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By now, we all know that Dartmouth Dining Services (DDS) is a perpetual blight on the student experience. With an overpaid, over-benefited, unionized staff and monopoly power over the student body, DDS delivers what basic economics would predict: mediocre food, long lines, and exorbitant prices. But the rot runs even deeper. Consider this recent email:

Staff Foco Meal Plan.jpg

And this Campus Services website notice:

Staff Meal Plan Comp.jpg

Not only are students forced to pay for the College’s overpriced meal plans, even if they live off campus, but they pay more than the staff for the exact same product. Take a look at the per-meal prices for the student plans on offer here:

plancosts.png

The prices are calculated by taking the overall price of the meal plan, subtracting out the DBA (essentially a dining debit account), and dividing through the number of swipes offered by the plan, assuming ten weeks in a term. Unless something major has changed since I graduated, most students are on plans with five to ten swipes (because of the difficulty of using more than that number every week), meaning that they pay $13.50 to $14.90 per individual meal swipe! Compare that to the $8.50 to $9.50 (or even less for an all-you-can-eat breakfast) cited for staff members.

To add insult to injury, the staff meal plans are also far more flexible than the notoriously convoluted student plans. Students have to wrangle with unfavorable and ever-changing exchange rates between DBA and meal swipes, limitations on how swipes can be used, and the weekly expiration of swipes, among other arbitrary rules. Meanwhile, the staff gets to buy never-expiring blocks of ten breakfast, lunch, or dinner swipes for $70, $90, or $120, respectively. It sure seems like the “GREAT deal” cited in the email.

Mind you, this subsidy is not just for food service workers at DDS; it’s available to all members of the College bureaucracy. All 3,335 of them. It’s just another way that students are subsidizing the plush lifestyle and above-market compensation package of Dartmouth’s bureaucrats, while we wonder where need-blind admissions for international students has gone.

In an educational institution, it should be a given that the students, not the staff, come first. It’s a shame that we’ve lost sight of that. Color me disappointed, but not surprised.

Joe Asch Addendum: One of the most difficult decisions in business is pricing. Too high and nobody buys your product; too low and you are giving away profit. Like Goldilocks, you want your pricing, “Just right.” In this instance, the College’s administrators have made the calculation that non-students just won’t pay any more than $7.00-$12.00/meal, even though they charge students far more than that.

Mark Rothko Dartmouth.jpgAs we descended into the clouds while flying from Oslo into Frankfurt recently, I was put in mind of artist Mark Rothko (1903 - 1970), one of whose paintings hangs to this day (or will soon hang again) in the College’s Hood Museum of Art: Lilac and Orange over Ivory (1953) — a gift of William S. Rubin. The work must be one of the Hood’s most valuable holdings; Rothkos now trade at auction for tens of millions of dollars. That said, the skeptic in me wonders whether these paintings will stand the test of time. Are they so valuable due to intrinsic merit, or simply because they are instantly recognizable.

Sunshine Rothko.jpg

Addendum: A wit writes in:

You wonder if the painting will stand the test of time? Me wonders whether or not the valuable painting will stand the test of the Hanlon administration and not be sold to pay off some debt or to pay for some new ill advised building?!?

After the suggestion on Thursday by a reader that the College hold an undergraduate referendum on increasing the size of the student body, a member of the faculty wrote in to point out that The D had conducted a poll of undergraduates prior to Homecoming. The results were not favorable to Phil’s Hanlon’s project:

Student Poll1.jpg

Student Poll2.jpg

The D’s survey of undergraduates was conducted from September 24-28. It had 677 respondents (out of 4,410 students).

Economics Professor Doug Irwin’s newest book made the The Economist’s Books of the Year list:

Economist Irwin Comp.jpg

Kudos to Doug for the high ranking, and also for having the stylists at The Economist describe his work as “elegantly” debunking a host of trade-policy myths. How many books coming out of Econ merit praise for style as well as content?

The breadth and thoroughness of analysis on the part of alumni who write to me is impressive. Dartmouth grads are thinking through Phil’s plan to bloat the College, and they see how shallow our President’s strategy really is. I think this review is particularly good (click on the image to enlarge and be educated):

Steinberg Letter.jpg

The winter term could see a huge backlash against the plan to increase the size of the College, and against Phil himself. Here’s to hoping.

When Economics Professor Danny Blanchflower is not forecasting the arrival of recessions and pushing iconoclastic views about interest rates, he is a happiness guru. With his colleague Andrew Oswald, he analyzes people’s feelings about their lives and what motivates them (including money and sex — surprise, surprise). Blanchflower and Oswald’s latest findings, as published in a NBER working paper, Unhappiness and Pain in Modern America: A Review Essay, and Further Evidence, on Carol Graham’s Happiness for All?, were reported on this week in a Washington Post piece: Not only are Americans becoming less happy — we’re experiencing more pain too. Here are the study’s two key graphs:

Blanchflower Study UnhappyA.jpg

Blanchflower Study HurtingA.jpg

Don’t worry. Be happy.

Addendum: The paper is forthcoming in the American Economics Association’s Journal of Economic Literature

Addendum: A longtime reader writes in:

Thank you for the post. The findings as presented in the paper appear to suggest that 1) US is unhappy and 2) this may be related to the fact that US is hurting.

Since the paper leverages pain survey study from 2011, I used percentages reported in it to calculate ranks for each participating country (US got the lowest 32 meaning high pain). Rank of 1 means the lowest pain.

As the second consideration is happiness, I used data for the same 32 countries from World Happiness Report 2017 available here: http://worldhappiness.report/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2017/03/HR17.pdf (Helliwell, J., Layard, R., & Sachs, J. (2017). World Happiness Report 2017, New York: Sustainable Development Solutions Network). Specifically, I utilized the 2014-2016 ranking of happiness data (Figure 2.2 and corresponding table) comprising the following components: GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity and perceptions of corruption. It should be noted that out of 155 countries, US is ranked 14 (Top 10%). This appears to disprove point 1). Rank of 1 means the highest happiness.

Regarding point 2), I calculated correlation between pain score and happiness score ranks for 32 respective countries (please see the attached). I observed statistically significant negative correlation i.e. countries ranked as “quite painful” are also ranked as quite happy. To me, this suggests that pain score is unlikely to be a reliable surrogate for the happiness and that there may be methodological flaws with the pain score metric in the first place (as in small sample size, reliance of self-reported aches and pains and being a snapshot of a single 4 week period in 2011).

It is also worth noting that US finds itself in a pretty good group of other countries with high pain/high happiness: Australia and Nordics: Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland (respective alpha-2 codes used). All 5/5 are in Top 10 happiest countries in the world.

Happiness_Pain.tif.jpg

Dr. Larry Johnson ‘75 writes in to suggest that the question of expanding the College be put to a referendum:

From: Lawrence Johnson
Date: Mon, Dec 4, 2017 at 6:25 PM
Subject: College Expansion Plans
To: joeasch@gmail.com

Hi Joe,

Glad you are enjoying the cold hillwinds and waters of Norway. I’ve always felt that the true Dartmouth person has or should have a deep attraction to the far North. I have had the great fortune of hiking the glaciers of Iceland and when I did so, I felt that I was proudly carrying the Dartmouth flag within.

It’s great to see that the young New Zealand tennis star has chosen Dartmouth, all for the right reasons. No doubt that Hanlon and crew should take note that strongly influencing her decision was Dartmouth’s emphasis on undergraduate education.

The recent letter by your esteemed classmate Timothy Prager (Dartblog 12/1/17) rightly underlines the need for Dartmouth to be evolving with the times especially in terms of demographics. He lauded the mid-70’s administration for propelling co-education at Dartmouth, as do I — thank you President Kemeny. (Ahh-just seeing his name makes me happy!) Had Dartmouth not gone co-ed, Timothy notes that he and many others would have gone elsewhere.

Here it is critical to remember that the 1972 co-education decision did follow an undergraduate referendum which heavily endorsed bringing in women. (This was most strongly supported by the lower classmen, like me, whose girlfriends were far, far away and less so by upper classmen).

So I ask: why doesn’t this administration hold an undergraduate referendum regarding the proposed enlargement?

This would require the administration to articulate the plan for all to see; transparency is in everyone’s interest.

Undergrads’ ears are closest to the ground, and I would likely listen and likely follow their wishes, as they are the ones that would have to live longest with the consequences of the decision, whichever way it goes.

For that matter, why not an alumni referendum as well?

Best wishes and enjoy the Aurora Borealis,

Larry Johnson ‘75

A fine idea, to my mind.

Did you know that there had been a referendum on co-education? I didn’t.

Addendum: A member of the faculty writes in:

The proposal for a student referendum on the issue of the College’s expansion is a terrific idea. Here’s a twist:

Rather than the students waiting (in vain) for the Administration to ask them to vote on this issue, why doesn’t the Student Assembly organize a student referendum on the issue to take place on, say, January 31?

The SA could request that the Administration delay any formal decision on the matter until the students have had a chance to deliberate and vote. Of course, the vote would simply be advisory, but it would put the Administration in a tough position. Announcing a decision prior to the student vote would explicitly reject their input and views, which would be awkward. But if the referendum were strongly against, moving forward would also be painful for the Administration.

At a minimum, it would force the Administration to do a better job articulating the case for expansion. Smart suggestion by Mr. Johnson.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

Upon reflection, I couldn’t help but feel his proposal was a bad idea. The issue is too momentous to be put in the hands of the undergraduate body exclusively. I’m reminded of James O. Freedman’s lament that too many applicants to the College were choosing Harvard or Princeton instead, implicitly granting power over policy to a cadre of 18-year-olds with zero experience of higher education.

I wasn’t aware of the ‘co-education referendum’ (if indeed it took place), but I did know of polls of the undergraduate body that showed strong support for the cause. At the time, I was only six years removed from Hanover. My reaction was simply: Of course. Any young, testosterone-driven male forced to spend four years in quarantine from female companionship, and further, in a very remote location, would naturally favor relief from that condition. The outcome was the same as you’d expect from a proposal to replace mystery meat with filet mignon at Thayer hall (perhaps a bad analogy in the current environment).

The College, collectively, has four main constituencies (I leave out, perhaps unfairly, the parents shouldering very large tuition burdens): the Trustees and the administration they oversee; the faculty; the alumni; and the student body present in Hanover. All are affected by the issues and their outcomes that must be grappled with; therefore, all should be invested in those outcomes. Dr. Johnson’s contention that “undergrads’ ears are closest to the ground” is a rather thin reed on which to carry a question of this magnitude. As I said, they are the least experienced, and also the least exposed to a long view of the College and its well-being, which only comes with the passage of time. I’m not saying they should be excluded from weighing in, but they are only one of the stakeholders, with decidedly the least gravitas in the collective.

The most important task in organizing to oppose this execrable idea is to leverage the power of all three constituencies which are against it. The campaign to have alumni express their opposition in writing and the accompanying drying up of donations are both admirable and effective means to this end. By all means, give the undergrads a say as well, but only as one voice in the chorus.

It all comes back to the question: who will oversee the overseers? Pheckless phil would do well to hearken back to Gandhi’s apocryphal admonition: “There go my people; I must hurry to catch up with them, for I am their leader.”

OK, she didn’t go to the College as an undergrad, but we’ll happily put Tina Smith T’84 on Dartmouth’s impressive list of Senators, Congressmen, and Governors (most Governors in the Ivies; second-most Senators, and fourth-most Congressmen). Word from Minnesota is that Tina will soon be tapped to replace disgraced Senator Al Franken:

Tina Smith T'84.jpg

On November 10 we noted an embarrassingly biased poll sent out by the Moosilauke Forum, a tool that the administration uses to determine alumni sentiment. Here are its two leading questions:

Moosilauke Forum Poll re student body size excerpt.jpg

The Forum has now reported, at least somewhat, on the poll’s results:

Moosilauke Forum Response Summary.jpg

Note that among the 700 respondents, “some alumni” were not in favor of expanding the size of the undergraduate student body. No figure more specific than that, eh? You’d think that anyone who could count up 700 responses could also do a tally of the yays and nays. But no. Why be objective when one can slant a depiction whenever there is a chance?

Addendum: This type of behavior is one reason why people distrust Phil Hanlon.

Addendum: A student writes in:

Excellent as always. Sounds to me like the administration is more than welcoming to feedback and wants to be known for soliciting it. Whether it has any intention of listening to that feedback, I think you and I both know the answer to that.

I reminded my Dad the other day that there were classes in the computer science department, capped at maybe 50 people or so, that had wait-lists that were 2-3 times the size of the class! As part of a team project, I built an app that monitored the enrollment numbers during add/drop period and would automatically register you for the class you wanted when a space opened up. I never needed to use this app myself as I got lucky during my last few course selection periods. Needless to say, many others weren’t so lucky.

Now say we expand the student body by 700. What are we going to say to the young aspiring computer scientists matriculating? Congrats on getting accepted to Dartmouth, but, sorry, we don’t have any space for you in the classes you want to take — but I hear the English department has some great open classes! (I have the utmost respect for our colleagues in the English department. Many technologists and programmers could definitely benefit from taking a few more English classes :) It would be a shame for an individual to make it all the way to the Dartmouth and not be able to pursue their desired course of study.

Addendum: An alumnus comments:

Your student responder reminds us that John Kemeny’s great vision was teach the computer geeks in intimate collaboration with the English majors, at a time when few saw the potential.

As we saw last week, fundraising is in the doldrums — putting it charitably — and Phil’s phailure to bring in the bucks has had immediate consequences for spending all over Dartmouth:

  • The Athletics Department is looking at an 8% cut to its budget. This is an area of the College that is tightly run. For example, many assistant coaches make less money that scruffy dining hall dishwashers, and yet they are on the road for months at a time. Already some teams are only able to compete effectively because of the assistance of generous donations from “Friends of …” groups. Perhaps the Hanlon administration is banking on disaffected alumni riding to the rescue.
  • Seeing the golf course get the ax is hard to fathom when losses are in the area of $600,000/year in the context of a overall Dartmouth budget that had total expenses of $973,123,000 in 2017. Recall that Phil has added 243 people to the staff ranks since he arrived in town in 2013; that works out to well over $20,000,000 in extra payroll alone.
  • Although College spokesman Diana Lawrence denies that there is a hiring freeze in place for either undergraduate faculty or staff, members of the faculty that I talk to seem to think that there is a moratorium on hiring. Now I am all for controlling costs, but that means cutting fat, not eschewing the hiring of high-quality professors.
  • Finally, there is a looming scandal that is the talk of the professoriate: a top-ranked professor from another school was offered a position in Hanover, had her moving expenses from Europe paid for by the College, put a down payment on an Upper Valley house, and then was denied tenure as a full professor at the last minute in a move that smacks of cost-saving rather than a decision on the merits. This mess is going to hurt recruiting at the College for years, if details are released to the public.

How can Phil dream of expanding the College when in these flush times, with the stock market soaring, he can’t make ends meet without cuts that hurt the quality of a Dartmouth education?

NFL Films has come out with an alternately funny and informative video about the Dartmouth-developed Mobile Virtual Player:

Congrats again to the whole MVP crew, but especially to a pair of stellar members of the Class of ‘79: John Currier and Buddy Teevens.

Listening to your customers helps you figure out what’s important (I could have said “from the mouths of babes,” but not these days, that’s for sure):

Nina Paripovich Comp.jpg

What can’t Phil see the College’s true and unique strengths.

Addendum: By George, She’s Got It!

drysuit.jpgNorthern Norway is a fair bit less hospitable for swimming with massive sea creatures than the warm waters of Dominica, but it was worth a shot to go there and participate in the largest annual gathering of orcas (killer whales, for the politically incorrect) on the planet. Hundreds gather there each year in the winter months to feast on herring in order to fatten up for the rest of the year when hunting might be more difficult.

As an apex predator, orcas don’t much worry about other creatures in the water with them — even people — and there is no record of a human fatality in the open ocean at the mouth of an orca. That was reassuring to me, given that they can reach twenty-six feet in length and weigh over six tons. Their top speed is 35mph. Most impressive is the male’s dorsal fin; at as much as six feet in height, it towers over humans sitting in a boat.

To swim in 40° water with the big guys (and gals), one wears a dry suit, a rubber garment with latex gaskets around your throat, wrists and ankles — along with multiple layers of merino wool and fleece underneath. However, sitting in a small boat for hours as the crew attempts to find a feeding pod can turn a fella mighty cold.

We were not successful in swimming with Norway’s orcas due the presence of a great many humpback whales in the fjords this year. Normally pods of orcas will cooperate to corral huge numbers of herring into “bait balls,” and then stun bunches of them with tail slaps before eating them one by one. However this year, once a bait ball had been assembled, the humpbacks would move in and scarf up the whole thing with a big-mouthed gulp (the BBC describes the whole competitve process here). So the orcas changed their strategy and just mooched around in small groups, feeding on fish that they might happen upon. When we tried to get into the water with them, they would move off. A bait ball would have kept them close to one location:

Orca Ahoy.jpg

Addendum: One member of our party, Penn grad Kabir Teja, arrived with first-class camera gear and a drone. He produced a video about our trip:

He has some nice aerial shots of orcas starting at 1:28.

Midday Night.jpgThe endless dark in northern Norway weighs on a person right from the start of a visit. Look at the sunrise and sunset times on my iPhone screenshot to the right (taken on November 23). That’s not even two and a half-hours of sunlight — on those rare days when the sun is not obscured by clouds — and we still had almost a month to go before the solstice.

Other than Japan and South Korea, the world’s countries with the highest per capita suicide rate are all close to the poles. Correlation is not causality, but spend some time up there and you might not be entirely sure of that proposition.

Needless to say, amid the overbearing bleakness, people turn to drink, and the government has responded by forbidding the sale of alcohol after 8pm, even in supermarkets that stay open after that time. The beer shelving that I saw has a drop-down blind in front of it. And the inflated prices would make you think that Dartmouth Dining Services has the alcohol concession; but no, ferociously high taxes are to blame (not to mention the 25% value added tax on most goods, with only 15% being added to the price of food).

The small town of Sørkjosen lies just below the 70° latitude line, more than 3° above the Arctic Circle (“the northernmost point at which the noon sun is just visible on the northern winter solstice and the southernmost point at which the midnight sun is just visible on the northern summer solstice” according to Wikipedia). The pretty little port enjoys regular displays of the northern lights, but even shows as spectacular as this time lapse film just don’t compensate for the desolation, at least to this viewer:

The film shows about twenty minutes of heavenly display compressed down to ten seconds. Our boat is in the bottom of the frame.

Addendum: A friend sends in a true story:

A friend who was a documentarist was making a film in remote Alaska one January, when he met a team of Muslim filmmakers. They reported that they were observing the Ramadan fast that month. “What does that mean,” my friend asked? They replied, “We skip lunch.”

Addendum: A senior sends in a data-filled corrective to my gloom-and-doom sense of northern Norway:

Hope you enjoyed Norway. I did, however, have a bit of a bone to pick about your post. Having spent some time in Norway, and also having followed its political scene for awhile, I think the “doom and gloom” message might not have represented the full picture. I think, in short, that I have to respectfully differ, both in my own impression of the country and in my conception of its government.

My own impression of Oslo, where I spent most of my time, was that it was just about the best-run city I’ve ever seen — it seemed a bit like Boston, if Boston were well-run, and if everyone in Boston were richer, happier, and really loved modern architecture. Also, unlike Boston, the street plan makes sense.

Then there’s the matter of statistics. Norway has the third highest nominal GDP in the world (fourth highest in PPP). It has the highest human development index score in the world. It’s also highest in the GINI index. It’s maximum individual tax rate is only 23rd highest, while it’s minimum tax rate is 0 percent. It has a high VAT on food and drink in shops (25 percent or 15 percent), but a lower VAT on other goods (10 percent at most). The World Happiness Report? Norway is first on that, too. Its sovereign wealth fund also tends to help, since it puts its natural resource wealth into the world’s biggest ($1 trillion plus) rainy day fund. Its corporate tax rate is also a pretty respectable 24 percent. Norway also got full marks every year in the Freedom in the World index and was ranked 13th in the Cato Institute’s Human Freedom Index, taking the third place for personal freedom. (The U.S. was 23rd in that index, incidentally, ranked just 28th for personal freedom.)

Will Wilkinson of the Niskanen Center wrote an interesting article last spring in which he argued that Bernie Sanders was the best choice for libertarians in the 2016 election cycle because he was the only candidate who wanted to make the U.S. look more like countries in which citizens were “more free” (always subjective): the Nordic nations. (Wilkinson also observed, likely rightly, that Bernie seems not to understand that the Nordic welfare states are supported by some of the most aggressive free markets in the world, which was an obstacle to his point.) It’s not a bad point; there’s a lot to support the idea that, particularly in Rawlsian conceptions of freedom, Norway is amongst the freest countries in the world.

My point isn’t that there’s nothing distressing about 22-hour darkness or that there’s no reason to protest restrictive alcohol laws (of course, I live in Massachusetts, where legislation around alcohol is rather more extreme), but just that a “high taxes and everyone kills themselves” view of Norway seems like it’s leaving out some important information.

I’m also, I’d note, not an advocate of “just do what the Nordic countries do and everything will be hunky-dory” (though I find the scalability arguments to be eyeroll-inducing and ill-conceived). But certainly we have something to learn from countries that quantitatively are doing much better than ours in many ways.

My classmate and all around good guy, Tim Prager ‘79, believes that the College would be stronger with more students. Here is the note (later slightly edited by him) that he sent to Deans Smith and Biron:

Tim Prager letter.jpg

In summary, Tim believes that the College’s present student culture is almost toxic. Among his worries and wishes:

  • One where the student body did not reflect the demographic mix of the wider community? [i.e. lilly white New Hampshire]

  • One which had limited space for people of differing backgrounds, points of view, nationalities?

  • … mean-spirited misogynistic behaviour, a lack of empathy, an inability to treat people of different ethnic backgrounds and sexual persuasions with the respect they deserve and should expect?

Then, he asks a rhetorical question: “If I wanted Dartmouth to evolve, move forward, retain the qualities I valued but rid itself of the attitudes I reviled, how could it be done without alienating the traditional core of white American Alumni?”

Finally Tim conveys an uncertainty:if the ethos of the College as a place of exceptional teaching and learning is preserved…” If this initiative increases the rate of change at Dartmouth it must be a good thing. If it helps Dartmouth evolve and allows its students to experience a broader community of people who bring different ideas and experiences with them to the College it must be positive.” [Emphasis added]

Tim seems to think that increasing the size of the student body by 10-25% with students who disproportionately contribute to a diverse campus will change the daily life of undergrads. He evokes the example of co-education.

But is there any reason to believe in Tim’s sense of cause and effect here? Will a thousand more students lead to a more harmonious campus (let’s leave aside the accuracy of Tim’s depiction of present-day Dartmouth)? I am not convinced. Certainly co-education did not serve to tame the supposedly savage Dartmouth man. The litany of Lohsian scandals over the past decade are testimony to that assertion. The truth seems to be that women have adopted the College’s hard-charging ethos rather than calming down the men.

I have little sympathy for Tim’s utopianism. The expansion of the student body could well lead to no change at all in the student culture, yet we can be sure that the College’s faculty and infrastructural resources will be stretched. We can be sure that there will be less money per student as the endowment’s bounty is spread over more people. And we can be sure, as Professor Stephen Brooks said at a recent faculty meeting, that a Hanlon administration that has been unsuccessful in meeting the challenges facing the College today is equally ill-equipped to confront the innumerable additional problems that large scale growth will present.

In short, if all of Tim’s assumptions for success are fulfilled, he is willing to bet on Phil Hanlon’s plan to grow the number of students in Hanover. But what are the odds of that? Those of us in Hanover are not betting on Phil Hanlon at all.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

An extra ration of Kool-Aid for Mr. Prager.

Addendum: And another:

While Tim Prager’s aspirations for the College may be admirable, they are off base. Students today are flocking to big urban universities in record numbers (see Penn, Columbia, NYU, Berkeley and Boston University). I would contend that the “diverse” students that Tim Prager seeks to attract are much more likely to select one of those universities over Dartmouth. There is a self-selection process as to who will apply to a rural school like Dartmouth and (unlike co-education which opened the College to 50% of the population) there is absolutely no evidence that more students will apply to Dartmouth if we increase the size of the undergraduate population.

In fact, Dartmouth has struggled to reach 20,000 applicants for the past 5 years while all of the other Ivies have seen record applications in excess of 30,000. Expanding the student body will only make the College less selective, thereby impacting its US News ranking and resulting in a further decline in reputation and desirability. This will have a spiraling effect that the College can ill afford.

The College is at full capacity now and cannot accommodate additional students without a major expansion of facilities which will change the special character of the school forever. We need to focus on the qualities that make Dartmouth unique among the Ivies, which starts with our small size, close-knit community and strong emphasis on undergraduate education.

If we lose that focus, then we will become a middling university with no particular appeal to prospective students, diverse or otherwise.

Addendum: A close observer of the campus writes in:

I am not convinced that making a campus population larger so you can incorporate ever more “diverse” identities adds significantly to young people’s ability to understand and empathize with others. Those are primarily character qualities, not automatic byproducts of exposure.

Research shows that increased diversity can actually produce the opposite effect. Since “birds of a feather tend to flock together,” heightening the cacophony of perspectives and expectations naturally sends subgroups to their respective “corners”, where their subculture’s idiosyncrasies define the social ecosystem. That’s where people feel most at-home and relationships flourish most freely, especially when the social environment gets very complex.

Your classmate Tim appears to have a more current PC sensibility about these things, which is his prerogative. I am more of a classic “melting pot” guy, vs. the more current ideal of a “salad bowl” — where everyone is mixed together but retains a separate identity. That has its virtues, but you risk driving people into isolated enclaves and ghettos rather than bringing true unity out of diversity.

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