Thursday, October 11, 2012

Who’s Admitted; Who Shows Up

Dartmouth Admitted StudentsA.jpgEach year the College makes a big fuss about the applicant pool — how acceptances shake out among different groups — but the end result gets less publicity. The final numbers vary a great deal because of Dartmouth’s varying level of success in having certain accepted students come to the College. For example, although the acceptance of students of color has been between 45-47% over the past years, the Dartmouth Fact Book reports than only 32-37% of matriculated students are in that category.

Dartmouth Admitted StudentsB.jpg

Inversely, legacies account for approximately 8-9% of accepted students, but in the past couple of years they have made up 14% of the student body.

Dartmouth Legacies.jpg

College admissions is a complicated business, especially for certain demographic groups. Imagine a high school student who is not a recruited athlete (19% of admissions); a person of color (46.2%), a foreign national (8.6%), a first generation student (11.2%), nor a legacy (8.9%) — or to put it another way — a student who is a white, non-athlete, American whose parents went to college, but not to Dartmouth. Depending on the overlaps between the above special categories (and certainly more than a few students fall into several categories), our imaginary student has a fighting chance at as few as 6.1% of Dartmouth’s admissions slots.

Addendum: A close observer of the College writes in:

Great post this morning! I forwarded it to friends whose impressive 18-year-old son was not admitted Early or Regular round to the Class of ‘16. That was frustrating and disappointing, to say the least, but such is life and they are all doing fine. That said, your post today was helpful to make clear to them what a superb student and young person like their son (white, male, American, high school leader/athlete — but not a recruited athlete or a Dartmouth legacy) is up against when he applies to highly selective schools.

My guess is that the real number of spaces open for someone like Sean are even fewer than 6.1%. If you factor in the disproportionate share of the applicant pool that is white, male (or female) and American, the statistics get even more daunting. Because of all the ethnic categories, states and countries needing to be represented for “geographical balance,” and the various set-asides in the today’s college admissions world, it is remarkable to get in as a “typical” white American student.

I often recount the following facts to parents of incredible young people who apply here for college to help them understand the brutal game they are entering: “As of a few years ago, Dartmouth wanted no more than 33 percent of its matriculating first-year students to have been high school valedictorians and salutatorians. Stop and think what that means: Your son or daughter could easily be rejected by Dartmouth BECAUSE he graduated #1 or #2 in his high school class. Dartmouth only wants so many of those — and they have more than enough already. So your bright and accomplished kid who worked so hard and sacrificed so much to finish at the top of his class … gets dinged for having achieved academic superiority.”

The seeming injustice of this fact tends to get their attention — because most of these parents think their amazing kid will “have the world by the tail” and his “pick of the litter” for college. Such statistics help them begin to understand how cruel the college admissions world can be.

Posted on October 11, 2012 4:00 AM. Permalink

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

More Details on SAE’s Finances

SAE3.jpgA few days ago, we excerpted a slide from Andrew Lohse’s presentation to WSGT 80 that detailed a part of SAE’s finances. Lohse described SAE as having a $1.5 million endowment, and he noted that SAE spent $100,000/year on alcohol. The slide in question seemed to imply that this spending was related to the endowment.

An SAE brother writes in with a correction:

Dartmouth SAE has three endowments. One is valued at or around one million dollars; this is the Park Stickney Fund, and it is reserved exclusively for educational expenses. It is managed by the National Fraternity, and they need to approve any expenditure. (The fund was the leftover after constructing our 3d floor library.) The second is the Andy Scarlett Fund. It is reserved exclusively for funding educational speakers at the house and associated expenses — dinner and whatever else for that speaking event. It is also used for scholarship funds: rewards for highest GPA, most improved, etc. I believe this endowment is around $200k. Finally, there is the house endowment, which is reserved exclusively for the upkeep of the physical plant. It is valued at around $100k. Major repairs come out of this fund, to pay for house improvements (making the house handicap accessible, for instance).

Point is, none of these endowments play into the “power structure” at all. None of the money is used for social events and all of it is controlled by Alumni, not students.

Posted on October 10, 2012 4:00 AM. Permalink

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Interim/Acting/President Tug o’ War

Another Folt junket has led to a mixed message down in Boston.

Folt Boston2.jpg

Just why Folt sees a need to take these trips is beyond me. I guess that sitting in Hanover and shooting down other people’s ideas gets a little dull — so she develops an itch to go on the road and let alumni know how great the College is under her leadership.

Addendum: I know that the Interim Acting President just had to go to China. Red Carol? This picture was frozen on top of the College’s home page, where under normal circumstances, pictures of students and the campus rotate every few seconds.

Folt China.jpg

Posted on October 9, 2012 11:35 AM. Permalink

Fighting to Be the Highest Cost School

The Campus Grotto blog has come out with its annual Most Expensive Colleges edition. Guess which school in low-cost, rural New Hampshire made the top ten when tuition, room and board, and fees are cumulated? The other schools leading the list are in the NYC area (4), Philadelphia (1), Chicago (1), Connecticut (1) and California (2). Where would you get the best value on a three-bedroom house with a yard?

Campus Grotto6.jpg

Curiously enough, when only tuition and fees are in the mix, we didn’t make the top ten (we are #11). What does that tell you? Only one thing: that DDS is a rip-off. But then students know that.

How clever of our MBA Trustees. They have figured out that they can keep tuition a little lower if they jack up the cost of mealplans and make having one mandatory. Now you know how they made their dough.

Addendum: As anyone on financial aid knows, aid to tuition is more generous than aid for room and board. They gotcha again!

Posted on October 9, 2012 4:00 AM. Permalink

Monday, October 8, 2012

Who Is the Bloodsucker?

We’ll avoid comment on the artistic merits of Louise Bourgeois’ spider sculpture (seemingly an example of the black widow family — Latrodectus foltius), but it is worth noting that the construction of the new Black Arts building was only partially funded by the generosity of Leon Black. When the College cut the cost of the structure, Black cut his contribution. A good portion of the remaining capital cost is unfunded; it is coming out of Dartmouth’s ever-growing debt. As for the annual running expense of the building, no money has been set aside; operations and maintenance will be paid for by tuition payments and the draw on the endowment — a burden on our finances for decades.

As we have noted before, a healthy institution fundraises not only to support the entire cost of construction, but also to endow the ongoing expenses of a structure. Otherwise, expensive buildings can suck the lifeblood out of a school.

Black Arts Spyder.jpg

We should call the sculpture The Trustee Spider, in honor of the supposedly competent people who have allowed the College’s non-faculty staffing level to soar 40% in the last 12 years; who have quadrupled Dartmouth’s debt load in the same time period; and who burdened us with labor contracts and benefit levels that are the most expensive in the Ivies.

Addendum: I expect that the window stenciling on the Black Arts building will be the first thing to go. At first glance, it makes one think that the windows are badly in need of a wash.

Addendum: The administration seems to be trying to get everyone to call the new building the BVAC — the Black Visual Arts Center. BVAC sounds a lot like VBAC , an acronym familiar to anyone wanting to have a baby the usual way after having had a C-section. Black Arts has a lot more irony in it than some combination of letters. Students will probably cut that down to “Black” anyways. Or perhaps the Trustees will rename the whole structure after President Folt?

Addendum: An early riser notes that the initials HVAC (spoken as H-Vac) are commonly used in industry to denote Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning, as in the sentence, “The cost of the BVAC’s HVAC will come out of the College’s operating budget each year.”

Posted on October 8, 2012 4:00 AM. Permalink

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Champagne: Grapes or Sugar Beets?

You can’t grow grapes in Champagne unless you own land designated for grape-growing. Anywhere else and you are relegated to the pedestrian production of corn, sugar beets or other crops. But if your land has the right soil (lots of chalk) and good drainage (so the roots of your vines are obliged to dig down deep into the mineral-rich bedrock), then you can produce grapes for one of the world’s great wines. And the value of your land multiplies in value by ten times or more.

Champagne Land.jpg

In the background of this snapshot there is forest; in the foreground, and on the slopes in front of the forest, there are vineyards; and on the valley floor is a small village and its lowly, earth-hued agricultural fields. La Champagne. Less than a two-hour drive from Paris.

Addendum: La Champagne, with the feminine article, denotes the region; le champagne, masculine, is used for the wine.

Posted on October 7, 2012 4:00 AM. Permalink

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Actually Tuck is #2!

The Economist blew it in its initial report on Tuck. Their mea culpa:

Correction: An earlier version of this chart showed Virginia (Darden) in 2nd place and Dartmouth (Tuck) in 3rd. These should have been reversed. We are very sorry for the mistake.


If we find out that the Economist has messed up again — and that Tuck is really # 1, as it was last year — we’ll let you know right away.

Addendum: A correspondent writes in to note the Economist’s notoriety in the trade for sloppiness and factual error. This observation was news to me. Reader beware.

Addendum: As if on cue, evidence of the Economist’s imprecision surfaces in the form of an e-mail from a reader:

One of your 10/6 entries shows Tuck with 100% of faculty with a PhD… but noted man about town Paul Argenti, Professor of Corporate Communication at Tuck, lists as his highest degree a MBA, Columbia University, 1981.

OK. Almost 100%.

Posted on October 6, 2012 1:33 PM. Permalink

Ivy Football Back in the Day

The football team plays Yale today in a game that will be but a passing note for followers of American college football on the national level. However up until the 1950s, Dartmouth vs. Yale generated almost as much excitement as The Game between Harvard and Yale — the biggest football event of the year.

When referee Leo Weinrott was steamrollered in a game in November 1950 by a charging player from Dartmouth or Yale (the identity of the culprit is lost to history), and was later declared hors combat for the rest of the contest, an artist from the widely read Saturday Evening Post was there to memorialize the event. His painting made the cover.

Ref out cold.jpg

A football weekend in Hanover was something special. Even into the late 70s, I recall the stands being packed, as in the below postcard.

Football Postcard.jpeg

Posted on October 6, 2012 4:00 AM. Permalink


Faculty Meeting October 15 2012.jpg

More seriously, students and other folks often don’t realize that faculty meetings are open to the public. You should go. I expect that it won’t be too long before these meetings become very eventful. There is just so much that even the Dartmouth faculty can take.

Addendum: Give the lady credit for consistency.

Folt AC1.jpg

Posted on October 6, 2012 3:59 AM. Permalink

Friday, October 5, 2012

Economist Votes Tuck #3 in World

[The Economist made an error. Tuck is actually #2.]

Imagine a small school in New Hampshire that focused intently on its students: small classes, close contact between faculty and students, a compact campus, a lean and efficient administration, no graduate programs. Not only would its students receive an extraordinary education, but its alumni would be successful and their loyalty to their alma mater would be second to none. What a thought!


Tuck School of Business, part of the prestigious Dartmouth College, is the oldest graduate school of business in the world (founded in 1900). It offers only one degree programme, the full-time MBA, and claims this gives it added focus. The school is noted for general management, teamwork, close student-faculty relations and the Tuck experience of a small residential programme in a beautiful, if slightly remote, semi-rural setting. Almost all work is done in assigned teams and the ability to succeed in collaborative working is essential.

Posted on October 5, 2012 4:00 AM. Permalink

And Don’t Forget One Other Thing


Dartmouth Now’s note regarding the NYT interview with Dinesh D’Souza omits a fact: in addition to being an author and filmmaker, D’Souza is also President of The King’s College — the full-fledged President, that is, not the acting/interim one.

Posted on October 5, 2012 3:59 AM. Permalink

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Lohse Spoke to WGST 80 Course

Andrew Lohse ‘12 made a formal PowerPoint presentation regarding fraternity life at the College on September 24 to Professor Jennifer Fluri’s course WSGT 80, Feminist Theory and Methodology.

Lohse Pres Cover.jpg

Lohse described avenues for changing the nature of fraternities. Among his suggestions for reform:

+ First, the College needs to honestly evaluate the physical, emotional, and psychological health effects of hazing, the molten core of the school’s dysfunctional culture—not solely in its literal form, but how it bleeds outwards into other behaviors such as sexual assault, alcoholism, drug abuse, and a culture of classist entitlement.

+ JYK’s argument that withdrawing recognition of the fraternities would drive hazing practices “underground” was/is fallacious. Perhaps male to male hazing would persist in some form (as it does on sports teams and in musical groups), but dereifying the power of these fraternity spaces is, in the interim, the only way to make them safe.

+ Until, of course, a suitable alternative can be devised. If such an alternative is possible, the only way I’d see it functioning is by making social houses coeducational and highly regulated.

+ Following my membership at SAE, I was also a member of a coeducational undergraduate society at Dartmouth, Panarchy. Men and women respectfully coexist in Panarchy’s space. Though binge drinking and drug abuse occur there, those practices are not driven by a highly organized patriarchal program; they are matters of personal choice. Hazing does not occur in Panarchy.

+ Sexual assault is significantly less prevalent in coeducational spaces.

+ We do not live in a single sex culture. Fraternities stunt the development of the male psyche at a particularly vulnerable age, in some cases completely warping young men’s view of sexuality, power, dominance, and substance abuse.

Additionally, Lohse detailed heretofore secret aspects of fraternity life:

Lohse Pres.jpg

The entire presentation may be downloaded here.

Posted on October 4, 2012 4:00 AM. Permalink

Who Would You Prefer in Office?

Mr. Goofy? Or a composed, thoughtful listener?

Newspapers play endless editorial games with the pictures that they choose of candidates. The NYT is egregious in this regard. Below are the Times’ two lead photos from today’s report on the first presidential debate. Seems like the paper has an agenda, don’t you think?

Debate Pic 2012 Comp.jpg

Posted on October 4, 2012 1:00 AM. Permalink

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Goldman Snacks Group Ramps Up Effort to Discredit Andrew Lohse

The anonymous folks behind the Goldman Snacks website have been contacting students and alums with e-mails like the below:

Goldman Snacks1.jpg

The group seems to want to drum up criticism, and perhaps legal action, against Lohse’s upcoming book.

Addendum: The NY Daily News has run a short note on the outing of Lohse’s book proposal.

Posted on October 3, 2012 2:00 PM. Permalink

S&S Walk-through Protocols

Below are Safety & Security’s protocols for random walk-throughs. For the life of me, I can’t see how this kind of thing is anything more than PR window-dressing. How will an unannounced walk-through — that is so obviously announced — serve to deter anything? By the time S&S gets down to a basement, lights will have flashed, any mess will have been cleaned up, and the brothers will be reciting Robert Frost.

GOALS: Safety, prevention, deterrence of high risk behavior

● All trial walk-throughs will be completed by Monday, October 1, so that each organization has the opportunity to consult with Safety and Security about the process and areas that will be covered. Safety and Security will continue to blitz each house ahead of time before they arrive for the trial walk-through so that organizations know when to expect them, and so that students understand the designation of common areas within the facility.

● The process will be similar to current safety walk-throughs:

o Knock

o If no response DOSS will enter and shout to get the organization’s attention, so that an exec or member can accompany them. DOSS would prefer to be accompanied, but will continue if no member or exec responds.

o If no response, DOSS will proceed with the walk-through, and then leave. DOSS expects the walk-through of common areas will be brief, similar to current safety checks.

o Walk-throughs will be limited to common areas. If during a walk-through, there is a reasonable suspicion that student safety is at risk or a violation of College policy is occurring within a private area, DOSS will knock and investigate.

o If the walk-through has not been escorted, DOSS will leave a message that a random walk-through was conducted.

● Walk-throughs may occur any time day or night. DOSS anticipates 2-4 walk-throughs per day, but that may vary depending on campus events, staffing levels and other variables. Random walk-throughs will not occur on the same day that an organization has a registered event where a party check by DOSS is already required.

● DOSS will make every effort to involve female officers in sorority walk-throughs. If that is not possible, DOSS will make every effort and will prefer to be accompanied by a sorority member who will move ahead of them to announce their presence.

● DOSS’ internal schedule for walk-throughs will ensure that the number of checks each house receives in a term will be the same — no single house should get more or fewer checks.

● DOSS will be available to meet on request with GLOS or with individual organizations, and will plan to meet with GLOS leaders one month after the unannounced checks begin. Organizations with immediate concerns about a walk-through or who want to provide ongoing feedback should contact Director of Safety and Security Harry Kinne

Posted on October 3, 2012 4:00 AM. Permalink

Lohse Book Proposal Leaks On-line

The D is reporting that Andrew Lohse’s book proposal, which we have noted previously, has been leaked on-line by a group called Goldman Snacks. You can read the proposal here.

Lohse Book Prop cover.jpg

The people at Goldman Snacks seems to believe that Lohse’s depictions of hazing at some Dartmouth’s frats are all made up. Perhaps they have never spoken to a Dartmouth student, a status that they anonymously claim for themselves, or they seek to discredit Lohse in some misguided effort to cover up past hazing practices? Either way, they sound like Dartmouth Undying members in the making. Is this their motto: Dartmouth is perfect. Damn all critics!

Posted on October 3, 2012 3:44 AM. Permalink

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

No (More) Comment

A legacy writes in:

… this is unbelievable. My dad even called the other day (as I still get Dartmouth mail at my home address) and asked “I didn’t know Dartmouth had a new President…when did that happen?” Then I got this today.

PRESIDENT FOLT? Thanks for covering this on your blog…the lack of “Acting” or “Interim” is being discussed by a lot of us.

Folt President1.jpg

Posted on October 2, 2012 1:00 PM. Permalink

2011 Alcohol/Drug Stats

The College’s 2011 Clery Act stats have been published in the Annual Security and Fire Safety Report. Most importantly, total liquor law arrests by the Hanover Police have dropped from 134 in 2010 to 40 in 2011. (In contrast, in 2009 and 2010, no students at Harvard, Columbia, Brown, and Penn were arrested for underage drinking. None.)

Dartmouth 2011 Clery Stats Header.jpg

Dartmouth 2011 Clery Stats.jpg

This change has occurred under an agreement between the College and Chief Giaccone wherein students who are apprehended for the first time by the police for underage drinking, usually after being transported to DHMC in a highly intoxicated state, will be referred directly to the Town’s Diversion program, rather than being arrested.

Chief Giaccone informs me (in a midnight e-mail, no less) that in 2011, 78 Dartmouth students went through the Town’s Diversion program, as opposed to 90 students in 2010. The difference between 2011 and 2010 is slight — far less consequential than the change in the number of arrested students — a reflection of the number of students doing the Diversion program without being arrested.

Avoiding a formal arrest record for underage alcohol use represents some progress, but as we have noted before, graduate schools are not taken in by the maneuver. Columbia Law, as but one example, asks specifically in the Character and Fitness portion of its application if an applicant has been sent to a diversion program.

Columbia Law App 2012 Composite.jpg

Posted on October 2, 2012 4:00 AM. Permalink

Monday, October 1, 2012

Interim, Interim, Acting and Folt

This whole thing would be funny, if it weren’t so pathetic. In the below memo, Carol Folt repeatedly refers to herself as “President,” but she describes Martin Wybourne as “Interim Provost,” Bill Anderson as the “Interim Vice President for Campus Planning and Facilities,” and Michael Cimis as the “Acting Director of EH&S.” Indeed, they are interim, interim, and acting administrators. But isn’t Carol, too? Come on Trustees, spare us this endless pap.

Folt President Others Acting.jpg

Posted on October 1, 2012 3:00 PM. Permalink

Panhell Axes Plan for New Sorority

So, according to The D, the sorority leaders in the Panhellenic Council have chosen not to endorse the idea of authorizing an additional sorority. Some facts:

● 413 girls entered rush last month; only 280 had bids by the end; almost one third of participants did not find a house;

● Some Dartmouth sororities have as many as 150 members; there are currently 15 frats and only eight sororities on campus — though about as many men and women are Greeks;

● Students endlessly — at the very least since I was a student in the 1970’s — lament the need for more student-controlled spaces and the need to break the fraternities’ quasi-monopoly on serving alcohol.

And yet the sisters voted no because:

● Some presidents did not want competition in filling their pledge class; an additional house would complicate an already busy rush schedule;

● Others did not see a group already in place that could form a new house;

● Some felt that present Greek institutions should be reformed before new ones are allowed on campus;

● And other presidents wanted greater efforts to support unaffiliated students;

Geez, this is how Washington works these days, too. Petty politicians advance their own conflicting, limited agendas; the end result is gridlock, and our problems continue. The nation loses.

Dartblog has long supported the creation of additional sororities, among other measures, to counterbalance the frats’ control of social life. The predominance of fraternities is corrupting for everyone involved, even the brothers; it furthers the excesses that harm students and the College’s reputation.

The only way to change this long-enduring state of affairs is by allowing structural change: competitive alternatives like local sororities that can serve alcohol and provide, one hopes, a safer, supportive environment for all students. Until then, the Greek system will lurch from crisis to crisis, as it has for many decades.

The discussion we should be having would involve authorizing at least four or five more sororities, perhaps by splitting in two some of the current mega-houses. Then the College could finance with cheap loans the construction of a Sorority Row, perhaps on Park Street. Why do we just nibble at the edge of the current problem? Oh, I remember now. We have no leadership.

Posted on October 1, 2012 4:00 AM. Permalink

Sunday, September 30, 2012

France’s Pride and Shame

Bir Hakeim Plaque.jpgFrance’s only significant feat of arms in WWII — not a war in which the French military covered itself in glory — occurred in North Africa in late May and early June, 1942, when Rommel’s motorized forces attempted to flank the British line in the run-up to the First Battle of El Alamein. Opposed by the 1st Free French Division at the fort of Bir-Hakeim, the Germans were unable to dislodge the stubborn French, despite a superiority of ground forces and control of the air. The French bought their British allies the time needed to consolidate their positions.

In commemoration, the Pont de Passy over the Seine was renamed the Pont Bir-Hakeim in 1948. The bridge bears a large plaque noting that the Battle of Bir Hakeim sent a message to the world: France was still in the fight.

Pont bir hakeim.jpg

However, within shouting distance of the Bir-Hakeim bridge (one might wonder why this particular bridge was renamed, and not a different one) stands another monument, one to the erstwhile presence of the indoor bicycle stadium known as the Vélodrome d’Hiver. The Vel’ d’Hiv was the assembly point for 8,451 Jewish residents of Paris (almost half of them children) who were rounded up by French police, with no German participation, on July 16-17, 1942. The Jews were held in the Left Bank stadium for eight days with little food and water, and no sanitation, prior to being sent to holding camps outside of Paris, and then on to Auschwitz. Of the 42,000 Jews sent from France to Nazi-occupied Poland in 1942, only 811 were alive at the end of the war. The stadium was demolished in 1959.

A monument commemorating France’s shameful, unforced collaboration in the Holocaust, with its reference to the Vel’ d’Hiv’s curving bicycle track and the large number of children taken in the roundup, stands in a small park next to the Seine not far from the site of the Vel’ d’Hiv.

Vel d'hiv.jpg

Addendum: A reader points us to an uplifting children’s story:

Mother Maria.jpgSilent as a Stone memorializes the life of Mother Maria Skobtsova, an unconventional nun who aided the persecuted Jewish people in occupied France during WWII. Confronting the horror of Nazi brutality, Mother Maria devised an ingenious plan to save Jewish children destined for extermination camps: Paris garbage collectors, upon her urging, hid the children in trash cans and whisked them to safe havens outside the city. Mother Maria, for her selfless rescue activities, perished in a gas chamber in Ravensbrück camp in Germany in 1945. Today, she is among the “righteous gentiles” honored in Israel and a canonized saint in the Orthodox Christian Church.

Posted on September 30, 2012 4:00 AM. Permalink

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Dartmouth Luxury Watches

Tag Heuer D Watch Diamond.jpg

Just what every hedge fund manager wants as a Xmas stocking stuffer: his and hers Dartmouth luxury watches. Yours on Amazon from $1,295 to $4,995; all are officially licensed by Dartmouth College. The watches and other Dartmouth logo items are on sale at the M.LaHart & Company website. Not that we are alone in the merchandizing sweepstakes: the company has the same stuff with the logos of the other Ivies. Tableware is one thing, but does anyone really need a Dartmouth watch with a diamond bezel? Tacky, n’est-ce pas?

Tag Heuer D All Watches1.jpg

Posted on September 29, 2012 3:59 AM. Permalink

Friday, September 28, 2012

The D Comes Through

Just when I am about to conclude that the staffers at The D are a bunch of resumé-stuffers whose only concern in life is to get a good grad school recommendation from a senior administrator, a small point of light glimmers from Robinson Hall:

Folt Interim D.jpg

Folt’s insistence that she be referred to as President, as if she were a full member in the Wheelock Succession, is further evidence of her emphasis on appearances.

Posted on September 28, 2012 4:00 AM. Permalink

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Princeton, Yale and Dartmouth, Oh My.

Office of the Pres.jpgWe have competition for a first-class president, now that Yale and Princeton — and Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, the University of Wisconsin and Smith — are in the hunt. Odds are good that Yale and Princeton will take internal people, but certainly any nationally recognized candidate with a stellar background will favor Massachusetts and New Jersey over the wilds of New Hampshire — and the College’s clueless Board of donor MBAs.

Do we have anyone already in town who might fit the bill? Sure we do, but you won’t read any names in this space. The Board might have little idea about whom they like, but they sure know what they don’t like: a critic who shines light on their incompetence. Any endorsement by Dartblog is a kiss of death. That said, let’s keep hoping that someone good slips in under the radar.

Addendum: Not Carol.

Posted on September 27, 2012 3:59 AM. Permalink

Investigative Reporting — Not The D

The NYT is currently running detailed stories on college drinking and on cheating at Stuyvesant High in NYC, and last week it ran an extended piece on hazing at Binghamton. Is it too much to ask that The D do a little investigation of these topics at Dartmouth?

I know, I know, any reporting on these matters might be embarrassing to the College, but that comes with the territory in journalism. The D could do the Dartmouth community a service if it spent fewer column inches running obits and writing about national issues for which it has no special expertise, and more time on describing the state of student life at the College.

Posted on September 27, 2012 3:59 AM. Permalink

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Further Thoughts on Sexual Assault

Kathleen Mayer’s recent three-part series on the serious problem of sexual assault at the College (Part 1; Part 2; Part 3) has elicited a great deal of praise — and some well-thought-out criticism. A few thoughts from my corner:

Among the more doctrinaire positions that one hears on campus is the strident feminist notion that “it is my right to be drunk at 3am in a frat basement just like anyone else, and be safe.” In formal terms, there is no disputing this point: legally and morally, the position is correct. But one hears this comment often enough, in just these terms, to assume that it is passed on without thought.

My response is always an indirect one. “Do you lock your bicycle?” After a wary answer, “Yes,” my conversation partners see where I am going. Of course, we all have the legal right not to lock a bicycle when we leave it unattended, but we don’t do so. We recognize the existence of thievery in the world, and though we attempt to combat it by, among other things, paying taxes so that the judicial system can eradicate theft, taking basic precautions on a personal level is just common sense.

If my daughter took this rigid position, I’d move the conversation from one about legality, to a simple cost/benefit analysis. Sure you can stand on your legal rights, but what is the benefit from taking this position? Slight, if anything. And what is the cost? Kathleen details that pretty well.

One other query that I have had concerns the nature of women’s response on campus to the problem of assault. Have no doubt that it is a problem. The first time that an undergraduate friend — a trusted, reliable one — described the frequency of ugly events that had occurred to people in her circle of acquaintances, I was profoundly shaken. Subsequent accounts from similarly situated people have had the same effect. Why don’t women do more to combat the problem? The efforts of the Panhellenic Society to boycott fraternities that don’t sufficiently investigate accusations of assault are a start. But have they been effective? I was surprised at the controversy that they caused.

Let’s flip things around for the purpose of analysis. Imagine that a slightly built fraternity brother was plied with liquor and then sexually assaulted by a member of a gay organization, perhaps someone living in the College’s planned LBGT housing? How would the fraternity brothers of the aggrieved student respond?

Posted on September 26, 2012 4:00 AM. Permalink

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dartmouth College and Savile Row

Savile Row and D Hat.jpgWay back when, there was a tailor or two in every neighborhood, and purchasing made-to-measure suits was the norm. When I lived in Milan in 1978 during my senior year, there were still local tailors — all quite old — in our quartiere. But the efficiencies of mass production made them uncompetitive, except for a very few: the finest tailors who appealed to an élite consumer. Best known internationally among these artisans are the English tailors in Savile Row, makers of bespoke suits.

I mention this vignette because of the ubiquity of discussions these days about on-line education. In a way, higher education is going through a transition similar to that of mid-20th century tailors, as lectures can be replicated and diffused at almost no cost. In light of these developments, Dartmouth has a strategic decision to make about its own direction. Needless to say, I expect nothing original from IP Folt’s strategic planning initiative. Massed committees can be counted on to do no more than reproduce the popular ideas of the day, and with Carol at their helm, that outcome is guaranteed.

What should Dartmouth do? If your sense of the academic component of higher education has students filing into a classroom three times each week to passively listen to a prepared 65-minute-long lecture, and taking a multiple-choice mid-term and final, then on-line education does make a lot of sense. Under that paradigm, I’d much prefer to watch Harvard’s Michael Sandel in 4k HD on an 80-inch screen as he presents his course Justice: A Journey in Moral Reasoning, rather than hear a professor at the College on the same subject in a hall with a hundred students.

But that is not the choice that Dartmouth frequently offers us today. Let’s imagine a similar course in Hanover with 15 students in a seminar room, vigorous Q&A, and a professor who has office hours during which students can dig into the course material in a way adapted to their specific requirements. The faculty member might not be Michael Sandel, but in terms of learning, there is a strong case to be made that students who attend lectures, ask questions, write papers, and get to know their professor, can have a far superior learning experience than listening to Sandel on-line. In short, Dartmouth students can have a made-to-measure education.

If Dartmouth wants to adopt a strategy that differentiates it from the pack — and remember, only a few schools will win the on-line competition — having the courage to sincerely affirm our traditional strengths is the right choice. We already have a top-rated faculty, whose members by and large love teaching and sincerely care about students. Though many professors have been dispirited by successive administrations that have undervalued the classroom experience in favor of headline-grabbing research, it would not take much effort to turn that attitude around: more resources to support the faculty within departments, smaller classes, greater rewards for top-quality teaching, even privileged parking for professors so that they can drive to the campus to see students on short notice.

We would need more faculty members, too. Even though the administration loves to trumpet the percentage of Dartmouth classes with fewer than 20 students (65% in 2011), in point of fact, only 35% of students in any term are in classes of this size* — and of these, a significant portion is made up of freshman English, freshman seminars, introductory language courses, and offerings from programs that are in the curriculum for reasons other than their popularity with students.

Extra faculty would also provide the opportunity to revise and personalize the teaching of the sciences. As we have pointed out in the past, approximately half the students who arrive at the College with the desire to major in a STEM field end up changing their major and moving to the Humanities and Social Sciences. A good part of their reasoning has to with the nature of the “Math-Science death march” — the dreary nature of so much teaching in the sciences. Dartmouth could pioneer reforms in this area.

As we have said in the past, the above is not a plea to end professorial research. Just the opposite. The rigors of published scholarship presents an intellectual challenge to professors that undergrads cannot provide; it keeps the faculty sharp, up-to-date in their fields, and able to teach with brio. They aren’t just repeating themselves each year. Proof? My sense is that most of the College’s best teachers just happen to be our best researchers. The two attributes go together far more often than not.

The College has a choice of two broad strategies for the future. We can have one or the other, but not both.

We can adopt the efficiencies of on-line teaching, focus on Big Science and medical research, and de-emphasize the undergraduate side of Dartmouth. With much effort, we might become America’s 20th-ranked research university.

Or we can build on the heart and soul of Dartmouth College, improve the teaching that we already do well, and further on our reputation as the best undergraduate academic institution in the world. As a friend recently put it, “Dartmouth’s virtue is never disconnected from the classroom.”

Let’s be virtuous.

* The misleading nature of the administration’s statistic was noted in a recent NYT blog post.

Addendum: A recent NYT column by Mark Edmundson, a UVA professor of English, comments on the unique qualities of a live lecture:

A truly memorable college class, even a large one, is a collaboration between teacher and students. It’s a one-time-only event…

Online education is a one-size-fits-all endeavor. It tends to be a monologue and not a real dialogue. The Internet teacher, even one who responds to students via e-mail, can never have the immediacy of contact that the teacher on the scene can, with his sensitivity to unspoken moods and enthusiasms…

…the best … lecturers are highly adept at reading their audiences. They use practical means to do this — tests and quizzes, papers and evaluations. But they also deploy something tantamount to artistry. They are superb at sensing the mood of a room. They have a sort of pedagogical sixth sense. They feel it when the class is engaged and when it slips off. And they do something about it. Their every joke is a sounding. It’s a way of discerning who is out there on a given day.

Posted on September 25, 2012 4:00 AM. Permalink

Monday, September 24, 2012

Charlotte Johnson: On Seeming Effective

During the Andrew Lohse brouhaha, this space, in its gentle way, suggested that Lohse should have been given immunity for going to the Dean with details of hazing practices at SAE, and that the College should allow fraternities, sororities and other organizations to come forward without fear of punishment to confess past hazing practices in order to clarify the extent of the problem.

Lo and behold, Dean Johnson’s new anti-hazing policies seem to have adopted these suggestions.

Hazing Policy.jpg

Well, the emphasis in the previous sentence, in case you missed it, was on the word seem, for the good Dean, in her usual manner, has given the impression of activity without actually doing anything.

Take a look more closely: in both cases above, Johnson has carved out exceptions from the protection given to students who go to her with evidence. You are not protected if:

● You have engaged in an act “causing harm”;

● You are accused of the same offenses by the Hanover Police (who might just subpoena the College’s records).

That’s just great. Do you think that people will actually step forward in either situation, given the risks that they run in doing so? Can’t a case be made that all hazing is “harmful”? That’s why it is against the law. Later in the document, “harm” is given a broad definition:

Hazing Harmful.jpg

Actually, that’s a definition of “harmful” broad enough to drive a truck through. Come to think of it, is there any type of hazing that wouldn’t be considered harmful by the above sentence?

Additionally, why didn’t the Dean speak to the Hanover Police and forge an agreement with Chief Giaccone to forgo prosecutions in order to elicit student cooperation re: past events? After all, the police routinely grant people immunity in order to advance the public good. And, more generally, wouldn’t it be better to protect students from College discipline in return for their cooperation, even in cases where harm was caused?

The answer to the latter two questions depends on your perspective. From Dean Johnson’s point of view, she wants to be able to tell the world that she has an immunity/Fresh Air plan in place — but self-evidently she does not care one whit if anyone actually takes advantage of the policies. Actually, things are worse than that: in truth she does not want anyone to step forward with embarrassing allegations. As always, appearances are more valuable to the administration than reality.

Addendum: The Valley News has a thorough report on the new policies. The story notes:

“… so far, no organizations have taken advantage of the “Fresh Start” program, Dartmouth spokesman Justin Anderson said, noting that that the policies didn’t go into place until last week.”

Surprise, surprise.

Posted on September 24, 2012 4:00 AM. Permalink

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Liberal Arts Football Beats Holy Cross

Lyons1.jpgThis space makes only the occasional comment on football, but yesterday’s 13-10 victory over Holy Cross brought to mind the importance of a broad education. The liberal arts teaches nothing if not versatility — the ability to excel in a wide variety of activities. When punter/placekicker Riley Lyons ‘15 found himself the last player back against a Holy Cross kickoff returner who was otherwise home free, he did what he needed to do: Lyons tackled his man. In doing so, he kept the game tied going into halftime. In the second half, Lyons coolly won the game with a last-second field goal. Sweet.

Posted on September 23, 2012 4:00 AM. Permalink

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cosell Was Almost Unique

Cosell Book and Pic1.jpgThere is a rigorous filter that limits who broadcasts on television, particularly in sports: mostly white men or equally well scrubbed white women, most of whom look and sound alike, and say the same things. One listens with little expectation of hearing anything beyond Muzak prose: description and analysis that never surprises.

So how to explain Howard Cosell, the subject of Mark Ribowsky’s engaging book, Howard Cosell: The Man, the Myth, and the Transformation of American Sports? Cosell wore a toupée, had an accent and appearance that emphatically confirmed his New York Jewish roots, used a vocabulary that departed from the television norm — and from most norms of educated discourse for that matter — and he waved around an NYU law degree. Let’s not forget an abrasive personality born of deeply felt insecurities.

And yet, in his time, he was the most discussed and recognized sports commentator on TV.

As Ribowsky lays it out, Cosell had two special characteristics that allowed him to overcome “defects” that otherwise would have kept him off the air: a fine mind supported by hard work that gave him opinions that mattered to listeners, and an honesty and directness that, though far from perfect, were appreciated even by people who one might think of as his polar opposite, like Muhammad Ali — whose cause he championed when such a stance was far from fashionable. Ribowski describes Ali and Cosell driving together for three hours in the back streets of Louisville, with the pair ending up at a pool hall, where they chatted with the patrons. Ali wanted Cosell to get to know the brothers. Cosell, on his side, was the first national broadcaster to cease using the name Cassius Clay, calling Ali by his Black Muslim name almost as soon as he adopted it.

Throughout his career Cosell supported causes large and small: he denounced certain fights as fixed; he took up Curt Flood’s position that ball players should not be tied to teams via the reserve clause; he even described certain Monday Night Football games as “dull” while on the air. Listeners felt either informed or outraged; they adored or despised him. But they were never bored. Both groups listened to Cosell for a single reason: they were interested to hear what he was going to say next. Not a bad epitaph for a man with opinions.

Addendum: Perhaps it is true that if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. There is space for individuality and intelligence in broadcasting, but you have to be talented enough to break through the aforementioned cultural filter. Up in Canada, hockey commentator Don Cherry dresses like, well, I don’t know what, but he says true things that nobody else can or will say. Howard Stern, a kind of creature, might shock with schlock, but there is a mind of a kind at work there. And shambling, disheveled Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear (and various history commentaries) lifts that show to a different intellectual level, which goes a long way to explaining its international popularity.

Cosell Gang.jpg

Quality will out, at least on occasion.

Posted on September 22, 2012 4:00 AM. Permalink