Dartmouth's Daily Blog
News, commentary, criticism and praise for the College on the Hill, enlivened with history, culture and travel when we feel so moved.
A quick question: what department has the greatest number of majors at the College? Hint: It’s the one that sends a letter to accepted applicants who haven’t indicated a preference of a major:
Addendum: And to think that Economics was the College’s consensus worst department when I was an undergraduate. Here’s how the folks in Silsby turned things around.
Addendum: A recent graduate writes in:
I remember taking Econ 21 with Prof. Snyder my Freshman spring, and I think he was one of the best professors I ever had at Dartmouth. While the material (microeconomics) was pretty dry, he offered plenty of resources and lots of office hours to help us. At the end of the term, he and his wife invited all of their students to their home for dinner and conversation. Although I did not end up majoring in econ, Prof. Snyder would always stop and say hello if I ran into him on campus, which was not infrequent. So, it was quite nostalgic to see that (well-written) email from him. I think he epitomizes the strong undergraduate education Dartmouth is (was?) known for.
If you want to punish yourself today, give a listen to UNC Chancellor Carol Folt. Her turgid stew of humblebragging and platitudes will make you thank the heavens that she was not picked as our President (the Trustees can occasionally do something right). In fourteen minutes Folt does not give even one example of something that she has done at UNC:
Addendum: I bet dollars to doughnuts that Fortune gave Carol her questions in advance.
Addendum: Can we expect a similar Phil Hanlon puff piece down the road?
Following last week’s report on what seemed to be Thayer Professor Jane Hill’s dismissal as head of Allen House, a pattern that resembled the abrupt departure of Biology Professor Ryan Calsbeek from North Park House, we reached out to Professor Hill for an interview. To her credit, she was forthcoming. Perhaps her Aussie sense of right and wrong was in play, or she wanted to signal to faculty colleagues that heading up one of Phil’s MDF houses is not what it seemed. Professor Hill confirmed that she was fired without ceremony or explanation, and that dealing with Dean of the College Rebecca Biron and her minions was no easy task:
When did you start working to help establish the house system?
Just over two years ago, when the House Professors and administrative leaders from Student Life were tasked with helping to map the transition to, as well as founding of, the House system.
Why did you want to do this?
It seems that our academic peers, who all have residential systems of some kind, have greater continuity and cohesion for students than we do, at least on the residential side. And, having experienced the system at Yale as a graduate student, I saw the positive stimulation and ambition cycles that systems like this can foster, and I wanted to be a part of building that here at Dartmouth.
When did Allen house open?
Officially, Allen House became a conceptual entity February, 2016. It was not until the Fall of 2016, however, that students became embedded in the Allen House residences, first-floor living clusters, etc. Thus, the Fall of 2016 marked the start of building Allen House as a living, breathing, germinating place of ideas and practices.
Did you move from your home to live in Allen house?
Yes. Part of the position requires we move into College housing so as to host events in our home.
How did things go? Do you think that students like this house?
We hit the ground running in the Fall with visits from over 250 students at our Welcome Picnic the Sunday prior to the start of term, and a total of over 850 students attending our events in the Fall. Just over 800 students attended our events in the Spring. While Allen still remains a relatively amorphous “thing,” and we don’t have the proper metrics yet to determine how our programs impact students, it was exciting to see Allen House start to cohere around a certain ethos, one where friendly innovation and ambition in programming and projects was the expectation. One possible indicator that Allen House was doing well is that we had the most applicants (of all the houses) to positions as undergraduate advisors for the upcoming academic year.
What kind of administrative support did you have in this work?
Organizing small and large events for over 600 students requires quite a team! We were able to pull off our programming with a half-time administrative assistant and full-time assistant director (whose purview is primarily student life training and management); they were very helpful in the planning and execution of events. We all worked together for each event and I could not ask for a better nor more amiable team.
Who chose your assistant director?
The student life administration chooses the assistant directors. Then, these folks are distributed to the various Houses and first-year residences. House Professors work very closely with the administrative assistants, so it might make sense in the future for House Professors to be involved in the hiring process and to share a supervisory role, too.
Were you ever criticized by Dean of the College Biron for your performance?
Not that I am aware. There were times of expressed gentle differences in ideas amongst the House Leadership Team, as one might expect when building a completely new system. However, all feedback up until my dismissal had been very positive.
How did your dismissal occur?
I went into a meeting, which I thought was a discussion about a pilot mentoring program that the Allen House Executive Board was advancing in collaboration with the local retired professionals group, OSHER (whose inspiring members define the term “lifelong learners”). However, instead of talking about this, I was informed that my position was to be terminated. I have never been more surprised at the content of a meeting.
Did you receive any notice at all that your job was in jeopardy prior to your dismissal?
What kind of communications did you receive in writing?
About the dismissal? Two days after my verbal dismissal, I received a follow up e-mail stating that I was dismissed. No reasons given.
Why do you think that you were dismissed?
Actually, I am not sure why I was dismissed. At one point, Dean Biron expressed concern that I did not attend a certain number of meetings — I had been travelling due to my research — and that I had been late in answering some e-mails. That’s it, as far as I can tell.
Did the deans have any concerns about your dealing with students?
I was criticized because I did not remove the word “fellows” when requested from a flyer sent out by an Allen House student for the mentorship program. And I contacted the Center for Professional Development to talk about mentoring systems, despite a statement from the Dean saying that she could tell me what the CPD does and that I don’t need to reach out to them. The administrators in Dean Brion’s office watch what the house leaders do very closely.
Did you do something egregious?
Goodness me! An unequivocal no.
Were you offered the chance to resign? Was there any advantage to resigning?
Yes, I was offered the option to have a statement released which would have said that I voluntarily resigned. I declined the terms.
What would you recommend to other faculty members who are considering leading a house?
Working with motivated, ambitious, brilliant, and compassionate students has been a major highlight of my experience at Dartmouth thus far. It’s been a rare and special privilege to have that opportunity.
I am sure that faculty can make up their own mind about how to weigh the pros and cons of being a House Professor in its current version. The next Allen House professor will work with a great crew, and I wish her/him the very best as they help Allen House continue to flourish.
In some ways Professor Hill is excessively demure. The world inside the College’s bureaucracy is far too often a snakepit of rivalries and jealousies. How can a Dartmouth professor be dismissed from a four-year commitment without warning — after receiving no notice at all that in the eyes of the Dean of the College she is not measuring up? Any staffer in the bureaucracy is afforded a chance to rectify supposed errors. But perhaps in this situation, the dismissal was motivated by factors other than performance?
The human resources version of Gresham’s Law has been at work for many years now in the Dartmouth administration: as in the case of Jane Hill, the bad folks drive out the good. If and when the College finds a capable leader, there is a great deal of work to be done.
Addendum: Dean Biron was succinct in announcing to students Professor Hill’s departure from Allen House:
Dear Allen House Students,
I’m writing to let you know that Dean Wooten and I just met with the Allen House student leadership to let them know that Jane Hill will no longer serve as your House Professor. Dean Wooten and I will work closely with them, with you, and with affiliated faculty and staff to support spring term programs and to name your new House Professor.
We thank Professor Hill for her service these last two years. She will continue her teaching and research at Thayer. While we know this transition is unexpected, we also know that the strength of Allen House is not defined by any one member; it comes from the relationships among all House students, staff, and affiliated faculty. We look forward to collaborating with all of you on upcoming House events and activities.
Many words. No honest content.
Addendum: A former administrator — a good one — writes in:
Yep, at Phil Hanlon’s Dartmouth, independent thinking, creativity, initiative and concern for students will kill you every time. Especially if, in the process, you don’t appropriately recognize the primacy of the Dean of the College Office in all things student….
For concerned readers who are aware of today’s attack in Paris, we are all in happy Hanover right now. Thank you for your expressions of concern.
Addendum: One should expect that the shooting was an act of Islamic terror, but given that April 20 is also Adolf Hitler’s birthday, other possibilities exist.
Choosy students should choose to register to vote now, before New Hampshire law is re-written to make registration more difficult. The Valley News reports:
Every vote counts.
The core issue in the AD litigation was whether AD was functioning “in conjunction” with the College when the Hanover zoning ordinance was passed in 1976. In its brief, the College insisted that during that period the administration was providing “substantial oversight” of the Greek houses. It turns out that back in the misty past (not that misty; I was a freshman), the brothers knew that an historic turning point had been reached, and they declared for all time that they were independent of the College:
Why did the College sit on this evidence, rather than include it in its filing with the court? Now that the NH Supreme Court has ruled, it is too late to do anything?
Addendum: An alumnus comments on the importance of the above letter:
1) AD had its zoning taken away because it did not prove that it was independent and self policing in 1976.
2) The College made the zoning complaint and allegations that caused Hanover to act.
3) The College, presumably, when it makes complaints, engages in a good faith review of its records to determine if there is a basis to make allegations. Really, shouldn’t everybody?
4) This document was in the possession of Dartmouth.
5) The letter, along with everything else, shows that there was no basis in fact for the determinations of the zoning board. Presumably its members will say “we only get what people put into the case, which is true.
6) But, if we believe that, the question comes down to: “Does Dartmouth have any obligation to tell the truth, or is Dartmouth entitled to ignore facts in order to achieve its objectives”
7) If the answer is the latter, then we’ve all joined the bookburners. Because that’s what we’re doing — burning history and ignoring facts. Put another way, let’s say somebody was doing medical research and only reported positive results and ignored adverse reactions (and deaths)? Or what if a student at Dartmouth wrote a history paper and the actual sources referenced said exactly the opposite of what was presented? Or, put yet another way, why is Dartmouth not subject to the same honor code in its own dealings as it pretends to require of its students?
Addendum: An alumnus comments:
Liars lie. However, people who ask for your money (charity being the highest form of trust- a contract in which one exchanges wealth fr a promise to do “good”) ought to be very cautious about their long earned franchise.
Let’s take a break from tales of declining application numbers, the hiring of experientially and morally unqualified deans, the firing of dedicated faculty members, and the administration’s active deception of fraternity leaders, and check in on the College’s backbeat: the ever-growing bureaucracy. In 2016 the College added 63 people to the ranks of the non-faculty staff (outside of Geisel):
As you can see, the administration actually does know how to cut out waste: in the depths of the financial crisis in 2009 and 2010, Jim Wright attempted to clear the decks for an incoming Jim Kim. A total of 345 people were removed from the payroll (though about 75 of those were employees of the Hanover Inn, who were given to the Inn’s private operator). Still, for people who think that our bloat is caused by federal regulation, etc., we were able to cut staff significantly once we had the fear of god (and a declining endowment) in us.
Then Jim Kim showed up, and he spoke endlessly about his desire to cut costs. Of course, to paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, the louder he talked of his budget cuts, the faster he hired more bureaucrats. Under Kim, total spending increased each year, and look at the increase in headcount in 2011 and 2012 above.
Each hire represents a great deal of money — fungible dough that could be used to push faculty salaries back into the the top tier of institutions of higher education. The money could also go to hiring new faculty members so that students enjoy smaller classes, and the world benefits from research conducted by the College’s professors. How did the size of the non-Geisel faculty vary in the same 2004-2016 time period?
Doesn’t look too bad, does it? Not unless you focus less on the visuals and more on the x-axis. Last year the faculty grew by only six people, and the year before that not at all. Compare that growth to the two-year increase in the non-Geisel staff: 91 new staffers.
Let’s step back and look at the administration’s performance from 2011-2016, what we might call the Kim/Folt/Hanlon era. Total headcount growth of faculty and staff compared:
That’s an additional 49 faculty members, and an extra 386 staffers. Oh, joy.
Even in percentage terms, the growth is highly disproportionate:
For every new faculty member that we hire, we add 2.3 staffers.
We’re on a road to nowhere with Phil and Carolyn in the lead (aided and abetted by the know-nothing Trustees). Will nobody do anything about this mess?
Addendum: The above figures come from the most excellent Dartmouth FactBook.
An AD brother from way back when reports:
In 1967 signs with block letter reading “sickness is health, blackness is truth, drinking is strength” appeared on bulletin boards around campus. They were posted by students writing for the Jacko, including one brother from AD. No one really knew what these signs meant, and in fact, they meant nothing. Just an Orwellian joke by the Jacko, but they resulted in some interesting conversations around campus for a few days. Within a week, the entire issue, and it wasn’t much of an issue, had died.
Two years later AD had broken its ties with our national, Alpha Delta Phi, and become a local fraternity. The brothers were creating symbols and a crest for the fraternity. The crest included a “star and eagle” and they were looking for a motto to put on/under the crest. Someone suggested taking the first letters of each word in the “sickness is health…” sign, translating those letters into their Greek equivalent and came up with SIHBITDIS. That is the origin of the word. Remember, this was the late ’60s when students were rebelling against authority and challenging the establishment. There was no serious meaning behind the development of the motto. Was not then. Is not now.
He was there!
So what does the yellowed string of Greek letters stand for? — the ones that you can see under the name Alpha Delta on the open letter from AD’s Board:
The Dartmouth Folklore Archive and various informants note that it is short for:
Sickness is health, blackness is truth, drinking is strength
Oh, the naughtiness! How could they? I’m sure Carolyn Dever, Rebecca Biron and their army of staff members have their knickers in a twist.
Addendum: Around the time that Andrew Lohse was just a gleam in his parents’ eye (how’s that for a gender-neutral metaphor?), Rolling Stone had turned its attention to AD with an article dated September 17, 1992: The Fall of Animal House, For Dartmouth’s infamous fraternity, the choice is change or die:
[Curiously the caption to the RS photo refers to Rauner Library, whose construction did not begin until 1997]
‘Twas always so.
Eric Konigsberg is a ‘91.
Addendum: AD and RS seem to have a special relationship. In an August 28, 2013 article by Blaine McEvoy entitled The Most Out-of-Control Fraternities in America, AD was ranked #2.
On LinkedIn the graphics chosen by different schools send a message about their self-confidence and taste. What lessons do you draw from the below?
I come away with the sense that Dartmouth is a school with a teeny-tiny, limp, little logo — not much heft nor originality there. Could we do better?
Addendum: Steve Jobs’ wonderful Parable of the Stones story communicates the message that we should always be improving. Then there is the Korean saying, “Business is like riding a bicycle; if you don’t keep peddling, you fall down.” We are falling down.
Addendum: We’ve noted the weak efforts to depict the College by the Office of Communications — for example, our USNews page. Fortunately someone somewhere deep in the labyrinthian administration was reading Dartblog (surreptitiously?), and the page was improved.
After Friday’s admission by the administration that it had misled AD by dangling an offer of re-recognition and then withdrawing it abruptly, let’s look at how the AD Board felt to be on the receiving end of the College’s duplicitousness:
Addendum: The salient pages in the AD presentation that was prepared for the Trustees are the two-page timeline of interactions between the fraternity and the administration. It is hard not to conclude that the leaders of AD were being strung along:
Shame on the Hanlon administration and the Trustees.
Addendum: In a post dated February 16, AD v. Hanover Mano a Mano, that reported on AD’s oral argument in front of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, we wrote:
AD’s counsel announced during oral argument that the house was in talks with the College about being re-recognized (de-derecognized?). Perhaps the College is softening around the edges, what with the capital campaign in the offing and those bad, bad frat boys being very, very loyal alumni.
Olympian (and soon the holder of an honorary Dartmouth degree) Abbey D’Agostino ‘14 is gracing the walls of the Boston T these days as part of a New Balance ad campaign that also includes Boston Bruins Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug; pro skateboarder PJ Ladd; middle-distance runner Cory McGee; and Boston Red Sox Dustin Pedroia and Brock Holt:
She’s keeping good company.
There is a lot to be said for listening to scholars discuss their research findings, but a close acquaintanceship with a person who has participated in momentous historical events has its virtues, too:
Turning Point USA is a new organization at the College. It embraces fiscal conservatism and free markets, but pointedly eschews a social agenda. Welcome
August 14, 2013
Breaking: Of Crips and Bloods and Memories of Ghetto Parties
History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, or sometimes it just repeats itself. From the New York Times on November 30, 1998: At Dartmouth College, white students at a ”ghetto party” dressed…
June 25, 2013
Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson’s War on Students Part (2/2)
Part 1, Part 2 Today’s post again recounts the events that befell the Freshman. However, the content of the Hanover Police department report reproduced in this space yesterday is supplemented by information from my own…
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…
- The Dartmouth College Case
- 2007 Trustee Election
- Dartmouth Constitution
- Sunday Morning Sinatra
- The Indian Wars
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