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Dartmouth has a wealth of experienced professors who lead their respective research fields, while also working closely with students — inspiring them in the classroom and leading them in laboratory environments. And while at Dartblog we talk frequently about problems that need to be fixed at the College, there are still many bright spots. Our professors deserve more recognition for their achievements. As such, this is one of a series of posts that shines a spotlight on the best professors in Hanover:

Meir Kohn1.jpgMeir Kohn is a Professor of Economics at the College, where he has taught for 37 years. As a researcher, he has a background in mathematics and an interest in history, but is perhaps best known on campus for his star turn as the long time teacher of an essential class on the financial markets.

Kohn sometimes tells his students that his journey was much like that of Forrest Gump, with twists and turns that eventually landed him in Hanover. Born in the Czech Republic, Kohn moved as a baby to the U.K. He graduated high school a year early, then moved to Israel and took up life on a kibbutz, a commune-like settlement (a fact that somewhat belies his eventual stance as a libertarian). Kohn attended Hebrew University with the intention of studying biology, but he lost interest in that subject and switched to agricultural economics.

After obtaining Bachelors and Masters degrees at Hebrew University, Kohn came to the U.S. for the first time to earn his Ph.D. at MIT. He planned to get his degree in operations research, a quantitative application of advanced analytical methods. Instead, he focused on economic theory. He returned to Israel to teach for six years. While there, he helped develop the “cash-in-advance” theory to explain why consumers need to hold on to money.

In 1979 Kohn joined the faculty at Dartmouth, where he continued his work on economic and monetary theory. But by the mid-nineties he was dissatisfied with what he calls the “sterile” environment of economics research that seemed to him little more than a mathematics branch of philosophy, creating and analyzing imaginary models of the world. Kohn began to look instead at what lessons could be drawn from economy history.

His main focus since then has been learning from pre-industrial Europe and deciphering why economic progress happens in some places rather than others, a theme he has explored in multiple papers. Rather than see economics as no more than production and the trade between producers, Kohn created a model from the historical data that has three parts: production (the actual physical creation), commerce (buying and selling what others produce), and finally, predation (where a person or group takes by force what others produce). The interaction of these three activities — and specifically the combination of production and commerce while preventing predation — is what leads to economic progress. Governments in this model are often necessary at the local level, but they are a hindrance as societies scale.

This framework, which Kohn has since tested further on data from pre-industrial China, is codified in his upcoming book, The Origins of Western Economic Success. You can read his work-in-progress manuscript in its entirety here (Kohn is continuing to revise and edit it), or take in the (somewhat) shorter version of his analysis here.

Meanwhile Kohn has become a star in the Economics department with the course he teaches four times a year: Econ 26, The Economics of Financial Intermediaries and Markets. In 2000 his notes for this class were turned into a textbook, Financial Institutions and Markets. After the book’s publication, Kohn realized he could dispense with formal lectures that both he and his students found redundant, and he completely switched the course format over to the Socratic Method.

Econ 26 is now a beloved and feared rite of passage for economics majors with dreams of working on Wall Street. Students participating in corporate recruiting trade stories with their alumni recruiters about the rapid-fire conversational method Kohn employs, keeping students on their toes. Twenty percent of each student’s grade is based on class participation, and Kohn sees himself more as a coach running training drills than as a teacher pushing information at passive students.

In a memorable 2007 opinion column in The Dartmouth, Peter Gray wrote about his experience in the class, saying, “Kohn is the first professor at Dartmouth I have encountered who is perfectly comfortable telling me that I’m wrong, and no less of a feat, in front of the rest of the class.” In 2012, the Alumni Magazine profiled Econ 26. And in this video, Kohn discusses his methods:

Kohn is also one of the founders of the Political Economy Project, which we discussed in our profile of Professor Doug Irwin. Kohn looks forward to re-starting his economic reading group this winter with a group of 10-15 students meeting once a week for an hour to discuss a single book over the course of the term.

bier.jpgReader question time! A Dartblog fan recently wrote in to request that I compare the drinking habits of German college students with those of their American counterparts. Keeping in mind that anecdotal evidence and personal experience can only be so valuable, allow me to paint with a broad brush.

I would maintain that binge drinking as it is commonly understood — consuming too much alcohol within a certain timeframe — is significantly less common at German universities than at American ones. At the very least, drinking to excess is not the celebrated part of the student culture here that it is in the United States; over-intoxication is for the most part frowned upon in the Vaterland. While there are certainly opportunities to get blind drunk for those so inclined, alcohol is generally used as a social lubricant and not as a means of competition. Simply put, things are a bit more low-key, which is perhaps the reason why the entire nation of Germany is more or less open-container; it is not unusual to see professionals in suits sipping a bottle of beer on the sidewalk or the train ride home.

Statistics comparing the prevalence of binge drinking across student populations in different countries are very difficult to find, but results from a 2014 World Health Organization study show that Germany has a slightly lower incidence of “heavy episodic drinking,” which can be thought of as consuming the equivalent of five 12 oz. beers or 5 oz. glasses of wine on one occasion at least once a month. The difference between the German (12.5%) and American (16.9%) rates is not particularly significant, but the UK (28%) and Ireland (39%) stand out as more severely afflicted.

The statistics cited from the WHO report refer to the entire population over the age of 15, not just college students, so take from it what you will. Additionally, “scientific” definitions of binge drinking are notoriously finicky. While it shouldn’t become a habit, drinking five cans of beer over the course of a few hours will probably not, for an average-sized adult male, lead to the sort of dangerous intoxication or vomiting that people tend to use as a mental barometer for binge drinking. Studies with such low definitional thresholds may therefore paint an inaccurate picture of how often people are truly drinking to excess. Anecdotally, I can say that although many German students may meet the WHO’s standard for a binge on a semi-regular basis, they seem to be much less likely to, for example, gulp down and then throw up ten beers in a single evening than your typical American frat bro.

At the very least, the WHO study demonstrates how the (tired) argument that the United States’ high drinking age leads to an unsafe relationship with alcohol is probably barking up the wrong tree. The UK and Ireland, which as mentioned above enjoy a greater general prevalence of heavy episodic drinking, have a legal drinking age of 18, as do Lithuania (36.6%) and Finland (36.5%). For university students at the very least, more reasonable explanations for dangerous behavior can be found elsewhere.

When comparing the U.S. to Germany (where the drinking age for beer and wine is 16), it’s particularly instructive to look at the respective settings in which socializing over alcohol normally occurs. Because German universities don’t have the types of residential campuses and Greek houses that are ubiquitous in the American system, there are fewer (if any) centralized clearinghouses for alcohol consumption. Instead, drinking generally occurs in public establishments or smaller private gatherings, where familiar, watchful eyes and a lack of anonymity tend to discourage more reckless activity.

Beer, moreover, which is about as important to Germany as baguettes are to France, is the drink of choice; hard liquor does not enjoy quite the following here that it does among American college students. Because it’s considerably easier to overdose on shots of vodka than on Augustiner, German students may end up pacing themselves a bit more reasonably. That being said, not all Germans are always on their best behavior. The vomit on the sidewalks of Berlin has to come from somewhere.

Addendum: The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has published a factsheet on drinking by college students.

The truest sign of mediocrity is when we do things (like having an Executive Committee on Inclusive Excellence) that are so hackneyed and clichéd that they have already been mocked in the popular culture. Have a look at this Simpsons clip on the first annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence:

Phil is looking (and acting) more like Homer Simpson with a mustache every day.

Addendum: A close observer of the College writes in:

I await the announcement of the “George Wallace Institute for Diversity at Dartmouth Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Inclusiveness.”

Addendum: There is no truth to the rumor that Phil is encouraging Vladimir Putin to have the Russian government endow a new Dartmouth Institute for the Study of Democratic Government.”

Dartmouth students, not atypically, might take an Econ course in the same term in which they take classes in Art History and Biology. That’s the liberal arts at its finest. But beyond the diverse subject matter, think of the gear-changing effort required to confront the varied ways of thinking and writing in these three disciplines. A few years ago I wrote a post about the range of competences required of someone running a start-up; now the Times has written about studies by LinkedIn and other researchers on the broad base of experiences that typically mark a big-company CEO: How to Become a C.E.O.? The Quickest Path Is a Winding One:

How does a person get to be the boss? What does it take for an ambitious young person starting a career to reach upper rungs of the corporate world — the C.E.O.’s office, or other jobs that come with words like “chief” or “vice president” on the office door?

The answer has always included hard work, brains, leadership ability and luck. But in the 21st century, another, less understood attribute seems to be particularly important.

To get a job as a top executive, new evidence shows, it helps greatly to have experience in as many of a business’s functional areas as possible. A person who burrows down for years in, say, the finance department stands less of a chance of reaching a top executive job than a corporate finance specialist who has also spent time in, say, marketing. Or engineering. Or both of those, plus others…

… this early evidence suggests that success in the business world isn’t just about brainpower or climbing a linear path to the top, but about accumulating diverse skills and showing an ability to learn about fields outside one’s comfort zone…

Marc Andreessen, the prominent venture capitalist, has gone so far as to call this the “secret formula to becoming a C.E.O.” The most successful corporate leaders, he wrote, “are almost never the best product visionaries, or the best salespeople, or the best marketing people, or the best finance people, or even the best managers, but they are top 25 percent in some set of those skills, and then all of a sudden they’re qualified to actually run something important.”…

“The common theme that we see in the jobs that are the fastest-growing and have the highest value for employers and job seekers is this set of jobs that require a mix of skills that don’t tend to ride together in nature,” said Matthew Sigelman, the chief executive of Burning Glass. [a firm that scours millions of job listings to detect labor market trends]…

There are some parallels with programs that the biggest companies have long operated to deliberately rotate promising young executives across different divisions, to ensure that as they hit midcareer they have broad experience. The challenge can be to replicate that kind of experience even in a world where few people sign on with a single large employer for decades.

To be a C.E.O. or other top executive, said Guy Berger, an economist at LinkedIn, “you need to understand how the different parts of a company work and how they interact with each other and understand how other people do their job, even if it’s something you don’t know well enough to do yourself.”

However, there is a larger point to be made than the one stated in the Times piece. Taking a tour of different corporate jobs as part of a management rotation, or doing the usual run of courses in an undergraduate business program (marketing, finance, production, accounting, organizational behavior, etc.) is a sight different from addressing these topics in a fundamental and intellectual way. One learns first principles in deeper form in a course in the Art of the Renaissance, Microeconomics, Historiography, English, etc., all of which probe more thoughtfully into human nature and methods for discerning it. These principles then animate thinkers when they face more practical problems. The results are clear.

Addendum: Even the Wall Street Journal is singing the praises of the liberal arts: Good News Liberal-Arts Majors: Your Peers Probably Won’t Outearn You Forever. Of special relevance to Dartmouth students:

Even more striking, however, are earnings trends for ultrahigh achievers across all majors.

Using Census Bureau data, the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project analyzed lifetime earnings for each discipline’s top 10% of moneymakers. It found that computer science’s stars rang up lifetime earnings of at least $3.2 million. Nice work, but not as impressive as philosophy majors’ $3.46 million or history majors’ $3.75 million…

“College shouldn’t prepare you for your first job, but for the rest of your life,” says John Kroger, president of Reed College in Oregon, the liberal-arts school that famously served as a starting point for Steve Jobs…

When asked to define the résumé traits that matter most, however, the NACE [National Association of Colleges and Employers]-surveyed employers rated technical skills 10th. Four of the top five traits were hallmarks of a traditional liberal-arts education: teamwork, clear writing, problem-solving aptitude and strong oral communications. Mindful of those longer-term needs, some employers end up hiring humanities and social-sciences graduates, even if such majors aren’t explicitly singled out when recruiting.

“It’s easier to hire people who can write—and teach them how to read financial statements—rather than hire accountants in hopes of teaching them to be strong writers,” says Liz Kirschner, head of talent acquisition at Morningstar Inc., a Chicago investment-research firm. Since its founding in 1986, Morningstar has hired an unusually large number of humanities and social-sciences majors.

Addendum: If all else fails, classical learning does have other advantages:

Addendum: If, for example, you take too many math courses as an undergrad, you might end up the president of a college, but you could also wind up with very poor social, writing and speaking skills; an inability to think on your feet; an erratic moral compass that has you defending egregious conflicts of interest; and be a plodding teacher to boot.

This really is beyond tiresome. The administration’s most senior muckymucks can’t grovel fast enough after the ideological fashion of the day — safe spaces and the myriad injustices of the modern world — but meanwhile we drew $$69,768,000 more from our endowment last year than Brown did (that’s Brown University in Providence, the school with 42% more students than we have and 32% more full-time professors), yet we have to charge more than Brown (Brown’s tuition, room and board and fees in 2016/2017 were $64,566; Dartmouth’s: $66,174 — a difference of $1,608). What are our top dogs doing about that?

Inclusive Excellent October 17, 2016A.jpg

“Walk the labyrinth”? WTF? [Erratum: An alumnus writes in: “Hope all is well. Wanted to clarify the “Labyrinth” concept. A prayer labyrinth is a maze laid out on the floor designed to facilitate prayer and meditation. Rollins Chapel has had one for years. I don’t think it’s widely used (I never did), but it was there as early as 09F.” The nature and function of a labyrinth is explained on the Rollins website, which notes: “This labyrinth is not a maze and there are no dead ends - simply follow the path with confidence that you will reach the end. As is true of our life journey, as humans we all take a similar journey full of twists, turns, and unknowns.”]

Addendum: That’s thirteen variations on “inclusion” and two “diversities” in one e-mail. Do these people know how silly they sound? Or are they so sealed up in their little echo chamber that they take this stuff seriously?

Addendum: Rollins Chapel has a special place in Dartmouth history as a location to which students could repair with their belles when the dorms were closed to visiting beauties due to parietal rules. You see, Rollins used to be open 24 hours each day, right up until John Sloan Dickey limited its hours with the dry remark that, “I am led to understand that more souls have been conceived in Rollins Chapel than saved there.”

The Bored@Baker website, now calling itself BoardAT, is not as popular is it used to be: today a dozen users on-line at any given time is an achievement; in pre-YikYak days upwards of forty people might participate simultaneously. But the numbers are growing. Over the last 24 hours 95 unique user logged in. Of course, some B@B posts are silly and/or vulgar, but the site is a place for the occasional interesting exchange:

B@B Question1.jpg

B@B Answer1.jpg

I liked the above dialogue (there were many other student comments concerning the question, too) because I was able to bring a question that was heavy on jargon and vague terms back down to brass tacks.

Addendum: I never did find out who disagreed and why.

Kyle Hendricks ‘12 and the Cubs lost 1-0 last night to the Dodgers in Chicago. Kyle went five and one third innings, giving up two hits, including the game-deciding home run to Adrian Gonzalez in the second inning. Those were the only hits that the Dodgers had all evening as four Cubs relievers finished out the game. The Cubs had all of three hits against Clayton Kershaw (seven innings) and Kenley Jansen. Kershaw got the win.

Kyle Hendricks1.jpg

Tough to lose a two-hitter.

Combine precise polling on cellphones, access to good data from the College, and modern data visualization, and you end up with one of the most interesting student innovations to come along in a while: Dartmouth Pulse. Below the site’s organizers have taken available data to display GPA figures for Greek houses and unaffiliated students:

Greek GPA Averages.jpg

In the end, as regards GPA, the big, bad fraternity system reflects the College quite precisely.

The distribution of Greek majors is a little different. Lots more Econ, Government, Engineering and Computer Science jocks among the fraternity-bound:

Major Sophomore Class.jpg

Major Sophomore Rushees.jpg

Those four majors comprise 39.2% of the sophomore class and 63.74% of soon-to-be brothers. (Given the skew of the data, one can imagine that non-rushees really shy away from the Big Four majors.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

What really blows me away about your chart is that the average undergraduate GPA seems to be almost 3.5, so halfway between a B+ and an A-. That is just disgraceful.

While Tom Brady endured his timeout (the kids’ version), he kept sharp by throwing properly inflated footballs to Ryan McManus ‘15, who still harbors pro dreams. The two met on four or five different occasions, once at the Dexter-Southfield School in Brookline, MA, a suburb of Boston:

The Boston Globe notes that “McManus was the receiver catching Brady’s deep pass in the video that appeared on TMZ a couple of weeks ago,” but it sure looks to me like Brady overthrew.

Addendum: During the normal parts of his life, Ryan is the director of marketing at Mobile Virtual Player — whose robotic tackling dummies are being used by at least seven NFL teams.

A perfect autumn day and Elizabeth was in England. With only 196 e-mails to which to respond, I was at a loss. So I fired up my iPhone, put in my earbuds, donned a head scarf to cut wind noise, grabbed a Vélib’, and headed off to the Orangerie to see Claude Monet’s Waterlilies. I kept my music on the entire time — a little bit of everything, always with meaning — and wandered through the Walter-Guillaume collection before heading to see the Nymphéas.

At a certain moment unrelated to anything specific, perhaps because music blocks out random sounds, my sight became more acute; I became aware that the faces of the people around me were as interesting as Monet’s paintings. Everyone had a story, every look had its interest. Once outside, colors were brighter and lines more vivid. I took the below photo in the Jardin des Tuileries at a spot where I stood stock still in the sun for half an hour watching the world go by. Not just happiness. More. A small moment of perfection.

Tuileries Bassin Octagonal.jpg

The New York Times reports:

Coke Pepsi Comp.jpg

“We wanted to look at what these companies really stand for,” said Mr. Aaron, the study’s co-author. “And it looks like they are not helping public health at all — in fact they’re opposing it almost across the board, which calls these sponsorships into question.”

Mr. Aaron said that the industry donations created “clear-cut conflicts of interest” for the health groups that accepted them.

The report found a number of instances in which influential health groups accepted beverage industry donations and then backed away from supporting soda taxes or remained noticeably silent about the initiatives.

In one instance cited in the study, the nonprofit group Save the Children, which had actively supported soda tax campaigns in several states, did an about face and withdrew its support in 2010. The group had accepted a $5 million grant from Pepsi and was seeking a major grant from Coke to help pay for its health and education programs for children.

Responding to the new research, Save the Children said, in a statement, that the group in 2010 had decided to focus on early childhood education, and that its decision to stop supporting soda taxes “was unrelated to any corporate support that Save the Children received.”

When New York proposed a ban on extra-large sodas in 2012, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics cited “conflicting research” and didn’t support the effort. The academy accepted $525,000 in donations from Coke in 2012. The following year it took a $350,000 donation from the company.

The academy said it no longer has a sponsorship relationship with the beverage firms.

The N.A.A.C.P. and the Hispanic Federation have publicly opposed anti-soda initiatives despite disproportionately high rates of obesity in black and Hispanic communities. Coke made more than $1 million in donations to the N.A.A.C.P. between 2010 and 2015, and more than $600,000 to the Hispanic Federation between 2012 and 2015. The groups did not respond to requests for comment.

Of course, Phil Hanlon’s Dartmouth can’t be influenced by a donor’s interest, right?

Addendum: At the first event held by the Irving Institute, the issue of conflict of interest arose, says the Valley News:

After Friday’s talk, student Francesca Gundrum addressed ethics among questions about transmission lines, microgrids, and the economics of home energy efficiency.

“Do you have faith in the institute to provide unbiased work, even with the attachment of Irving?” she asked [Stanford Professor Dan] Reicher [‘78].

“I think the proof will be in the pudding,” he said. “I think how you end up spending this money, what’s the degree of independence, what are the focus areas, what are the results — I think those will be the key questions. I’m optimistic.”

Reicher noted that plenty of other oil-connected money has gone to respected institutions. In the case of the Rockefeller family alone, he said, fossil-fuel money funded the Rockefeller Foundation [founded in 1913], the Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth [founded in 1983], Rockefeller University [founded in 1901], and even the University of Chicago [founded in 1890].

“So I don’t think we’re breaking any new ground here when it comes to money coming from the oil industry to a college or philanthropic cause,” Reicher said. “I think it can be done well. I’m confident it will be done well. It’s all about how it’s implemented, I guess.”

Citing Rockefeller philanthropy from many decades ago is really stretching things. More to the point, none of the institutions in question were created to study energy. If the Irvings want to give money to build new dorms, the College should happily take it, but as regards research on energy, well, that’s like soft drink companies funding work by organizations that have a say on issues concerning public health. What a weak argument — the only one made — for Reicher to cite.

Addendum: The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which controls about $860m in assets belonging to members of the Rockefeller family, divested itself of all fossil fuel holdings in 2014.

Why would the College distribute a survey that anyone anywhere can take — and can take as many times as they want? Here. Have a go yourself:

Qualtrics Survey October 14, 2016.jpg

Pressure groups with specific agendas can use surveys and message boards to advance their righteous cause. In fact, they have already done so.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

Note the $20 Visa gift card for submitting anonymous reports. Is this designed to “improve policies and procedures,” or create a fictitious picture of pervasive assault by paying off people for anonymous submissions of tales of horror?

Any academic study based on such methodology would be treated as a joke. That the college would engage in such political chicanery is disgraceful.

Dartmouth has a wealth of experienced professors who lead their respective research fields, while also working closely with students — inspiring them in the classroom and leading them in laboratory environments. And while at Dartblog we talk frequently about problems that need to be fixed at the College, there are still many bright spots. Our professors deserve more recognition for their achievements. As such, this is one of a series of posts that shines a spotlight on the best professors in Hanover:

Susannah Heschel1.jpgSusannah Heschel is the Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies and the Chair of the Jewish Studies department at the College. She is a renowned scholar of the history of anti-Semitism and Jewish-Christian relationships, especially focused on Germany over the last two centuries.

Heschel says that as a child, she wished that she had had an accent because it was “the mark of a scholar.” Her father, the Polish-born Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, was a famous theologian and philosopher who escaped Germany just before the beginning of World War II. He filled Susannah’s home with rabbis and historians — and, as a civil right advocate, he marched with Martin Luther King Jr. at Selma. Despite being a “naughty” child in Hebrew School, she felt the Bible come alive when hearing King speak. So it was no surprise when the daughter followed the father into religious study. However, when she asked the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York to consider her application in 1972, the conservative school was not yet accepting women.

Thwarted, Heschel took a different path. After earning her undergraduate degree at Trinity College (where she currently serves on the Board of Trustees) and her Masters at Harvard Divinity School, and after spending time at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, she enrolled as a Ph.D. student at Penn. There she came across the work of Abraham Geiger, the 19th century German rabbi, historian, and founding father of Reform Judaism. Heschel’s first book, Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus, showed that Geiger was influential in recasting Jesus within the context of the Jewish world in which he lived. He wrote that Jesus was, rather than a pioneer, a member of the liberal Pharisees group of Jews in the first century. As Heschel documents, this argument did not win Geiger many friends among German Protestants.

After Penn, Heschel taught for three years at Southern Methodist University, offering Jewish history courses to both to Christians and a few Jewish “ducklings” who followed her from course to course. She then went to Case Western, spent a year at the University of Frankfurt, and returned to Case, where she met her husband — now-retired Earth Sciences professor Jim Aronson. After more travels, the two began teaching at Dartmouth in 1998.

Since her arrival in Hanover, Heschel has been an instrumental member of the vibrant Jewish Studies department at the College (over a quarter of the sophomore class took a JWST course this past summer), as well as an avid researcher and writer of more than 100 articles. She followed up the book on Geiger with two more she edited: Insider/Outsider: American Jews and Multiculturalism and Betrayal: German Churches and the Holocaust. She has received grants from the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, and she is currently a Guggenheim Fellow.

Next, in a book that will come out first in German — Heschel spent the 2011-2012 academic year at the Berlin Wissenschaftskolleg (also known as the Institute for Advanced Study Berlin) — she will explore how European Jewish scholars approached Islam from the 1830s until the 1930s.

Heschel’s most recent book, The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany, took on a dark theme. It examined how an institute of German Protestant theologians funded by the Nazis systematically eradicated Jewish references and influences in the New Testament and placed Jesus at the center of a radically anti-Semitic Christianity. This group of theologians remained active even in postwar Germany. Hear her discuss the subject more in this 2013 lecture at Creighton University:

Heschel has received recognition from around the world, serving as a visiting professor at the Universities of Cape Town, Frankfurt, and Edinburgh, as well as at Princeton. She is also the recipient of four honorary doctorates from institutions in three different countries: the United States, Canada, and Germany. Last month she received the Moses Mendelssohn award from the Leo Baeck Institute for “outstanding scholarly contributions” to the study of German-Jewish culture.

Despite all her scholarly achievement, Heschel’s favorite thing to do is teach undergraduates of all faiths and backgrounds at Dartmouth. She typically works with one or two Presidential Scholars each year, and this summer she taught her popular JWST 34: History of the Jews in Germany course to a class of 186 students. This coming spring she’s co-teaching JWST 26: Jewish Views of Christianity with a visiting professor from Israel.

Joe Asch’s Addendum: Despite an obviously heavy schedule, this past summer Susannah audited, as I did, Hebrew University Professor Hillel Cohen’s undergraduate course on the history of the Middle East conflict, JWST 40: Jews & Arabs, Palestine-Israel. I don’t think she missed a lecture.

Norwich resident Robert Spottswood has contributed a letter to the Valley News that sheds further light on the Irving Oil company:

Irving Oil and Academics

After your good story last month (“Dartmouth Unveils New Institute,” Sept. 17) about Dartmouth’s plans to build the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society, using $80 million of Irving Oil’s money, I was interested enough to look for more. Some follow-up letters to the Valley News had expressed alarm about the potential for conflict when an academic “Institute for Energy and Society” is funded by a major oil company.

Those writers may be further informed by a six-part online investigative report on the Irvings’ behavior in their native Canada. (The billionaire Irving family, with giant oil, pipeline, refinery, paper, lumber and newspaper holdings, are based north of Maine, in New Brunswick) See

Of particular interest is the fourth part, titled “How the Irvings intimidate their critics,” with a subsection “Going after New Brunswick academics.” See

This reminded me of how academic intimidation need be neither overt nor illegal to be effective. Thank you again for your Sept. 17 article.

Robert Spottswood, Norwich

In a recent meeting with important alumni donors, Phil Hanlon noted that the Irving project had elicited the “expected opposition” — but he was unable to make an argument as to how the College and the energy center would be able to insulate itself from influence by aggressive actors like Irving Oil and its leaders.

Addendum: More than a few observers have been surprised at how weak and plodding Phil is in debate. He seems to have little capacity to think abstractly and to develop positions based on first principles.

The below comment by Lucy Li ‘19 in The D leaves alumni from older classes wondering what the heck is going on:

Freshman Year.jpg

Up until the 1990’s, as they were in my day, the dorms were populated by all four classes. Yale and Harvard did not and does not do this, but then they do not come close to the College in alumni loyalty. We had the courage to be different. But at a certain point the powers that be in the Dartmouth administration chose to house all freshman by themselves. Why make the change?

— To be like everyone else?

— To shove clueless freshmen in the decrepit Choates and River Cluster dorms, where nobody else wanted to be?

— To quarantine freshmen so that they would not be infected by the ways and means of bad old Dartmouth?

Whatever the story, I recall my own Freshman Week when two juniors knocked on the door of our triple to ask if anyone played softball. We all did, and the whole of North Fayer turned to cheer for our perennially losing team. Sports led to conversation about courses and clubs, which led to friendships and an early sense of belonging. One of my North Fayer upperclassmen buddies came to visit us in Paris last week.

Needless to say, a sense of isolation has been a problem at the College for several decades, but no administration has seen fit to work on this glaring weakness in undergraduate life. Even the Moving Dartmouth Forward report understood how bad things are:

“In conversations with students, many identified their sophomore year as the loneliest period of their Dartmouth experience.”

What do to? How about focusing on undergraduates for a change, Phil? Instead of trying to solve some of the world’s energy problems — which your teeny-tiny energy institute will have little chance of doing — how about solving the College’s housing problem — which you can certainly do. Tear down the Choates and the River Cluster, which were considered slums when I arrived in Hanover in 1975, and build new up-campus dorms so that all four classes can live together. The new dorms could even be part of your unwanted house system. Putting all four classes in each house from Freshman Week on might make it work.

Addendum: An alumnus from a class in the 1970’s writes in:

I read the column by Lucy Li and immediately had the same thoughts flooding through the old noggin. It’s super how fresh all of those things are from when we were in the exact spot ourselves. McLane was a toilet when I lived there, the whole building. Having upperclassmen there was the only thing that made it the least bit tolerable.



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  • 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…

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