Dec 11 2013
The endowment rose in value this year from $3.49 billion to $3.73 billion -- a fine increase*, but certainly not one that reflects the value of Dr. Seuss' estate. Word has it that when Audrey Geisel passes from this mortal coil, Ted's will stipulates that The Cat in the Hat, Horton, and the rest of the mighty empire will pass to the College.
But then why was Dartmouth Medical School renamed Geisel School of Medicine this past year, when no assets changed hands? Sure, you could surmise that the administration graciously chose to announce the name change when Mrs. Geisel was able to enjoy it. Or, rather, you might ask why it occurred that the precipitous announcement on April 4 came so close on the heels of Rolling Stone Magazine's March 28 profile of hazing rites at SAE.
I'd go with the latter supposition. The Trustees knew well in advance that RS was working on a story that would be deeply damaging to the College. Distraction was the best way to combat the hit to Dartmouth's reputation. The strategy: rush forward the re-naming of DMS, even though there was no actual reason for the change to be made then and there.
In any event, Ted's estate could be worth ten figures, which would be a sweet gift, perhaps the largest in the history of American higher education. When the donation actually happens one day in the future, it will give the endowment a nice bump. Thanks Dr. Seuss!
* Needless to say, you will have done the math in your head and seen that this growth is but a 6.88% increase, even though Dartmouth's money managers earned a 12.10% return on our investments in Fiscal 2013. Why the difference? The endowment grows by the return that it receives on investments, plus the amount of money that the College takes in via fundraising, minus the amount that it draws down from the endowment for its operations. Over the last decade or so, the College has consistently taken more from the endowment than its Ivy peers, which explains why we have had the worst endowment growth in the Ivies since 2000, even though we had the best growth in the 1990-2000 period. If you have to ask where the money has gone, you haven't been reading this site with any care. Here's a hint.
Dec 10 2013
The phrase "alternative social spaces" has been part of Dartmouth conversations at least since I was a student in the late 70's. Today's Collis After Dark is only the latest iteration in a string of venues that have come and gone, all without seriously impacting the social monopoly of the College's fraternities.
Yet, there has been change over the years. As the Esquire Magazine article that we reproduced recently took pains to note, in 1979 only 53% of upperclassmen were in fraternities and sororities. At that time, the ratio of men to women on campus was 3:1, and there were two newly formed sororities. However, if you do the math, even then the number of men in frats was less than it is today, despite decades since then of hip administrators trying to create social spaces that will pull students away from the frats. Not only have the deans not succeeded in their goal, they have failed.
Phil is right that reinvigorating dorm life will add a great deal to the College's social scene, but dorm continuity won't do the trick of providing meaningful competition to the fraternities' party monopoly and the various unpleasant sides of Greek life that go with it. Make no mistake about it, only competition will oblige the brothers to clean up their act. In Phil's and my day, the dorms were real alternatives: when the drinking age was 18, a dorm social chair could simply call up Moe's (now Stinson's) at any time, and in short order a delivery truck would come by with a keg of beer. No registration-permission-certification-walkthroughs-arrests-Good Sams, etc.
The long and the short of it is that most students want to be with other students in a place where alcohol is served (especially free alcohol) and where the students present just want to have fun. That's not going to happen in the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center, at Collis After Dark, or in the Hop and the Black Arts Center. These are good spaces, but nobody can seriously believe that they will accommodate several thousand students on a weekend night. If you do the math, you can see that they will make barely a dent in the predominance of the fraternities.
There is only one real option for making Dartmouth social life safer: double down on the Greek system. Create more local sororities, ones with their own house (financed by the College) and with the freedom to serve beer. Students have spoken with their feet about Greek life. Despite the fraternities' dark side, a loud, beer-soaked place is where most kids want to be. However, sororities will be different in one way: women will control their own space, and the presence of residents will ensure an environment where women more effectively watch out for each other.
Right now there are fifteen fraternities at the College, eight sororities, and three co-ed houses (see here). Most of the sororities are nationals (due to College pressure) -- under their charters they cannot serve alcohol -- and several of them have 150 or so members. Unless there comes to be a rough parity at the College between sororities and fraternities, and unless women have enough alternatives so that they may shun houses known for their dangerous excesses, no amount of alternative programming will change Dartmouth's core social dynamic. Forty years of experience have shown us that.
Addendum: For the uninitiated, it is worth noting again and again the special side of Dartmouth Greek life: most parties are open to anyone: members, non-members, affiliated, unaffiliated. The patrician exclusivity that marks houses at many other schools is entirely absent in Hanover. This is a Dartmouth tradition worth cherishing.
Addendum: Nobody would assert that the sororities don't have their excesses, too. However, this space's goal is not perfection; is it simply to seek relative improvement. Let not the best be the enemy of the good.
Addendum: The extra housing provided by six or seven new sororities will help reduce the pressure on housing that Phil spoke about recently. When a group of new sororities and their 200 or so new beds are in place, the awful Choates can be demolished and re-built as standard-quality dorms, and after that, the River Cluster can be sold to Tuck to be filled with Wall Street wannabes in the for-profit 4+1 program.
Dec 9 2013
Where do all of the STEM jocks go to school, the ones who end up getting doctoral degrees in a science or engineering discipline? Here's where:
Interestingly enough, small liberal arts schools like Reed, Swarthmore, Carleton and Grinnell rank ahead of the highest ranked Ivy: Princeton. At these small schools, your chance of going on to a STEM doctorate is more than twice what it is at Dartmouth. The College is #40 on the list, and Columbia and Penn don't even make the Top 50 schools.
Meanwhile, more than one in three CalTech alums from the 1997-2006 period has earned a Ph.D.
Addendum: A member of the faculty writes in:
I'm trying to make sense of your interesting statistics today about S&E. Three questions.
First, what are the reasons Dartmouth scores so relatively low on this list? My hunch is that a preponderance of our good students are going into finance or consulting, as well, perhaps, as law and (clinical) medicine.
Second, should we try to remedy this shortfall of good students going for S&E doctorates? I think so. We need a better Dartmouth presence in this area both to enrich our alumni body and the nation.
Third, how do we do so? Not, I think, by spending vast new sums on science departments, graduate programs, and post docs. We somehow need to enhance the attractiveness of those departments. Reducing the sway of premed thinking and presence in some of those departments is one step. The guaranteed enrollment of premed students reduces the incentive to reach out to other students and the presence of so many competitive premeds renders the courses themselves less attractive to non-premeds. Above all, however, we need to hire and promote for teaching excellence in these areas. The S&E departments have some great professors, but teaching quality should be a consistent and high priority. Note that Reed, Carleton, Swarthmore and Oberlin have no grad students, but nevertheless score high on this list.
Addendum: A management consultant from a recent class has a comment:
Given the strength of post-collegiate job opportunities available at the Ivy League schools, it is hardly surprising that fewer graduates pursue PhD degrees. Most sophisticated students realize that the market for STEM PhD students is highly saturated, with few professorial positions available. Many of my colleagues in management consulting were PhDs from highly prestigious universities (MIT, Cornell, Harvard) who decided the academic rat race wasn't worth it given reduced funding from the NIH, comparably low salaries, and extremely low probability of achieving tenure. These are the same sorts of trends that are pushing medical students into specialties over primary care. Until compensation is addressed, encouraging students to pursue economically unsound career choices (even if they have a passion for the field) will likely be futile. This is especially true when tuition is 60K/year.