The Latest Posts

Discussion about revising the College’s grading standards is shifting into a higher gear. One might almost think that the faculty has an independent role is developing and implementing ideas at Dartmouth. What a thought.

Biology Professor Mark McPeek has posted an extended summary on his blog of the rationale for tightening up grading standards. It is well worth a read:

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Meanwhile, the D reported on the debate today in a story with a regrettable headline: Committee proposes harsher grading, eliminating NRO. Of course, this choice of words presupposes that the College’s current grading standards are harsh (in fact, at present just under 60% of grades are A or A-) and that the committee wants the grades to be harsh at all (my read is that the proposal simply asks that grades reflect the actual quality of work done in a course).

A second D piece, Opinion Asks: NRO, assembles student views on the Non-Recording Option. The gist of the comments is that students like the NRO because it allows them to coast in a few courses — exactly the reason that the Ad Hoc Committee on Grading Practices and Grade Inflation doesn’t like it. It’s a battle between comfort and education; I wonder who will win.

The Town is putting the squeeze on AD, undoubtedly after getting pressure from the College. In Hanover, things can slide by unless there is a complaint. The Valley News’ Rob Wolfe ‘12 has a good report on the situation.

Hanover Zoning administrator Judy Brotman is asserting that given that AD is no longer recognized by the College, it is not zoned to lodge eighteen unrelated adults. She sent the following notice to the house on April 23:

AD Zoning Violation.jpg

The Valley News quotes her as follows:

“You typically don’t want so many people living in one building in a residential neighborhood,” Brotman said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “It’s a health thing.”

Three questions flow from that statement. Firstly, did the College ever do anything to keep AD clean when it was recognized? Secondly, just what health issues could arise now that were not a threat before? And thirdly, just how is a building entirely surrounded by College property said to be in a “residential neighborhood”?

The brothers have assembled a war chest from generous alumni, and they have engaged the Concord law firm of Cleveland, Waters and Bass — one of New Hampshire’s largest and best firms. The firm is arguing that AD’s right of residency predates any Hanover ordinance, and therefore the house’s right is grandfathered in despite the new rule. The Valley News reports that the next step will be as follows:

The fraternity will make its case to the town Zoning Board of Adjustment on Thursday night at 7 p.m., but no decision will be made that night. Board deliberations are scheduled for June 4.

After that, the matter could go to state court.

From the looks of things, AD has not yet begun to fight.

Addendum: The Town Police department is still investigating whether the branding of certain AD brothers constituted a violation of state law. No final determination has yet been made. Seems like the investigation is going quite slowly.

The NCAA has sent its findings about fraudulent classes for athletes and such to UNC, and Chancellor Folt is in a tough spot. Given her poor performance at crisis management heretofore, one has to wonder if her days in the top job in Chapel Hill are numbered. The News & Observer is oblique in its criticism — after all, Folt & Co. blasted whistleblower Mary Willingham (here and here), nobody else — but in calling for leadership, the editorial’s subtext is the observation that there hasn’t been a leader in the Chancellor’s post for far too long, and there isn’t one there now:

Folt NCAA Report Comp.jpg

The UNC Board, long wondering why it chose Carol two years ago, might finally act on its doubts.

Following on Bio Professor Mark McPeek’s exemplary presentation at the April 27 faculty meeting, the full report written by the Ad Hoc Committee on Grading Practices and Grade Inflation has been distributed to the faculty. For some reason, reading the document is formally limited to faculty members having password-access to Banner (and informally restricted to readers of this page); I wonder why the administration chooses not to release it to the general public.

In any event, unlike certain written efforts by past administrations (for example, see the Presidential Search Committee’s Opportunity for Leadership statement that brought us Jim Kim, or any part of Carol Folt’s now-forgotten Strategic Plan), the Grading Practices and Grade Inflation report is notable for its concise, forceful prose; tight reasoning; and abundant, relevant data. Herewith the intro page:

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Read the entire 16-page report here.

Addendum: A faculty member writes in:

I routinely include reference to the 1973 Dartmouth Scholarship Ratings grading standards in my syllabi. When students complain about grades or ask me about my grading standards, I ask them if they have read the relevant page of the syllabus. That’s usually a conversation-stopper.

Memo to members of the faculty: After you have read the full report, log into your Banner area. The second link from the bottom is entitled: Survey: Grading Practices Proposal, which takes you to a set of ten pages with each one containing a single sentence (the ten separate sentences that are the topic headers for each of the proposal points on pages 8-13 of the Grading Practices and Grade Inflation report). You may leave comments there. Please do so, whether you agree or disagree with the ideas contained in the report (whiners frequently take the time; supporters too often don’t).

                        

One of this season’s enduring mysteries around town concerns the departure as Hood Museum Director of well liked Michael Taylor. I’ve heard various rumors, but nothing that I could pin down to any level of certainty. Now word comes that Taylor has landed a new job at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts:

Michael Taylor Virginia Comp.jpg

Read the full VMFA press release here.

Addendum: The Valley News story on Taylor’s departure from the Hood and new appointment in Virginia ended with an interesting quote and two paragraphs of writer Nicola Smith’s editorial commentary:

Nyerges said that he talked both to Taylor, and to a “lot of other people who knew the situation very well; it’s Dartmouth’s loss and our gain. The politics of museums and universities, to say the least, are interesting.”…

The question remains why Dartmouth College would shoot itself in the foot with a public relations misstep. The college has the right to decide who is at the helm of the Hood Museum, but in the absence of information or explanation, rumor fills the vacuum, which is neither fair to Taylor, nor advantageous to the college. The Hood Museum serves not only the college, but the Upper Valley at large.

And what kind of signal does the manner of Taylor’s departure send to prospective applicants? If a director’s level of scholarship, personal and professional reputation, and engagement with the entire community, are not enough to hold onto the job, then what are the criteria?

Phil Hanlon3.jpgPhil put on his roadshow at the Marquette Hotel in Minneapolis on May 12, and with the help of modern technology I was able to listen in. Our President is visiting alumni clubs and individual heavy hitters across the country to drum up support for the soon-to-be-announced capital campaign, and also to quiet inquisitive folks who still wonder what the heck has been happening in Hanover for the last decade or two.

VP of Alumni Relations Martha Beattie ‘76 acted as the bubbly MC (she neither screamed nor shed tears, as is her habit in the office). Trustee Gail Boudreaux ‘82 then asked Phil a half dozen questions and he responded with bits/bites of his stump speech: extended answers that were prepared well in advance. I guess that someone with an eye for these things has understood that Phil is underwhelming when delivering a canned address. That’s an accurate evaluation, though the Q&A format is only a slight improvement. (Hint: Phil, don’t use the word “passionate” over and over again when referring to students.) On the meat of the event:

Academic Rigor: Phil took the opportunity to calm people who are concerned that ramping up academic rigor would make the College more of a pressure cooker than it already is. He stressed the distinction between quality and quantity, asserting that he was looking for “deeper student engagement” rather than just more work. I wish that he would distinguish between the segments of the student body that bust their hump and those that coast — this is true of the faculty, too — rather than talking in general terms.

Moving Dartmouth Forward: When asked about objective indicia that the MDF program was improving the College, Phil first cited reduced hospital transports for excessive alcohol consumption, and decreased reports of sexual assault (while noting that assualt is a hard phenomenon to measure); he then noted his desire that more students attend academic programming in the evening (guest speakers, etc.). Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, he noted that at present approximately 200 seniors write a thesis each year and 16% of students publish a paper in a peer-review journal as undergrads. He hopes that in the coming years the latter two figures might double.

Experiential Learning: Our President praised the Thayer school repeatedly in talking about learning by doing. Although he affirmed the College’s commitment to the liberal arts, he said that the people at Thayer were doing amazing things, and that a quarter of the faculty members there had started their own companies. In response to a question from the audience, he stated that the College had no plans to recreate a Great Issues course (a Jim Kim initiative, that, like all the others, went nowhere) because today’s students want to work directly on the world’s problems, rather than talk about them. There’s a contradiction in there somewhere.

The Cost of the College: Repeating that the cost of college and the College has been rising for 40 years at 2-3% higher than the rate of inflation, Phil stated that such increases were unsustainable. He attributed about 1% of the differential to financial aid, and the rest to “handling innovation badly”: that as Dartmouth came up with creative new programs for students, it failed to retire old ones that had lost their relevance. He believes that his 1.5% reallocation policy — wherein all areas of the College need to cut their budgets by 1.5% each year, and then spend 1.0% on new initiatives, while turning over the remaining 0.5%to the Provost for reallocation — will keep costs under control. He cited the fact that the cost of a Dartmouth education only increased by 2.9% over each of the past two years. There was no mention of administrative bloat (personnel costs are 58% of the College’s total expenses), or the huge increase in the number of non-faculty staff employees over the past five years.

International Visibility: Improving Dartmouth’s reputation abroad is “a huge positive thing that Dartmouth needs to accomplish,” said Phil. He met recently with the editors of the Times of London.

All in all, Phil has his priorities right, but he is only nibbling away at the College’s core problems. Deep pathologies require more than incremental solutions.

Addendum: An especially thoughtful alumnus writes in:

Excellent post on Phil Hanlon’s road show, and your conclusion (“nibbling away…at core problems”) is well taken.

I was particularly struck by the boast (?) that some 200 seniors write a thesis, and his hope to see that number double. Some of us can remember when every senior wrote a thesis; it was a requirement to graduate, as were comprehensive examinations in the major.

Writing the thesis was my single most valuable experience at Dartmouth; it provided the occasion to do some wide ranging research and pull the results together and try to communicate them in a way that someone might be interested in reading. I went on to a legal career, where these skills were essential, as they are in most professional careers.

Had it not been a requirement to write a thesis, I probably wouldn’t have bothered in my then state of immaturity.

The requirement was later dropped, perhaps for a variety of reasons. No doubt lazier faculty members were glad not to have to read and grade them, or be obliged to consult with students as they were writing them. A written thesis might also provide embarrassing evidence of how poorly a student had done, which might be especially discomfiting in the case of preferential admissions. So getting rid of the requirement was a step in avoiding institutional accountability for just what students had gained in exchange for very high tuition.

A friend of mine who is the managing partner of a major national law firm tells me that their current hires, all from the top law schools and colleges, are unable to write a simple memorandum. Colleges having dropped written work requirements may be one of the reasons.

That we have come to the point where a college president would boast that a small minority of his students had chosen to write a thesis is a sorry commentary on what has become of higher education. You would think Hanlon would be embarrassed to go out to alumni to raise funds while making such an admission. I would tell him, if you want money from me, you and your faculty have to get serious about education.

Addendum: Another alumnus, one from the early 1970’s, writes in:

haha… a great topic! I wrote a thesis for English and one for Geography (double major). In the latter, I got to page 84 and said to myself, “You know, you are never, ever going to get to 100 pages again in your life, so go for it.” I started restating things and circling around and putting more footnotes and references in, and eventually I stopped at page 108 (I couldn’t just stop at 100: too obvious).

I got it back about 6 weeks later. As usual in those days in every department, it had been meticulously marked up and critiqued by the professor, almost on a line-by-line basis. At the end, this comment: “This was an A until about page 85, when it started to go downhill. I wonder why. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned here. C+.” There was and it was.

The good ol’ educatin’ days of dear ol’ Dartmouth!

If you are looking for a change of career, the College is hiring like mad in preparation for the upcoming capital campaign. The below are just the director-level positions that have been advertised in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Director, Academic Coordination: In partnership with senior Advancement leaders, provides a critical link between the Development Office and campus partners, including the offices of the Provost, Dean of Faculty, Dean of the College, centers and institutes. Coordinates with campus leaders to productively engage with current and future donors; maintains the integrity of fund raising priorities; and assists with the implementation of development plans.

Director of Donor Engagement: Leads a team of professionals who work in close partnership with principal gift officers ($5 million and up) and leadership gift officers ($250,000 to $5 million) to provide the highest level of personal engagement, communication, and proposal development for Dartmouth’s most important donors.

Director of Recognition and Stewardship: Leads a team of professionals to design and implement a comprehensive stewardship and recognition program, working collaboratively with departments throughout the Advancement division and across the institution to ensure regular and meaningful communication with donors about the impact of their philanthropy.

Associate Director, Leadership Giving: Responsible for developing long-term philanthropic relationships with alumni, parents and friends and securing and stewarding restricted and unrestricted gifts from individuals in the Central States region.

Senior Associate/Associate Director, Gift Planning: Responsible for providing charitable gift and estate planning expertise to the Dartmouth community, including donors, prospective donors, and the Development staff and works to increase the volume of outright gifts, bequests, life income gifts, and other forms of estate planned giving.

Associate Director of Regional Communities: Provides leadership, guidance and support to Dartmouth’s 90+ regional alumni organizations, including recruiting, developing, and managing alumni volunteers, assisting with regional activities, supporting the development of regional alumni networks, and enhancing communication between alumni and the College.

At this rate, we’ll soon be at 3,600 non-faculty staffers, up from 3,503 now and 2,408 in 1999. That seems like a large number of people to administer 6,298 students.

Beyond the above positions, the Dartmouth Jobs page currently lists another 144 open jobs, including more in the Advancement and Development area (I promise that I am not making these up): Associate Director/Senior Associate Director of Advancement, Director of Annual Giving and Alumni Relations, Stewardship Writer and Gift Recording Coordinator, Associate Director of Stewardship Services, Associate Advancement Director, Assistant Advancement Director, Associate Vice President for Development, Executive Assistant to the Vice President for Presidential Initiatives and Principal Gifts, Associate Director for Individual and Class Giving, Senior Managing Director for Athletics Fundraising, and Donor Relations Officer.

Addendum: There is no truth to the rumor that the College employs a full-time Director of Developing Titles for Other Directors.

Hancock v Pru 1.jpgThe Prudential Center looks as good as it’s ever going to get in this iPhone 6 shot in angled evening light, but it doesn’t hold up to the John Hancock Tower, Henry N. Cobb’s 1976 creation (he was working at I.M. Pei’s firm). The two buildings offer a sharp contrast, don’t you think? Squat brutalist power facing sleek elegance. To my mind and eye, the Hancock building wins every time.

Addendum: Wikipedia summarizes the reception that the Pru received from architectural critics:

When it was built, the Prudential Tower received mostly positive architectural reviews. The New York Times called it “the showcase of the New Boston [representing] the agony and the ecstasy of a city striving to rise above the sordidness of its recent past”. But Ada Louise Huxtable called it “a flashy 52-story glass and aluminum tower … part of an over-scaled megalomaniac group shockingly unrelated to the city’s size, standards, or style. It is a slick developer’s model dropped into an urban renewal slot in Anycity, U.S.A.—a textbook example of urban character assassination.” Architect Donlyn Lyndon called it “an energetically ugly, square shaft that offends the Boston skyline more than any other structure”. In 1990, Boston Globe architecture critic Robert Campbell commented: “The Prudential Center has been the symbol of bad design in Boston for so long that we’d probably miss it if it disappeared.”

The individual critics have it right.

Black CPA Book.jpgI confess that I am not a regular reader of Accounting Today magazine, but a recent issue described Theresa Hammond’s 2002 book, A White-Collar Profession: African American Certified Public Accountants since 1921, and noted that the first black CPA in the United States was a graduate of the College: John Cromwell ‘06 (that’s the Class of 1906). He had been the top science student in his year, in addition to being elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

We too often hear a harsh narrative about bad olde Dartmouth, and 20-30 years from now today’s students will certainly be regaled with similarly critical comments about their own time in Hanover, but the College has a long, though certainly not unblemished, history of ahead-of-its-time enlightenment in civil rights matters, and we would do well to see ourselves in that tradition, rather than arrogantly believing that in the present era we are breaking with some shameful past.

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Prior to John Cromwell’s 20th reunion in 1926, the Alumni Magazine’s Class of 1906 class notes section mentioned him:

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Cromwell was listed in both the DAM’s 1953 and 1954 editions as having attended his class dinner at the Algonquin Hotel in Boston and having given money to the annual Class of 1906 fund. In 1956 he is lamented as having missed the annual class dinner, but he still contributed money to the College. He attended the class dinner and gave money again in 1957. It would be a fair assumption that he gave money each year to Dartmouth, as more than 70% of alumni did in those days. Of course, Cromwell went to his 55th reunion in Hanover (far left) in 1961:

Cromwell 55th reunion.jpg

Two years prior to Cromwell’s death, his daughter Adelaide, a professor of Sociology at BU, interviewed him for a family history about his time in Hanover (page 166). He noted that when he was a student, tuition at the College was $110/year.

John W. Cromwell Jr. ‘06 died on December 16, 1971, having changed the world in a small but real way.

Addendum: The Prospecting Professor blog has a brief description of John Cromwell ‘06’s life, including a note that Cromwell’s “older sister, was the first African-American alumna of Smith College, and went on to earn a Ph.D. in English from Yale.”

The publication of colleges’ and universities’ IRS Form 990 has engendered excitement about the salaries paid to top administrators. Frank Bruni had a column in the Times:

Bruni Academic Salaries Comp.jpg

And the Valley News’ review of the College’s Form 990 led off as follows:

The 2013 compensation packages of nine Dartmouth College administrators and professors each exceeded $600,000, according to the college’s most recent tax return.

Pamela Peedin, the Boston-based chief investment officer who oversees the college’s $4.47 billion endowment, was once again the institution’s highest paid employee. Her $473,000 base salary, $600,000 in “incentive compensation” and $37,500 in benefits added up to a total of $1.1 million for the year.

Ho hum. There is prima facie nothing at all wrong with earning a million dollars for running an institution with close to 10,000 employees (when you put the College and DHMC together). That puts Phil’s family in the Top 1%, but not all that far into it. After all, there are plenty of 30-year-old traders and investment bankers making well more than a bar, once bonuses are totaled up.

What makes the envious emphasis on these high salaries wrong is that this particular focus distracts from the real problem — where the big spending is really going.

According to the College’s 2010 Form 990, Dartmouth’s top sixteen earners took in $8,284,340 in salary and benefits, out of a total compensation budget for all employees of $431,170,000. That’s a piddling 1.92% of our total spending on personnel.

In the 2014 Form 990, the top sixteen earners saw their remuneration rise by 14.1% ($1,166,407) over five years to $9,450,747. That amount was still only 1.92% of the overall compensation paid to all of the College’s employees, which was $491,832,000 — a jump of exactly 14.1%, too, but here the total increase amounted to $60,662,000.

If we are looking to cut costs at the College, let’s focus on limiting that overall jump of $60,662,000 from 2010-2014, rather than professing shock that the College’s top people took in an extra $1,166,407.

As I never tire of saying — because one day somewhere somehow somebody will hear me — the real waste at the College is in the staff.

Addendum: The CPI increased by 8.57% between 2010 and 2014. If Dartmouth’s compensation budget had increased with inflation, the total cost of wages and benefits would have been lower by $23,710,000. To put that figure in context, in 2014 the College took in $126,611,000 in tuition from undergrads. Wouldn’t it have been nice to drop tuition by about a fifth?

Addendum: And what about Brown, you ask? In 2010 Brown’s salaries and benefits for its professors (one third more than the College) and staff came to $398,894,000 — $32,221,000 less than Dartmouth. In 2014 Brown paid out $408,375,000 in compensation — $83,000,000 less than the College. That’s a total increase from 2010-2014 of only 2.38%, a figure well below the 8.57% rate of inflation. Way to go, Brown.

Addendum: I focused my Form 990 post on the outrageous post-partum payouts to Jim Wright and Adam Keller because that money was all waste, not just partial waste as in the above bloated total salary figures.

The federal government has released a partial list of the books found in Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad, Pakistan compound. Among them, a 2003 book that Dean of the Faculty Mike Mastanduno co-edited: International Relations Theory and the Asia-Pacific.

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Credit where credit is due.

Addendum: Bin Laden’s library also included a copy of Economics Professor Doug Irwin’s NBER research paper Did France Cause the Great Depression?

Addendum: Read the complete list of declassified books and other items from bin Laden’s refuge here.

A coalition of Asian American organizations has filed a complaint against Harvard for discriminating against Asian Americans in its admissions process. The administration there could be in for a rough time. As Ron Unz pointed out several years ago in an article entitled: The Myth of American Meritocracy, How corrupt are Ivy League admissions?, statistics would indicate that all the Ivies established a quota for Asians around 2001-2003:

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Charles Murray noted the following in 2012 when Unz’s article was published:

Unz’s findings have received astonishingly little coverage. “Astonishingly,” because Unz has documented what looks very much like a tacitly common policy on the part of the Ivies to cap Asian admissions at about 16% of undergraduates, give or take a few percentage points, no matter what the quality of Asian applicants might be. That’s a strong statement, but consider the data that Unz has assembled. [Emphasis added]

Of more than passing interest is the fact that over the last four years Asian American enrollments at the College have consistently been 16%. Surely just a coincidence:

Asian Enrollment Comp.jpg

A piece in the WSJ on May 15 cited the following figures from the complaint:

The complaint, filed by a coalition of 64 organizations, says the university has set quotas to keep the numbers of Asian-American students significantly lower than the quality of their applications merits. It cites third-party academic research on the SAT exam showing that Asian-Americans have to score on average about 140 points higher than white students, 270 points higher than Hispanic students and 450 points higher than African-American students to equal their chances of gaining admission to Harvard.

The Washington Post reports:

This is the second complaint against Harvard admissions practices on behalf of Asian Americans in a month. A legal defense group called Project on Fair Representation filed a lawsuit against Harvard about a month ago on behalf of a group called Students for Fair Admissions. It accuses Harvard of “employing racially and ethnically discriminatory policies” in its admissions practices.

With the Supreme Court once again reviewing the constitutionality of diversity/affirmative action policies, and a national understanding on the rise that academic mismatch costs disadvantaged minorities more than it helps them, one has to wonder how long racial preference policies can endure in the academy.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

Although we have a new focus on race on admissions practices in the Ivy’s, this 2004 Princeton study provides a more holistic view: Admission Preferences for Minority
Students, Athletes, and Legacies at Elite Universities
.

While it’s a bit dated, it indicates that athletics preferences became the most influential advantage an applicant can have provided a student met the minimum academic requirements. According to this study, a sports recruit gets the equivalent of 200 SAT points which is more than the 140 point gap between Asian and White students cited in the lawsuit. Between 1980 and 1997, athletic preferences became more advantageous than being Black, Hispanic, or a legacy (see Figure 1, page 1443).

What this means is that the academically, rather than athletically inclined applicant has to really shine. Arguably, race-based quotas at least have a broader redeeming goal to redress societal biases. I’m not sure how a better football team does the same.

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The United States rugby Sevens team won a World Series tournament in London last weekend. Madison Hughes ‘15 was the captain and leading scorer for the first-ever U.S. team to win a tournament at the highest level of world rugby. Hughes was the Player of the Tournament with seven tries and fifteen conversion kicks in six matches.

Venues for the World Series circuit in Sevens rugby include London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Cape Town, and Brisbane. The London tournament was the final stop. The road to the final for the United States included wins over rugby powers France, South Africa, and England. The Americans beat Australia 45-22 in the championship match.

Sevens rugby will make its debut at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Next up for the United States is Olympic qualifying in June.

Addendum: Dartmouth Rugby returns to the Collegiate Rugby Championship Sevens tournament next weekend in Philadelphia. The Club has won the tournament twice. See the tournament page for a good profile of the history of the College’s rugby program.

Addendum: A 60’s alum writes in:

Thanks for the story on Madison Hughes ‘15. Despite his stellar performance as an athlete, not to mention as a top student and exemplary citizen of the College community, no one in the College’s 15-odd person public relations office seems interested in doing much with this continuing story. In all likelihood he will be captain of the American Olympic 7s rugby team in 2016, the first time rugby has been played at the Olympics since 1928. One would think all of this would be viewed as an ideal opportunity to showcase a very special Dartmouth student who will be performing on the international stage before millions of viewers. But, to date, bupkis from the College’s PR operation. Before he quote/unquote resigned, PR head Tommy Bruce was informed of Maddy’s accomplishments and potential for greater glory but didn’t seem all that interested. And Harry Sheehy’s operation hasn’t done much to date either. Is that because men’s rugby is a club sport and Maddy is not a creature of the DCAD varsity programs? He is without question the finest athlete at Dartmouth right now — right up there with another great scholar/athlete/citizen of late, Abby D’Agostino ‘14, who should be joining him soon on the Olympic stage.

Addendum: Madison will graduate at the end of the summer term after he earns several remaining credits. He is currently otherwise occupied.

Addendum: Ray Lu wrote a fine profile of Madison Hughes in The D.

The subject of the campus-wide mailing might have been entitled “seen last night on b@b,” but the screenshot was decidedly Yik Yak:

Asian Criticism B@B1.jpg

B&B and Yik Yak are filled with this kind of puerile sentiment. The sites are valuable if only to show that a certain number of students admitted through the College’s holistic admissions process hold and express thoughts that they would never utter in public.

Incredible as it may seem, some of these sites’ anonymous commentators have even voiced harsh, personal criticisms of your humble servant. However, each time that I go to look at B&B and Yik Yak, I read myself a prophylactic trigger warning; then I feel better.

Herewith a compendium of all kinds o’ mean nasty ugly things that have been written about me (fortunately there were many kind ones, too):

B@B Comp.jpg

And that’s just in the last couple of weeks.

Addendum: At one point the Trustees debated cutting student access to Bored@Baker from the College’s servers — a fact that says more about their lack of technical savvy and (dis)respect for free speech than it does for their concern about student welfare.

Message to students: Not everyone out there will like you. Get used to it.

Addendum: A recent graduate of the College writes in:

Just wanted to drop you a note on your most recent post. As a frequent reader of Dartmouth’s YikYak feed, I’ve been fascinated by the power of anonymous message boards, their implications for free speech, and the power they seem to have over young people in particular. The content on YikYak is usually clever, funny, and tame, while the Bored@Baker I remember was always venomous and targeted at specific individuals. Everyone had to read B@B as a perpetual form of damage control.

In terms of how the College should officially react, I think they should do exactly what they should do in cases of criminal activity: leave it up to the police to determine if a crime has been committed and otherwise keep out. Fighting against anonymous posters is like shadow boxing,; the best the College can do by meddling in free speech is break even.

In terms of advice to give, I think its easy for older people to tell young people that they shouldn’t care what others say about them online; people are wired to care less about the opinions of others as they age. As I student, I saw B@B posts as the product of a vast faceless horde of people who lived all around me and hated me so much that they spent their spare time writing mean things and upvoting them. It can be incredibly traumatic for a young person who has yet to work out his values or identity. To those young people, I promise them this: with every accomplishment you achieve, you will care less and less. Instead of worrying, go build up your resume.

Addendum: A faculty member and connoisseur of language notes:

… though technically “gives no fucks” is often a term of praise

I’ll take it.

Imagine that as an employee of the College you go to the Benefits Office and ask that your partner be covered by your medical insurance plan. If you are married to your partner, then you are in the clear; your partner will be covered. But if you are not married, then the College wants to know a piece of personal information: what gender is your partner? If your partner is not the same gender as you, you get no benefits; but if your partner is the same gender, you are welcome to share in the cornucopia of Dartmouth’s Cadillac health plan. Here are the College’s own words on the subject:

Benefits Eligibility.jpg

Sound fair to you? Not to me. Since same sex couples can wed legally in New Hampshire, and have been able to do so since January 1, 2010 (only civil unions were open to same-sex couples in the two preceding years), it is curious that as we approach the fifth anniversary of state-honored, same-sex marriage legislation (NH was the first state to enact such laws by legislative vote; other states were ordered to do so by courts) such discrimination should continue to exist in the College’s policies.

But what should the College’s Benefits Committee choose to do now (or what should it have done in 2010?)?

● Insist that henceforth all domestic partners seeking benefits be married regardless of their gender?; or,

● Allow all domestic partners, married or not, to be covered by Dartmouth’s benefits?

The WSJ recently ran a story detailing various companies’ response to this issue:

WSJ Benefits Comp.jpg

Most companies are insisting that couples requesting benefits be married (in the 37 states where same-sex marriage is legal). Others, like Google, IBM and Dow Chemical, extend benefits to all partners, married or not.

What should Dartmouth do? Well, if our highest institutional priority is to extend costly benefits to as many people as possible, we should allow coverage of all partners, married or unmarried. But if our top concern is education, we’ll achieve far more impact on the quality of a student’s four years in Hanover by limiting benefits to legally married couples and using the ensuing savings to hire more faculty members.

Addendum: Brown University, which seems to be much more efficiently run than Dartmouth, ended benefits for non-married couples on December 31, 2014. Only legally married spouses and their dependents are now eligible for benefits at Brown. Civil unions were allowed in Rhode Island on July 1, 2011; same-sex marriages were authorized on August 1, 2013. Brown announced shortly thereafter that it would limit benefits to married couples.

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