k right after Commencement, or the B-school grads and lawyers who should be making well over $200k by now? Shouldn’t they bring the median up?

WSJ Student Debt1.jpg

Also, note the tight grouping of median average total student debt: Harvard is the low man at $7k; Columbia kids owe $27k; and alumni of the College are in hock for $12k. None of those numbers seem outrageous when you divide them over four years of education.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

It took me forever to find Dartmouth on the WSJ chart. I think they used a small version of the logo generally used by the athletic department (which is not aesthetically appealing). If someone in PR wants to burnish Dartmouth’s image, they should start with a more prominent logo. How about using the College seal like many of our peers?

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

I saw the note today about the $65K figure ten years out. It’s worth mentioning that Dartmouth actually used to be at the top of that same statistic ($135K at least according to Forbes in 2008).

Here’s something that you can do tomorrow:

From: “Laura L. Sgrecci”
To: All Students, All Faculty, All Staff
Subject: ‘Dartmouth Football 101’ Set for Tuesday, August 15

Join the Big Green football team, coaching staff and their families for a night of food, football and fun on Tuesday, August 15 from 5:30-8 p.m. at Memorial Field. ‘Dartmouth Football 101’ is free and open to fans of all ages. Enjoy a tailgate party, free T-shirts for the first 200 registrants and on-field skill stations run by the Dartmouth Football staff. To register, visit

Memorial Field Game.jpg

A walk around Brown’s Providence campus last week found the school to be in good nick. The Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts seemed well maintained (nice flowers), and the 2010 building itself is spectacular:

Brown Center for the Creative Arts.jpg

Not bad for a school that has an endowment per student figure that is less than half the size of the College’s. Brown seems a tightly run ship: with over 42% more students (9,073) than we have (6,350) and 32% more full-time professors, Brown does very well for itself with an annual expense budget that is $80,000,0000 less than ours.

An outfit called StudySoup — a notetaking service for college students — has ranked the best schools for women studying Computer Science. We are #2 among the Top 20 programs, based upon the number of women in the undergrad CS major:

StudySoup CS ranking.jpg

That said, anyone can compile a best list; we should be suspect of people who seem to think that the College’s Women in Science Project was founded “in recent years.” It was created by former Professors Karen Wetterhahn and Carol Muller ‘77 in 1990.

Addendum: A professor writes in:

Thanks for highlighting the StudySoup article. FWIW, their rankings appear to be based solely on percentage of majors who are women. I would imagine that the figures are self-reported. And that they are not considering women’s colleges. (I know for a fact that Wellesley has a higher percentage of female CS majors than we do.)

Senior Cane 1909.jpg

The Athletics Department website describes one interpretation of the origins of the Indian symbol at the College:

Starting in the 1920s sportswriters (primarily representing Boston’s many newspapers of the day) began to regularly use the nickname “Indians” in their coverage of Dartmouth’s football team as it achieved a position of national prominence. The usage was grounded in reference to the College’s founding mission in 1769 - the education of American Indian youth (known today as Native Americans) in the region.

For about 50 years thereafter, the nickname “Indians,” though never officially adopted by the College, was used actively and interchangeably with “the Green,” “Big Green” and “Hanoverians” by the news media and in Dartmouth publications in coverage of the College’s teams. The Indian symbol also appeared on uniforms of athletic teams during this period. [Emphasis added]

We all know the Hovey Murals in Thayer, which date back to 1938, but the adminstration talks less about how American Indian iconography was central to the College back into the 19th century. I was alerted to one manifesation of the importance of Indian images when the above-pictured, 1909 cane came up for auction recently. The sale’s descriptive text noted that Dike’s Canes in the United States had an entry regarding canes at the College (the book is in the Sherman Art History library):

Dartmouth Canes Excerpt.jpg

A selection of old canes:

Dartmouth Cane Selection.jpg

The cane at auction was owned by one B. M. Scully of the Class of 1909, who walked the Hanover Plain just as you and I do. He is no more.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

Enjoyed your post this morning. As I own six of the vintage canes, it caused me to take a closer look — one from 1924, one from ‘25, two undetermined as of this writing. One, however, from the same class of 1909 with the name T.A. Fardy etched on the back. Also, one from the class of 1907 with the name of E.H Frost. All are in quite good shape, with the noses and eyelids bearing the brunt of any damage over the years.

Keep up the great work re: our beloved alma mater.

Addendum: And another:

Quaker Oats Man.jpg

Good piece. I’ll spare you any of my waxing nostalgic about family D canes (we’ve got tales and canes from both sides), but surely you remember the silly Eleazar version, which appeared on your watch. As I recall, it was promptly dubbed the Quaker Oats Man.

Even as Phil seeks to increase the number of undergraduates by 10-25%, additional information confirms that the experience of students at smaller schools binds them more closely to their almae matres. Forbes Magazine’s Grateful Grads Index (GGI) puts the College on top, ahead of even Princeton and a host of other friendly, small schools. Here’s how the index is calculated:

This metric ranks private not-for-profit colleges with more than 1,000 students by analyzing two important variables: median private donations and gifts per student over 10 years, as reported to the Department of Education; and the Alumni Participation Rate, or the percentage of graduates that give back in the form of donations to their colleges each year— regardless of the dollar amount. This measure, from the Council for Aid To Education, is averaged over 3 years… The private donation per student figure gets a 75% weighting in our index and the alumni participation percentage gets a 25% weighting.

Forbes 2017 GG index.jpg

The GGI is a measure of the enduring impact institutions of higher learning have had during the lives of their living alumni. It sure looks like the College has had a winning strategy over the past 50-60 years. The next Ivies after Princeton to appear on the list are Yale (#14) and Brown (#16). They are, after Dartmouth and Princeton, the third and fourth smallest Ivies respectively. Funny how that works, isn’t it? The four Ivies with the largest undergraduate enrolment are further down the list: Penn (#20); Harvard (#26), Cornell (#38) and Columbia (#52). What can I say? Small is beautiful.

That said, the data that is the basis of the College’s #1 ranking seems suspect. Look at U.S. News’ information on alumni giving:

U.S. News Alumni Giving.jpg

By these numbers, Princeton would beat us handily. In fact, the U.S. News numbers for Williams, Bowdoin, Davidson and Wellesley, too, are all quite different from the figures used by Forbes.

But there is no need today to belabor discrepancies in the data. The takeaway is that smaller schools give their students a special experience that both educates them and bonds them to their alma mater in ways that large schools cannot match. Alumni can then go out into the world armed with special skills, and they accomplish great things. Phil’s alternative is to dumb down the undergraduate experience (which is what will happen if we grow larger, no matter what he says), and then try to recruit distant researchers to the faculty who will, er, maybe, accomplish great things.

I’m not betting on Phil to get this one right.

Provost Dever has taken a break from her job search; it seems that she is back in town, at least for a few days, because the faculty has received a memo announcing the recruitment of yet another diversity bureaucrat: a Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity. Just what we need:

Vice Provost for Diversity1.jpg

First off, savor Provost Dever’s, um, prose — recall that she was a Professor of English and Gender Studies. She sees fit to include some variation on the word diversity seven times in her first paragraph. And it isn’t as if she is not on notice regarding leaden writing. We have pointed out her monomaniacal focus in the past.

Observe also the requirement that the new Vice Provost be a tenured member of the faculty who will work half time. That criterion bespeaks a reduction of 50% in a professor’s teaching load — the loss of two courses from the curriculum each year — in order to ensure that departments do what they should already be doing. Is that what we need?

However the back story is a little more complicated: the details can be found in the first annual report of the committee charged with monitoring the administration’s 72nd (or is it the 73rd?) effort to increase faculty diversity:

Diversity Report June 30, 2017.jpg

This fifteen-pager contains not a single statistic in its rah-rah support of the College’s efforts to achieve “inclusive excellence” (speaking of leaden writing). But it does have one solid observation:

Finding: The accountability structure as currently construed has one potentially fatal flaw: While it is clear who is accountable for what, it is not clear to whom they are accountable. This may reflect a culture/tradition that prefers a “soft” or horizontal hierarchy. It may also reflect a structural issue with the college’s organizational chart at the top (see next Finding). It is the sense of this committee that the Executive Team has taken real ownership for the Action Plan. However, one unintended consequence of this ambiguity in messaging about who won’t tolerate failure of the Action Plan is the implication that failure of the Action Plan will be tolerated.

Recommendation: Create a leadership organizational chart accompanying the Action Plan that makes explicit the bidirectional flow of resources on the one hand and accountability on the other. For each item in the Action Plan, in addition to identifying who is the responsible entity (this is already done), indicate from whom are the necessary resources and incentives to be provided, and by whom is the responsible party ultimately held to account.

Finding: Arts and Science is the largest academic unit in the College and thus where the vast majority of tenure-track faculty hiring and retention occurs. There appears to be a nuanced reporting relationship between the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Provost, and the President. In particular, the Action Plan situates accountability for faculty diversity in the Provost/President area, however it appears to be broadly understood that in Arts and Sciences it is the Dean of Faculty who holds near- autonomous authority over faculty hiring and retention. It is not clear whether or in what ways the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences is accountable to the Provost or President.

Recommendation: Clarify these reporting relationships. Ensure committed leadership by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in regards to the Action Plan. Ensure responsible execution by the Associate Deans of their faculty hiring and retention functions, as outlined in the Faculty Manual. Facilitate collaborative relationships between the Dean(s) and the Provost office on faculty diversity initiatives through ongoing, regular and long-term engagement, to ensure the charge and culture of promoting diversity is maintained even when personnel changes.

By way of background: traditionally at the College the Dean of the Faculty has been responsible for the undergraduate academic program; the Dean reported directly to the President. The Provost managed the three graduate schools and the physical plant. When Jim Kim arrived in town, given his inexperience, Carol Folt was elevated to a re-jiggered Provost’s position that held sway over the Dean of the Faculty, too. But the faculty pushed back (both against Carol and the realignment of responsibilities); hence a second reporting line from the Dean of the Faculty upwards to the President (click on the image for a closer look):

Dartmouth Org Chart April 5, 2017.jpg

As a result of this dual reporting structure, the “Inclusive Excellence” committee has pointed out that while Provost Dever has arrogated to herself the responsibility for the College’s diversity and inclusion efforts, in fact, Dean of the Faculty Elizabeth Smith will be doing all the heavy lifting, with, to date at least, no intervention from the Provost’s office.

Carolyn Dever’s reaction to this finding is to place another brick in the bureaucratic wall. The new Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity will just get in the Dean of the Faculty’s way.

So who cares? You should. Either undergrads have just lost two courses each year forever, or some other faculty member will pick up the slack — at a cost of more than $100,000/year.

And so it goes.

Addendum: The College’s new Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity will complement the existing Office of Institutional Diversity & Equity (IDE), the Office of Pluralism and Leadership, and the Council on Institutional Diversity and Inclusivity. I guess that these folks need a lot of help.

Addendum: Read nothing into the fact that the above org chart has no line connecting Phil Hanlon to the other members of the senior administration. All appearances aside, he is not floating airily above the fray; he deserves blame for a great deal that goes on at the College these days.

Addendum: The D has a tough-minded report on the external review committee’s evaluation of the College’s Inclusive Excellence initiative:

An external review of the action plan for the College’s Inclusive Excellence initiative found that while the plan has clear objectives, it lacks in-depth accountability, a faculty retention strategy and student involvement. The external report, which was released more than a week after the College’s self-imposed deadline, is an effort to increase transparency and accountability in its policy initiatives.

Addendum: A professor sees poetry hidden in Carolyn’s missive that I completely missed

Maybe I’m imagining things, but the first paragraph of this latest opening in the Provost’s Office has some powerful musical qualities. The first, second, and third sentences are each carefully structured to climax on diversity. The fourth has two mentions of diversity at each end, elegantly framing the sentence. The fifth sentence diversifies, twice intoning diversity at the end of each hemistich. That adds up seven, surely not by chance. Finally, the next paragraph gently restates the theme.

Fat chance!

Addendum: And don’t forget diversity.

An alumnus from the 1970’s writes in:

I’m aghast at the idea of a big jump in enrollment. Reasons offered are worse than silly, and will dilute the unique character of Dartmouth — union of place and small size/mostly undergraduates. Not sure why this isn’t covered in alumni communications, or maybe I just overlooked it.

Here’s the thing, though. I love the College and want to continue to support it. I’m a modest donor, but a steady one. I count in the percentage of gifts, a decline of which is cited as disapproval of the recent/current Administration policies.

I remember in my student days alums withholding contributions based on anti-war and liberal activities on campus (both of which I favored at the time). I thought then that conditional alumni love was unfair. If you love the College, you support it.

So what to do?

We all give to the College in gratitude for the things that Dartmouth has done for us, but at the same time, whether we like it or not, our giving (or not) sends a message to the administration regarding our support (or not) of the institution’s current direction. So, as my correspondent writes, what to do?

First off, as we saw last week, alumni are already speaking with their checkbooks. The capital campaign itself is dead in the water, and the number of alumni giving to the College and the amount of money that they are giving are both dropping rapidly. Why?

I expect that the people who are withholding their usual gifts are motivated by a broad range of reasons: the Hanlon administration’s evident efforts to turn the College away from its historic focus on undergraduate education in favor of a research-based agenda; by Phil’s attempted appointment of a non-Ph.D-bearing Dean of the Faculty who favored boycotting all Israeli universities; by the dishonest derecognition of several fraternities much loved by generations of brothers; by the administration’s spineless tolerance of library disruptions by aggressive students. Alumni might even have had enough of a bloated bureaucracy whose burgeoning cost has given us an annual tuition sticker price just shy of $70,000? The list goes on and on and on.

Conversely, we might ask people giving money to point to specific steps taken by the administration to improve the College. There’s not a lot to talk about, is there?

In the end, my view is that alumni should be thoughtful and deliberate with their giving — just as they are, for example, in raising their own children, from whom they might on occasions withhold generosity in the face of bad behavior. Such an action is an honest form of love.

Donating money because one has always done so does little more than enable the Hanlon administration to continue on its current, errant path. Is that what alumni want? Is that an effective expression of love for Dartmouth?

My recommendation would be to put your gifts aside for the moment. Each year in the future, place that hard-earned money in a special account until the day the Trustees come to their collective senses and appoint a President who wants to move the College forward into broad, sunlit uplands, and away from the disorganized swamp of mediocrity that marks today’s Hanlon administration.

Addendum: When I write “disorganized swamp of mediocrity,” I do so based in part on the many administrative foolishness that you read about in this space, but also from learning about inside information that I am not free to disclose. The latter material only serves to reinforce my concern about the poor quality of the College’s leaders.

Addendum: For alumni unwilling to cut the College off completely, an alternative strategy would be to direct giving to specific entities within Dartmouth — like the Political Economy Project — that are doing great work with undergraduate students, rather than sending money to the central administration via the Dartmouth College Fund. A drop in giving to the DCF will register with the Trustees and the administration almost as strongly as a decline in the percentage of alumni who give donations each year.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

You can also give to specific teams. I give to squash and tennis.

Addendum: And another:

I believe the low point in this process was the administration tarring the alumni-nominated Trustee process and essentially eliminating it. They nearly lost their run of the table to a democratic proxy contest. Had they done so, things might be far different. Indeed that process began when Alumni pulled Dartmouth’s bacon from the fire financially [in 1891], and were given those seats by agreement and to prevent the problems of that day and this one.

Not donating is a real dilemma. We both know the money donated is what keeps Dartmouth aid flowing… in addition to supporting a bureaucracy. My class is marketing our giving plan in terms of the sponsorship of scholars. All this said, the participation numbers may be speaking for themselves, and my opinions about staying in the process and giving may be an anachronism.

I doubt that I ever mentioned this to him but on one stifling summer day in Hanover, two years after he’d left for bigger things, I decided to tread from my dorm to an auxiliary library to withdraw the senior thesis of Joe Rago ‘05. Is there ever an honorable reason to pull someone’s senior thesis?

I wanted to examine how Joe could be so good. Was his way of turning a phrase limited to rich quarry like food court and a now-defunct Dartmouth PR platform called “the BuzzFlood.” (“At first, I was bowled over by the chowder-headed nonsense they were serving, but lately, I’ve started to come around. Inspired by their hard work, I realized that I, too, must shore up my brand.”) Or was he good with serious stuff, too?

When Peter Robinson ‘79 informed me on Friday morning that Joe had died suddenly, I was in an instant recalled to that summer, to the Berry annex, and to Joe’s senior thesis, whose odd title was still graven in memory: “New-Englandisms & Fanaticisms in Proper Boston.” A rich survey of Boston ghost stories. I can’t think of an undergraduate work remembered more than ten minutes after its consummation; here was one whose evocative title lurked in my mind for twelve years. As it turns out, Joe was good with serious stuff, too.

After Dartmouth Joe went to The Wall Street Journal with, I think it is fair to say, a reservation that it would require too many pairs of crisp trousers while offering too few ice-cold beers–not quite, that is to say, the genuine writerly experience. But I was able to witness Paul Gigot ‘77 become a mentor who seemed, to me, ennobling of Joe; and Joe speedily shaped himself into one of the great journalists of the young century.

In a political age in which buzz-flood P.R. hazes over reality, creating parallel realities of preferred fact patterns, it actually takes an opinion journalist to get to something true. This is why (you may be realizing) you have not read a worthwhile straight-news article in a year or more. It’s why Joe’s series on the Affordable Care Act deserved, and won, a Pulitzer; and was, more to the point, true.

In my time as a Robert L. Bartley Fellow on the Editorial Page of The Journal, I saw Joe cut through complex policy like greased lightning through butter, to borrow another phrasing of his. “What should I say when I meet with Melanie Kirkpatrick and Paul Gigot,” I asked Joe one late night before my interview. “Mumble something from Burke; that’s what I did.”
Joe, I found, preferred in his editorials to show rather than to state, and never shied from mustering facts where they were needed. These were culled from Washington sources astonished to receive an actual phone call from an actual intelligence searching for actual facts. Yet he avoided extraneous information where it had a tendency to cloud. This was Burkean indeed, because Joe, I learned as I observed him, tried to reduce until a problem was irreducible. In modern American politics, problems are reducible quite a bit. They are mostly invented.

A funny story of Burke is that he almost published a gargantuan history of England from Caesar to Queen Anne but abandoned the entire thing because Hume had already come out with his. Lord Acton said “it is ever to be regretted that the reverse did not occur.”

And this is where I am left after Joe’s passing. I fully expected to instruct children and then grandchildren to read Rago at the breakfast table, later on holidays home from college, and then in the thicket of some thorny life question. It would have been convenient to allow the style and genius of Rago to suffuse them generally, yet damning it, at edges of disagreement, with snapshot memories: Rago taking on board beers at Ryan’s Daughter on East 85th Street, Rago haunched on an unfortunate sofa in the office of the Review, Rago on the floor of The Journal at evening, reviewing the day’s work on a broad, white, flaxen sheet, erasing solecisms and applying a touch of style, in a mood approaching joy.

When it first became clear that the Hanlon administration was determined to increase the size of the undergraduate student body (and build new dorms around the Bema), I wrote a post on June 7 detailing the arguments against the planned expansion:

What is Phil’s (and Mike’s [erstwhile Dean of the Faculty Mastanduno]) goal in adding a few hundred students to each class? It’s not hard to discern: they want to make more cluster hires: groups of outside researchers focused on solving the world’s big problems in order to up the College’s prestige (undergraduate students be damned). Of course, the problem is — and this is always a problem for an administration that chooses not to cut an ounce of bureaucratic fat (and that has a dead-in-the-water capital campaign) — how to pay for these new folks?

For Phil the answer is easy: extra students means extra tuition income. That’s the strategy he adopted at Michigan in the face of the fallout from 2008-2009 financial crisis. He told me so himself when I met with him a few months after he had arrived in Hanover. I commented that in the press he had been depicted as a determined cost-cutter; “No, no,” he said, “I balanced the budget by increasing the size of the student body.”

Oh, great. More students in Hanover — but no additional athletes — means a great deal more tuition income (remember that over half of our students pay full boat) at little extra cost, especially if you shoehorn students into bigger classes and you don’t increase the size of other facilities like the HOP or the gym or the dorms. (Remember how those 51 Fahey doubles became triples, and how additional people will be jammed into the re-built Morton Hall. Expect a lot more of the same.) That’s more money for researchers and research, even though students receive a diluted experience.

How disingenuous that the administration’s recent press release includes the following assertion:

The task force’s charge includes the requirement that any potential growth plan must at least break even financially.

In reality, the whole point of the extra students is to take in more money. If 56% of the College’s current students pay full fare (including financial-aid-needy athletes), one can expect that 60%-70% the planned additional students will pay full tuition, room and board. That’s an extra $8-20 million each year in income — depending on whether the administration increases the number of students in Hanover by 10% or 25%.

Will that money go to upgrading decrepit dorms, raising the salaries of underpaid faculty, or renovating academic buildings that have long needed refurbishment? You have doubts, too, right?

But, back to a debate about size. How is little Tuck doing? It has a high ranking among business schools and a uniquely loyal alumni group. The Yale Law School, my other alma mater, is one of the smallest of the major law schools, yet it is perennially the highest ranked. In fact, three of the four top-ranked law schools are the smallest ones (Yale, Stanford and Chicago). What does that tell you? Maybe small size is everything?

The only other Ivy that comes close to Dartmouth in alumni loyalty is Princeton — note that the Tigers happen to be the smallest school in the Ivies after the College.

In the final analysis, what we are seeing here is further evidence that Phil Hanlon has little imagination or vision. He cannot see beyond copying at Dartmouth exactly what other prestigious research universities already do. Flattery maybe high praise, but belated imitation is no more than following boringly after what your competitors have achieved long before you. Dartmouth should be Dartmouth; it can’t be Michigan (and it should not want to be).

The administration should concentrate on making Dartmouth better before it thinks of making the College bigger. But maybe that’s too difficult for Phil: doing so would take more work than just opening the floodgates.

Addendum: A dedicated reader writes in:

Increase the student body by as much as 25%? What a terrible idea - Phil Hanlon seems intent on dismantling everything that makes the College unique. And there are few things I dislike more than cloaking what are essentially money-grubbing schemes in anodyne phrases like “better the world” and “amplify our impact on the world.” Ugh.

Addendum: A ‘12 writes in:

Similarly dismayed upon reading last week’s post on the idea of increasing class sizes. I too want to take issue with the following sentence:

“The small size makes it more challenging for the College to enroll a new class that represents interests in a variety of academic disciplines outside the classroom and from diverse backgrounds.”

I thought the committee was on a fact-finding mission and didn’t have conclusions yet? This sentence sure sounds like a pre-baked rationale for increasing class size. Will the task force explore the “opportunities and challenges” of a smaller class size? Maybe facts will point to that being a better way to make the world a better place (what’s our telos after all?). By the way, what are “academic interests” that are “outside the classroom”? Whatever they are, is gathering a variety of them the goal outcome of enrolling a new class? What about in-classroom academic interests?

My questions lead the witness but they bear asking. The people who run the College should be held to account for their words. Words matter. Using ill-constructed arguments (with grammatically-challenged sentences) to mask the meaning of words is a problem. The false rationale presented by the administration for this action (even before it will be inevitably pursued) is unbecoming of Dartmouth, and it wouldn’t pass muster in a Writing 5 class. Shame on the administration. I call on the College’s professors to use their considerable political power to push back on the administration’s “reforms” that harm the College and its students.

Thank you for all you do, Joe, to shine a spotlight on the administration’s sophistry, incompetence, and even laziness in doing whatever it is they’re doing to the College.

Addendum: A ‘20 writes in:

I am a ‘20 and currently still on a “housing waitlist.” I’m sorry, but Phil Hanlon trying to increase Dartmouth’s student body is like the captain of the Titanic planning his next voyage. The administration should first prove it can house its current student body before it further increases its burden. Ideological objections aside, we are talking about an operational nightmare for an inept operator.

Addendum: As does an ‘18:

Been enjoying your coverage (or perhaps cringing at, but only the subject matter) of the student body increase proposals. I’d note that the anonymous ‘20 you quote might want to remember that the R.M.S. Titanic’s captain, a man named Edward Smith who had quite an impressive beard, had the courage and good grace to go down with the ship. I wonder if Hanlon would do so.

Aside from that, I take no pleasure in witnessing Hanlon’s escapades in this. I suppose he is at least trying to do something, but it’s quickly making me wish he’d go back to doing nothing. I don’t understand how we can wish to add students when we lack the resources for the ones we already have. Dining halls are cramped, the library doesn’t have enough seats for exam times, it’s not infrequent to have to wait days for books since they’re already out, the gym is often quite full, and housing, of course, is on shorter rations than a Soviet bread line. (I was booted from my initial housing already and thrown into an entirely different cluster far away from the main campus.) If it’s true that the Bema would play host to new dorms, I think we should mourn that, too: it’s a beautiful spot of seclusion and nature within our campus and its destruction would be a tragedy.

I, for one, never would have come to a larger Dartmouth. I came because I wanted a smaller college experience, passing up family traditions at Harvard on one side and Brown on the other in favor of a more rural, smaller, and tight-knit community. But it seems that Big Research University, Inc., is coming to Hanover no matter what we do. I wonder if the energy exists within the alumni and the studentry to resist this at all, particularly after so many other awful policy initiatives. And would it matter if we tried?

The next time you think that you have been dealt a bad hand by life, cast your thoughts to these trees on the Appalachian Trail on the way up to Velvet Rocks. Both the large and small one are growing on top of huge boulders, taking nourishment from whatever detritus they and other plants may provide:

App Trail Trees2.jpg

App Trail Trees1.jpg

The larger tree seems to have cracked fissures into the rocks on which they proudly stand — and the two seem to survive through the four seasons come what may.

Addendum: Special snowflakes take note. If you want to learn grit and resilience, take a look around you. Young pine trees can’t run to the dean every time life becomes challenging.



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