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Now Main Street’s white-washed windows

and vacant stores
Seems like there ain’t nobody
wants to come down here no more

Bruce Springsteen, My Home Town (1983)

It’s hard to imagine a building that presents a less friendly face to the street than the anchor of the College’s “Arts District” — the Black Arts Center. My photo on Lebanon Street shows the front of the building, but this face seems to be its backside:

Black Arts4.jpg

The Black Arts Center’s architects seem to have ignored, as did many designers of 6th Avenue office boxes in New York in the 1980’s, that people walk by the ugly, poorly built structure. Most of the building’s windows are mounted too high to allow a view of the interior, and the large plates of glass present only a shadowy void to passersby, rather than light and art. For shame. Hanover offers a lively streetscape of small stores and restaurants. The College’s designers have ensured that this area of Lebanon Street will be dead forever.

Addendum: The last twenty years have not been kind to the campus. From the undistinguished Maynard Street dorms to the municipal-prison aesthetic of Berry Library, our weak Presidents have shown a lack of taste along with their inabilities in other areas.

July 4, 2015.jpg

A vignette of some note:

Founding Fathers' Ages Comp.jpg

Hmm. So the Marquis de Lafayette and James Monroe would have been freshmen on July 4, 1776.

                        

The National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) have announced the top 100 worldwide universities granted U.S. utility patents in 2014. We don’t do too badly at #81, placing ahead of Princeton and Brown among the Ivies. They didn’t make the list:

Patents 2014 Comp.jpg

Given MIT’s small size compared to the UC system, the eggheads in Cambridge are doing well for themselves.

Addendum: The United States Patent and Trademark Office defines a utility patent as follows:

Issued for the invention of a new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or a new and useful improvement thereof, it generally permits its owner to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention for a period of up to twenty years from the date of patent application filing, subject to the payment of maintenance fees. Approximately 90% of the patent documents issued by the USPTO in recent years have been utility patents, also referred to as “patents for invention”.

Addendum: There is talk of some original reform in the ownership of patent rights at the College. We’ll follow the story.

Following on the detail of Professor Zitzewitz’ exposition of the cost of the faculty as a percentage of the overall spending (a princely 10%), we present an excerpt from a document circulated by the Dartmouth College Fund circa 2010. If the faculty “who love to teach” actually make up only a tenth of the College’s budget according to Professor Zitzewitz, it is self-evident that the below chart represents the bad old days of the Dartmouth administration, a time when Wright/Kim/Folt were not restrained by such quaint notions as veracity and exactitude.

Staff Cost.jpg

How is it possible that faculty members can be 10% of the budget and the staff who assist them are 32% of spending — to reach the 42% figure above? The Economics department, with 32 tenure-line professors and ten visitors/lecturers, has only 1.5 administrative assistants and a computer support staffer in Silsby Hall. One has to play fast and loose with definitions to come up with a total of 42% of spending on teaching. Maybe custodians who sweep the walkways and wash chalkboards are considered to support teaching, but even then, the figures in this chart are laughable.

I wrote to Professor Eric Zitzewitz asking him to comment about erstwhile head of the Committee on the Faculty Todd Heatherton’s letter regarding compensation that I recently obtained. Here is his reply:

Zitzewitz response.jpg

Phil should realize that the faculty are both aware that they have fallen off the compensation curve compared to professors at other schools, and that their compensation is but one-tenth of the College’s budget. I am all for saving money, but Dartmouth should not do so with the people on whom the school’s quality depends.

Yesterday we noted that the Kim administration’s squeeze on faculty salaries was particularly marked at the level of Assistant Professors — faculty members new to the College who are bucking for tenure — as noted in Economics Professor Eric Zitzewitz’ presentation to the faculty. That conclusion was based on American Association of University Professors (AAUP) data. However confidential data from the Consortium of Financing Higher Education (COFHE), considered by many observers to be of higher quality, shows that the pinch was actually put more on the College’s senior professors. A source has sent in a letter that sheds some light on that event:

Heatherton Letter Comp.jpg

The Committee on the Faculty (COF) is the grouping that speaks for the College’s professors. You’ll note that in 2012 the COF stated: “We therefore urge aggressive action to remedy the erosion in faculty compensation we have experienced this year.” Note also that Professor Zitzewitz’ data showed that the Kim and Folt administrations did not respond to this request (though the Hanlon administration has increased the salaries of tenure-track assistant professors).

When Kim faced what he called a budget crisis — which was nothing of the kind — he trimmed compensation, or at least the growth of compensation, at all levels of the College, in addition to gouging undergraduate and graduate students’ financial aid and tuition. What he didn’t do, out of some kind of foolish sense of caring and condescension, was trim the bloated staff, which has grown significantly in each of the past five years.

I know that I go on and on regarding this issue, but the College will make little progress until the absurd waste ends.

Addendum: Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences Todd Heatherton has confirmed the authenticity of this letter.

After laying out the fact that tenure-line faculty salaries at Dartmouth are only 10% of the total cost of running the College (they are just under one-sixth of payroll), Economics Professor Eric Zitzewitz described in June’s faculty meeting how the compensation paid to the College’s professors compares with pay at other top-ranked schools. He made sure to note for the mathematically insensitive that relatively significant changes to professors’ salaries (say +/-10%) have only a minor impact on the College’s overall spending (+/-1%).

In 2010, the first full year of the Kim administration, salaries paid to the faculty ceased tracking the evolution of compensation paid to professors at various groupings of the nation’s top-ranked schools. The drop placed the College on a different tier, only slightly above the compensation paid to the U.S. News 2nd 10 schools rather than the U.S. New Top 10:

Faculty Salaries Comparative.jpg

(Note: COFHE stands for the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, an association of 31 élite schools — including all of the Ivies — who follow need-blind application policies.)

Of course, money goes a ways further in the Upper Valley than it does in Cambridge, Manhattan, and other Ivy towns, but in the recruitment sweepstakes, a competitive salary and low-cost of living have always enabled the College to attract strong professors to New Hampshire.

More disturbing were the data that our salary ranking under Kim’s aggressive policies dropped us almost in the same way that our SAT rankings dropped (from around 11-12th to the 16th rank or far below):

Faculty Salary Rank.jpg

Professor Zitzewitz’ disaggregation of the data into Full, Associate and Assistant Professor figures illustrates that both Jim Kim and Jim Wright paid long-time, tenured faculty proportionately more than incoming, not-yet-tenured professors. One cannot help come to the conclusion that salaries were set with short-term, political goals in mind, rather than a concern for the ongoing ability of the College to attract the most promising young faculty members.

I wish that Professor Zitzewitz had also compared staff compensation with the wages paid by employers where the College’s thousands of staff members might otherwise work if they were not at Dartmouth. Many of our faculty members could teach at other top schools, but almost all members of the staff would work with local companies and institutions in northern New England. Any rigorous analysis of this question would complement the information on the relative under-payment of the faculty with data on the gross over-payment of most staff members.

The Dartmouth administration set its top priority long ago; it is not education.

The fallout from the Charlie Hebdo killings on January 7 still marks Paris. According to one soldier with whom I spoke, more than 10% of the French military’s active combat troops are tasked with ensuing the safety of the citizens of France’s major cities. There has been a recent change, one that took place before this week’s terrorist attack: rather than statically guarding potential terrorist targets like Jewish institutions, the soldiers now walk the streets on patrol. They have become part of our urban landscape, but at the same time, they engender a certain sense of unease:

Vigipirate.jpg

There are more fun things to do in this world that lug a fully-automatic FAMAS assault rifle in 80° heat while wearing a vest, camo and combat boots.

Addendum: Soldiers in La Capitale are touchy about being photographed, making your humble servant harken back to the days of the Warsaw Pact. Silly, really, given that the French press is full of images of patrolling troopers.

Tuck has acquitted itself well again: in a survey of MBA admission consultants by Poets & Quants, Tuck came in eighth in recruiting the best MBA candidates, and the school was first in the quality and transparency of its admissions process:

P&Q Tuck Comp.jpg

That Tuck’s admissions team, led by Dawna Clarke, took first honors was little surprise to many of the consultants whose clients have applied to the school over the years. From an open-interview policy, feedback to all waitlisted and some denied applicants, and frequent and helpful communications via social media as well as video and text blogs, Tuck has clearly established the best MBA admissions practices in the world.

In every contact that applicants make with Tuck’s admissions team, Director Clarke wants the school’s close-knit and highly supportive culture reinforced. “The way we talk about it internally is the importance of us embodying Tuck’s culture through every interaction,” she says. “It should be what they can expect from the school if they come here.”

The school will interview anyone who comes to campus and requests an interview. “Tuck really values strong interpersonal and communication skills because they are so important in the classroom and to a person’s long-term career,” says Clarke. “There is nothing that replaces an evaluation of that than the interview and what recommenders say.”

In a typical year, Tuck will interview between 1,700 and 2,000 of its 2,400 applicants. “We invest a lot of resources in order to pull that open interview policy off with a combination of staff and second-year students who go through a pretty extensive training process,” says Clarke. “It is a differentiator for us, and it is such a good way to get to know the applicants.”

The Tuck admissions team seems to be composed of fifteen women and one man (Sudershan Tirumala T’10).

Great to see that the Office of Human Resources is offering assistance to faculty members who have trouble with “grammar and punctuation… sentence structure, subject and verb agreement, pronouns, and word choice”:

Writing Workshop.jpg

Wait a second. Aren’t members of the faculty supposed to be teaching students how to write? Maybe Diana Andreas, the (certainly expensive) consultant and trainer in business communications can help them. That said, is there nobody on the College payroll who can give such a seminar?

Writing Workshop Program.jpg

Note the $25/class penalty for signing up but not attending. I wonder if Google and Apple charge their employees in a similar manner. This kind of infantile personnel management gives me the sense that Dartmouth Daycare is not just about students.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

I saw on your blog the comment about the $25 fee for missed classes. For what it’s worth (which, arguably, may not be much), McKinsey charges a $500 fee for missed internal trainings that are space-constrained. This, as best as I can tell, is to incentivize projects to plan such that folks can attend their assigned trainings. The fines are charged to the project, not us personally — they’re to prevent partners from pulling us from training at the last minute because they failed to plan for our absence!

Quite amazing that a newly minted MBA-holder at McKinsey — starting salary in the area of $135k — would be influenced by a fine of $500. Or that a partner would; they make many multiples of $135k. That said, at Bain in the 1980’s we didn’t have fines.

(For students returning to campus, we are re-printing a few highlights from last term.)

I like the idea of a global trigger warning. During freshman week all incoming students should be given a sticker like the one below that animates Columbia Journalism/Sociology Professor Todd Gitlin’s article in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled: You Are Here to Be Disturbed:

Trigger Warning.jpg

Gitlin begins by asking, “Are we living through a plague of hypersensitivity?”

I can’t tell you how silly all this talk of microagressions, safe spaces, trigger warnings and the like sounds out in the real world. If employees in my business complained about a customer microaggression, I’d probably fire them on the spot, and tell them to leave the premises lest they risk a macroaggression. Such things might be taken seriously within the confines of the Dartmouth Bubble, but they come across as ridiculous in a society where customers can walk out the door at a moment’s notice and businesses have to fight hard every day to survive.

Harvard’s Harry Lewis hypothesized about the origins of student helplessness in his book Excellence Without a Soul: Does Liberal Education Have a Future?:

Harry Lewis daycare1.jpg

Whatever the explanation, let’s hope that members of the faculty continue to tell kids to just grow up. Such frankness will serve as an important counterbalance to the armies of administrators who want nothing more than to coddle the little darlings as if they were still in the nursery.

A good example of the latter can be found in a recent NYT piece entitled: Anxious Students Strain College Mental Health Centers, which notes:

Nearly one in six college students has been diagnosed with or treated for anxiety within the last 12 months, according to the annual national survey by the American College Health Association.

Of course, you are anxious, young apprentices. You are at a demanding institution of higher learning where you are being stretched by challenging ideas and a heavy workload. The appropriate response to such anxiety is to gird your loins and study as hard as you possibly can. Such an effort will toughen you up for the days further out in the future when you will face real pressure — when you have to raise children, pay your mortgage, meet your quarterly numbers, get through boot camp, and maybe risk your life defending your country. I think that it is fair to assume that our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are not allowed to take a break from a firefight to ask for counselling when they feel anxious. Think about that scenario, dear students, the next time you are terrified that you might get a B+ instead of an A-.

Addendum: The contrast between different parts of the College is always a source of amusement. Do you think that QB Dalyn Williams ‘16 is feeling anxiety below at the unwanted attention he is receiving from several 250 lb. Yale linemen?

Dalyn Williams.jpg

Does this Ledyard Canoe Club kayaker want to call a Dean to ask for a safe space?

Ledyard Canoe Clubber.jpg

Addendum: George Will’s recent column in the Washington Post goes further in deriding the infantilization of college students; he observes that free speech and the open exchange of ideas are being limited by an overwrought concern for students’ delicate psyches.

Addendum: A longtime reader writes in:

You ask the question if the QB or kayaker are feeling “anxiety,” and the answer is: of course, they are. But why is that wrong? Fear is a fabulous motivator, as is anger. Those are the emotions, though, that have become much less acceptable since, well, daycare.

Jim Kim’s administration in Hanover was derided for cronyism, incompetence and an administrative culture that brooked no criticism of the top guy. How could it, when he was stuffing his resumé for his next job interview?

Now at the World Bank, Kim has been the object of massed demonstrations by employees, and while the ostensible target of protest has been his reorganization of the Bank, there has always been an undercurrent of disrespect for the man himself: if you lie enough and enough people know about it, you start to get a reputation as, well, a liar. Want proof? The WB did an internal survey that was responded to by more than 10,000 staffers. Herewith the results from the leadership section of the questionnaire (click to enlarge):

WB Staff Survey.jpg

The salient section about Jim Kim’s leadership is described in a story by the The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists:

World Bank staffers are losing faith in the development giant’s leadership, an internal staff survey indicates, with fewer than one third of respondents indicating that they have a “clear understanding” of the bank’s direction under the helm of President Jim Yong Kim.

An even smaller number of employees - just 26 percent - said they “agree” that bank leadership “creates a culture of openness and trust,” according to the survey, which was obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and The Huffington Post. More than 10,000 bank staffers completed the survey, which was conducted in 2014, and distributed internally last week.

Staffers gave lower marks to senior managers than they did in the prior year’s survey in response to almost every question about leadership. In response to a request for comment, the World Bank referred to a message from Kim to staffers in which he characterized the survey as having delivered “a resounding - and humbling - message” that “senior leadership has not met your expectations.” Kim vowed to make improvements in response to the staff survey results.

Sure Kim is humbled, but then he has much to be humbled about. Admire the man’s slick contrition, but don’t expect him to change.

(For students returning to campus, we are re-printing a few highlights from last term.)

McPeek Pease Comp.jpg

I would be remiss in recounting events at Monday’s faculty meeting if I did not describe the event-ending exchange between English Professor Don Pease and Biology Professor Mark McPeek, following on McPeek’s detailed analysis of grade inflation. Needless to say, at least for today’s undergrads, any comment about grading by “EasyPeasy” Pease is bound to elicit a knowing smile. Alas, no transcript of Pease’s remarks can properly communicate the self-regarding theatricality of one of his faculty meeting speeches. Read on:

Pease: I think that this is a really good conversation, but it makes me feel even more powerfully why the word “rigor” really needs to be qualified. The suggestions that you are making about how to have conversation among faculty around changes in incentives for the distribution of grades without the context of the philosophy of teaching, the way of producing in a class in which students have no interest in the subject, seems to me to generate a very grim and deaden, frankly, context for conversation across divisions and within departments. If grades separable from philosophy of teaching, liberal arts and understanding of what’s meant by liberal arts education, if that isolated context becomes the basis for the conversation with deans, and conversation with colleagues, I see the impoverishment of conversation across the board in the name of producing good conscience for some faculty. I’d like to have a rich conversation in which perhaps we even look at what we mean by grades. You’re going to a description of the way in which grades got sorted in the ORC. You say most faculty haven’t even looked at it. You haven’t asked the question: do most faculty agree with that particular apportionment? There’s a whole world of conversation that this mode of restricted accountability and assessment leaves out. Unless we have that rich, robust, vital conversation, I think that this report, produced in very good conscience, can have a deleterious effect.

McPeek: I think that my response would be, Don, it seems to me you haven’t heard anything we’ve said.

Pease: I’ve heard everything you said, including the subtext.

McPeek: What we’re talking about is the conversation, is the most important thing. It’s about what you want to go on in your class, and every class is going to be different, and it’s basically about how do you teach in your class, what’s important. And so I have no idea what you’re talking about.

What to say? In a very real way, we have here a conflict between the Humanities and the Sciences, between the limitations of data and the desire to move forward in a concrete way in the world. Pease bloviates — he uses the word “conversation” nine times in his 2:16-long peroration — and yet he seems to suggest little more than a desire to engage in a theoretical/philosophical conversation on the meaning of grades. McPeek, the scientist, has put forward a specific set of proposals, but Pease, the humanist, wants to chat ever more broadly about the entire subject. Here be dragons, or at least a recipe for institutional immobility.

As to what Pease meant about “a class in which students have no interest in the subject” — your guess is as good as mine.

Addendum: As an added treat, Dartblog offers a transcript of Pease’s 5:09-long opening remarks at the same meeting:

I think, too, that it was a great report, and having these reports every twenty years is crucial to the reflectivity of the faculty. I have a comment about one area of the report and a quibble about a word, a rhetorical word, as a matter of rhetoric. The first has to do with the role that reflection would play in the organization of the undergraduate’s curriculum and project as a whole. There’s a suggestion that there’s an unsurveilled aspect of undergraduate experience and that it’s important to turn sophomore year, which is relatively unsupervised, into an opportunity to add reflection to that particular year. I really admire both the criteria that are at work in insisting upon adding a dimension, call it metacognitive, of reflection to the organization of the undergraduate’s career. But throughout the report there are two virtues of a liberal arts education that are constantly reiterated: breadth and depth, focus and flexibility. These seem to me to be the chief virtues of the liberal arts; they’re liberating arts. One of the opportunities for undergraduates to discover capabilities, can-dos, skills, that they did not know they had, is to be able to walk into a classroom unsupervised, a classroom that no one suggested they enter, and discover, ‘Hey, I have really awakened in myself a capability that I didn’t know I had, that I wouldn’t have had, had I not accidentally entered into that classroom.’ That’s a matter of curiosity, and it’s a matter that is related to flexibility, and it’s a matter that is also, I think, crucially related to giving, and this is what the liberal arts really refers to, the freedom of discovery and education for one’s self. I would encourage in the sophomore year students to have as many roads not taken as possible to enable them to realize, perhaps after they’ve taken the road that they didn’t know they were going to take, that they can produce reflexively a way to turn that capability into one of the great virtues of the liberating arts.

The second point has to do with the use of the word “rigor” in the report. The word rigor refers to a virtue of the body that most usually appears when the body is to undergo its culminating experience. It is not a matter, as I understand, to be crucial in the liberating arts. It may be perhaps what your member is presently experiencing [laughter]. I want to suggest that the report itself in its preamble uses the word “rigor”; the word rigor does not appear again in the report until description of what the culminating experience should be. I think the report unconsciously linked rigor with the real culminating experience to demonstrate rigor mortis. Why not use the word “challenging”? Why not use the word “vigorous”? Why not suggest to students, if you want to encourage not to have the “work hard, play hard” ethos, and even work harder and don’t play at all, or work harder and die, which may be the message. Now, what I want to suggest is there’s a dimension of this report, the learning and living, experiential learning, the whole initiative of the institution to turn experience outside the classroom into an occasion for discovery is not folded into any of the recommendations. I think that missing component of the report is missing the whole context for moving Dartmouth forward and needs to be folded in along with the sense that learning can be a form of enjoyment. It can be a form of play that is creative. The virtues of discovery need not to be restricted to the constraining force of rigor. That’s a rhetorical point.

Note again Pease’s desire to engage in an expansive discussion — “the whole initiative of the institution to turn experience outside the classroom into an occasion for discovery” — one far beyond the issue at hand, rather then arrive at a constructive conclusion upon which actions can be taken.

Professor Frank Magilligan did not respond to Pease’s remarks; he just invited another professor to ask a question.

Pease is famous for such off-the-cuff orations. However few people in the past have had the courage to observe, as Mark McPeek did, that they are incoherent. Sure Pease’s speeches are filled with humor, sound and fury — but do they signify anything?

Addendum: I earned a B+ in Pease’s English 5 class in the fall of 1975. To my 17-year-old eyes he seemed more rigorous then than he was at the faculty meeting the other day.

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